Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

December 02, 2008

Peter Jones

Yes Kenneth Williams and Paul Merton have been the two stars of JAM. But if I had to pick one other panellist to join them in a show of my dreams, I think it would be Peter Jones.

I think Peter's addition to the cast took the show in a new direction which has kept it on the air. Before that the huge egos of Kenneth, Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo threatened to make the show ultra-competitive which would have been ultimately the wrong direction. The fun of the show is in the banter and use of words, not who can buzz first on repetition of "and".

When Derek had a season off, Peter Jones came in and was different. He didn't much care if he won. He teased the others and indeed the show itself, when it began to be taken too seriously. And he kept that up. He said a little before his death that he never felt that he actually got any good at the game, even after playing it for 30 years. This is a bit modest, but you know what he means. He was always prone to hesitating and repeating words and never as quick as others on the buzzer. If the panel was Paul, Clement, Peter and Stephen Fry, and you had to pick one to bet your home on, you wouldn't pick Peter.

Yet I'd say there was never a poor show with Peter on it. He was always so witty, he always interesting to listen to, he had some of the best lines. You just couldn't help feeling warm towards him and during his time a show without him on it was a bit like a roast dinner without the gravy.

Yet as brilliantly funny as he was, I can't help but think he may be the least remembered of the three who are now playing with Linda Smith in the heavens. Derek Nimmo and Kenneth Williams are I think better remembered. Peter never had the big successes on TV, stage or screen that they had and I rather think his rather bland voice and features make him less memorable. You can be surprised to realise that's Peter in a bit part in an old movie or TV show where Derek and Kenneth remain instantly recognisable.

Why do I offer these ramblings today? Well, a Guardian article today praises... Peter Jones. The piece is written by Martin Kelner who mightn't be a bad JAM panellist himself. Read about him here and also on his own website here.

Here's part of the article from the Guardian. You can read the whole thing here. How nice for someone to write in praise of Peter.

If radio is about a listener relating to a voice and building up some kind of relationship with it, I feel that way about Peter Jones. Jones is best known as the voice of the book in the radio adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but what I really wanted, and what BBC7 gave me, was the voice of Jones, who died in 2000, on Just a Minute.

Despite the many fine comedians who appear on the show, and Kenneth Williams's bravura performances in the 1970s and 80s, Jones remains my all-time favourite panellist. He always gave the impression of an old actor in a tweed jacket who had just wandered into the studio - which was more or less what he was.

His glorious insouciance worked brilliantly as counterpoint to the eager beaver chairman, Nicholas Parsons. Just as I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue worked because its host, Humphrey Lyttelton, was so funny and knowing, what lifts Just a Minute into the pantheon is that it is a comedy panel game chaired by someone with no discernible sense of humour. Brilliant. BBC7 has also brought us repeats of another work of genius featuring Jones - the spoof memoirs of an actor called J Kingston Platt, first broadcast in 1988.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Jones is indeed one of my all time favorites too.

In fact I've never understood why Kenneth Williams was such a hype, his ego has been way too much for me to handle. Nor has Nimmoy ever been amongst my favorites.

6:22 am  

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