Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

June 25, 2013


Today’s show marks an interesting statistical point. Paul Merton has his 312th appearance on Just A Minute, passing the 311 shows of Derek Nimmo.

the gang of four have been the leading players in total appearances for more than 40 years... Now an all-time panel – on total appearances - would be Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Paul Merton.

Paul should pass Peter and Kenneth over the next two or three years – though JAM may have to keep going for at least another decade if he is to pass Clement.

Paul has brought his total up in 24 years, compared with Derek’s 32.

June 16, 2013

how has JAM chnged?

 from the Yahoo group

I find this a really fascinating subject, and anyone who listens to Espen''s stream where you hear old shows followed by new ones must think a bit about how the show has changed. Nicholas often suggests that subtle changes in how he interprets deviation have been instrumental, but I'm actually struck when I listen how little Nicholas seems to have changed the way he does his job. He was always a showman and interested in the show rather than the contest.
I think the key changes have been the personnel ones. Peter Jones's arrival in 1971 was a turning point. For the previous three years the show was largely a battle of quick wit and word agility between Kenneth, Derek and Clement. Peter poked fun at the show, the rules, the contest elements in a way that I think proved to be crucial to the show's development. Had JAM stayed primarily a word game without the comedy elements taking centre stage, I don't think the show would have lasted as long as it has. The second major turning point was clearly Paul's arrival. Paul's background was in improvised comedy and the making up of stories and scenarioes on the spot. Now everyone plays the game Paul's way. It's possible I think that Clement's death may prove to be a turning point too, though it may still be too soon to say.

What's changed? I think the major difference is that in the old days, part of the game was to talk about the subject. If the subject was say Stanley Baldwin, the panellists tried to talk about him, in an interesting way if not always a comic way. Much of the humour actually came from the banter over challenges rather than what was being said on the subjects. These days, the panellists wouldn't even try to be informative on a straight subject like that. You've got to have a laugh line within 10 seconds or Paul will buzz in on you. In 2010 when John Sergeant was on the panel he was an example of what I am saying. He was actually quite good at the mechanics of staying on subject without hesitating or repeating. But he didn't have many punchlines so he was mercilessly attacked by the other panellists. In the old days John Sergeant's word skill and knowledge would probably have seen him coming back regularly as a guest
I'm interested when people say they miss Clement because I reckon a Clement like personality would have no chance of becoming a regular on the show these days. I'm trying to think of a quick-witted and witty professional grump in today's show biz world. The best I can think of is Simon Cowell! Would he be likely to be invited on to JAM these days and would he fit in if he was?

could anyone replace Paul?

posted this at the Yahoo group

just having my two cents on this. I think what we are looking for is someone who is good enough, quick enough, brave enough and perceptive enough to jump in if energy levels are low and grab the subject or make a really funny challenge and just generally lift things up and energise proceedings again. I think the only other one who would definitely be able to do this - apart from Paul – at the moment is Graham Norton. There are others with potential such as Marcus Brisgtocke, Ross Noble, Josie Lawrence. But I feel as if they don't play often enough to be really really really good at the show.
Someone mentioned Stephen Fry, who obviously at his best is brilliant at the show. But two thoughts on him. I think his last few shows, the two TV editions last year and two radio editions in 2011, have been by his high standards a little disappointing. And is it possible he is at his best playing off one of the older players, Clement or Peter, and he's not so good without someone like that to spark off? Perhaps he would be interesting on a panel with Gyles or Sheila?
Sue Perkins, I remember once before we debated her and not everyone was a fan. I think she is witty and clever and very competitive. But does she have the ability to really make you laugh hard with a bit of spontaneous brilliance in the way Paul and Kenneth could. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of her and think she may well be the best woman in the show's history. But I think shé's sort of strong second banana material too, like Gyles.
I agree by the way with the person who said that at the moment Paul may be more valuable to the show, even than Nicholas. Paul would be really hard to replace. As happened when Kenneth died, I think the BBC could well be tempted to drop JAM if Paul was no longer available.

changes to order of shows in 1999 Tv series

I've changed the order of some of the shows in the 1999 series, following the turning up of a list that had a different order.

Posted this in the Yahoo group..

okay have been thinking carefully about the numbering issue for the 1999 TV series, rummaging through some of the old letters and videos and stuff I have.

I have a pretty good memory for what happened at the time too. April 1999 was the month of the birth of the website and the shows with Tony Hawks, Wendy Richard and Steve Frost were the first shows I transcribed. (I was at the time always at the Whose Line Is It Anyway forum where there was considerable interest in Steve.)

As the series went on, I was sent some videos from the series as UK folk realised how interested I was in it. And people eventually made lists of the shows which helped me to date them.

The issue about one show being played out of sequence was raised with me at the time and that it had been replaced by a Welsh election special. I think I must have assumed that that was just in Wales, and that JAM played as usual in the rest of the UK. The date of the out of sequence show - 26 May - also tallies with my recollections. So that needs to be changed.

I had been wanting to argue further about the other point... that the show currently numbered 15 actually played in the spot of number 2, mainly on the basis of the videos I have and the recollections I have. But I''ve come to the conclusion that Simon's evidence is stronger, and so I've shifted 15 to 2, 2 to 20 and moved 16-20 up 1.

I also have a very clear memory that the orphan show that played out of sequence was the Liza Goddard "saying sorry" one. On Martin's suggestion that we pop that into the 15 slot, thereby causing less disruption... if the programme had been superseded by a special news programme that was unexpected like on a flood or a sudden death, I might feel like doing that. But obviously the election was known about and prepared for well in advance so I think it more accurate to have"saying sorry" at the end.

One interesting point is that we now see the order the shows were recorded. Wendy Richard and Linda Smith both recorded eight shows over just two days. But Peter Jones had to turn up on three days for his six shows and Barry Cryer on two days to record 4. I"m not sure if that"s because they were older or just more readily available!

Perhaps to mention another episode ordering story which I don"t think I have mentioned on the list before but which is interesting. In 1997, Princess Diana died and the BBC decided it had to drop an scheduled episode of the News Quiz which featured jokes about her (her affair had been in the news in the days before her death). So they played a Just A Minute recently recorded in Edinburgh. The show was ran again in the following season in the usual way. People who read my website carefully will note that I have it listed in season order as the place where it was originally intended to play but also have both broadcast dates listed!

Apologies for taking time to reply on this point – I have been unwell and also wanted to take some time to see if I could find anything that threw light on these points. As you know, I really try to be careful with all this!

June 03, 2013

Barbara Blake

one of the panellists of the first year, that I didn't know much about until a member of the Yahoo group pointed this out last week.

At the time of the JAM show she recorded back in 1968, she had some fame as Britain's first black woman journalist. Here's a glimpse of her work

Here's a bio

Barbara Makeda Blake Hannnah is a Jamaican author, music journalist, film-maker and public speaker. More info: Jamaica Media Productions.
In 1968 she made history as the first Black TV journalist on British television at the start-up of Thames TV and later worked with BBC-TV and Channel 4.
Returning to Jamaica in 1972, and her real love of writing, she wrote newspaper articles, one of which led to her writing and publishing Rastafari - The New Creation in 1981, the first book on the Rastafari religion written by a a member of the faith, now in its 5th edition.
In 1992 she self-published Joseph - A Rasta Reggae Fable, a novel about a reggae superstar based losely on the life of Bob Marley (whom she knew) but mainly to give an insight into what life was like in the 70s when reggae and Rasta started going international. It has now been re-published by MacMillan Caribbean in 2006.
Barbara Makeda has lectured at the University of the West Indies, the University of Vienna, Austria; New York University; Florida International University; the University of Guyana; the University of the Virgin Islands, and the World Archaeological Congress Pre-Conference in Curacao. She was a delegate to the UN World Conference Against Racism in 2001.
She is producer/director of 6 documentary and 2 TV feature films, organised Black film festivals in Jamaica and represented Jamaica at film festivals in the USA, Cuba, West and (the former) East Germany and Iraq (yes she met Saddam Hussein and says he was quite cool!).
Appointed an Independent Senator in the Jamaican Parliament (1984-87), she was presented with the Ethiopian Crown Council's Adowa Centenary Gold Medal in 1997, and the United Nations Peace Medal in 1974. She home-schooled her son Makonnen, who was appointed Youth Technology Consultant to the Jamaican government in 1998 at the age of 13 years.

and here is some more stuff - a nice biographical article and an interview from last year.

Which all makes me think - given her wonderful and varied career, I wonder if she even remembers her JAM appearance?

some thoughts on the first two shows

Two shows down, four to go. The first show with Paul, Graham Norton, Pam Ayres and Kevin Eldon was terrific, up to the standard of last season. Pam is a special favourite of mine, with an entirely unique and thoroughly endearing style. She isn't as competitive as some, but whenever she talks it is magic. I'd like to have her on the show more often. Graham  is obviously on the show more regularly, and just gets better and better. He doesn't need to do JAM these days to get his name out as others do, so he must enjoy it and I think it shows. He's splendid. And Paul was just great. He (almost) always is.

On the other hand, the show with Tony Hawks, Gyles, Fred MacAulay and Roy Walker never really got going somehow. Gyles was at his best - he is a great player these days. The days when he returned regularly to the same jokes and routines are well behind him now. But he's a splendid second banana, he can't carry the show, and Tony wasn't up to the challenge either. It's just not the show for Fred. And despite the affection for Roy Walker from the audience, he wasn't up to it either. On the broadcast show I wondered if he was going to become the third man to get no points at all (the other two were Peter Jones and Christopher Timothy) but he finally did get a point, sixteen seconds from the end of the last round. Nicholas announced he did have an earlier point, but it must have been edited out.

I hope Tony in particular is in better form in the second show.

Paul, Gyles, Russell Kane and Richard Herring tomorrow!