Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

July 17, 2011


David Gill writes with this question

For some reason I've always assumed that the players are given advanced notice of each programme's subjects. I've had this mental picture of the players gathering together pre-show in the green room during which the JAM producer has told them individually of the subjects which they'll be asked to talk about, thus giving them a few valuable minutes to think of their approach (which would be particularly useful for difficult or obscure subject).

But during series 60 (episode 3), I heard Stephen Fry give a reaction almost of surprise when Nicholas told him of his subject. This has made me question my previously held assumption.

Any thoughts?

A while ago now - in 1999 I think - the British daily paper The Telegraph decided to make an issue of this with the revelation that the show was not totally spontaneous. The producer at the time Chris Neill gave as comprehensive an answer as we are ever likely to get.

I've looked to see if the story is still on the web but it seems the Telegraph's archives don't go back that far.

But anyway - as I recall it - the answer was that the panellists can choose whether they wish to see the subjects or not. Most do see them. But some didn't - Clement Freud was named as one of those who refused to see the list.

In the Kenneth Williams Diaries there are a couple of references to Kenneth getting the historical subjects at least a couple of days beforehand so that he could research them!

So I'm guessing most do see the subjects before the show. Perhaps Stephen Fry doesn't, or perhaps he was just playing along.

The show is more spontaneous though than say I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue which is all but scripted. As Chris Neill said at the time, the show is really about the way the players interact with each other and how they carry on with running jokes that couldn't be thought up beforehand.

Anyway I hope that answers your question David.


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