Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

September 04, 2012


This blog isn't one of those fan blogs always hungering after the good old days. I don't think Just A Minute has "jumped the shark". The days of Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones were great days. But current players Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins and Julian Clary are also great players and I think the last few years have been tremendous and consistently very very funny.

But I think the quality of the shows this year has been inconsistent. There have been some good ones but there have also been some disappointing ones.


Well, I think Paul is not as dominant as he once was. We also don't seem to be getting as many surreal absurdist moments as we used to. And less Paul will usually mean less laughs. He sometimes sounds a little bored with the show, though he says he 'still loves doing it.

I also feel the show is missing Clement Freud. His contributions were distinctive, very different to the stand-up comedians. And although he is remembered as ultra-competitive, his witty remarks delivered in that dry voice were memorable and added to the texture of the show.

But the main thing, I think is the number of people appearing who just aren't any good at the game. It's a difficult game to play and to do it well you need three skills, I think.

* You need to be fluent - able to keep going for a while without hesitating and too blatantly repeating yourself.
* You need to be competitive. You don't need to win every week but if you can never pick up on someone else's mistake, you're not going to get much air time.
* And you need to have something to say when you have the subject. Preferably something funny, but something clever or interesting can work. But if you have nothing to say, well, you may as well not show up.

You can be reasonably successful without being fluent or especially competitive. Take Chris Neill for example, who seldom if ever spoke for more than 10 seconds without stopping. But he always had something funny to say when he got the subject and was always challenging so he remained good fun to listen to.

But if your mind freezes as Nicholas says "starting now", well that's a big problem.

The problem at the moment is the number of panellists who simply are no good at the game. Hannibal Buress seemed totally at sea, as Nicholas rather embarrassingly pointed out at one time. His speaking style doesn't really suit the show - he wasn't fluent or competitive but worst of all, he had nothing to say when he did get the subject.

But Jason Byrne was just as bad last year and yet got called back this year. I saw Jason's stand-up show last year and he is certainly a very funny man. But his show is well scripted, and his speaking style is not really JAM friendly as he uses the F-word roughly every three seconds. I think some of his pauses are him checking himself against swearing. He was abysmal on JAM last year and should not have had another run. He was slightly better this year, but not much.

There are a lot of people this year who have failed in the past. I love Greg Proops, one of my favourite Whose Line performers, but he has now done 11 JAM shows and has not been good in any of them. Others in this category are Alun Cochrane, Miles Jupp, Richard Herring, Paul Sinha and Janey Godley. The two Indian comics, Cyrus Broacha and Anuvab Pal also weren't quite good enough either though that was obviously a special occasion. I am also a bit unhappy about Alun and Kevin Eldon being invited back for the recording last week.'

Miles Jupp is an example of someone who is fluent and competitive but just doesn't have much to say when he has the subject. Janey is very very funny in her stand-up and certainly on Twitter, but she just isn't funny often enough on JAM.

Below is a list of players from the past three years who are worth hearing from again Let's hope some of these folk are back on the show in the next season!

Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary, Jenny Éclair, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Marcus Brigstocke, Phill Jupitus, David Mitchell, Justin Moorhouse, John Bishop, Russell Kane.


Blogger Andrea said...

I thought Richard Herring was quite good, but I agree with you on the others.

7:23 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We're having the same discussion on the site where I download my HIGNFY episodes. Paul seems to be phoning it in, combined with an abundance of the same naff guests. I thought maybe Paul was stretching himself too thin - sometimes he'll repeat the same joke on both shows - but others pointed out the boredom.

1:25 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bang on, although based on his stellar first performance last week Tim Vine would be on my re-entrants list. Paul needs to be riled up to unleash his sardonic best.

6:15 pm  
Anonymous Paul said...

It appears that from your list, you are really going after the newer players, the ones who haven't played the game so much. I mean granted, John Sargent should never have been allowed back and I, like you, was disappointed at Greg's contribution towards JAM, especially as he is my favourite comedian.

But all bar the last few are players who have played the game multiple times before. I agree with you that maybe contestants need to be vetted more, to choose people who are fluent and are knowledgeable but I also think that there needs to be a settling in period. I think your article is very harsh.

8:04 am  
Anonymous Tristan said...

On most points I agree; I quite like seeing new players as they get to work the sympathy and it can be amusing, but if after a couple of episodes they don't start to improve, the novelty wears off.

Although I quite liked the specials with Cyrus and Anuvab; just a change in style of comedy, plus listening to them getting Nicholas worked up was hilarious.

Agree with you about Jason though; watch one of his shows, a large part of act revolves around hesitation!

2:55 am  

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