Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

December 31, 2007

nothing, zilch, nada

As far as I can see no British paper has mentioned the 40th anniversary and the special programme that is now just a few hours away...

December 25, 2007

Nicholas interviewed

Nicholas Parsons talks about his life for an hour on BBC7


It's a good interview on his life. He talks about JAM at the beginning, and makes the point he sees it as his job to let the show get out of control and then rein it in and bring it back under control. That's a good way to put it and of course it shows how tough the job is.

He comes across as a very nice man, and is interesting on his partnership with Arthur Haynes. There's a funny sketch of his broadcast as part of the interview.

Well worth a listen.

December 23, 2007

Dean's JAM rankings for 2007

It's the time of year when everyone is doing lists for 2007.

So this blog joins in on the act with this rating of the JAMsters - solely on their performance in JAM this year. There are five categories and then we'll count 'em down to the star of the year...

They won't be back next year

Jo Caulfield - Just a one-off for Jo and she seemed a bit overwhelmed, and didn't have the funny material when called on to make her someone the producers will be trying again.
Alun Cochrane - Perhaps the weakest performer of the year, Alun didn't get into his shows at all. Unlikely to be tried again.
Maria McErlane - Has been in 14 shows now and yet she seldom seems to have good material when she starts a subject and that was the case again this year. She has a beguiling giggle though.
Pauline McLynn - I love the accent and voice and she tries hard. But somehow she just doesn't seem to get much into her appearances. Her five shows may be it for her.
Greg Proops - I've a soft spot for Greg as he was one of my favourites on Whose Line Is It Anyway. And with nine shows spaced over 14 years, he doesn't get much chance to refine his JAM skills. But he is usually disappointing when he does get on the show, and he was again this year. Perhaps intimidated by the requirements of the game.

They had some good moments

Jenny Eclair - I start off by saying I'm a big fan of Jenny. But this year she wasn't at her best. Jenny can be a star and there would have been plenty of times I would have had her near the top of my list. I thought she wasn't in great form this year.
Dave Gorman - He found it a bit tough to get a word in against mega-mouths Paul, Clement and Tony, but still had some funny things to say when he got the chance.
Phill Jupitus - Warmed up during hius shows, and seemed to be hitting his straps as he went on. Could be a star for the future.
Maureen Lipman - A great actor, and someone who loves JAM by the sound of her, but she didn't have much of great wit to say when she had the chance. Still someone I like to hear though.
Neil Mullarkey - Neil is a solid performer and hasn't much experience in JAM but seemed to enter into the spirit of things.

They're about average

Clement Freud - There was a time when you would have struggled to imagine JAM without the great man. I think a JAM post-Clemeht is no longer unimagineable and he seems to be contributing less. Still though comes out with a few good lines every time he's on though.
Tony Hawks - I felt Tony wasn't at his cheeky best this year, but he's still dependable and reliable when it comes to JAM.
Kit Hesketh-Harvey - Almost got into the next category up. Kit's shows weren't his best JAM work, but he's still witty, literate and jolly. I wish he was on more often.
Fred MacAulay - I liked him on his only appearance this year, where he had some funny bits and pieces. JAM"s format doesn't totally suit him, but he's still good fun to hear.
Dara O'Briain - Like Fred, the JAM format isn't the best for him, but his one show this year saw him come out with some good lines. He's enjoyable to listen to.
Tim Rice - Tim's a wit rather than a comic, and I like him when he is on the show where he does and Clement-like performance. I think though he used to be better playing off people like Kenneth Williams and Peter Jones though.

Let's see more of them

Chris Addison - The best of the newcomers this year, Chris seemed to just fall into the JAM style naturally, even into teasing Nicholas. Surely will be back soon.
Pam Ayres - Pam is warm and funny and even just a tad competitive. Would get better if she could be asked back more often than once a year.
Janey Godley - Strong and funny, she deserves a go more often than just getting one of the Edinburgh shows. I like the way she demands her share of the time, it's reminiscent of Sheila Hancock.
Graham Norton - Graham's camp humour and dirty laugh always makes him a welcome contributor on the show. He wasn't at his top form this year though.
Sue Perkins - Clearly the best of the current woemn panellists and someoen who should be doing the show more often. She always has something funny to say when she is on the show.

Stars of the year

5th best: Chris Neill - Chris is one of those guys who seems to get better every time he is on the show. He's a bit Kenneth Williams-like in the way he can throw a tanty and he always has something funny to say. I wish he could talk for more than 10 seconds at a time though.

4th best: Julian Clary - Julian's shows this years were top-class. He's a real wit these days and very competitive too.

Bronze medal: Gyles Brandreth - Not everyone likes Gyles but he provides a different style which is good variety. He's also well prepared and always witty and relevant. Surely will be doing the show a lot more in the future.

Silver medal: Marcus Brigstocke - Another certainty to make more and more frequent appearances, Marcus has it all in JAM terms - very funny, very sharp, very quick, very coherent and very competitive. The only player who it seems is likey to compete with Paul in the points stakes.

Champion of the year: Paul Merton - Well it's no surprise that Paul is the winner - if I'd been doing these ratings for years it would probably be something like his 17th consecutive win or something like that. But Paul is still the key to the show. He can't open his mouth without being witty, and over the years he has developed the Kenneth Williams gift of being able to lift the whole show when it's getting a bit off-track. Paul's the reason the show is still on the air after 40 years.

December 22, 2007

It was 40 years ago today

If you can, pick out one of your favourite editions, charge your glass, and toast David Hatch, Ian Messiter, Nicholas Parsons, Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo who 40 years ago were nervously wondering how the first show would be received.

December 21, 2007

January 7th JAM

The panel for the show is Sir Clement Freud, Paul Merton, Chris Neill and Josie Lawrence! Sounds good!

December 19, 2007

JAM goes to Greenwich

Get tickets for Just A Minute in Greenwich.

WEDNESDAY 16TH JANUARY 2008 at 7.30pm

The Greenwich Theatre,
Crooms Lane,
SW10 8ES/

Tickets are £5 - they can be booked via the Box Office on 020 8858 7755 or via the website: http://www.greenwichtheatre.co.uk/

December 15, 2007

Critics rubbish Stephen Fry's new panto

A summary of the reviews here

December 13, 2007

JAM is back!

This is the Beeb's listing for the December 31st special...

Just a Minute
31 December 2007

A special programme celebrating 40 glorious years of Just a Minute, featuring some of the best moments from the show over the years and interviews with regulars.

I can't wait!!!!!!!!

December 12, 2007

JAM recording

Get tickets for Just A Minute recordings in Salisbury.

SATURDAY 12TH JANUARY 2008 at 7.30pm

The Playhouse,
Malthouse Lane

Tickets are £5 - they can be booked via the Box Office on 01722 320333 or via the website: www.salisburyplayhouse.com

Also I've seen no specific info on panels for the shows recorded so far - anyone have any details?

December 10, 2007

The Rag Trade

It's so rare to see Peter Jones acting that I had to buy The Rag Trade when I saw it on DVD in the shop.

It also features another JAM great Sheila Hancock, as well as guest Miriam Karlin. Other well-known names are Reg Varney and Barbara Windsor.

The show is from the early 60s and in black and white. The concept has dated - it is about a small factory where it's really the union that runs everything. Peter plays a bumbling boss.

But... that comic timing is all there, which makes it worthwhile. Sheila is great too, and cor, she was a looker back then!


I'm now on facebook! So let me know if you want to make a JAM Facebook group...

And there is a JAM group already - see here

December 09, 2007

40 this month

JAM turns 40 this month so I'll be marking this on the blog with a few thinkpieces.

I'll be writing these over the next month. I hope you'll enjoy them.

bits and bobs

JAM semi-regular Marcus Brigstocke is hosting a new Saturday night comedy programme called Saturday Live. Good luck to Marcus and the show.

Paul Merton is to host a new improv show on TV called Thank God You're Here. This summary is from The Sun.

New comedy show for ITV1
A new comedy show, hosted by award winning Paul Merton, is set to throw well-known personalities in at the deep end.
Thank God You’re Here, to be aired on ITV1, will see celebrities given the ultimate challenge - handed a costume, props and a set, but no script -all in front of a live audience.
Programme makers say each week a guest will be unaware of the scenario they are about to walk into and could be dressed in anything from a policeman’s uniform to a cheerleader’s outfit.
They will be guided through a blue door by Paul to be greeted by the line, “Thank God You’re Here” - after that, they’ll have to survive on their wits alone and blag their way through the scene.
Paul Merton, famed for his quick wit in shows such as Have I Got News for You and Room 101, will also perform in his very own off-the-cuff scene each week which will be kept from the comedian until he himself walks through the blue door.
He said: “I'm delighted to be hosting Thank God You're Here. It's a really great idea. None of the guests have any idea what they're walking into and anything could happen.
"We've got lots of great scenarios lined up and I can't wait to get started.”
Duncan Gray, ITV’s Controller of Comedy and Entertainment, said: "Thank God You're Here is a laugh out loud, funny, fresh show, built around Paul Merton’s unrivalled improvisational skill and popularity.”

And I like this line from a review of Paul's new stage show - in The Telegraph

Just imagine, for a terrible moment, if Paul Merton didn't exist how impoverished our lives would be. Radio 4's Just a Minute would lack its most breezily assured participant. Have I Got News For You would have no resident authority in dazzling surrealistic repartee. And whole generations would grow up without discovering the joys of Hollywood's early silent comedies.

December 02, 2007

Sad news on JAM guest

JAM guest Jim Sweeney is standing down from live comedy performances, because of multiple schlerosis.

Jim, who appeared in the radio version of JAM in 1993, and on the TV version in 1994 and 1995, is a long time veteran of the Comedy Store Players improv troupe where he appears regularly with Paul Merton, Steve Frost, Richard Vranch, Neil Mullarkey and Lee Simpson.

For the past three or four years, he has done the show from a wheelchair because of his disease.

He says the disease has now progressed so far that he won't be able to perform on stage.

All the best to Jim - I really hope your condition improves and you'll be able to return to "work".

here's an interesting piece on Jim from The Daily Telegraph in 2004

Cracking sick jokes
(Filed: 29/11/2004)

Comedian Jim Sweeney is used to making people laugh, but his one-man show, about his MS, has been making audiences cry, too, he tells Bryony Gordon

Jim Sweeney is used to making people cry with laughter. As one sixth of the Comedy Store Players – the improvisation group that also counts Paul Merton as a member – the award-winning comedian has done just that for the 19 years that they have been performing. But Sweeney is not used to making his audience cry tears of sorrow. When he took a new one-man show to the Edinburgh Festival this summer, that was how some of the crowd reacted.

This is perhaps not surprising when you learn that the 49-year-old's show, My MS and Me, is about the condition from which he has suffered for almost 20 years. But Sweeney never intended it to be moving, only amusing. That's why the show's opening song is Elvis Costello's I Can't Stand up for Falling Down.

My MS and Me won rave reviews and will be broadcast on Radio 4 in the New Year. There are even suggestions that it will be made into a book. All of which seems to have surprised Sweeney.

"All the way through rehearsals, I kept saying to my director: 'Is this boring you?'" he says, when we meet for lunch. "It wasn't until I saw the reviews and the reactions of the audiences that I realised there were bits that people found incredibly touching. There's a section of the show that seems to really get them. It touches on a time when I fell over one night and couldn't get up.

"I was lying on the floor for quite a long time and like anybody who is awake at 3am, there were all these thoughts going through my head, like, 'I'm going to spend the rest of my life lying here on the floor'. Which, of course, I wasn't, but you know."

I don't know, but this is typical of Sweeney. He plays down his multiple sclerosis throughout our conversation. He seems to be the kind of chap who just wants to get on with life.

"It was very strange to have people in the audience fighting back tears. And I thought, 'Oh, it's not my fault, I was just telling you about my thing'."

His "thing" has, in the past few years, left him almost unable to walk. The left side of his body is the worst, but he thinks his right side is gradually catching up.

"My balance is just non-existent. I wobble all the time. But the thing is, when I'm sitting down, nobody knows about the MS," he laughs. "I can give everyone a show when we get up."

He uses a walking stick, but it is obvious that he is struggling. He has a wheelchair but is reluctant to use it.

"It is really only a matter of time before I have to start," he says. "I was thinking this morning that I should take it out today, because I've never been to this restaurant before. But for various stupid reasons, I'm holding out until next year. Then, it will have been 20 years, and also I think it's really important to keep walking until I absolutely can't any more."

His vision has also been affected. "Your head is a black dot," he says to me, covering his left eye with his hand. "Otherwise, it's just blurred. Short-sighted people understand. It's like when you take your glasses off for a moment and everything shifts into a nice, comforting blur. Well, my vision is like that all the time."

Living with MS means that he also has to "live under a kind of benevolent house arrest", he says. "But I don't really mind. I've done so many things. I've stood on the Great Wall of China and walked through Tiananmen Square." To get about, he takes taxis. "They're tax-deductable now," he says, cheerily.

When I tell him that he seems remarkably relaxed about his condition, he is defiant. "I could spend hours wallowing in self-pity but, absolutely genuinely, what's the point in me doing that? I do have moments. I was watching a programme about space travel a few nights ago, and I thought 'I'm never going to be the one they pick'. And then I thought, 'well, nobody is!'"

He doesn't take prescribed drugs for MS. "The doctors could only offer me steroids and I didn't want to look like an East German shot-putter," he says. But, like many MS sufferers, he does smoke cannabis. "It relaxes my leg. Every night, I have a third of a pure cannabis joint."

Sweeney wishes it was legal. "It's ludicrous for a man of my age to be sidling up to people in pubs asking for dope. After one show in Edinburgh, a woman who was suffering from MS came up to me and the first thing she said was: 'Where can I get grass?'

"I do resent the fact that there will never be a proper discussion about it, because people buy into the tabloid mentality that if you smoke dope, you'll end up injecting heroin. That's as stupid as claiming that if you drink a half pint of bitter, you'll end up on meths. It's only a gateway drug for the predisposed."

Does he worry that one day, he will no longer be able to perform as a Comedy Store Player? The show, which is entirely improvised, can get quite physical.

"I've been thinking about this a lot," he says. "Tiredness can hit me about halfway through the second half. Three years ago, I brought it up with the others. I told them, 'It may get to a stage when I can't stand to perform any more, and I think I'll know when that happens, but if I don't, please tell me.' They all looked at me with blank faces and said: 'Well, we'll get a wheelchair, obviously', and then carried on with the conversation.

"They are typical boys in that they just do things beautifully for me without any fuss – one of them always walks behind me on stairs to make sure I don't stumble, and there's always someone outside the venue to walk me to the pub. There may well be a point when I feel I can't do it any more, but it's not now."

The only thing that bothers Sweeney is that the onset of MS coincided with the birth of his first daughter (he has two daughters, aged 18 and 19, with his girlfriend, Carol). "I think that the wickedest and most devious thing about MS is that it tends to hit at around 30, when people start having kids."

Sweeney, of course, does not allow himself to become too negative. "I'm lucky because it has only crept up properly over the last five years, and I'm sure my daughters weren't aware of it as children. I almost certainly wasn't. I just carried on with my life."

And with that, our lunch is over. We spend a while looking for a waitress to ask for the bill. "Shall we just make a run for it?" suggests Sweeney, before pausing for a moment. He looks at his walking stick and back at me, and begins to laugh. "We wouldn't get very far, would we?"