Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

September 22, 2007

Stratford-upon-Avon (part three: the show)

They recorded two shows. You'll have to forgive my inability to attribute comments to particular shows, so some of what's here will appear on air this week, and some in the British winter season.

Gyles won the first show, Gyles and Graham were equal winners in the second. Gyles and Graham who were sitting together were clearly the better players on the night, although Clement was competitive with them in the first game, and Phill did better in the second.

As new players often do, Phill took a while to warm up. At one point in the first game, I noticed he hadn't spoken between starting rounds. But he got better, and was particularly good at picking up repetitions. I think he could be a very skilful player of the game if he played it more often as he was also pretty good at keeping going. In the second round of the first show, Nicholas was gesturing to him to challenge which caused an amusing moment as Phill really didn't know what he was supposed to be challenging about.

They started rounds in this order in the first game - Graham, Gyles, Phill, Clement. In the second game it was Clement, Gyles, Phill, Graham.

One of the things I noticed at Edinburgh that surprised me was that the chattiest between rounds and when Nicholas was blathering on was.... Clement. He was often whispering to Paul, making witty remarks that made Paul laugh. Paul wouldn't say anything back, he was just concentrating. Well although Phill and Clement were not such good friends, Clement described him as "my new friend", he did the same throughout this show, again despite Phill not having much to say in return. In comparison, Graham and Gyles didn't have much to say to each other.

Gyles went the full 60 on a subject, I can't remember what it was, but he did something that true JAM fans will appreciate. To keep going he used the old Derek Nimmo technique of going back through all the old subjects! He related them vaguely to whatever the current subject was. Gyles does sound and act a lot like Derek, and I couldn't help feeling that Derek would be looking down and smiling.

Graham also nearly went almost the full 60 - he got into the 50s - on the weird subject "an infinite number of monkeys". It was very funny when he was finally stopped because he said "at last on this programme I've found a subject I know something about!" I think Graham has gone the full 60, but certainly it is rare. Nicholas then promised to find a monkey-related subject for a future show.

There was an early subject that was something like "star quality" or something like that. And Clement started with it "The man that most epitomises star quality to me is Nicholas Parsons..." and then made a sort of strangled noise as if he was choking on his words. So they all enjoyed the thought of Clement choking on praise for Nicholas. Gyles then took up the subject and also declared Nicholas to be a huge star, and said he had once seen Nicholas in his underpants and how impressive a figure he had, at which Graham pressed the buzzer with a look of disgust and said "it's just creepy and horrible!" Nicholas gave it to him and said the incident with Gyles had never happened. But after the show while they were still on stage (wait for the next section), Gyles said he was very sad as the incident had happened when they were both trying to break the record for the longest after-dinner speech and had changed in the same dressing room.

The subject was "A to Z" and Gyles started with the sort of gambit that proves the panel does get to see the subjects they start with before the show. He started to list Shakesperian characters by the alpahabet which was quite an impressive thing to do. Clement got in and just recited the alphabet. Then Graham got the subject and said Stratford-upn-Avon wasn't big enough to have an A to Z - for those unaware street maps in Britain are called "A to Z"s. Gyles buzzed in and said he had used to live there and it did have one. He used to have a teddy bear museum there, but he later said he had closed it but he still had property there, although someone said to me after the show that he had actually sold the property. Anyway Graham asked the audience whether there was an A to Z for Stratford and the audience seemed unsure. I would say it was about evenly divided. Nicholas said "correct challenge Gyles, one second to go on the subject starting now" but before Gyles could start speaking, Graham started to complain about the challenge being awarded against him with just one second to go. In the confusion, Trudi didn't blow the whistle, but Nicholas declared Gyles had spoken for the second and got the extra point. Then realising that the whistle hadn't been blown, Nicholas picked it up and blew it himself. I don't actually recall that happening before.

I should say something about Trudi. She is the only one with a headset on - she can hear what the producer and sound engineer are saying, the others cannot. She seemed to really enjoy the show, she had a big grin on her face the whole time and she was very efficient. I think she must just keep score by putting marks beside someone's name because she was very quick to hand the scores to Nicholas almost as soon as the whistle was blown. I don't think she was totalling them up for him is what I mean here. At one point she gave a poor blow and Nicholas started to teach her about blowing whistles but she took it all very well. He told her "the problem with you Trudi is you always swallow it..." Giggles erupt from Gyles and Graham... Nicholas sometimes came back to the issue but Trudi didn't seem to mind. At the end of the show Nicholas invited her to speak to the audience and she just grinned and shook her head.

Phill started the subject "will power" and said "how ironic it is that I should be given the subject, the only 22 stone man on the panel who clearly has no will power". I don't know that he was 22 stone, but he is a big man.

I'm not so good at remembering punchlines, but what I can say is the show was hilarious and they all had their moments. Nicholas holds the show together magnificently, he is worth his weight in gold and he has a good ear for when the game needs to be moved on and when the audience is enjoying the banter. He is a champion.

At one point he said "I've just realised that this is the first time we've had two former MPs on the show together. Clement was the MP for the Isle of Ely, and Gyles was the MP for Chester." Clement then said "that is total crap!" He then paused for the audience to laugh and Nicholas looked rather perturbed. He then said "Gyles and I have appeared on this programme together at least a dozen times". Now the interesting thing is that up till then, Gyles and Clement had appeared together exactly 12 times. But four of them were before Gyles was a MP, in 1983 and 1986. Gyles nodded his head to confirm Clement's comment, and Nicholas then said "oh well, maybe I just hadn't mentioned it before". Nicholas did dither a little on occasions but as I say he still keeps the programme together wonderfully well. He is beginning to look his age too, but he still has a wonderfully young and smooth voice.

Overall I'd say Graham was the funniest. He has a good rapport with an audience and he was very facially expressive - most of the others are concentrating on mistakes when listening, but Graham was enjoying their comments too. As the biggest star there, the crowd obviously enjoyed having him there and he gives 100 percent. He had the best lines of the night.

Phill was also very witty and fitted in wonderfully well. Of the newcomers we've had this year, I'd say Chris Addison was the best, but Phill was just behind him. He was certainly better than Alun Cochrane or Dave Gorman or Jo Caulfield. As I said he was good at picking up repetitions, although at one point he said "I have a memory that only goes back 10 seconds .... that's probably a bit of a handicap in this game..."

Gyles was Gyles, and you either enjoy his style or you don't. He got in some of his favourite routines including the blind horse, and he squabbled over points. And he was witty. He offers something different and I reckon that sooner or later we'll be hearing him on the show as a regular. He also takes jokes against himself very well. After the star quality round he had a sort of running joke of praising Nicholas and then when they had a spat over a decision, Graham turned to the audience, shrugged his shoulders and said "they're having a domestic!"

I felt Clement wasn't at his best but he was something of an audience favourite and his barbs were pretty good. He seemed to particularly enjoy jokes against himself which always goes down well with the audience. He's adorable.

There was about a minute between shows, they all just got on with it. I'd say they recorded about 90 minutes over the two shows and there wasn't really a crap round - maybe they'll get three shows out of it!

But it was all over too soon....


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Really interesting to read your experiences - it sounds great fun. I went to one recording of the show about 6 or 7 years ago when my wife worked at the BBC and really enjoyed it. Sadly, I can't remember who was on the panel.

"Nicholas sometimes came back to the issue but Trudi didn't seem to mind."

Trudi has got a really good - and often naughty- sense of humour.

1:47 am  

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