Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 21, 2017

2016 player rankings

For the 10th time - the annual JAM player rankings.

I found this year very hard to do as there were so many newcomers that were really much of a muchness. Can one really distinguish between say John Finnemore and Rufus Hound in terms of contribution? The practice has become that newcomers, even those that do reasonably well,m are something of a running joke for the regulars and are patronised by Nicholas. There was one major exception this year - more below. In some ways I could have placed more than half of the panellists in the average category... but doing that seems like cheating!

There were  28 JAM panellists in 21 shows this year, including the Prince of Wales whose brief appearance I have not ranked. With the Christmas pantomime I have given those that appeared in part of the show a half point!

Paul Merton 19
Gyles Brandreth 7
Josie Lawrence 6
Sheila Hancock 5
Graham Norton, Marcus Brigstocke 4
Nish Kumar 3
Tony Hawks, Julian Clary, Rufus Hound 2.5
Jenny Eclair, Tim Rice, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Pam Ayres, Holly Walsh, Josh Widdicombe, John Finnemore, Zoe Lyons, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle, Will Self 2
Pippa Evans 1.5
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley 1
Tom Allen, the Prince of Wales 0.5

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

click here for 2015 rankings

click here for 2014 rankings

click here for 2013 rankings

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

Those who appeared in 2015 but not in 2016 include Susan Calman, Alun Cochrane, Sue Perkins, Liza Tarbuck, and Shappi Khorsandi. Sue is a big loss - I guess she's just too busy - or perhaps her greater fame these days makes her too expensive! I am surprised Susan Calman wasn't back this year after being very good in 2015.


NISH KUMAR - among a bunch of newcomers this year, Nish seemed nice enough but didn't contribute all that much. I'm guessing they'll look elsewhere this year.

FRED MACAULAY - When he first did JAM back in the late 90s, alongside veterans like Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo and Clemenet Freud he seemed new and funny - a breath of fresh air. These days - and perhaps it is that he seems to do a show every three years or so - he just falls flat.

ESTHER RANTZEN - Paul described her as one of the worst players ever which doesn't bode well for future appearances! Not sure she was that bad but it does take a sharp wit to make a success of challenging on repeating small words...

TIM RICE - He has a good body of work on the show in his almost 50 appearances, but just not as funny as the others.

ALEXEI SAYLE - one of the most talented performers of his generation, or any generation. Just A Minute isn't his thing. Seemed intimidated.


TOM ALLEN - I do like how Tom comes across when he is on the show. Would be worth another try.

STEPHEN FRY - as I noted last year, Stephen Fry's appearances used to be real highlights. But whether for lack of practice or what ever other reason, he just seems quieter, more mellow these days. Needs to get back in the old groove.

JANEY GODLEY - Not a great contributor but I have warmed to her, mainly because of her campaign to uphold her freedom of speech right to hold up placards declaring the current President of the United States to be something rhyming with runt. If you don't follow her on Twitter, you should.

RUFUS HOUND - one of the new breed who does okay without being really memorable.

ROSS NOBLE - in the early days of this blog I used to rate Ross as one of the best players of the game ever. His last few shows have been disappointing. He definitely needs to do the show much much more often and get back to his brilliant best.

HOLLY WALSH - can't remember much of what she did to be honest.


JULIAN CLARY - always great fun on any show.

PIPPA EVANS - was very impressed with her chattiness and courage on her opening appearances - she could really develop into a star of the future.

JOHN FINNEMORE - had some very good moments and could really develop if he has a few moire goes at it.

TONY HAWKS - thought he did very well on the pantomime show. Only two regular appearances this year for the man who used to do half the shows each year.

ZOE LYONS - the ex reality TV star made a pretty good start on her shows.

PAM AYRES - Her distinctive style and accent is always welcome on a show where so many play in the same style. She should be on more often.

MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE - he's an old reliable these days. He comes on, he plays well, he's funny and clever, he doesn't overshadow Paul, he lets the others have a go. Yes.

JENNY ECLAIR - like Pam she has a style of her own that really acts like a shoot of adrenaline into any show she appears on. More, more, more.

GRAHAM NORTON - perhaps not as naughty and outlandish as the Graham of 20 years ago, neither on TV nor in Just A Minute. Nevertheless he remains the king of the camp style of playing, something that is a more than honourable tradition on JAM.

KATHERINE RYAN - another who did very well on her first shows - let;s have her back soon.

JOSH WIDDICOMBE - this guy is great on any panel show he does - JAM could well be his thing if he gets more goes at it.


5th best
WILL SELF - Since Clement's death JAM has missed having someone playing in that unique style. Someone  who can use the rules and act as if they matter, or rubbish the rules if that is a better tactic. Someone prepared to argue with Nicholas, while also knowing the right time to finish and move on. Someone who talks about the subject in a non-stand-up sort of way. If the producers were looking for the next person to play that way, they may have found him. Will Self was a breath of fresh air for a show that is in danger of sounding stale. He was funny, dramatic and just right. I don't know if Self wants to be permanently associated with a panel game, but I'd ben signing him up if it was up to me. He's grumpy, erratic, cheeky, witty and knowledgeable. Just what we need.

4th best
JOSIE LAWRENCE - a great contributor these days, she just never makes a mis-step.

Bronze medal
SHEILA HANCOCK - formidable and funny, the grand old dame of the show and someone who just makes any show she appears better.

Silver medal
PAUL MERTON - Over 10 of these, I've used every superlative possible for this master of improvised comedy. Let's use them all again!

Champion of the year
GYLES BRANDRETH - This guy gets better every year. His different way of playing is energising for the show. These days the best editions of JAM all have Gyles in them.