Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

May 30, 2009

Just A Classic Minute Volume 6

Okay details of the shows we can look forward to...

* from 1978, show 253 featuring Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Sheila Hancock and Bernard Cribbins

* from 1982, show 302 featuring Kenneth, Derek, Clement Freud and Peter Jones

* from 1994, show 441 featuring Derek, Clement, Paul Merton and Eddie Izzard

* from 1997, show 470 featuring Derek, Clement, Paul and Peter

So this is the CD for the Derek Nimmo fans! Not many guests but with Nicholas and Paul's commentaries added in, I'm expecting a very good listen here.

It's due out in early July.

May 27, 2009

Paul (and Chris Neill) on Clement

Paul's tribute to Clement today was wonderful. Excellent. Perfect. Please listen if you haven't yet - it really is priceless.

(Anyone else notice Chris Neill produced it - well done him too.)

May 24, 2009

Thursday's London recording

Three names now known from this show - Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth and Kit Hesketh-Harvey.

I'd guess the fourth slot went to someone relatively inexperienced, possibly even a newcomer. Someone like Phill Jupitus or Chris Addison or Robin Ince.

Long-shot - the American comedian and occasional JAM panellist Greg Proops is touring the UK at the moment...

EDIT: Someone has posted in the comments that panellist number 4 was Shappi Khorsandi.

May 23, 2009

recording coming up


Monday 20th July, 2009 at the Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London.

Due to the popularity of this programme we will be operating a random draw for tickets, to make the process fairer.

The website registration opens today, Friday 22nd May at 4pm and closes on Wednesday 27th May at 5pm. No requests will be accepted after this date and time.

If you are successful you will be notified by receipt of tickets 2 weeks before the recording.

To enter the random draw visit the BBC Tickets Website.


May 21, 2009

The 50 wittiest people of all time

Can it really be that 90 percent of the 50 wittiest people of all time are Brits currently on the scene? Probably not but Britain's Dave channel had fun making up a list - lists are fun as we know on this blog.

Anyway JAM has done very well - JAMsters on the list are Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Marcus Brigstocke, Greg Proops, Dara O'Briain, Jack Dee, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Phill Jupitus, Ian Hislop and David Mitchell.

And who should be winner and first runner-up. Coming in second is the increasngly essential Stephen Fry - is there any subject on which this man is not an expert?

And number one? JAM fans will have no trouble guessing. Paul's 20 years of quips at the expense of Nicholas have earned him a well deserved reputation. Yes he is the wittiest man of all time!

(according to this list)

May 17, 2009

Just A Classic Minute Volume 6

some info on this which is due out in about six weeks.

One of the shows featuring Eddie Izzard from 1994 is included. Now the two shows featuring Eddie Izzard are near the top of my all-time favourite shows - simply hillarious, and I've often wondered why they haven't been included on any previous collections, or excerpted for programmes like the 40th anniversary special. After all, Izzard remains a big name in British comedy. Well anyway it will be good to hear him challenging himself and trying to do a deal with Paul to challenge each other up the points board. His surrealism too is if anything even weirder and sillier than Paul's.

Not sure what other shows are included but there is confirmation that Sheila Hancock is in one of them. Kenneth, Clement, Peter and Derek are also all included - I suspect there will be another show with all four of them included.

And Paul Merton joins Nicholas again in the commentaries. I hope this time Nicholas lets Paul have more of a say!

Needless to say I am really looking forward to the release.

May 16, 2009

season numbering

I'm occasionally asked why I have more series (57) than the official BBC number (54).

The answer is I don't know. It has been a minor annoyance when the number of series was something just occasionally mentioned by on-air presenters.

But the BBC website seems to be making quite a lot of season numbering and I think there is a real possibility of confusion.

The only explanation I can think of for the difference is the three instances in the early to mid 1980s when they recorded shows but split them over two periods. In 1982, seasons 16 and 17, in 1983, seasons 18 and 19, and in 1984 and 1985, seasons 20 and 21. For the most part (though not uniformly) the shows in the second season are the second recordings from the first.

I've felt that as there was a fair bit of time in between the seasons, it made sense to separate them.

But I now feel it would be better to have the same number of seasons as the "official" count.

I'm therefore going to change it - I apologise if this means you have to renumber some of your collection, but I hope you can see my reasoning.

BBC website

I've just noticed that the BBC Just A Minute website has had a redesign. See link at the side. I wouldn't have thought it could be much duller than it was before. But it is.

The lists of contestants remain though no-one seems to notice that two people are both "present panellists" and "former panellists".

Added is a feature that allows you to see information on previous episodes. I wondered if an episode guide was being added, but instead, rather bizarrely, it's a list of radio guide listings. You can now see what shows BBC7 repeated back in 2007. Can there be many people to whom this would be of interest?

The link to my website has been removed. It has been removed in the past and returned. I've never sought links on other sites so I'm not exactly disappointed or angry. More curious - the Beeb can't be bothered to include substantial information on the show on its website so why not link to me?

There are so many things the BBC could do with their site that I can't, like including audio clips, cast interviews, a producer blog, up to date photos. What about an up-to-date list of CDs available and a link to the BBC shop? Could even make some money out of it as well as being useful!

But the redesign has the look of being done by someone in the IT department just interested in a consistent BBC-wide approach rather than what would make the site a real attraction. Evidence of a complete lack of imagination is how I would describe it.

May 15, 2009

JAM Gets Animated

Interesting - this from Broadcast Now

Just a Minute gets animated in BBC comedy site refresh

Flights of fancy from BBC Radio 4's panel game Just a Minute are to be given an animated spin on the BBC's new-look comedy website – part of a major move towards web-only comedy commissions.
Comedy indie Angel Eye has asked animators to illustrate monologues by panellists such as Paul Merton and the late Clement Freud, with a brief to reflect the often surreal avenues taken.
At least one of these will appear on a beta version of the relaunched bbc.co.uk/comedy site this week, and further animations for Radio 4's That Mitchell and Webb Sound's sketches are planned for the site's full launch in the autumn.
BBC 6 Music DJ and comedian Adam Buxton will provide sketches and songs, kicking off with a re-voiced set of Eurovision songs. Down the Line's Rhys Thomas and Simon Day are penning a series of character-based blogs.
The site will mix web-only content from up-and-coming and established comedians with material linked to TV and radio shows, including BBC2's forthcoming Psychoville and the second series of BBC3's How Not to Live Your Life.
Indies providing content at beta stage include Monkey Kingdom, making 27 sketches filmed from the point of view of a cashpoint machine, and Hat Trick, which is producing a teletext parody, Cfkd.
BBC multiplatform commissioning executive Martin Trickey said an in-house team was looking to work with performers who did not have links with indies, such as sketch troupe Broken Biscuits and animator David Firth.
"It's an opportunity to break new talent and bring TV audiences to new material, as well as letting big names try things they've never done before," he said.
Commissions, determined by Trickey and commissioners Simon Lupton and Rebecca Papworth, will largely be short sketches in batches of six to 10, with budgets set at £1,000 to £2,000 per minute.
The BBC is looking to partner with established comedy websites. Matt Lucas and David Walliams' Rock Profile sketches, produced for Funny or Die UK, will feature.
Selected content will also appear on YouTube, and behind the red button on digital TV sets.

May 12, 2009

new recording date


Lunchtime recording on Thursday 21st May, 2009 at the Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House.

Due to the popularity of this programme we will be operating a random draw for tickets, to make the process fairer.

The website registration opens today, Monday 11th May at 4pm and closes on Wednesday 13th May at 5pm. No requests will be accepted after this date and time.

If you are successful you will be notified by receipt of tickets 1 week before the recording.

Recording on Thursday 21 May at the BBC Radio Theatre, Broadcasting House, Portland Place, London. Doors open at 12.45pm.

To enter the random draw visit the BBC Tickets Website.

May 11, 2009

Clement Freud - a celebration

On 26 May at 6:30pm (UK) there's a special programme on Radio 4 - "Clement Freud on Just a Minute: A Celebration".

Description: 'When Clement Freud died in April, Just A Minute suffered the loss of its longest-serving panellist. For over 20 years, Paul Merton shared a stage with Clement at recordings of the show, and in this special programme he shares his memories of the veteran player and introduces a selection of clips of him in action.'

May 10, 2009

Sheila Hancock reveals her love for JAM

Lovely article in the Telegraph today

'I'm not some kind of tragic widow'
Despite suffering from stage fright all her life, Sheila Hancock is starring in a musical at the age of 76. She tells Roya Nikkhah about singing nuns, feminism and life with – and without – John Thaw

Sheila Hancock is dancing around her dressing room, counting out loud as she tries to remember the dance steps she learned this morning. "I'm too old for all of this," she laughs, pointing her toes and unleashing an elegant high kick. "I'm not sure about all these new steps and routines. I don't know if I can still totter about on stage."

At 76, Hancock still looks svelte and sprightly with her neat white bob, black jeans and tan leather jacket, but tottering about on stage is always a bit harder in a habit. In her latest role, she plays Mother Superior in the stage adaptation of Sister Act, the 1992 film starring Whoopi Goldberg in which Deloris, a murder witness, is sent by the police to a convent for protection, where she transforms the choir, much to the dismay of Mother Superior.

One might forgive Hancock for putting her feet up with a cup of cocoa instead of performing eight punishing all-singing-and-dancing shows a week but she couldn't resist taking on the role of the icy nun who slowly melts.

"There's a huge warmth to it and it's about sisterhood, which appeals to me. And the idea of a group of people facing adversity and triumphing is particularly timely. Mother Superior has a place of sanctuary where she protects those within. She sings a song, 'Outside all is sin, I won't have the outside coming in.' And in comes this sexy, sassy – she thinks ghastly – woman, and hates it, but then learns to change her mind."

Hancock, who went to two convent schools in London, trawled her memory to research the role. "I can still remember how much I hated the scent of incense at school." Did she ever contemplate following in her teachers' footsteps? "Not in a million years," she replies laughing. "And I couldn't wear the hat – it is absolutely crucifying my neck."

Hancock admits that despite a constant battle with stage fright, for which she sees a hypnotist, she is addicted to work, including writing – she has published three best-selling memoirs and is working on a novel.

"It's an illness. I have been really scared when rehearsing and thought to myself, why do I torture myself like this? But it's about proving that I still can do it. And I like the discipline. It's good for me to have to get up and do something, otherwise it would be very easy to just fall apart and vegetate. And the fear makes me do it. I will not be defeated – I'll bloody well do it."

That determination has seen Hancock bulldoze through a few glass ceilings. Rather than take a back seat role to her two husbands, Alec Ross and John Thaw – both actors – for much of her career she was the more successful half of the partnerships, as film and TV work as well as West End roles kept coming her way. Hancock recalls an incident before Thaw hit the big time with The Sweeney. "We were looking through a copy of Who's Who and there was this long description of me, and then we looked up John and it said, 'See Sheila Hancock'." She was also the first woman to direct a play on the National Theatre's main stage, and has never been afraid to push her head above the parapet.

"I didn't work at the BBC for many years after I spoke up to them," she says. "After reading The Female Eunuch [the seminal Seventies feminist tract], I wanted to break out. I wanted to do a comedy sketch that was quite controversial – it was all about prejudice and race and I was playing this mad, grotesque landlady. But the BBC didn't want me to do it – they said, 'It will ruin your image', which was basically a tizzy blonde. Anyway, I did it, but then I didn't work for them for years. They didn't like women who spoke up. But I don't like authority and I don't like being dictated to or told what to do."

Hancock and the BBC have long since made up, and she appeared in a number of recent productions including Bleak House, New Tricks and The Catherine Tate Show.

Born on the Isle of Wight to publican parents who moved to London, Hancock was introduced to the world of performing through the weekly piano singalongs that her parents hosted at their pubs.

"There were not many options for girls in those days," she recalls. "I was bright at school but I didn't know what university was – nobody did. So the options were being a nurse, a teacher, or an old maverick who went on to the stage. I did a school play and the head boy asked me out to a dance and I thought, 'This is good, I'll do this.' "

Her training at Rada was less to her taste. "I hated every minute. It was like a finishing school. I was a scholarship girl, I had an estuary accent, and everyone else was like Lord this, or the Hon that. They were all frightfully posh. I was also tall, so I got cast as a man a lot – I made a pretty good Petrucchio."

Hancock has rarely been out of work since, but admits that motherhood was the one role she never perfected, with success often coming at the cost of her children, who she "neglected terribly". She has three daughters – Melanie, from her marriage to Ross, Abigail, her daughter with Thaw, and Joanna, Thaw's daughter from his first marriage, who she considers "very much part of the family". "You youngsters have moved on from us early feminists. But back then, we were not going to be cast aside as wives and mothers; we had to work. Now, my daughters are very elegant examples of how to do both. But I never did enjoy motherhood: I was too busy battling, striving and fitting them in around my life."

Hancock also admits that her turbulent relationship with Thaw, to whom she was married for 29 years, distracted her from family life. Thaw was an alcoholic for all but the last six years of their marriage, which at best was "volatile" and at worst unbearable, prompting them to separate more times than she can remember. What, kept bringing them back together?

"It was an obsession. We both really did love one another. We couldn't be apart, we kept leaving one another all the time, but it didn't work. I couldn't imagine life without him and he couldn't imagine life without me. I like volatile men. My first husband and my father were volatile. I never, to the day he died, knew what John's opinions would be. He would get pissed off about something I couldn't understand or find something hilarious that I was just as bemused by."

In 2002, Thaw lost his battle with cancer and Hancock lost the love of her life. She sank into a deep depression, which at times "nearly took over". "I only emerged very gradually," she says quietly. "I do suffer from depression, and realised, about two years on, that I was sinking very badly, so I yanked myself out and went travelling on my own to Budapest and southern Italy.

"Both trips were very scary without John, but I was getting off my arse and accepting the fact that my old life was over and I had to rebuild my new one. You have two choices: you can live with your memories or start again."

Her one relapse was during a solo trip to Venice, a city she and Thaw visited frequently together – "usually after a bust up".

"Every time we went to Venice, I wanted to go up those stairs in St Mark's Basilica and see the real Horses of Saint Mark, not the replicas outside. But John would always claim he had marble foot rot and would insist on coffee in the square instead. When I went on my own on an art history trip, I made it up those stairs and saw the real horses. It was awful and hit me in the stomach when I realised he was never going to see them. I just collapsed."

Hancock lost her mother and both husbands to cancer, and is herself a survivor of breast cancer. But she is most definitely not, she insists, "some kind of tragic widow". "I've had a normal life. Everyone gets ill, everyone loses people. I have never thought to say, why me? That's the nature of life."

In her rare time off, her passions are spoiling her seven grandchildren, who are regular visitors to her homes in London and the south of France, and "sitting in cafes and watching the world go by - it's the best thing in the world". When in need of a good giggle, she listens to recordings of Radio 4's Just a Minute, on which she has long been a regular guest and on which she frequently appeared with the late Clement Freud. "He was a dour old bugger – so good at playing the game – he always came in at the last minute," she laughs.

Later this month, Hancock will present the first episode of BBC Two's My Life in Verse, in which she explores how poetry helped her deal with her grief after Thaw's death. "I am hoping to do more of those kind of programmes. We should have some more older women in television. But we get rid of them when they're older. We're generally bad with old folk."

In the meantime, despite the dance routines and the aching muscles that follow, she is relishing putting the finishing touches to Mother Superior.

"The best thing is watching her slowly open herself up to new things, which she learns from, as I have. Rigidity and protecting yourself is not a way to live. You've got to open yourself up to harm and hurt and new challenges, otherwise you're only half living."

May 09, 2009

First panel post-Clement

was Tony Hawks, Sir Tim Rice, Sue Perkins and Pam Ayres. Interesting.

I will bet that a show including Paul Merton will open the season though.

May 03, 2009

what's next

With more than two weeks now since Sir Clement's death, I think it's time to share some thoughts on what comes next for the show.

Those who say the show will never be the same without Clement have a fair point. Without Clement there is just one link to the show's history and what some anyway will see as its golden days, and that is Nicholas himself. And let us keep this in mind - Nicholas is now 85. It seems unlikely that he will still be chairing the show in his 90s. He of course still seems remarkably fit and still seems happy to take any work on offer. He still sounds a lot younger than 85 - his voice isn't getting older in the way say Peter Jones's did. But a 90-year-old chairman just seems highly unlikely.

Some thoughts then.

1. As Nicholas is now the only link to the show's rich history, the producers will want him to stay in the chair as long as possible. I would have thought that if Clement was still there, there might have been some thought to occasionally having someone else in the chair, just to prepare the ground. But I doubt that will now happen.

2. In the past year, Paul was at 10 of 11 recordings. That sort of strike rate will continue. They will want Paul to be on the panel as often as he is willing to do it. I would expect recordings will be scheduled around his availability.

3. In the short term anyway, there will be more appearances by older players who have a Clement-like competitive style, particularly those that were doing the show even as guests in the 70s and 80s. I am thinking here of Sheila Hancock, Sir Tim Rice and Gyles Brandreth in particular, but also Tony Hawks and Kit Hesketh-Harvey.

4. But I'd also expect one or two or even three others to appear far more regularly. I would think they would want some players seen as regulars apart from Paul, because simply a show like this is something of a sitcom and they will want more familiar faces than just Nicholas and Paul.

Who? Hard to say. If Graham Norton was prepared to commit to doing the show far more often, he'd be lapped up surely. He is a huge name in British TV at the moment and helps to bring in the younger audience the show must crave. However he does seem to have plenty of other jobs at the moment and I'd doubt that he would make that commitment, at least for now.

The other candidates seem to me to be Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins and Marcus Brigstocke. Tony is the next most frequent panellist after Paul and Clement in the past 10 years and has been involved in every season since the winter 1998 season. He's also developed a Clement-like interest in the rules which is in his favour. He's a reliable performer, without, in my view anyway, being an outstanding one.

In the past four years, Gyles is only just behind Tony - 18 shows to Tony's 20. He has the competitive instinct and the willingness to argue about the rulings. He seems to me to be getting better at the show too, relying less on familiar routines, although they still come into it a bit. He has a distinctive style which is in his favour.

Another who seems to improve every time he's on is Julian Clary. He was a bit hit-and-miss in his early days on the show, but these days he's consistently funny and witty and competitive too. He's good at the repartee and has a really good relationship with both Paul and Nicholas. He has a distinctive style which is different to Paul's.

Sue Perkins is now a star whenever she is on the show. She is very very funny and very articulate. She always has something funny to say and despite her lack of wins - 1 win in 24 shows - she always seems competitive to me too.

And Marcus Brigstocke had a couple of good years on the show too with a somewhat Paul-like style and competitive attitude. His last recording wasn't as great though and he does seem now to be committing to other panel game shows. Still he has the attribute of being a rising star in the business which helps his cause.

My thought. I think in the short term Gyles in particular will appear more often. But if I was the producer, Julian and Sue would be the two I'd be looking to hear far more often. Distinctive styles, both very funny, both play well off Paul.

That's my pick anyway.


A while back there was a brief controversy in the papers when it was revealed that the panellists had prior notice of the subjects. The then producer Chris Neill responded by saying the show was really about the banter and relationships between the panellists.

If you think the same, as I do by and large, you'll be thinking about how the death of Sir Clement Freud affects the show. The decision to have just two regulars since Peter Jones's death means the show's living pairings don't have all that much history together.

Here are the top pairings where both people are still alive:-

Paul Merton and Graham Norton - 39 shows.
Paul Merton and Tony Hawks - 31 shows.
Paul Merton and Kit Hesketh-Harvey - 22 shows.
Paul Merton and Julian Clary - 21 shows.
Paul Merton and Liza Tarbuck - 18 shows.
Paul Merton and Sue Perkins, Paul Merton and Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and Tony Hawks - 16 shows.
Paul Merton and Ross Noble - 15 shows.
Paul Merton and Jenny Eclair, Paul Merton and Chris Neill, Tony Hawks and Sue Perkins, Tony Slattery and Dale Winton (TV) - 14 shows.

Some comments - firstly at 39 shows, that figure is just dwarfed by the all-time record of 261 shows featuring both Kenneth Williams and Sir Clement Freud.

And even though they've appeared together 39 times, Paul and Graham don't seem to interact much together. They both seem to avoid teasing the other or making jokes about the other, or working together in the banter. I suspect each rather admires the other and that once the other gets going, they tend to leave him to it.

Of the 13 pairs, the only pair that have worked together much outside JAM is Paul and Julian who worked on Sticky Moments together.

In short the show lacks combinations where they really know how to push each others' buttons.

That of course will put more pressure on Paul to hold the show together. And perhaps on the producers to think about whether they need to "promote" one or two or even three people as regulars to get the relationships really cooking.

May 02, 2009

Keith Matthews on Clement

My dear friend Keith wrote me a long letter on Clement's death that he asked me to put up on the blog. As he has been such a tremendous contributor to the site I could hardly do otherwise. You'll find it very interesting.

My autistic nephew had taken his dog for a walk and had come back with today's newspaper. Always a cheerful lad bit I do wish I hadn't heard the news from him. "'Ere your mate is dead!" he said with the same nonchalance he uses when noticing a sudden shower.
I had no idea that Clement was showing any sign of waning at his last ever recording of Just A Minute - the one he recorded with Paul and David Mitchell at Broadcasting House. The thing I noticed and was heavily edited out of those shows was the devil-may-care attitude of Clement. His performance had a real bite to it and only those regular attendees would have noticed the aggression in Clement's performance. Thankfully Sheila Hancock was on hand to help Nicholas Parsons jolly the shows along when they hit a sticky patch and there were many of them, when Clement's challenges hit a momentary wall of silence. He used his old tricks, listing and doing a "Freud", getting in just before the end of the minute. He also switched tactics and behaved like the more recent players, sucking up to the chairman to please him!
I had seen him literally hundreds of times, first with his comedic opposite, Kenneth Williams. What an idyllic pair they were, sitting there next to each other like two masks of drama, comedy and tragedy.
Secondly with Paul Merton. They were the tortoise and the hare! Between them they ensured that Just A Minute was never short of laughter or wit.
I am an epileptic whose seizures come on when they are least expected. Three times my seizures have encroached upon my enjoyment of my favourite comedy panel game.
The first was when I collapsed in the foyer of the BBC Radio Theatre and the capped commissionaires were scratching their heads wondering what they could do with this man who was rolling about on the floor. As I was coming round I noticed Clement coming in. He asked what had happened to me and told the commissionaire to "look after him". The most recent was when Dean and I went to Stratford-upon-Avon. Who should be seated on the train opposite us - Clement Freud. He was accompanied by his ever-present lady assistant and they were tucking into a lovely looking picnic hamper. It was Clement who when the shakes came upon me, offered Dean a fizzy mineral water "for your friend".
He is photograph and autograph shy to the point of obsession. I remember Clement's behaviour when at the end of a recording at the Leicester Comedy Festival he fled from the stage as quick as a greyhound rather than be included with the other participants in an impromptu photo session with the local press. He hated the craze of celebrity status and at times would probably have wished he was at the racetrack with normal everyday punters.
At his last Just A Minute, after the recording he remained on stage as the others left. He was looking for his assistant but she was late. He remained on the stage debating whether or not to negotiate the three or so steps to the floor of the auditorium. The house lights were switched off and the theatre dark.
I approached him and introduced myself. I thanked him for his previous kindnesses and a glimmer of recognition came over him. "Are you better now?" he asked in his customary two-edged way. "Yes much better thanks", I replied.
I offered him my History of Broadcasting House to sign. "As you know, I never sign autographs", he replied.
I offered my shoulder to help him down the steps and he accepted. "Thank you for helping me," he said with a smile. "Any time Sir Clement."
As I was leaving, I looked back at the stage set out with its three desks. Something must have made me turn around for one final look. How much fun and laughter has this show brought to my life, I was thinking.
Clement and his assistant made his their slow progress up the side aisle. I pretended to be admiring the wonderful carved pieces that cover the wall of the Radio Theatre to emable Sir Clement to catch up with me and my friends.
As they passed us his secretary asked him "Are you all right?" "I am now you're here", replied Sir Clement.
Clement was integral to Just A Minute from the first show. If the show had not had such a witty, point-hungry, Kenneth-Williams-tolerant, educated man such as Clement Freud, the show would have collapsed under the weight of self-promoting thespians.
Clement was the calm panellist who never ever lost his cool in public. Underneath he probably displayed the nerves of an actor, but he never showed them.
You could always guarantee that Clement would come up with remarks that stopped the show. Some of his more recent ones would have been edited out in earlier days by over-zealous producers. But thankfully sanity has prevailed and many of his performances on the show are in tact.
He never really got to grips with the new interpretation of the deviation ruling that allowed Paul Merton to talk about how he used to be a private investigator for MFI unchallenged. Something that an outraged Kenneth Williams would have challenged for. But Just A Minute was changing with the times and having many improvisational comedians on the panel, laughing in the face of rationality, led to this change.
He never got to grips with the awarding of bonus points for funny remarks. It got so bad that anyone could make a remark during an incorrect challenge and be awarded a point.
Clement could no longer play the game his way. He could no longer guarantee a last-second challenge to allow him to win or at least catch up with the leader because the leader had been awarded so many bonus points. Playing the game logically with all the knowledge to hand - the same way he carefully bet on horses at the race track - could no longer guarantee him his usual win as was usually the case in his first 20 years on the show.
Win or lose, Clement was still there in recent years, scrabbling for the "benefit of the doubt" and his rarely awarded bonus points. Still amazing us all with his long lists and stunning us with his witty remarks.
Nicholas Parsons asked me once if I thought that some of the newer players were frightened of Clement. "No," I replied. "They're more afraid of playing the game and making a fool of themselves." I continued "you need someone like Clement on the panel because he is an eccentric, an oddity, an enigma, and he stands out from all the rest. The audience love him and his peculiar ways that defy logic. Without him the show will become four comedians all trying to get their oar in and the game part of the show will go out the window."
Time will tell.
Dear witty curmudgeonly tricky clever Clement. I will miss you more than words can say. For your laughter and kindnesses and the signed Grimble book that you sent me I award you a thousand bonus points. Now let's see if the others are clever enough to catch you up.
Graham Norton once called Clement The Just A Minute ninja, and so he was!