Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

April 27, 2011

panel news

The second recording of the new season just finished and the team was Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Jenny Eclair and Josie Lawrence.

the first recording featured Paul, Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth and Julian Clary.

So the producers certainly going for the experienced players this season.

And I may be wrong – but I reckon the show will be back in just three weeks time...

April 22, 2011


Some questions from a reader...

1) Appeal of JAM outside Britain
At the start of each programme, Nicolas still welcomes listeners ".....not only in this country, but around the world". But isn't it the case that JAM hasn't been broadcast on the BBC World Service for several years? If so, presumably the foreign listening numbers for the programme must be lower than before. Does the Beeb rely solely on the Internet for its overseas audience and if so is there any evidence on the number of downloads which JAM attracts? Your own NZ location may help to inform your answer.

2) Radio 4 Extra
As you may have heard, next month the BBC is to rename and relaunch Radio 7 as Radio 4 Extra. We're promised that the channel will air extended versions of shows broadcast on Radio 4 (e.g. the Now Show and the News Quiz). Do you think there is scope for JAM to receive similar treatment and could this happen?

On the overseas broadcasts - there are still overseas broadcasters playing JAM, totally separate from the World Service. Indeed someone wrote to me this week to advise that the ABC in Australia is re-running the show from the first episode again. I gather also from my correspondents that the show still plays in India. I've never been entirely sure if the World Service has entirely dropped the show or if it still runs on some of its networks.
But the Internet is I am sure in part what Nicholas is referring to. As to evidence of its popularity, JAM usually appears on the list of Radio Four's top downloads while it's on air, but I can't say how many of them are overseas. I've always been interested that only about half the people who write to me or join the group, perhaps even a little less than that, are from the UK.

As to whether unedited programmes could air, of course it is always possible. They usually record 40 to 45 minutes for every 28 minute show that makes me to air. But I used to debate this with the Whose Line fans who used to pray for unedited clips to be found. My argument was - presumably they edited out the dud games - why do we want to see those? I think the argument also applies to JAM and I suspect people might be disappointed that a 45 minute show might not be as much fun as a well edited 28 minute version.
But and I think I've related this before. At the Edinburgh recording I saw back in 2002, Paul Merton was being very funny and had gone about 50 seconds on a subject when he used the word "shit". He immediately stopped and hung his head. Ross Noble buzzed and said Ï don't think you can say shit on the radio". The whole round was edited out.
So could there be some funny rounds edited out just because of bad language? It has to be possible, doesn't it, and if so, there could be good material aired on Radio 4 Extra if they had a higher threshold for matters of taste.

April 21, 2011


A while ago I was asked by someone how rare it was for someone to go the full minute without interruption. I told the correspondent I would do a count-up and -- I have!

Bearing in mind we are talking about someone speaking for 60 uninterrupted seconds... someone who is buzzed but resumes speaking doesn't count.

There have been 229 examples in the 44 year history of the show... here's the list. My thanks to Gary Brown for the idea.

Kenneth Williams 66
Clement Freud 30
Derek Nimmo 23
Peter Jones 21
Paul Merton 14
Sue Perkins 6
Gyles Brandreth, Sheila Hancock 5
Pam Ayres, Janet Brown, Graham Norton 4
Ross Noble, Linda Smith 3
Ray Alan, Julian Clary, Jenny Éclair, Graeme Garden, Tony Hawks, Aimi Macdonald 2
Isla Blair, Marcus Brigstocke, Rob Brydon, Charles Collingwood, Peter Cook, Kevin Eldon, Kenny Everett, Fenella Fielding, Liz Fraser, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Hardy, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Thora Hird, Martin Jarvis, John Junkin, Helen Lederer, Fred MacAulay, Betty Marsden, Andree Melly, Patrick Moore, Richard Morton, Richard Murdoch, Nicholas Parsons, Wendy Richard, Victor Spinetti, Liza Tarbuck, Christopher Timothy, Joan Turner, Stanley Unwin, Katharine Whitehorn, June Whitfield 1

April 20, 2011

transcribing and the website

Whew! I've finally got up to date again with my show transcriptions after being out of date for more than a year. I've done 18 in the past month - a marathon effort, but I really wanted to get these up to date again.

I'm not sure that there are many people reading through all the transcripts but I there is some demand, no doubt. The email correspondence I get often refers to the transcripts and thanks me, and once or twice every season I get letters from English as a Second Language teachers saying they heard today's programme and would I immediately send them the transcript, so they can use them in tomorrow's class, as if these things happen with the snap of fingers.

The transcripts are written in much the same way as I have done them now for 12 years. I listen, I play a few seconds, I pause, I type what I heard. I do each show in four parts. I do seven minutes at a time and each sitting takes about an hour or slightly less than that. They are by no means perfect. I am not a perfect listener and far more importantly, I am a very poor two-fingered typist. The transcripts get spell-checked but I don't always check geographic names. So transcripts will contain mistakes. If you spot mistakes in spelling, feel free to let me know. But don't be too hard on me. I once had a person complain about how often I left two spaces between words rather than just one. If this is the sort of error that gets your heart racing, you'd better find another website. I'm a lousy typist, I admit it.

In a way now that all the shows are so widely available on the Internet, the transcripts are less important than they once were. You don't need to read the older shows - you can download them and listen to them as they were intended to be enjoyed. Still I expect I will continue to try and keep these up to date. I am expecting the show to resume again at the end of this run of The Unbelievable Truth, ie, in just three weeks time. So I am not going to get much of a rest.

My next project is a new stat which was suggested to me by a correspondent. It will take a while to bring together. After that I might have a look at some of the bits that haven't been updated for a while... we shall see.

April 17, 2011

last season

I used to write a post on each show as soon as I heard it. I'm not as good these days and here I am, almost three weeks since the last show and I haven't as yet written on the last season. So here goes.

1. Clearly recording all the shows in London makes it easier for the producer to fashion the panels she wants. There is a pattern to the panels of the seasons in the past year. Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth and Sue Perkins do one recording each season as a sort of number two to Paul. Each are very competitive, and funny, without being a major threat to Paul in the starring role. Only exceptions in the 22 shows recorded in the past 12 months were one show in Edinburgh where Jenny Eclair was the number two, and the last recording where Graham Norton was in that role. Then there is a group of highly experienced players in the third slot - Graham, Jenny, Sheila Hancock, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Liza Tarbuck, Julian Clary, Ross Noble and so on. The fourth slot goes usually to a fresh or reasonably fresh player, or occasionally someone else from the third ranked group.

2. The season had two newcomers, neither of whom are from the ranks of stand-up comics that make up most of the panels these days. Rick Wakeman and Terry Wogan were both interesting, but somehow I doubt they will be appearing too often in the future. They were certainly contrasts. Rick Wakeman quickly proved to be adept at the game, and indeed won the second show of his recording. That was a pretty good achievement as he was up against the two best players of the game of the current era, Paul Merton and Gyles Brandreth. So Rick was good at picking up the mistakes of the others, and pretty good at keeping going without repeating or hesitating. But he wasn't very funny. I think the two shows he was on were the weakest of the season, in part because the person in the third role, Shappi Khorsandi, just can't get in enough. She is charming and can get a good line out, but as she usually stumbles early when speaking, and seldom successfully challenges, she just doesn't make a strong contribution.

3. Terry Wogan had the opposite problem - he wasn't fluent when speaking and wasn't good on challenging. But he was amusing and had some good jokes. Still the folk who make fun of their own lack of ability at the game are usually not called back - think Elaine Stritch, Lorraine Chase, Thora Hird, Tommy Trinder. It'll be interesting to see if he is asked on the programme in, and if he is, if he is a bit better at the competitive aspects.

4. The other shows were really very very funny. It was great to hear Marcus Brigstocke and Ross Noble again. We wish they were on more often. Sheila Hancock was again very good and pairing up Graham Norton and Julian Clary worked very well. I thought Liza Tarbuck was also in good form.

So a very very good season. One to be enjoyed again and again, I'm sure.

the show

Thought I'd post this picture of the recording last week. Note how drab the whole scene is - not even the name of the show to be seen.

From left - Paul Merton, Julian Clary, Sarah Sharpe, Nicholas Parsons, Gyles Brandreth and Tony Hawks.

panel - 2

Further to my last post, someone in the comments posted a picture of the recording so happy to say that the panel for the first recording of the new season was Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary and TONY HAWKS.

The next recording will be on the evening of Tuesday 26th April. I'll tip the team to be Paul and Graham Norton. Also I think it's time to hear again from Josie Lawrence or Jenny Eclair or Pam Ayres.

April 13, 2011

panel news

The team for the shows recorded on Sunday - I have two emails, one says it was Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth and Julian Clary. The other says Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth and Julian Clary. We'll have to see if someone else lets me know!

April 09, 2011

nice article about Nicholas

from The Daily Mail

Nicholas Parsons has never been more active.
At the age of 87, he is celebrating his 44th year as host of the BBC Radio 4 comedy quiz show Just A Minute, on which he has enjoyed verbally sparring with Paul Merton, Kenneth Williams and Clement Freud over the decades.
'There is no doubt the show sharpens me up,' he says. 'You need a good memory - with contestants being challenged on hesitation, repetition or deviation as they try to speak on a subject for up to a minute. I think the memory keeps you feeling young.'
And he may have a point. Dementia is on the rise in the UK with the 700,000 already diagnosed cases expected to swell to one million by 2020.
About 20 per cent of people who are Nicholas's age have dementia and thousands far younger suffer age-related memory loss, often seen as a precursor.
Research has shown the key to staving off mental decline is keeping active in older age, and Nicholas is a shining example of this.
He also writes - he has just completed an autobiography - and has a one-man comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival each summer.
He typically rises at 8am for a day that might not end until 1am the following day.
'Sometimes I power-nap in the recording studio between takes and when I get the opportunity I also take siestas - between 3pm and 4.30pm. It keeps me lively and I often get a second wind at about 10pm - perhaps it comes from when I was young and was a late night comedian.'
So how does he do it?
'I see the brain as just another muscle - it needs exercising in the same way as the rest of your body,' he explains.
Nicholas, who lives in rural Buckinghamshire with his second wife, Annie, with whom he shares nine grandchildren, admits to being fortunate that his job provides a regular workout for the mind.
But he also keeps lively in other, even more surprising ways. Nicholas is a keen horologist - he is a member of the British Watch and Clock Makers' Guild.
'If you are mechanically minded you can take great pleasure in the intriguing mechanisms of an old clock - different wheels that work off each other to keep time. They can be beautifully creative,' he says.
His favourite is a 1640 'Cromwell' lantern clock that belonged to his father - a physician who was once a doctor to Margaret Thatcher's family in Grantham, Lincolnshire.
'He purchased it in 1913 for seven shillings and sixpence when he went off to Cambridge to study medicine.
It stopped working about 50 years ago so I took the whole thing apart, cleaned it and put everything back together again. It has kept perfect time ever since.'
Nicholas is surrounded by three grandfather clocks and half-a-dozen smaller clocks.
'The sound can drive guests crazy in the night so I have to turn the chimes off, but I find them therapeutic.'
He recognises that as people get older they can get crabbier - something he fights with a positive attitude and a self-deprecating manner.
'Just A Minute is perfect for keeping your humour,' he says. ' Comedians like Merton have such a gift for taking the mickey without malice.'