Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

October 30, 2011

Johnny Depp

appears on Graham Norton's show this Friday - that should be something to see!

October 26, 2011


I've been asked to provide some information for publication in an article in Britain about JAM and my interest in it.

I don't expect that more than a few lines if anything will end up in the published article, so I am copying it here.

I try not to blab on about myself too much but still this covers some personal stuff that may be of interest, and a few interesting facts and figures so I think it's worth putting up.

I’m by nature fairly modest though I am very proud of the website work. So many “fansites” on the web are ephemeral, the product of brief spasms of enthusiasm, or just regurgitate what is already publicly available. Mine isn’t. It’s also a writer’s site.... it’s very sparse on design and pictures, and though I sometimes regret that, part of me likes that whoever reads it is being drawn by the written content, rather than flashy design and finding ways to work the Google system.

Me – well... I live in Wellington, New Zealand. I work in radio, at Radio New Zealand, the non-commercial broadcaster here. I’m the deputy editor of a daily news programme, Morning Report, which is broadly similar to Radio Four’s Today programme, a mix of reports and live interviews, sports, business news, etc. It has a huge audience in New Zealand terms. I’ve worked there since 2002, before that I worked in newspapers for eight years.

My interest in Just A Minute started when I was a kid, in the mid 70s. At the time Radio New Zealand gave prominent slots to many of the BBC panel games – Many A Slip, My Music, My Word, and especially Just A Minute. I was looking at some old schedules a few months ago and was a little surprised to find JAM popping up on both commercial and non-commercial stations in prime time slots. I can remember noting times and listening avidly, keeping the score which only rarely ended up the same as that announced at the end of the show. (At the time I assumed it was me scoring wrongly.)

The main thing that drew me into the programme as opposed to the other shows was of course Kenneth Williams. I adore all the players and of course Paul Merton is a genius – but no-one will ever replace the distinctive style of Kenneth. The loquacity, the knowledge and erudition, the wit, and of course his tantrums and the abuse of the chairman. The thing was you were never quite sure with him whether he was genuinely angry and causing the most appalling scene, or whether it was all for fun. He provided a sense of real drama in the programme, a sense that something was about to happen every time he started a subject or pressed the buzzer. It is special if a comedy game show can also provide drama – it’s so easy for this sort of show to fall into a sense of smugness. The anticipation that Kenneth would come in and change the whole atmosphere in a few seconds was, and I think still is, really special. I can remember hoping each week that he would win and being almost as happy as he was on the infrequent occasions that he won.

I’d have to say too that the naughtiness of the taunting of the chairman was also a part of the appeal, something that I think is still fairly unique to the show. So much of broadcasting is staid, scripted and very civilised, when in a way, the real magic of radio, should be the anticipation that anything can happen. Here you had middle-aged men shouting “shut your row” at the authority figure, demanding he resign and so on. The way Nicholas responds to all this is a huge part of the success of the programme, but again it was a contrast to some of the other panel shows where everybody seems so pleased with themselves all the time.

I do remember being with my grandparents listening to the show but it was and is something of a private pleasure. I am sure many people of my age would remember the show but it has for a long time been off air here. Over time Radio New Zealand has slowly taken off air many of the BBC programmes, replacing them with more distinctive home-grown fare.

It is still playing every week in Australia, on the ABC’s national programme, just before their main breakfast news programme. I’m not at all sure it is playing in many other places, the BBC World Service played it for many years but stopped a few years ago. It still has many fans around the world who listen via the Internet and swap files of shows. In the 90s, the success around the world, including in New Zealand, of Whose Line Is It Anyway, drew many people to Just A Minute via Paul Merton. In more recent years, Graham Norton’s chat shows can be seen in many countries and that is drawing people to Just A Minute too.

I have been over three times now to see recordings. In 2002 I was in Edinburgh, in 2007 at Stratford-upon-Avon and I was back in Edinburgh in August this year.

Curious facts... here are some.

* Only two players have failed to score a point in an episode of Just A Minute, those two being Christopher Timothy (All Creatures Great and Small) and one of the show’s true greats, the much missed Peter Jones.

* In August, Russell Kane won the show on his first appearance. This was the first time someone making their debut had won since 1999 – in between these two wins there have been 273 radio editions of the show.

* One of the show’s current mainstays, Gyles Brandreth, appeared on the show in the mid 80s semi-regularly from 1982 until 1986 – and then didn’t return to the radio series until 2002. (He did appear on some of the 1999 TV shows.)

* Kenneth Williams is easily the player who has most often gone for the full minute without being challenged. He did that 66 times, more than twice the next in that list (Clement Freud on 30).

* There have now been 774 radio editions and 48 TV editions, and Nicholas Parsons has been part of every show. (He has been a panellist on nine shows, the others to chair the programme are Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Andree Melly, Geraldine Jones and Ian Messiter.)

* Does Paul Merton “always win”? Not always, but he has won 63 percent of the shows he has appeared in. Clement Freud has won most often.

* Clement Freud and Gyles Brandreth are panellists who became politicians. Other politicians to appear on the show are the former Labour Cabinet Minister Barbara Castle, the former Labour MP Tony Banks, and the Labour MEP Michael Cashman.

A few brief facts too about the TV editions....

There have been three seasons. ITV did two seasons on evening slots in 1994 and 1995. Tony Slattery appeared on all shows in both seasons, and Dale Winton also appeared on all shows in 1995. There were two seasons of 14 shows each, 28 shows in total. The BBC did a day-time series of 20 shows in 1999. There were no regulars but Peter Jones, Tony Hawks, Gyles Brandreth, Linda Smith and Wendy Richard appeared most frequently.

last panel

I hear the last panel for the year will include Paul Merton, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Liza Tarbuck. Last person not yet decided - I am thinking Tony Hawks, although he is on tour with his own comedy show at the moment.

If Tony misses out, it will be the first season since season 32 that he hasn't appeared in!

I mentioned too in an earlier post that it continues a long unbreaken run for Kit who has appeared every year since 1994. I like Kit's distinctive way of playing the game and am glad to see him back - I hope he makes an appearance too on the TV shows.

October 25, 2011

Pink List

The Independent's annual list of prominent gay people has again got a sprinkling of JAM stars - Graham Norton, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary, Stephen Fry, Clare Balding and Sandi Toksvig all get a mention.

October 23, 2011

Derek Nimmo goes punk

Latest recording

featured Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Eclair and Ross Noble

October 22, 2011

TV recording dates

are November 14, 16, 18, 20 and 22.

October 21, 2011

The great Clement takes on gossip coumnist Rona Barrett

Just A Minute - back on TV

The BBC has announced it is bringing JAM back to the TV screen. They are just dipping a toe in the water - 10 shows over two weeks in a daytime slot. The show is to be chaired by Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton has been signed up to at least some of the shows.

There have been three other TV series, two on ITV in 1994 and 1995 respectively, and one on daytime BBC in 1999. The BBC also tried two pilots that never made it to the screen in 1969 and 1976.

I link to some of the the material here. Sadly although the facts are easily checked, there are some silly errors. There have been three TV series, not four, and John Cleese has not appeared on JAM.

I did hear about this possibility while I was in the UK earlier this year. At the time it was on the back-burner, but there had been talks earlier this year.

One thing worries me. Nicholas continues to be a splendid chairman, with plenty of energy. But he does not look very old, dare I say frail. This is hardly surprising in a man aged 87. But he may seem a bit exposed under thr bright lights of TV.

I'm interested that some of the comments suggest the show won't work on TV. I don't see why not. What's crucial is they get a lot of people who are good at the game. Please no enthusiastic amateurs, at least three experienced people on each panel please, people like Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Stephen Fry, Ross Noble, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Marcus Brigstocke, Jenny Eclair and Josie Lawrence. If this group (plus Paul) makes up 90 percent of panellists, the show will succeed.

In the Daily Mail.

In the BBC.

In the Telegraph.

Also in the Telegraph.

In the Guardian.

Also in the Guardian.

October 19, 2011

Classic Collection

We now have a list of shows in this collection.

They are:


91/6/1, 19 October 1971, with Peter, Clement, Kenneth and Andree Melly
244/11/25, 20 April 1977 with Peter, Derek, Kenneth and Magnus Pyke
386/21/6, 9 June 1988 with Peter, Clement, Lance Percival and Christopher Timothy
512/35/6, 9 August 1999 with Peter, Clement, Paul and Stephen Fry


1/1/1, 22 December 1967, with Clement, Derek, Beryl Reid and Wilma Ewart
225/11/6, 8 December 1976 with Peter, Clement, Kenneth and Ray Alan
409/24/3, 19 January 1991, with Peter, Clement, Derek and Paul
517/36/1, 20 December 1999, with Clement, Paul, Graham Norton and Linda Smith


294/15/7, 18 April 1981, with Peter, Clement, Derek and Kenneth
390/22/2, 4 April 1990, with Peter, Derek, Paul and Richard Murdoch
407/24/1, 5 January 1991 with Peter, Clement, Derek and Paul
501/34/5, 15 February 1999 with Clement, Derek, Tony Slattery and Steve Frost


452/28/9, 18 February 1995 with Peter, Paul, Wendy Richard and Lee Simpson
455/29/1, 6 January 1996 with Peter, Clement, Derek and Paul
487/33/1, 8 June 1998 with Clement, Derek, Paul and Julian Clary
498/34/2, 25 January 1999 with Peter, Clement, Paul and Tony Hawks


226/11/7, 15 December 1976 with Peter, Derek, Kenneth and Sheila Hancock
295/15/8, 25 April 1981 with Peter, Clement, Kenneth and Tim Rice
306/16/5, 20 February 1982 with Kenneth, Tim, John Junkin and Brian Johnston
374/20/6, 9 May 1987 with Peter, Clement, Kenneth and Stanley Unwin


230/11/11, 12 January 1977, with Peter, Derek, Kenneth and Nicholas Parsons, chaired by Ian Messiter
415/25/1, 4 January 1992 with Peter, Clement, Derek and Maureen Lipman

So there are 17 shows featuring Peter Jones, 16 featuring Clement Freud, 12 featuring Derek Nimmo, nine featuring each of Paul Merton and Kenneth Williams, two featuring Tim Rice, and one each featuring Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Andree Melly, Linda Smith, Wendy Richard, Julian Clary, Tony Slattery, Stephen Fry, Steve Frost, John Junkin, Richard Murdoch, Lance Percival, Maureen Lipman, Ray Alan, Ian Messiter, Magnus Pyke, Lee Simpson, Christopher Timothy, Brian Johnston, Stanley Unwin, Wilma Ewart and Beryl Reid.

Sounds great!

October 14, 2011

on and on

I'm asked in comments on who has longest service in terms of players in the past three years.

I did this stat last year, but here's the updated version for players who have appeared in the past three years.

Players from 2009, 2010, 2011, with their debut year, listed chronologically. Where they debuted on TV rather than radio, both debuts are listed.

1967: Clement Freud, Nicholas Parsons, Sheila Hancock
1980: Tim Rice
1982: Gyles Brandreth
1989: Paul Merton
1992: Stephen Fry, Helen Lederer, Tony Hawks
1994: Jenny Eclair, Kit Hesketh-Harvey (TV), Graham Norton (TV), Kit Hesketh-Harvey (radio)
1996: Fred MacAulay, Graham Norton (radio)
1997: Julian Clary
1999: John Sergeant (TV), Pam Ayres (TV)
2000: Sue Perkins, Ross Noble
2001: Liza Tarbuck, Charles Collingwood
2002: Chris Neill
2003: Pam Ayres (radio)
2004: Marcus Brigstocke
2005: John Sergeant (radio)
2006: Pauline McLynn, Janey Godley
2007: Alun Cochrane, Dave Gorman, Phill Jupitus
2008: Josie Lawrence, Jack Dee, Ian McMillan, Shappi Khorsandi, Mike McShane
2009: Josie Long, Justin Moorhouse, David Mitchell, Paul Sinha, Richard Herring, Suki Webster
2010: John Bishop, Stephen K. Amos, Kevin Eldon
2011: Rick Wakeman, Terry Wogan, Fi Glover, Jason Byrne, Russell Kane, Miles Jupp

47 players (plus Nicholas) in three years! Seems a lot, doesn't it.

October 13, 2011

long service

If Kit Hesketh-Harvey is part of the final two recordings this year, he will bring up an unbroken run of 18 years on the show. The only ones with longer unbroken runs – ie. appearing on a show every year – are Paul Merton, on 23 years, and Tony Hawks, 20 years.

If you include TV shows, Graham Norton is on 18, he debuted on TV in 1994, and on radio in 1996.

I hope Kit is part of the final shows this year!

too few women on panel games

An interesting article on this subject.

and here's an interesting graph

first (or second) time winners

Russell Kane's feat of winning his first show last season sparked some interest in how frequently this had been done.

My dear friend Keith Matthews compiled this list for us.

1967 Derek Nimmo.
1968 Lucy Bartlett, Nicholas Parsons (first show as panellist).
1979 Tim Brooke Taylor.
1980 Tim Rice.
1982 Brian Johnston, Libby Purves, Gyles Brandreth, Victoria Wood.
1983 Jeremy Beadle, Jan Ravens.
1993 Richard Morton.
1994 Mariella Frostrup (TV), Ann Bryson (TV), Neil Mullarkey (TV), Jo Brand (TV), Ted Robbins (TV)
1999 Linda Smith, John Sergeant (TV).
2011 Russell Kane.

So as you can see it's been a long long time since this feat was achieved. Well done Russell... especially as he managed to beat Paul and Gyles, probably the best two current players.

On the Yahoo group, a poster, Matthew, extended this to someone winning in their first two shows, as most people do two shows at once.

Radio: Derek Nimmo (first ever winner), Lucy Bartlett, Nicholas Parsons (in his debut as a panellist), Tim Brooke-Taylor, Peter Cook (2nd episode), Tim Rice (joint with Kenneth Williams, Peter Jones, AND Derek Nimmo!), Brian Johnston, Libby Purves, Gyles Brandreth (won first TWO episodes, second joint with Peter Jones), Victoria Wood (joint with Peter Jones), Jeremy Beadle, Jan Ravens, Martin Jarvis (2nd episode), Richard Stilgoe (2nd episode, joint with Peter Jones), Richard Morton, Jenny Eclair (2nd episode), Fred MacAulay (2nd episode), Linda Smith (joint with Tony Hawks and Derek Nimmo), Rick Wakeman (2nd episode), Russell Kane, Miles Jupp (2nd episode).

Television: Mariella Frostrup, Ann Bryson, Neil Mullarkey, Jo Brand, Ted Robbins, Dale Winton, John Sergeant (won first TWO episodes), Brian Sewell (2nd episode, joint with John Sergeant), Isla Blair (2nd episode), Pam Ayres (2nd episode, joint with Wendy Richard), Michael Cashman (2nd episode).

Matthew also made the point that there is relatively few who went on to a long career in the show - Derek, Gyles, Linda, Tim, Jenny.... (and Nicholas!).

upcoming recordings

on Friday 21 October and Tuesday 1 November. This should complete the last season of the year. Two shows with Paul, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary and Charles Collingwood have already been recorded.

Sad news

Former Just A Minute guest Rob Buckman has died. Rob appeared in one show in 1980, with Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo and Clement Freud.

He was one of the guests whose career was not in entertainment, but was still very entertaining.

The Guardian here nicely sums up his life.

The oncologist, writer and performer Rob Buckman, who has died aged 63 in his sleep on board a plane, spent last week making a series of short films. We were working on them together, and Rob was his usual irrepressible self, full of good humour, jokes and kindness. On Sunday the whole film crew had lunch in a pub, and Rob left to catch the flight to Toronto on which he died. The films, ironically, are called Top Ten Tips for Health.

The Guardian writer Nancy Banks-Smith described Rob as "one of those exciting scientists in full fizz who look as if they have access to a strong tonic not yet on the market". She was reviewing a film he made in 1981 called Your Own Worst Enemy. He was then suffering from an autoimmune disease called dermatomyositis, in which the body's defences start to attack the body itself. At the time he started filming, Rob assumed the disease would prove fatal, and had determined to make the film to educate people on the subject. But one last treatment of blood plasma replacement and a new drug stopped the disease. However, he later suffered from another autoimmune disease that left him semi-paralysed. Banks-Smith remarked on his courage and fortitude: "The surviving drive to describe his own disease and dissolution was one of the most striking scientific achievements I have seen on television."

Rob was born in London to Bernard Buckman, a trader, and his wife, Irene, a barrister. He began his acting career at the age of 13, while still at University College school, north London, playing the Midshipmite in Gilbert and Sullivan's HMS Pinafore at the Savoy theatre. Then he went on to St John's College, Cambridge, where he graduated in medicine in 1972, after having featured in a vintage Footlights team.

As a junior doctor at University College hospital, London, he met Chris Beetles, and they teamed up as Beetles and Buckman to perform live comedy and revue. Rob wrote for the long-running satirical BBC Radio 4 show Week Ending, and for an LWT sitcom, Doctor On the Go, based on Richard Gordon's Doctor in the House books.

Beetles and Buckman then performed their own material in another LWT series, The Pink Medicine Show (1978). I first encountered them at the Amnesty International fundraiser The Secret Policeman's Ball in 1979, and Rob went on to front a long-running ITV medical series in the 1980s with Miriam Stoppard, Where There's Life.

Unable to find a consultant's job in oncology in the UK, Rob emigrated to Canada in 1985 and took up a post at the Sunnybrook hospital in Toronto. But he carried on making television programmes. In Magic or Medicine? (1994), he investigated alternative therapies, while Human Wildlife: The Life That Lives On Us (2002) looked at microbes in the home environment.

Besides contributing to Punch and writing a weekly column for the Toronto Globe and Mail, Rob also wrote many books, including Jogging from Memory: Letters to Sigmund Freud (1980); How to Break Bad News: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals (1992); Not Dead Yet: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Dr Robert Buckman, Complete With Map, Many Photographs and Irritating Footnotes (1999); Cancer is a Word, Not a Sentence (2006); and Can We Be Good Without God?: Biology, Behaviour and the Need to Believe (2002).

He was president of the Humanist Association of Canada; chair of the advisory board on bioethics of the International Humanist and Ethical Union; and a fellow of the Royal College of Physicians in the UK, and of its Canadian counterpart. He became a pioneer of communication and supportive care in medicine at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto, and was professor in the department of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Despite his physical problems, Rob was the most positive and energetic person I have met. He was constantly in good spirits, able to fill a room with warmth and laughter, and never short of ideas and projects. He was also a fount of kindness – always thinking about other people and never about his own problems.

With his first wife, Joan van den Ende, he had two daughters, Joanna and Susie, and with his second, Pat Shaw, two sons, James and Matthew. All of them survive him.

Classic CD

The 22 ep collection was supposedly released last week but I haven't actually heard that anyone has received it yet. Amazon and some other book stores are saying it's out of stock. Some say they do have it, but as I say, so far, I haven't heard that anyone has received their copy.

Here's the latest info I have seen on what's in it

"Twenty-two episodes of the ever-popular BBC Radio 4 panel game chaired by Nicholas Parsons, showcasing five key players from the past five decades - Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones and Paul Merton - and including two very special editions of the show.

Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones and Paul Merton are the `Famous Five' of `Just a Minute': sparkling raconteurs whose sharp wits and skill made them consistently a pleasure to listen to. Each brings their own unique quality to the show, and this box set showcases their highlights - the moments which reveal these talented players at the very top of their game.

Also among the featured shows are the first ever `Just a Minute', plus the 25th anniversary edition and the infamous episode when Clement Freud failed to appear and the show's ever capable chairman Nicholas Parsons replaced him as a panellist.

Full of fast-paced, irreverent fun and ferocious competition, this collection is a goldmine of wonderful comedy nuggets from five fantastically funny comedians."

And then there's this

Just a Minute Classic Derek Nimmo
Publisher: Audiogo Ltd (2 Feb 2012)
ISBN-10: 1408470748
ISBN-13: 978-1408470749

Looking at this info and the upcoming “Classic Derek Nimmo” material, it looks to me like there will be four shows each for each of the five regulars in the Classic Collection. They will then try to sell each of these separately. ie. a four show Just a Minute Classic Derek Nimmo, a four show Just a Minute Classic Kenneth Williams, a four show Just a Minute Classic Clement Freud, a four show Just a Minute Classic Paul Merton, and a four show Just a Minute Classic Peter Jones. I’m not sure why you’d start with Derek rather than Paul or Kenneth. But still.

For the collection 4x5 is 20, plus apparently the first show with Derek, Clement, Beryl Reid and Wilma Ewart, and the truly classic 1977 show that had Kenneth, Derek, Peter and Nicholas on the panel with Ian Messiter in the chair. This really is a very funny show. And that adds up to 22 shows.

I am interested in the reference to the 25th anniversary edition. I’m not sure if this refers to the first show of 1992 where the anniversary is mentioned – that show featured Derek, Clement, Peter and Maureen Lipman, and was the first time JAM went on the road. But that would mean the collection has 23 episodes.

Or does it mean they are reissuing the Silver Minutes collection? I rather hope the latter as that collection is a lot of fun and is very much out of print.

Anyone who does get this, please let us know exactly what is in it.

views on last season

I do think the shows with Paul, Sheila, Tony and Graham were up with the very best. The two shows at Edinburgh were good too, but not as good. The shows with Julian, Josie, Rick Wakeman and Phill Jupitus were okay, below average but okay. I thought Josie held things together – she is on her way to being a real star, being both very funny and very competitive.

The shows with Tony, Gyles, Pam Ayres and Miles Jupp were disappointing. I’ve just transcribed the first of these and Pam and Miles really were “non-starters” to use Kenneth’s phrase. Pam does have a unique style, which is good, but she just isn’t competitive enough, or consistently funny enough. She needs to be on with three strong players where her contributions would add spice. Miles was struggling with the game – he eventually worked that out and won the second show. But in mastering the game itself, he wasn’t very funny.

So it was up to Tony and Gyles to keep the show going. I think Gyles gets better every time he is on – has anyone else noticed he almost never falls back into his old routine poems and stories any more. He’s inventive and funny and likes the banter. Tony I think isn’t strong enough to hold a show together. There are times in the show when something funny is said between the panellists – Gyles was teasing Pam about her marriage. Now if Paul had been there, he would have joined in and kept it going – but Tony isn’t quick enough to do the same.

Of course it’s hard to judge Tony by the standard of Paul – there aren’t many people as funny and quick as Paul. Nevertheless the producers do seem to regard Tony as the alternate lead player if Paul is away.... and sorry Tony fans, but I don’t think he is good enough.

this blog - so influential???????????

One of the odd things I am experiencing at this moment is reasonably regular e-mails from people wanting me to plug things on the blog. I always ignore these and sometimes get follow-up posts from people demanding I follow their wishes.

In 99 percent of cases, there is no link at all to the only subject we cover here.

Here's one I received today (with specific links and project info removed)...

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Now as I'm a journo, I'm not the sort to be knocked over by this sort of attention. But I do find it puzzling. This blog is by no means popular. Why waste time on what is very much a niche interest blog? And how many bloggers do post reviews of things at the behest of demanding PR people?