Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

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?


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