Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

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Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 24, 2015

more on the coming season

the new season begins on February 9th with eight shows. The four panels for the eight shows are...
 
* Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton and Robin Ince
 
* Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair, Marcus Brigstocke and Shappi Khorsandi
 
* Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Josie Lawrence and Alun Cochrane
 
*Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Stephen Fry and David Tennant
 
It’s an interesting list because – with the exception of Sue Perkins – it includes all the regulars and semi-regulars.
 
This is the list of appearances since April 2009 when Clement Freud died (including TV and Junior JAM). See how many of the top players from this list are appearing this season - all but one of the top 10, and 11 of the top 14. Seems like Tilusha Ghelani who’s been producing JAM for eight years is going out on a high! (players this season are bolded)
 
Paul Merton 120 shows
Gyles Brandreth 49 shows
Tony Hawks 34 shows
Sue Perkins 32 shows
Graham Norton, Jenny Éclair 28 shows
Julian Clary 24 shows
Josie Lawrence 22 shows
Sheila Hancock 18 shows
Alun Cochrane 17 shows
Liza Tarbuck 16 shows
Pam Ayres, Shappi Khorsandi 12 shows
Marcus Brigstocke 10 shows
Richard Herring 9 shows
Stephen Fry, Charles Collingwood, Kevin Eldon, Russell Kane 8 shows
Miles Jupp, Stephen Mangan 7 shows
Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Ross Noble 6 shows
Paul Sinha 5 shows
Fi Glover, Patrick Kielty, Jason Manford, Rick Wakeman, Holly Walsh 4 shows
Fred MacAulay, Greg Proops, Phill Jupitus, John Sergeant, Joe Lycett 3 shows
Tim Rice, Chris Neill, Janey Godley, Dave Gorman, Ian McMillan, David Mitchell, Justin Moorhouse, Robin Ince, Cyrus Broacha, Jason Byrne, Vanessa Feltz, Rebecca Front, Kerry Godliman, Anuvab Pal, Jonathan Ross, David Tennant, Roy Walker, Terry Wogan 2 shows
Pauline McLynn, Josie Long, Mike McShane, Stephen K Amos, Roberta Bannister, John Bishop, Henry Blofeld, Hugh Bonneville, Hannibal Buress, Rosa Calcraft, Jonah Calkin, Francesca Daly, Kitty Fry, Ruth Jones, Will Pearce, Sophie Shanahan, Leonardo Shaw, Zrey Sholapurkar, Frank Skinner, Russell Tovey, William Tyrell, Tim Vine, Suki Webster 1 show

new JAM panel

The last JAMs of next season are currently being recorded in London. 
The big news is that the former Doctor Who, David Tennant, is making his JAM debut.
My friend Keith posted about a month ago that the recording was to feature Paul Merton, Julian Clary, a regular guest who hasn’t been for a while, and a time traveller. David obviously fits the last description.
The blurb that is appearing on Doctor Who related sites says Stephen Fry is also on this season. 
Stephen would fit the other description. But he was married only a few days ago – surely he would be on holiday with his new husband? Also it seems to be a rule these days not to have all-male panels. 
So we shall see. If I hear further I will update you. Certainly a panel of Paul, Julian, Stephen and Dr Who would be something very special.

Update:

Keith was at tonight’s recording and confirms Stephen Fry was the other panellist! It’s always a special treat when he is on the show.
 
Here’s Keith on the recording tonight...
 
Hello Dean and Fellow Jammers, Well the cat is out of the bag now. The atmosphere before the show you could have cut with a marshmallow - David Tennant was the Time Lord and he was sat next to Stephen Fry. Both of whom got huge receptions from the audience. When Stephen was asked to say something during the balancing of the microphone stage an audience member congratulated Stephen on his recent marriage and we all applauded. Stephen had a warm glow on his face and said 'I am so content that I don't mind whether I win or lose! I am so happy!' David Tennant was very nervous at being on the panel but when he got his first subject the thesp in him burst out and he did a full minute! There was a roar from the audience as they realised what David had achieved - the comedy panel game equivalent of winning Mastermind. A man in his early 70s stood up in the production guest seats near the front and gave the loudest roar of approval - it was David's Dad! He couldn't have looked prouder if his son had scored the winning goal in the World Cup! These two shows recorded tonight had such a glow about them that anyone who witnessed them will remember them for a long time. We have a new lady time-keeper/scorer who showed me the printed score-sheets - which were a far cry from Ian Messiter's hand-written ones of the show's past. These were Tilusha's last JAM's for a while and I congratulated her for seeing the show through some of it's most memorable moments - the 800th and 900th shows plus the ones done in India. It was a lovely evening. More JAM's will be recorded in May. When Nicholas polished off four retakes with ease in under two minutes Stephen Fry uttered 'What a professional!' And so he is!

January 16, 2015

Canterbury panel

the panel for the Canterbury shows this week featured Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Tony Hawks and one other.

A correspondent in Twitter described the fourth player as “Jack Cochren”. But I haven’t been able to find a comedian or actor of that name or some other spelling of that surname. I am wondering if it could be the former Coronation Street actor and presenter Nick Cochrane? Anyway no doubt, we’ll all know who it was soon!

January 14, 2015

RIP Enid Messiter

Ian and Enid Messiter's grandson has just posted this in the comments on this blog...

It is with much sadness I report that Ian's wife Enid passed away on 27th December 2014.

She will be sadly missed by family and friends.

Just A Minute continues in her memory just as much as Ian's.

Toby (Ian and Enid's grandson).


This is very sad news and my condolences and very best wishes to Toby and his family.

January 11, 2015

congrats Stephen Fry

My email is set up to send me news clippings of some of the JAM stars, among then Stephen Fry, and there is almost a never a day when the QI presenter is not in the news for some reason.

This week, it seemed as if just about every media outlet in the western world announced his pending marriage to his partner, Elliott Spencer, who is also a comedian. I can only wish them the very best.

Of course not everyone will agree but I am sure most JAM fans will hope that marriage does not take up so much of Stephen's time that he can't return to JAM. Perhaps they should invite his husband on too!

2014 player rankings

The eighth annual JAM player rankings.

I am late with the annual rankings and there is a reason. I feel like this year there are a lot of relatively new players all at a similar level - not exactly bad, mildly amusing yes, but not exactly stand-outs either. I found it really hard to rank people this year and to be honest, there were many people who could have easily been put in a lower group.

Still there were a lot of funny shows this year and as I have been flooded with requests that I do so again, (well, I have three messages) here is the ranking list.

This year, there were 22 shows and 28 performers, four more than last year. Among those who got a gig last year but not this year were Pam Ayres and Marcus Brigstocke, though I am sure Pam will be back, and Marcus has already recorded shows for the next season.

The stats on appearances this year look like this

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth 8
Sheila Hancock 6
Tony Hawks, Alun Cochrane, Russell Kane, Holly Walsh 4
Graham Norton, Jenny Eclair, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary, Liza Tarbuck, Josie Lawrence, Shappi Khorsandi, Richard Herring, Kevin Eldon, Stephen Mangan, Paul Sinha, Fi Glover, Miles Jupp, Patrick Kielty, Joe Lycett, Vanessa Feltz, Rebecca Front, Kerry Godliman, Jonathan Ross 2
Josie Long, Frank Skinner 1

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

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

For those who want to know how good I was at picking who wouldn't be back - last year I picked five players who wouldn't be back, and only one returned, Kevin Eldon.

THEY WON'T BE BACK NEXT YEAR
Rebecca Front- Rebecca seemed to be amused by her appearance and she had a good time, but didn't really contribute very much to proceedings.
Fi Glover- (2011: won't be back) Fi was a bit like Rebecca, it sounded like she enjoyed itself and she has had the bad luck to have been on with five real titans of the game in Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth, and Sue Perkins and Stephen Fry in 2011. But if it wasn't proven in 2011, it certainly was this year, Just A Minute is not the show for her talents. 
Kerry Godliman - It's been a while since someone debuted in quite such a quiet way. I would have ranked her as weakest performer of the year
Josie Long - (2009: won't be back) In 2009, I said of her: I liked her up personality but she just seemed a bit out of place and out of her league. Ï wouldn't change a word.
Paul Sinha - (2012: about average; 2009: won't be back) It'll be a while before he gets asked again on this year's showing.


THEY HAD SOME GOOD MOMENTS
Alun Cochrane - (2013: had some moments, 2012: had some moments; 2011: had some moments; 2010: had some moments; 2007: won't be back) Alun seems to be settling in as a semi-regular, and he has some witty moments, moments that make you smile. But seldom more than that.
Vanessa Feltz - A lively and interesting debut, but perhaps not a natural comedienne.

Richard Herring - (2013: had some moments, 2012: average; 2009: had some moments) Certianly can have his moments where he produces a really good laugh..
Shappi Khorsandi - (2012: about average, 2011: had some moments; 2010: had some moments; 2009: average; 2008: won't be back) Can't remember much of what she did. She's a pleasant performer, but not an especially memorable one.
Patrick Kielty - (2013: had some moments) Another run, and he had a few good spots there.
Stephen Mangan - (2013: let's hear more, 2012: average) He has his moments but I felt he was a bit quieter than on his previous visits.

ABOUT AVERAGE
Kevin Eldon - (2013: won't be back, 2012: had some moments; 2010: won't be back) It's very hard to rank Kevin, because when he does get the subject he is very very good,. often going all or most of the full minute with very funny, inventive and original material. But often in between being given the subject, it's as if he has whipped out to the loo. So this year, I decided to rank him in the middle! Russell Kane - (2013: had his moments; 2011: average) I like Russell and always look forward to him being on the show - and then just feel slightly disappointed.
Joe Lycett
- (2013: average) He's got some talent and could develop further.
Jonathan Ross - A big name to make his debut, he didn't disappoint and would be even better if he gets another go.
Frank Skinner - Enjoyable and witty.
Liza Tarbuck
- (2013: average, 2012: average; 2011: average; 2010: won't be back; 2009: had some moments; 2008: won't be back) I pretty much always say she is a jolly person to have on the show. She's now had 34 shows, is she that good, I wonder?.

LET'S HEAR MORE OF THEM
Julian Clary - (2013: 4th, 2012: silver; 2011: bronze; 2010: 5th; 2009: let's hear more; 2008:4th; 2007: 4th) Old Reliable should be Julian's nickname these days. He's a sure bet for a good show.
Jenny Eclair - (2013: bronze, 2012: 4th; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: 4th; 2009: let's hear more; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: had some moments) A burst of energy is injected into the show every time she grans the microphone.
Miles Jupp - (2012: had some moments; 2011: won't be back) Was listening back to his shows the otehr day and thought he was really getting into the style of JAM. We could must have him back soon.
Josie Lawrence
- (2013: let's hear more, 2012: let's hear more; 2011: 4th; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: had some moments; 2008: won't be back) Inventive and amusing, Josie is a great support act for Merton and co.
Sue Perkins - (2013: let's hear more. 2012: champion; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: bronze; 2008: silver; 2007: let's hear more) She's been away from the show for a year but juist picked up on things like she always does. I do hope she does more than two shows this year.
Holly Walsh- She won first time out and was consistently amusing throughout her four shows. I had never heard of here before, but right now, I'm a fan.

STARS OF THE YEAR
5th best
Tony Hawks - (2013: let's hear more, 2012: let's hear more; 2011: average; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: average; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: average) It's the first time I've had Tony among the stars and I have felt that he hasn't been as good as he was in the past. But this year I thought he was much sharper and funnier, back to his form of 10 to 15 years ago.
4th best

Gyles Brandreth - (2013: champion, 2012: 5th; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: bronze; 2009: 4th; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: bronze) These days a realy solid performer who amuses every time he opens his mouth. And as a real competitor, he adds something to the game.
Bronze medal

Paul Merton - (2013: silver. 2012: bronze; 2011: champion; 2010: champion; 2009: silver; 2008: champion; 2007: champion) You do sometimes feel like Paul is in third gear on the show these days. But even at less than his best, he still dominates most shows and he's the one person JAM cannot do without.
Silver medal

Graham Norton - (2013: had some moments, 2012: had some moments, 2011: 5th; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: 5th; 2008: bronze; 2007: let's hear more) There's nothing much funnier in this world than Graham at his best, and this year he was at or near his best.
Champion of the year
Sheila Hancock - (2013: about average, 2011: silver; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: average) Called up for every season last year, Sheila adds a touch of class to the show. Competitive and witty, she injects something different among all the stand-up comics, in a vaguely Clement-ish way. The shiw needs that touch of gravitas and competetiveness and I think, and she has something C;ement certainly didn't have, a nice touch of self-deprecation which always goes down well. Long live Sheila and I hope she continues ti appear more frequently.

Junior Just a Minute

I had the impression that the planned second series of Junior Just A Minute had been canned because the Radio Four Extra children's programme The Four O'Clock Show had been cancelled.

But to the contrary, I see that a second series has been recorded. Jenny Eclair and Josie Lawrence are there again as regular team captains.

A local Wiltshire paper has this nice article with one of the junior players.

So some "extra" JAM to look forward to...

CHATTERBOX Sarah Smart couldn’t believe her luck after being selected to appear on BBC Radio 4 Extra’s junior edition of the quiz show, Just a Minute.
The 11-year-old from Bradford on Avon decided to apply after her mum was listening to the radio and heard a call for children to send in applications for the revamped junior edition.
After a written application and a Skype interview, the Fitzmaurice pupil finally found out she had been chosen to go to London’s Shaw Theatre to record the 25- minute show.
She said: “When you apply for these things you do not expect to get in, so to be able to record a national radio show was a dream come true.”
The show presented by Nicholas Parsons, is now in its 46th year and is one of the longest-standing shows on Radio 4 still recorded in front of a live studio audience.
Youngsters aged 10-13 were paired with a more experienced adult for the new version, but were still asked to speak on a single topic without repetition, hesitation or deviation for 60 seconds.
Sarah was paired with comic Josie Lawrence against another comic, Jenny Eclair, and Oliver, also aged 11.
She said: “It was so nerve-racking and I couldn’t stop shaking when I got there. I walked into the room where everyone was and I saw Jenny Eclair doing some knitting and when everyone got talking, we all became comfortable in each other’s company.
“Nicholas Parsons was lovely and he was really interested in the fact I play rugby.”
More than 250 people were in the audience and by the end of the recording, both teams formed a competitive bond.
She said: “Our opposing team were known as the ‘glasses team’ and Josie and I were known as the ‘hair team’ because we had a lot of it.”
She added: “I didn’t realise how many people were there and the recording flew by. We were only in there for an hour or so but it only felt like five minutes, so the expression ‘time flies when you’re having fun’ really is true.”
Sarah is not allowed to tell people about her progress within the competition until it is broadcast, but the BBC confirmed the series is being scheduled shortly.

January 10, 2015

RIP Lance Percival

very sad to hear of the passing of Lance Percival, who appeared on JAM seven times between 1979 and 1989.

He was also a regular on Many A Slip with Richard Murdoch for many years and Kenneth's co-star on the shortlived TV series The Kenneth Williams Show.

A natural talker, Lance was good fun in his JAM appearances. He'll be missed.

This from the BBC...

Actor Lance Percival, who starred in British hit comedy in Up Pompeii, has died at the age of 81.

Among his notable film roles were Carry On Cruising, Postman's Knock and Darling Lili.

On TV, he appeared in the late '70s series Shoestring and Citizen James. He also provided the voice for both Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in the 1960s cartoon The Beatles.

Born John Lancelot Blades, he died on 6 January following a long illness.

His TV career began performing satirical calypso songs on comedy shows such as the That Was The Week That Was.

He was later given his own series, The Lance Percival Show and Lance at Large, a 1964 sitcom which also featured Bernard Bresslaw, Gladys Bacon and Eric Barker.

His love of calypso music also saw him release a cover version of Shame and Scandal (in the Family), which reached number 37 in the UK charts in 1965.

Following on from voicing roles in The Beatles cartoon, he went on to be cast as Old Fred in the band's surreal Yellow Submarine animated film.

In the 1971 film version of Up Pompeii, which followed on from Frankie Howerd's TV series, Percival starred as Bilius. He also appeared in the sequels, Up the Chastity Belt and Up the Front, which moved the action to World War One.

Later roles included a stint in the shortlived 1989 BBC children's drama Bluebirds, which also starred Barbara Windsor and a young Martine McCutcheon.

His son Jamie told BBC News: "When he spoke about his showbiz life, he spoke fondly of his time on That Was the Week That Was, and he always loved Ned Sherrin, who discovered him performing at the Blue Angel Club.

"He was an amazing dad. He was involved in my life right up to the present day. He came to every rugby game I was in, and we watched sports together, and we held Ryder Cup parties.

"He was loved by all his family and will be very much missed."

Percival's funeral will be held on 20 January at Putney Vale Crematorium.

December 24, 2014

Messiter family and book

There's a story in the Times quoting Malcolm Messiter saying that his family was audited by the Tax Department after Ian Messiter's death because they assumed he would have died a wealthy man for having created Just A Minute.

He says at the time Ian was getting just 11 thousand pounds a year for the rights to the show - this at a time when the BBC was already marketing CDs and tapes of the programme as well as having sold it around the world for years.

He said the BBC lifted the payment to 50 thousand pounds only when the family was approached by a commercial company offering to outbid the Beeb.

I can't link to the story as the Times has a paywall. But it's an interesting story. It does make you think how good a journalistic history of JAM could be. Nicholas's recent boom is good fun, but how good it would be to hear all about the show from the perspectives of the Messiters, the producers, the other cast members, the scorers, the technicians, etc etc etc.

December 18, 2014

panel quiz

My friend Keith Matthews has posted on my blog that the team at last night’s recording was Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair, Marcus Brigstocke and Shappi Khorsandi.

Great to have Marcus on again, a real favourite of mine.

There’s another recording in London on January 23rd and another in Canterbury – I don’t have a date for that.

Now Keith has set us a challenge for a bit of fun.

He says the team for the January 23rd recording is Paul Merton, Julian Clary and “a regular guest who hasn't played it for ages”, and “an actor whose most famous character is a time traveller”.

So guesses please everyone! I’m guessing Pam Ayres and David Tennant... but post with your guesses.

And in another bit of news... it was the last recording for whistle blower Trudi Stevens, one of the more long serving production assistants. Anyone predicting we might get a bloke next time?