Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

November 23, 2017

more deets on anniversary specials

Looks like there will be two...

On Christmas Day a highlights programme but it's being edited to sound like Kenneth, Derek, Peter and Clement are interacting with current panellists...

the publicity material for Just A Minute: 50 Years in 28 Minutes says...

Ever wondered what would have happened if Kenneth Williams had faced Sue Perkins across the Just A Minute desk? Now you can find out, in this special archive celebration of 50 years of Just A Minute, based on an idea by Paul Merton and lovingly mashed-up by audio wizard Gareth Gwynn.
In this one-off archive programme to celebrate Just A Minute's Golden Anniversary on the airwaves, Nicholas Parsons hosts a version of the popular panel show as you've never heard it before as guests from across the programme's history are brought together for one night only. Listeners of a sensitive nature should be warned that wanton hesitation, repetition and deviation will feature from the start.

 The other programme is on New Years Day and 50 Years of Just A Minute: An Audience with Nicholas Parsons features Nicholas interviewed by Paul... and others...
As part of the special programming celebrating 50 years of Just a Minute, Paul Merton talks to Nicholas Parsons about his life, and his 50 years of hosting Radio 4's beloved panel show, with guest appearances from some of the many regulars who have appeared over the years.
In a career which started in 1945, Nicholas Parsons has worked with an extraordinary range of people - from the golden age of British cinema in the 50s and 60s, to the seedy glamour of the Windmill Theatre where he rubbed shoulders with the cream of stand-up talent including Bruce Forsyth and Tommy Cooper.
He formed a famous double act with the legendary comic Arthur Haynes, and worked with him on both sides of the Atlantic - all before Just a Minute was even thought of.
In later years he worked with Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, guest starred in Doctor Who, and will shortly be heard as the voice of God in a TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens.
Not bad for a lad who started his career as an engineering apprentice on the Glasgow Docks...
 sounds good fun doesn't it - good on them for thinking up a new way of doing a clips programme!

November 22, 2017

Paul Merton video and other things

Paul did a talk/chat at the Oxford Union a few days ago and the video has been placed on YouTube.
You can see it here

Inevitably most of the questions are about his TV work, Have I Got News for You in particular. But he does answer a couple of questions on JAM. He says the show works because of the banter between the panellists when they are not actually playing the game. This is true, I think and it's certainly very true of the Kenneth years when the relationships between the panellists and Nicholas were the highlight really. Paul says a show where the players were consistently speaking without interruption for the whole minute probably wouldn't be much fun and that's true too.

He also talks about how one panellist used to glare at the others and be grumpy but the listening public couldn't see this. As he was saying it, I thought he was referring to Clement Freud, but he then said "she" so I guess he meant Wendy Richard.

It does make me think that an interesting thing would be to hear Paul and some of the other long-serving panellists being interviewed about the game. Paul is clearly very thoughtful about his comedy.

Inevitably though the centrepiece of the 50th anniversary celebrations is an interview with Nicholas to be conducted by Paul. I've been asked to submit a question so you may hear my voice as part of this programme - though it may also be dumped.

There is also to be an archive programme "with a twist". I've asked for broadcast dates so will post again if I get these.

Finally - an updated list of appearances this year... just 20 shows this year - though I guess the anniversary programmes may also be this year.

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair, Zoe Lyons 6
Josie Lawrence 5
Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton 4
Tony Hawks, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Marcus Brigstocke, Pam Ayres, Phill Jupitus, Rufus Hound, Tom Allen, Andy Hamilton, Fern Britton, Al Murray 2
 Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Paul Sinha, James Acaster, Mark Watson 1

It's interesting that there were far fewer debutants this year. Also Zoe Lyons appeared in all three seasons -  it's good to hear her but am not convinced she is a futre regular or semi-regular. What do you think?

March 09, 2017

the season so far

thought I'd post on the season so far - we are already halfway through it, sad to say. Still there must be a new season coming up, as they have already started recording for it - two shows with Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Pam Ayres and Zoe Lyons are in the bag.

Enjoyed the first show with Paul, Graham Norton, Josie Lawrence and Zoe. Josie was in great form. There was some comment on Twitter that it sounded like Paul and Graham don't like each other. I think this was referring to Paul making a big deal of Graham using one of his plyos - when he doesn't know anything about a subject he fills rime by saying Ï'm looking forward to talking about this, I know so much about it, I am really knowledgeable about this..."etc etc. This is a ploy Paul sometimes uses too. But I guess Paul feels Graham over-uses it or perhaps he just feels 40 seconds of it is just a bit boring. Anyway I don't get the feeling they dislike each other - it's just one of the ways Paul tries to keep interest going and keep the energy of the programme going.

The show with Paul, Gyles Brandreth, Sheila Hancock and Tom Allen was a top show. I thought Gyles was the best here (not just on the scorecard) - he was very inventive and funny every time he talked and the bit aboyt him losing more graciously was a deserved running joke. Sheila was great - I like it that she plays the show in the old style where she talks aboiut what she know about the subject rather than making up stories. That's very reminiscent of the way Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Derek Nimmo used to play the game and while I do love the way Paul conjures up a fantasy world, it's nice to hear others using a different style. Tom Allen was interesting and pretty good - his voice sounds a little like Kenneth, though he needs to go a long way to be as outrageous as he was.

This week's show with Paul, Jenny Eclair, Marcus Brigstocke and Al Murray. Al Murray started well on his pet subject of pubs, but then he failed. Jenny was good and a bit different, Marcus good but didn't get in as often as usual, but this was very much a Paul show. Nothing wrong with that.

February 21, 2017

2016 player rankings

For the 10th time - the annual JAM player rankings.

I found this year very hard to do as there were so many newcomers that were really much of a muchness. Can one really distinguish between say John Finnemore and Rufus Hound in terms of contribution? The practice has become that newcomers, even those that do reasonably well,m are something of a running joke for the regulars and are patronised by Nicholas. There was one major exception this year - more below. In some ways I could have placed more than half of the panellists in the average category... but doing that seems like cheating!

There were  28 JAM panellists in 21 shows this year, including the Prince of Wales whose brief appearance I have not ranked. With the Christmas pantomime I have given those that appeared in part of the show a half point!

Paul Merton 19
Gyles Brandreth 7
Josie Lawrence 6
Sheila Hancock 5
Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Julian Clary, Rufus Hound 2.5
Jenny Eclair, Tim Rice, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle, Will Self 2
Pippa Evans 1.5
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley 1
Tom Allen, the Prince of Wales 0.5

For those interested in how I've ranked people in the past and checking out how good my picks were...

click here for 2015 rankings

click here for 2014 rankings

click here for 2013 rankings

click here for 2012 rankings

click here for 2011 rankings

click here for 2010 rankings

click here for 2009 rankings

click here for 2008 rankings

click here for 2007 rankings

Those who appeared in 2015 but not in 2016 include Susan Calman, Alun Cochrane, Sue Perkins, Liza Tarbuck, and Shappi Khorsandi. Sue is a big loss - I guess she's just too busy - or perhaps her greater fame these days makes her too expensive! I am surprised Susan Calman wasn't back this year after being very good in 2015.


NISH KUMAR - among a bunch of newcomers this year, Nish seemed nice enough but didn't contribute all that much. I'm guessing they'll look elsewhere this year.

FRED MACAULAY - When he first did JAM back in the late 90s, alongside veterans like Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo and Clemenet Freud he seemed new and funny - a breath of fresh air. These days - and perhaps it is that he seems to do a show every three years or so - he just falls flat.

ESTHER RANTZEN - Paul described her as one of the worst players ever which doesn't bode well for future appearances! Not sure she was that bad but it does take a sharp wit to make a success of challenging on repeating small words...

TIM RICE - He has a good body of work on the show in his almost 50 appearances, but just not as funny as the others.

ALEXEI SAYLE - one of the most talented performers of his generation, or any generation. Just A Minute isn't his thing. Seemed intimidated.


TOM ALLEN - I do like how Tom comes across when he is on the show. Would be worth another try.

STEPHEN FRY - as I noted last year, Stephen Fry's appearances used to be real highlights. But whether for lack of practice or what ever other reason, he just seems quieter, more mellow these days. Needs to get back in the old groove.

JANEY GODLEY - Not a great contributor but I have warmed to her, mainly because of her campaign to uphold her freedom of speech right to hold up placards declaring the current President of the United States to be something rhyming with runt. If you don't follow her on Twitter, you should.

RUFUS HOUND - one of the new breed who does okay without being really memorable.

ROSS NOBLE - in the early days of this blog I used to rate Ross as one of the best players of the game ever. His last few shows have been disappointing. He definitely needs to do the show much much more often and get back to his brilliant best.

HOLLY WALSH - can't remember much of what she did to be honest.


JULIAN CLARY - always great fun on any show.

PIPPA EVANS - was very impressed with her chattiness and courage on her opening appearances - she could really develop into a star of the future.

JOHN FINNEMORE - had some very good moments and could really develop if he has a few moire goes at it.

TONY HAWKS - thought he did very well on the pantomime show. Only two regular appearances this year for the man who used to do half the shows each year.

ZOE LYONS - the ex reality TV star made a pretty good start on her shows.

PAM AYRES - Her distinctive style and accent is always welcome on a show where so many play in the same style. She should be on more often.

MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE - he's an old reliable these days. He comes on, he plays well, he's funny and clever, he doesn't overshadow Paul, he lets the others have a go. Yes.

JENNY ECLAIR - like Pam she has a style of her own that really acts like a shoot of adrenaline into any show she appears on. More, more, more.

GRAHAM NORTON - perhaps not as naughty and outlandish as the Graham of 20 years ago, neither on TV nor in Just A Minute. Nevertheless he remains the king of the camp style of playing, something that is a more than honourable tradition on JAM.

KATHERINE RYAN - another who did very well on her first shows - let;s have her back soon.

JOSH WIDDICOMBE - this guy is great on any panel show he does - JAM could well be his thing if he gets more goes at it.


5th best
WILL SELF - Since Clement's death JAM has missed having someone playing in that unique style. Someone  who can use the rules and act as if they matter, or rubbish the rules if that is a better tactic. Someone prepared to argue with Nicholas, while also knowing the right time to finish and move on. Someone who talks about the subject in a non-stand-up sort of way. If the producers were looking for the next person to play that way, they may have found him. Will Self was a breath of fresh air for a show that is in danger of sounding stale. He was funny, dramatic and just right. I don't know if Self wants to be permanently associated with a panel game, but I'd ben signing him up if it was up to me. He's grumpy, erratic, cheeky, witty and knowledgeable. Just what we need.

4th best
JOSIE LAWRENCE - a great contributor these days, she just never makes a mis-step.

Bronze medal
SHEILA HANCOCK - formidable and funny, the grand old dame of the show and someone who just makes any show she appears better.

Silver medal
PAUL MERTON - Over 10 of these, I've used every superlative possible for this master of improvised comedy. Let's use them all again!

Champion of the year
GYLES BRANDRETH - This guy gets better every year. His different way of playing is energising for the show. These days the best editions of JAM all have Gyles in them.

December 26, 2016

Just a Minute panto - Merry Christmas

For a variety oif reasons, my enthusiasm for Just Minute has cooled a bit recently. But the Just A Minute panto was absolutely excellent, one of the best editions of the show ever.

The surprise to me was the involvement of Prince Charles. I can take and leave Royal messages for anniversaries, but I thought what he said was nice. He was the only person to reference the panellists of the past despite all the talk of 50 years of Just A Minute, and did so in a natural and interesting way.

The pantomime material was really well integrated with the "game" which was played between two teams, I assume because the fourth seat was changed between four guest panellists, Tony Hawks, Tom Allen, Rufus Hound and Pippa Evans. Gyles Brandreth wrote the panto material and was in top form, I thought.. Paul was as funny as he has been in many years, Sheila Hancock was excellent. I would have liked to hear a bit more from Julian Clary who played a genie but didn't have much to do.

This really was an excellent production, and I loved some of the small touches, like the different sounds for the whistle. The song at the end was excellent - hasnb't Sheila Hancock got a great sionging voice.

Matt Stronge should take a bow - that was a really top-class production.

They jkept mentioning 50 years - in fact we have just passed the 49th anniversary and have almost 12 months to the 50th. But if this production is a taste of what is to come to mark the 50 years, we are in for a lot of fun in the year ahead.

Trivia question for someone - who is the lovely West Indian man (I think) who often does continuity at JAM time and was announcing at the beginning and end of today's show? What a great voice!

November 23, 2016

Just A Minute goes... panto!

I've been wondering if JAM might do some more shows before the end of the year - and here's the answer - Radio Four plans a Just A Minute pantomime.

From the BBC page...

Radio 4 says: "Just A Minute is 50 years old next year, and what better way to kick off the celebrations by combining the longest-running panel show with another great British institution - the pantomime! In Just A Minute Does Panto! Nicholas Parsons is joined by Just A Minute regulars Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth as they journey through Panto-land in search of the missing Just A Minute Golden Whistle.
"Their companions on their quest include Katherine Ryan, Rufus Hound and Shelia Hancock. There'll be adventure, genies, panto dames, goodies, baddies, and audience participation. But above all, at the heart of it, a cracking game of the much loved comedy show, Just A Minute."
Nicholas Parsons adds: "I've been presenting Just A Minute for 50 years and I've appeared in many pantomimes during that time. These factors combined we have created a festive edition of our iconic show without hesitation, repetition or deviation. Oh yes we have!"
Just A Minute Does Panto! will air on Christmas Day at 1:15pm.

September 06, 2016

exciting panel news

Ross Noble was back on JAM today - one of my top two or three favourite panellists.

And Will Self makes a debut! This is different and interesting!

Writing this at work and noiw can't wait to get home and have a listen!

Paul Merton and Sheila Hancock are the other panellists.

Also the BBC is now saying this is an 8 show season - not six as they had previously said.

Updated appearances for this year - newcomers bolded... 20 shows in total

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence 6
Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Tim Rice, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Rufus Hound, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle, Will Self 2
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Pippa Evans 1 

August 25, 2016

JAM's future

As we all know JAM is approaching the major milestone of its 50th anniversary. In the past the BBC has marked these anniversaries at the beginning of the year so maybe we are just a few months from the anniversary being marked at the beginning og 2017.

I think though that the controversy over Clement Freud's past as a sexual predator is going to make marking the anniversary very difficult. I will be surprised if there are many more clip shows or classic CD releases simply because the BBC will not be able to rerun shows featuring Clement. I think the most likely thing is a show where the anniversary is mentioned in a low-key sort of way, probably without mentioning the show's most frequent panellist.

I am wondering too if once the show is marked, if we might well find the show will be retired. I have no inside information at all, but to me anyway, the show is not as good as it once was, and with Nicholas in his mid 90s it just seems like the 50th year might be a good time to call it to an end.

What do you think?


A largely unremarked feature of the current season was that Katherine Ryan completed an uninterripted minute in her first show, indeed in her first time speaking.

Last year when David Tennant did this it was big news and indeed Nicholas mentioned it in his behind the scenes interview with Gyles Brandreth just last week. It was very widely reported as a first.

It was a great achievement but not a first. I wrote about this here and again here. At the time I wrote to some of the reporters who had reported this feat, but no-one responded or corrected their stories. So no doubt it is now firmly established as a fact!

Katherine Ryan did this in the first show of the current season, but it seems to have passed most people by. Congrats to her - she joins a small group, even if she is not the second.

In the very next show, Zoe Lyons also went the whole minute on debut, but not on her first time speaking.


Have been behind on panel news  - the recording for season 76 is now complete.

The panels are

*Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence and Katherine Ryan - two shows
*Paul, Tony Hawks, Julian Clary and Zoe Lyons - two shows
* Paul, Marcus Brigstocke, Janey Godley and Nish Kumar - one show
* Paul, Marcus, Fred MacAulay and Pippa Evans.

So three newcomers this season - the Canadian panel show regular Katherine - the former reality TV star turned comedian Zoe - and the improviser Pippa Evans.

There have been three six show seasons this year - which makes me wonder if we will get a fourth season in November/December this year.

The current season also has a new producer in Matt Stronge, the first male producer since Chris Neill in the late 90s. He started out as a sound editor which makes him very interesting. welcome to the team, Matt.

If this is all the JAM we get this year, here are the appearances (18 shows) -  newcomers are bolded

Paul Merton 16
Gyles Brandreth, Josie Lawrence 6
Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock,, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Tim Rice, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Rufus Hound, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle 2
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Pippa Evans 1 

Thimgs to note are the high number of newcomers, only three shows didn't have a newcomer. Also the absence of many who you might well have expected to hear - Sue Perkins, Liza Tarbuck, Susan Calman, Alun Cochrane, Shappi Khorsandi - and after all the fuss about his appearance last year, where was David Tennant? Perhaps some of these will be in a November-December season...