Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 27, 2009

Very sad news

JAM star Wendy Richard, a regular on the show for five years, has died at the age of 65.

What a terribly sad day. Ms Richard had been suffering from cancer for some time, so it's not a huge surprise. But if anyone personified the phrase "full of life", it was Wendy Richard.

On JAM she appeared 41 times, firstly in 1988 in Kenneth Williams' last season. She was tapped as his replacement among the regulars when he died a few months later and even sat in his old seat on the far left of the stage, beside Clement Freud. She continued to appear regularly until 1994 when a subsequent producer decided to try someone else. But she appeared on TV editions of the show in 1995 and 1999, and on radio again in 2002 and 2003.

Her style made her one of the most memorable panellists ever. She loved an argument and argued about almost everything. Before Wendy joined the team, most women had been happy to play the role of "straight man" to the male panellists. Not Wendy. She was a star and she knew it. And in this she had a point as at that time she was one of Britain's best known actresses, and certainly a better-known name than Clement Freud or Peter Jones or Derek Nimmo.

So she played the role of diva to great effect. She talked about her life, her partners, her pets. She wasn't a natural comedian but she was usually very funny and was certainly capable of very witty and cutting remarks.

She added a touch of drama to a game show which has to be unique. She was all in all, great fun, and I think rather unlucky not to have appeared many more times. That so many of her shows have been put on the "Classic" compilations says something - she added a touch of class, a touch of drama, and was great listening.

Of course she is better known for her acting on Are You Being Served and East Enders and we can honour that work too. A wonderful comedy actor, an equally entrancing soap actor.

She will be very much missed, but perhaps she is already playing JAM in the heavens, telling Derek Nimmo not to talk so much about his travels. My sincere condolences to her family and friends.


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