Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

September 25, 2007

Best of 2007

The next Just A Minute compilation CD gets released next week. It's Just A Minute: Best of 2007.

The list of those involved includes Paul Merton, Sir Clement Freud, Graham Norton, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair, Julian Clary, Maria McErlane, Pam Ayres, Marcus Brigstocke, Maureen Lipman and Chris Addison.

Sounds like a cracker!

September 22, 2007


It's interesting to look back through this year's players...

Counting the two shows at Stratford these were the players used.

Paul Merton - 18 shows
Clement Freud - 14 shows
Gyles Brandreth - 6 shows
Marcus Brigstocke, Tony Hawks, Chris Neill, Graham Norton - 4 shows
Chris Addison, Pam Ayres, Julian Clary, Alun Cochrane, Jenny Eclair, Dave Gorman, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Phill Jupitus, Maureen Lipman, Maria McErlane, Pauline McLynn, Neil Mullarkey, Sue Perkins, Greg Proops, Tim Rice - 2 shows
Jo Caulfield, Janey Godley, Fred MacAulay, Dara O'Briain - 1 show

Note 26 people used - this is a record for a year.
And note that no woman went to more than one recording. We're a long way from having a successor to Linda Smith as woman regular.
Lots of variety - and I think the shows were very funny this year!


I've now written about my experiences at the Stratford-upon-Avon recording of JAM. I'm sorry it's taken two weeks but I think you'll agree it's been worth the wait.

I've written in four parts. It's best read from part one so you will be better to scroll down to part one and read in reverse order of posts. I've tried to include lots of detail as i know some won't have experienced a live recording.

Hope you enjoy it.

Stratford-upon-Avon (part four: after the show)

Okay the show finishes and everyone stays on stage. Nicholas announces that Tilusha is on her way from the van to do some pick-ups. You do sometimes see that at recorded shows where the cast say some words again so they can get a good recording of them. At Edinburgh they didn't do any. Anyway I got the impression that maybe Tilusha liked to have these things done really well.

She wanted Nicholas to redo his introduction to the show because he hadn't mentioned the rules. He did and then remembered he hadn't introduced Trudi. So he did his introduction for the fourth time that night.

She then wanted Clement to say "hesitation". Clement looked a bit annoyed at this and said something like "can't you just cut it from somewhere else?" When you think of the number of times Clement must have said "hesitation" over the years, you can perhaps understand his annoyance. But eventually with a worldweary look on his face he leaned into the mike and said "hesitation" and of course the audience laughed at the look on his face, which was not what Tilusha wanted. So she asked Roger in the van if he needed to do it again, and fortunately for Clement, his voice came booming in to say he was happy.

Phill Jupitus also had to repeat his first words at the beginning of a round and he then did it in four different silly voices which I'm guessing wasn't what Tilusha wanted either, but he wasn't asked to repeat it.

Then Nicholas said "before we say goodbye, I want to say there's someone special in the audience who has come all the way from New Zealand to see us tonight. Dean Bedford runs the Just A Minute website and club which does such a great job in supporting the show and documenting its history. I think we should all give him a round of applause." For a moment I thought he was going to ask me to stand up or come up on the stage, but he didn't. That suited me as I would have died of embarrassment. But there they were, the panel, Tilusha and about 1100 people applauding me. He then asked me to come backstage and say hello after the show. They then walked off, Graham taking a moment to thank the crowd, and giving them a wave.

Now I had been told to come backstage, but I hadn't actually planned to do that. As those of you who know me know, I am actually very shy and just didn't feel it was my place to intrude on the performers' private space. And at 41, I'm a bit old to be "starstruck".

But after what Nicholas had said from the stage, I really felt it would be grossly rude for me not to respond. So I waited a little after the audience had gone out to see if I could spot the way to get backstage. I couldn't so I walked out into the lobby where the attendant that had helped me ealier was waiting. She introduced me to Annie Parsons who was there with some friends. She was charming and very kind. We then went backstage.

It was not much of a backstage area. A kitchen with some fairly dodgy-looking club sandwiches, some orange juice and some cheap wine. You wouldn't have fitted a dozen people in the area comfortably - it was standing room only.

Nicholas was there holding court. Phill had two young women with him. He was talking a little to Gyles and Clement and the women. Phill was saying something like that he'd listened to the show for years, had always enjoyed it, had been asked before to do the show but always felt he wouldn't be able to do it. But he seemed to have enjoyed the show.

Clement was there but he was standing alone nursing his drink, he seemed very shy and out of place - which was how I felt too! Graham wasn't there, he had already left.

Annie Parsons introduced me to Nicholas who was very complimentary about the website. I don't believe he had actually seen it, but he knew about it and how we'd transcribed all the shows. I told him how I used to listen to Kenneth on the air when I was a kid and loved the show. He was concerned about Keith - he'd actually tried to come to the show and had another turn and had to be taken back to the B&B by ambulance. Nicholas was nice and I told him I'd never been applauded by 1000 people before. I thanked him for the kind things he said on stage. I told him he'd dome a great job.

He then introduced me to Gyles who was if anything even more complimentary. He told me Nicholas had rung him a few days before to tell him he had to be especially good because I was going to be there. I honestly thought he was joking and I made a sort of joking remark, but Gyles's expression told me he was completely serious and hadn't made that up. He was very nice and he asked about me a little. He poured me a wine. I said to him about the Derek Nimmo technique of going back to previous subjects and he smiled.

Clement looked over at me and smiled and nodded. I did the same and said "hello" but he gave the impression he didn't really want me to speak to him. He didn't seem to speak to anyone too much apart from Phill.

Gyles said he had to go and Nicholas and he had a conversation about playing Just A Minute. Nicholas was saying Gyles was very very good at the game. They were then reminiscing a little about Peter Jones. Nicholas was saying how good he was at making the witty remark and then letting it lie, talking really about his timing. I got the feeling they both felt a lot of affection for Peter. I liked the fact that within five minutes of being backstage at a JAM, we had mentioned Kenneth, Derek and Peter. It was like they were still part of it all.

Anyway I still felt a little out-of-place so I decided to go. As I left Clement's woman friend from the train was coming in. She recognised me, I don't think Clement did. I bumped into Tilusha who hadn't been backstage (neither was Trudi). She was so pleased to see me and thanked me and all of you for the work on the site. She said Graham had had to leave to go back to London. She wanted me to go backstage again - she asked me twice - but I felt it would be better for me to leave - I was a bit worried about Keith.

She asked me if I was disappointed about Paul Merton not being on the show. Now this was something that hadn't even occurred to me before. I said no I wasn't, and I meant it. Of course it would have been nice if Paul had been there - he is the best performer on the show at the moment. But I was very very happy with the panel I had seen. I told her she was doing a great job. She had said on stage it was a great privilege to be the producer of Just A Minute and you could see she meant it.

She said she must say good-bye and thank you to Clement so she excused herself. And I went off, walking on air as you can imagine.

What a night - one of the best experiences of my life.

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....

Stratford-upon-Avon (part two: before the show)

Most people will know this, but perhaps people overseas won't. Stratford-upon-Avon is the place William Shakespeare was born and wrote his plays. It is a village really with a population of about 20 thousand. Its major industry, I suspect, is Shakespeare, with tourists looking around the collection of museums and houses - I think there were three claiming to be Shakespeare's home. The Royal Shakespeare Company is based here, and it was at one of their theatres the JAM was being recorded. It's a beautiful town. Somewhat surprisingly I found the locals we spoke to (shopkeeper, taxi driver, landlady at the B&B) didn't realise the JAM was being recorded tonight.

This is perhaps something to note for people wanting to see a JAM live. They never do much advertising - I didn't see any posters up anywhere. They don't need to I guess. But if you want to see a JAM, you will have to make it happen - don't expect there to be extensive advertising.

The theatre was a lovely neighbourhood theatre. Tickets were five pounds I think - we got ours free through Nicholas. There was quite a queue when I arrived and as I didn't have tickets in my hand, I did wonder if I had come all this way to miss out. But the free tickets came through after I spoke to one of the attendants. (I should say that Keith was unwell as I said so I was alone).

Inside the theatre I looked around. The stage was in what's called a "round". That is it's shaped like a semicircle and the audience is seated on all sides (apart from the back) rather than everyone being in front of the stage). Nicholas made a big thing about it being the first time they'd done a show like that.

The stage is set up in what you might call a minimalist fashion. Three tables were set well back from the front of the stage so everyone could see. There is a black tablecloth draped over the tables. On the tables sit five microphones, six glasses of water. That's it, there wasn't even any BBC logos or branding and it looks very drab.

The audience - when I first arrived they looked elderly - like the Radio Four audience average age was 70. But I think maybe the older people bought tickets in advance, as it filled up there were a lot of younger people too. Like the old fashioned theatres of Shakespeare's time, the audience were seated on three floors - Nicholas also said this was a first and it seemed to spook Graham Norton slightly. The guy next to me was about 20 - and seemed to be really enjoying the show. The theatre wasn't full, the capacity was said to be about 1200 and I would say that maybe a hundred seats were empty.

The show starts with the producer Tilusha Ghelani coming out. She is short, she had to point the mike down at her to speak into it. She thanked everyone for coming and apologised for the delay, she said some of the panel had arrived late.

Tilusha and the sound engineer sit outside the theatre during the show in a sound van which is like a large moving truck.

She introduced Nicholas who was in a very flamboyant suit, cream with pinstripes. It did look a little like a deckchair as someone has described his outfits. He chatted to the audience a little, made a joke that in a round, some of the audience would be looking at his Nichol-arse. He and Tilusha both emphasised that the audience needed to laugh a lot - and we did!

So he brought on the cast. Now I knew that Clement and Graham were on the panel, didn't know who the others were to be. They came out in their seating order, right to left. I picked up Gyles Brandreth as the third panellist. I lost Nicholas's introduction of the fourth in the cheering that greeted them coming out. A big man, one might say a fat man. I racked my brain for who this could be, and of course this turned out to be Phill Jupitus, making his JAM debut.

They sat in this order, two at each table, Phill, Clement, Trudi Stevens (blowing the whistle), Nicholas, Gyles and Graham. Graham was in tidy but fashionable clothes, but not one of the outrageous shirts of his TV shows. Gyles was in suit jacket and business shirt, but no tie. Clement was just in his shirt - jacket and tie had come off. Phill was in jumper and trousers. Last time I saw a pic of him he was bearded, but today he was clean shaven. He, Nicholas and Gyles wore glasses. Phill seemed delighted to be there. Graham joked a little with the audience.

Nicholas asked each of them to do sound tests so the engineer could make sure the mikes were all working for fine. The engineer's name was Roger and Nicholas referred to him as "Roger in the van". Gyles said "did you say rogering in the van?" For those who don't know this English slang, rogering is a term for sex, usually anal sex. So this caused a few laughs and Nicholas kept coming back to this joke, even though it's the sort of joke that only really works once. I felt slightly sorry for Roger who must have heard this sort of joke approximately 20 million times. We could hear Roger's voice over the loudspeaker saying the voices were fine. When it was Clement's turn for the sound test, he told a dirty limerick! I wish I could remember it but the first, second and fifth lines ended with -uck words so you get the flavour.

And so we were ready to start!

Stratford-upon-Avon (part one: trip there)

Okay here's the big report on my trip to see a JAM live. I'll write in four parts as there's a lot to say.

Note it was the second recording I'd witnessed - I saw Clement, Paul, Ross Noble, Greg Proops and Sean Lock at Edinburgh in 2002.

So my friend Keith Matthews and I travelled to Stratford on the train from London. We spotted a good seat and grabbed it. And who - entirely coincidentally - should be seated at the seats beside us than Sir Clement Freud and a young blonde woman?

I'm assuming most people know what Clement looks like. Last time I saw him in 2002 he really was shaped like a bowling ball on legs, short and fat. I think he has lost weight since then - he's still round but he just didn't look quite so big. He is grey and bald and I guess he now looks his age (mid 80s). He was dressed formidably and conservatively in grey suit and tie.

I'm not sure what the relationship was with the woman friend, I don't think she was in his family.

Keith and I (under our breaths) decided not to approach Clement - he is well-known for being shy and avoiding the fans and not enjoying signing autographs and the like. We did listen in to his conversation - we couldn't avoid that as he was sitting about a metre away from me. As it was just a private conversation I won't go into all the details, but I'll instead try to give you a bit of an idea what he was like in person.

Firstly, although the woman was clearly very intelligent and all, Clement dominates conversation. Not in that he talked more than she did - his comments were terse as you might expect - but his views on subjects tended to be the "final word". He would correct her on facts from time to time, and was witty as he is on the radio in his succinct sort of way. She clearly enjoyed the conversation, laughing a lot at his remarks

He said he had been on holiday in Portugal and hadn't been all that well, but was beginning to feel better.

She asked him a bit about JAM - she hadn't been to a recording before - but it's here where I feel the veil should be drawn. She asked him about various JAM stars and he gave fairly pungent but usually one-word opinions on most of them. He did praise one player, and on another the woman gushed about this occasional guest at some length, to which Clement replied "mmmmm". He wasn't complimentary about some. But it did come through that he loves playing the game a lot.

Amusingly, he was in the paper I was reading. The Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe was appearing in a TV ad, something a sitting MP hadn't done before and she mentioned Clement as a precedent. Clement appeared in a series of ads for dog food in the 60s, but that was before he was a MP which Clement pointed out in the article.

Clement and friend had brought what looked like a delicious picnic lunch which they consumed on the train. It wasn't enough though, at one point he went looking for the refreshments area, which long trains on Britain usually have. This trip though was just for two and a half hours and didn't have one.

At one point when we stopped at a station, a man got on holding an unlit cigarette in his mouth, in the way people do when they are about to light it. Now we all know how Clement hates smoking. The man sat behind me and Clement where the woman could see but he couldn't. He asked the woman if the man had lit the cigarette and she said "no he hasn't, but I wouldn't tell you if he had, because you'd get up and make a scene!"

Now sadly my friend Keith became ill on the trip, and Clement and the woman were very kind and helpful about it and actually gave up some of their picnic so Keith had something to drink.

And the trip through the English countryside was beautiful... Stratford-upon-Avon is in the English midlands and it was a delightful start to the excursion.

September 18, 2007


I know I haven't written the promised piece on my JAM trip - will do so in next few days. I just need a good hour or so to write it all up.

I thought I'd at least get in ahead of the first of the recordings going to air!

September 11, 2007

Stratford-upon-Avon show

Well I was at the JAM recording last night - the team was...

Sir Clement Freud, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth and Phil Jupitus.

Yes, Phil's first appearance.

I will write a lengthy post when I have time, hopefully later this week (I'm still travelling)

but... I can say...

* (entirely coincidentally) I travelled on the train seated beside Clement!
* I got to meet and talk to Nicholas and Gyles and Clement and the producer Tilusha Ghelani
* Nicholas introduced me to the crowd, thanked us for the work we were doing - and the crowd gave me a good round of applause!

Plus - and I know that this is what you're really interested in - I think the shows were two of the funniest done in ages.

It therefore deserves longer than I have now to tell all - so more in a couple of days...

September 09, 2007

Free tickets

I have two tickets to Sunday's JAM recording at Stratford-on-Avon going spare. Courtyard Theatre at 730pm. Don't email - I won't pick that up. Text or ring me on
(whatever you call forinternational calls) then 6421-981-900

September 07, 2007

I'm in London!

If anyone cares... :-)

Didn't hear this week's show but I see Marcusdidn't win so his reign as JAM champ lasted just one week.

I'm looking forward to meeting Nicholas and the team at the recording on Sunday and will then report back!

September 04, 2007

favour to ask

I'm on holiday and travelling so will miss this week's show, would anyone like to send me the details of the show for adding to the website? Email is dbedford@ihug.co.nz

Last recording this season is on Sunday. Confirmed panellists are Clement Freud and Graham Norton, don't know who the other two will be yet.