Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

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Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 08, 2009

Clement

Sir Clement Freud - one of just two regular JAM panellists - turned 85 a few months back. It's an age at which he could hardly be blamed for deciding it might be time to take things a tad easier. JAM of course is hardly a major demand on his time, especially when it is recorded in London when it is probably just two or three hours of his time. A trip to Edinburgh to record there might take up the better part of two days, once you include travelling there and back, so perhaps over a year his JAM work takes up say 10 to 14 days. Still even after all these years, the stress of "live" broadcasting must be there.

It's hard to overestimate how much he has meant to JAM over the years. He was for the first 30 years or so the competitive one - the one that took the game and its rules seriously. The show needed that if it wasn't to fall into total silliness. He was a marvellous straight man to Kenneth Williams - could anyone else have continued to talk while your neighbour was nuzzling your ear? For the first six years - 142 shows - he appeared in every show. And if he often resorted to lists and pedantic challenges to win, it was also true that he almost always said something witty, even if he had just a second to fill. He usually won too because he was fluent - once he started talking he seldom lost his way and hesitated. And of course he led the razzing of Nicholas, although Kenneth and Derek competed strongly with him in this area.

Typically a show, up to about 10 years ago, had Clement speaking in almost every round. Because he was that good.

These days he is prone to losing his way and he is slower on the buzzer than he used to. He is still capable of the witty remark, but they are less frequent. He's usually in third or fourth place.

Others have taken over the role of curmudegeon when it comes to the rules and points, principally Paul Merton, but also Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandeth and Marcus Brigstocke.

Dare I suggest that these days the better shows are those where Clement is missing? It seems a harsh remark to make but it might be so.

Over the past three years producers Claire Jones and Tilusha Ghelani have been cutting back on Clement's appearances. So far this season he has done 4 out of 10 shows, including those not yet broadcast. If he is not part of the last recording On Tuesday night, it will be his lowest proportion of shows in the show's history.

I doubt very much that Claire Jones will want to sack Clement. He is a link to the show's long history. But I wonder if the time may soon be there when he is just doing one recording per season and someone else (Tony? Gyles? Sue Perkins?) appears more frequently.

In a column 10 years ago, Clement wrote a perhaps unkind column suggesting Peter Jones was no longer capable of playing the game properly and was being retained as a "kind of favourite golden oldie". As with many of Clement's remarks, while unkind there was an element of truth in the comment. I wonder if Clement might be considering himself in this context.

And yes I know, Nicholas is only a few months younger. But to me Nicholas still looks and sounds fit. His voice still seems strong and he looks in good health. Clement is not that sprightly these days. But even in Nicholas's case, it is hard to imagine he will still be doing the show in his 90s.

5 Comments:

Blogger Curly said...

You seriously frightened me. With a headline like "Clement Freud", I thought you had just posted an obituary!

10:23 am  
Blogger Dean said...

Sorry to frighten you - not an obituary!

11:09 am  
Blogger Andrew Sherman said...

Those last shows with Peter Jones are a bit sad. But you can't sack Clement! I reckon he will take himself out if he can't handle it.

7:02 am  
Anonymous Bobby Shaddoe said...

I thought for a moment the news was to be an announcement of Clement's passing, I was also kinda freaked out. Although, I'm sure the headline would've been more like Clement Freud dead at 85, it would've been a lot more blatant in that regard. I'm just glad that isn't the case here.

Clement is indeed a link to the show's history, and I have noticed that he has been rather quiet as of late and hasn't been in very many recordings. Perhaps he'll announce his own retirement at some point, it would be fitting, and it would certainly be the first voluntary retirement from the show from an Original like Clement. Out of the original foursome, Clement has managed to outlive them all, and of course no one quite nows if any of the others would've voluntarily retired from the show if it hadn't been for each one's untimely passing.

5:18 pm  
Blogger Andrew Sherman said...

Just listened to episode 6 of the current series. Clement does indeed mess up 'The British Sausage' which was surely a subject made for him. OTOH he is witty and funny. He's still always better than the newcomers.

9:05 am  

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