Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

December 31, 2013

2013 player rankings

The seventh annual JAM player rankings.

This year, not including the Junior Just A Minute shows, there were 22 shows and 24 performers, not including the junior players. After a lot of thought, I have decided to consider the Junior JAM shows in assessing the adult players, but I think it would be too harsh on the children to assess their performance. Actually I thought they were all of a very high standard but inevitably if I was including them in this assessment I'd have to rate some higher than others, and I feel that's just unfair on people who are not professional performers.

24 players is a few less than in most recent years. Among those who got a gig last year but not this year: Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Charles Collingwood, Shappi Khorsandi and Phill Jupitus. You could have a few good shows out of that bunch.

The stats on appearances on the regular radio show this year look like this

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth 10
Tony Hawks, Graham Norton, Jenny Eclair, Sue PerkinsJulian Clary, Pam Ayres, Alun Cochrane, Richard Herring, Stephen Mangan 4
Russell Kane 3
Sheila Hancock, Liza Tarbuck, Josie Lawrence, Marcus Brigstocke, Fred MacAulay, Kevin Eldon, Jason Manford, Patrick Kielty, Roy Walker 2Greg Proops, Henry Blofeld, Joe Lycett 1

For those interested in how I've ranked people in the past and checking out how good my picks were...

click here for 2012 rankings

click here for 2011 rankings

click here for 2010 rankings

click here for 2009 rankings

click here for 2008 rankings

click here for 2007 rankings

For those who want to know how good I was at picking who wouldn't be back - last year I picked eight players wouldn't be back, and only one returned, luckily for me, one of my favourite comedians, Greg Proops,


Henry Blofeld - the loquacious commentator now  proving a big hit again for Australian cricket audiences, was entertaining because of his plummy voice and lack of ability at the game, and was treated very kindly by the other panellists. But it's the sort of joke that works on a one-off basis only. Henry remains in demand for cricket speeches and broadcasting, but he shouldn't stick by the phone waiting for JAM to call. 
Kevin Eldon (2012: had some moments; 2010: won't be back) Remarkably good at keeping going when he starts a subject but makes almost no other contribution. 
Fred MacAulay - (2010: won't be back; 2008: average; 2007: won't be back) For someone who has now made 16 appearances, Fred always seems like he's just making the numbers. 
Greg Proops - (2011: won't be back; 2007: won't be back) I keep predicting this and he pops up again. Maybe this year I'll be right because again it was just clear that JAM isn't his thing. 
Roy Walker - The former quizmaster had a few moments, but not enough to get another call-up.


Alun Cochrane - (2012: had some moments; 2011: had some moments; 2010: had some moments; 2007: won't be back) As I said last year - Alun's interesting because he always has something funny to say when he gets the subject, but he's not competitive enough to get the subject very often. He is getting better at it and he certainly has the confidence of the JAM producers. Perhaps he will yet develop into a new Peter Jones.
Richard Herring - (2012: average; 2009: had some moments) Richard tries very hard and clearly loves doing the show, he always has some good lines, and may still turn into a very good player of the game.
Russell Kane -(2011: average) I like Russell a lot and do hope to hear more of him but his shows this year were not as strong as his debut. 
Patrick Kielty - A pretty good debut from Patrick, I hope he gets another turn.
Jason Manford - (2012: had some moments) A pretty good game player though he had trouble getting a word in on Paul, Sue and Graham.


Marcus Brigstocke - (2012: let's hear more; 2011: let's hear more; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: silverPerhaps not quite as good as usual, but still a very welcome addition to any panel.
Sheila Hancock - (2011: silver; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: average) It's always a special show when Sheila's on, just her presence seems to lift proceedings. 
Joe Lycett - A very good debut for this witty young performer.
Liza Tarbuck - (2012: average; 2011: average; 2010: won't be back; 2009: had some moments; 2008: won't be back) Jolly japes from Liza as always, she's a good egg.

Tony Hawks - (2012: let's hear more; 2011: average; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: average; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: averageIt's always nice to hear Tony on the show and there's always more than a few laughs from him.
Josie Lawrence - (2012: let's hear more; 2011: 4th; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: had some moments; 2008: won't be backShe's turning into a great performer and hit just the right notes with the younger performers on Junior Just A Minute.
Stephen Mangan - (2012: average) I really like the way he gets stuck in to the game and has plenty to say. Loses nothing in comparison with the professional comedians and improvisers. 
Graham Norton - (2011: 5th; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: 5th; 2008: bronze; 2007: let's hear moreThe charming and gifted talk show host is always a very strong contributor with his original style of comedy. 
Sue Perkins - (2012: champion; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: let's hear more; 2009: bronze; 2008: silver; 2007: let's hear moreI didn't think she was quite as good as she was last year but there's no doubt she;s among the very best players the show has ever had.


5th best
Pam Ayres - (2012: let's hear more; 2011: had some moments; 2010: average; 2009: average; 2007: ket's hear moreDeveloping into a highly entertaining player with a unique style. More please. Lot's more.
4th best
Julian Clary - (2012: silver; 2011: bronze; 2010: 5th; 2009: let's hear more; 2008:4th; 2007: 4thA great performer on the show these days, we all look forward to his appearances. 
Bronze medal
Jenny Eclair - (2012: 4th; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: 4th; 2009: let's hear more; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: had some momentsI just find her so damn funny and as with Josie, she struck exactly the right note with the kids.
Silver medal
Paul Merton - (2012: bronze; 2011: champion; 2010: champion; 2009: silver; 2008: champion; 2007: champion) The anchor of the show and a generous one. The show would sound a hell of a lot different without him.
Champion of the year
Gyles Brandreth - (2012: 5th; 2011: let's hear more; 2010: bronze; 2009: 4th; 2008: let's hear more; 2007: bronzeI think he deserves top spot this year. The days of him recycling old rhymes are long gone as this guy is genuinely creative and imaginative and very funny. It's a delight to hear how much better he has got at it and he has a style which makes him very different to all the other performers. Plenty more to come from him.
Extra Champion award
Nicholas Parsons - the man's in his 90s and is simply as good as ever. Just right on the Junior series. For a man in his 90s he is still right on top of his game.

Congrats to Nicholas

Nicholas Parsons has received a CBE in the New Years Honours list. There's been talk for a while that his OBE should be upgraded to a knighthood, and I guess this is the response. There isn't much doubt that being henceforth known as Sir Nicholas would be a more permanent recognition of his life's work, but Nicholas is quoted as being delighted with his honour. Good on him!

Another JAM guest, these days far better known for her contributions to other panel games, has received an award. Sincere congratulations to Sandi Toksvig, one of my very favourite comedians. Now she has a link to Nicholas, maybe she'll do a second JAM appearance?

December 25, 2013

a very JAMmy Christmas

A very merry Christmas to all my readers.

I have been very lax with keeping this blog up to date lately so will try and be a bit better in the next while. In particular I now have 35 transcripts to add to the website, so will try and get into these over the coming months. I haven't had as many to do in a long, long time so I will really try to make a dent on that list.

to some bits of news.

JAM has recorded the first two shows of the new season. The panel featured Paul Merton, Alun Cochrane, Russell Kane and Rebecca Front. It's interesting how much Alun Cochrane is being pushed - these are his 14th and 15th appearances. I think he's okay and fun, but I wonder if he is quite as good as that. Marcus Brigstocke has just 19 appearances. I'd be interested to know how people feel about him - are there people who feel pleased to see him on the list. Good to see Russell again, he hasn't been quite as good as he was on his first appearance since then, but he still seems to me to have loads of potential.

The first Christmas-themed show since 1994 has appeared. Again Pam Ayres and Stephen Mangan were very good. Gyles's win brought him to third on the winners list by percentage - he has now won just under 52 percent of his games, behind only Paul Merton and Stephen Fry. He did 10 out of 22 shows in 2013, more than twice anyone else, apart from Nicholas and Paul, and I think he is getting better and better at it.

A point of interest - the huge publisher Random House has won the rights to the commercial sales of Just A Minute. Maybe this will mean more recordings coming out for purchase.

There are two more recordings scheduled for January and I expect another will take place to bring us eight shows in February and March.