Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 07, 2018

2017 player rankings

For the 11th time - the annual JAM player rankings.

There were  25 JAM panellists in 20 shows this year, not including the two anniversary shows.

Numbers of shows looks like this...

Paul Merton 18
Gyles Brandreth, Jenny Éclair, Zoe Lyons 6
Josie Lawrence 5
Sheila Hancock, Graham Norton 4
Tony Hawks, Julian Clary, Sue Perkins, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Marcus Brigstocke, Pam Ayres, Phill Jupitus, Tom Allen, Andy Hamilton, Rufus Hound, Fern Britton, Al Murray 2
Fred MacAulay, Janey Godley, Paul Sinha, James Acaster, Mark Watson 1

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

click here for 2016 rankings
 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 ranking
 click here for 2007 rankings

Those who appeared in 2016 but not in 2017 include Tim Rice, Holly Walsh, Pippa Evans, Josh Widdecombe, Nish Kumar, John Finnemore, Esther Rantzen, Katherine Ryan, Alexei Sayle and Will Self .

FERN BRITTON - over the past few years a few woman TV and radio presenters have been tried, but they don't very often seem to come off. It's a hard game to play with the blabbermouths who are on more regularly, but it will be surprising if she is on the show again.

FRED MACAULAY - Last year of the five I said wouldn't be back, Fred was the only one I got wrong. He seems to have scored a place again as a Scottish voice on the Edinburgh shows. But he just doesn't seem to get into the rhythm of the game.

AL MURRAY - Apart from on the first round, when he was given the gift subject of pubs, Al didn't seem to have much to say.

PAUL SINHA - OK but perhaps not quite quick-tongued enough.

MARK WATSON - Didn't make much of a mark (pun not intended).


JANEY GODLEY - She has become a Scottish tradition of Just A Minute. She is good fun, and her Twitter feed is memorable. Not sure this game is really the best outlet for her many talents, but as the section says, she has her moments.

ANDY HAMILTON - a witty panel game player who always has some good lines.

PHILL JUPITUS - It was good to hear Phill back on the programme again and he is a good contributor.

ZOE LYONS - She did six shows this year and she has a good energy about her.

ROSS NOBLE - I am a big fan of Ross, and he always has his moments. I'd like to see him on far more often.


JAMES ACASTER - I may be slightly influenced by his recent appearance on Would I Lie For You where he was very very good, but I thought he was pretty good on JAM too and I do hope he is on the programme again. One of the best of the young comedians.

MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE - It's always good news when Marcus is on the show.

JULIAN CLARY - one of those who is always funny and just fits in.

STEPHEN FRY - the panel game great graces JAM with a few appearances each year. He knows the game well now and we can only wish he would be on more often.

RUFUS HOUND - Bouncy, energetic and funny.


TOM ALLEN - Very impressed by Tom's shows, he has good humour, a quick wit and a touch of naughtiness that is reminiscent of Kenneth Williams.

JENNY ECLAIR - She is a delight whenever she is on the show, but more a top supporting act than a star.

TONY HAWKS - Sounded good this year with his good humour and cheeky wit.
GRAHAM NORTON - like a good wine he is ageing well.

SUE PERKINS - Away for two years but immediately back to her usual sharp-tongued form.


5th best
GYLES BRANDRETH - Becoming something of an institution on the show, Gyles's quick tongue and treasure trove of stories makes him a valuable contributor.

4th best
PAM AYRES - She has a unique, eccentric and very funny style, that just makes any show she is on so much better. Just great.

Bronze medal
SHEILA HANCOCK - Is it possible she just gets better every year? To me, she is still the cheeky quick witted young women who battled with Kenneth Williams so many years ago. Except these days he turns her wit on herself in a way that is just so much fun.

Silver medal
JOSIE LAWRENCE - If Paul retired from the programme, Josie would be the ideal replacement as the show's glue. She's a cut above as a funny, sharp competitor.

Champion of the year
PAUL MERTON - In a way every year Paul wins because he is the glue that holds things together. Capable of injecting himself at any time to lift the show. The best moments pretty much always have Paul at the heart of them, and let's be honest - if he had decided a few years ago to give up the show, likely the show wouldn't have made it to 50. Britain's greatest improvisational comedian is the key reason JAM remains the king of radio panel games .

50 years of Just A Minute

I've been slow to post on the 50th anniversary special programmes, apologies for that, because the two programmes are both well worth commenting on.

The first, 50 Years in 28 Minutes, was amazing and hugely enjoyable featuring all that is best about Just A Minute and the magic of radio. For those that didn't hear it, the show was expertly edited so it featured panellists from different era talking on the same subjects so it sounded like Peter Cook and Kenneth Williams were on the same shows as Linda Smith and Sue Perkins. Including Nicholas, 34 different people featured - Nicholas Parsons, Paul Merton, Peter Jones, Derek Nimmo, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock, Gyles Brandreth, Graham Norton, Jenny Éclair, Sue Perkins, Andree Melly, Linda Smith, Ross Noble, Wendy Richard, Liza Tarbuck, Aimi Macdonald, Stephen Fry, Chris Neill, Fred MacAulay, Shappi Khorsandi, Patrick Moore, Janey Godley, Richard Murdoch, Lance Percival, Maureen Lipman, Susan Calman, Peter Cook, Betty Marsden, Ian McMillan, David Mitchell, Annabel Giles, Sandi Toksvig and Barbara Castle.

Of course the obvious omission was Clement Freud, but Julian Clary and Tim Rice have also featured in more than 50 shows each and didn't make the cut either. I was particularly pleased to hear Aimi Macdonald on the show. She has never featured in any of the specials or on any of the CDs/cassettes before, and yet her shows really are very special and she was a part of the show's early successes.

I speak as a radio producer who does a fair bit of sound editing, when I tips me metaphorical hat to Gareth Gwynn who edited it all together so seamlessly. I thought it did show how the game had changed within the same rules. It was also interesting to hear how little Nicholas's voice has changed over the years, except for the clip of him as a panellist, from 1968. Although certainly some of Nicholas's comments had been recorded for the special, rather than taken from original shows.

And then there was the 50 Years of Just A Minute: Nicholas Parsons in Conversation with Paul Merton. I didn't have such high hopes for this because it feels like we have heard so much from Nicholas about the programme that he couldn't possibly have anything new to say. But the show worked far better than I expected. The involvement of Sheila Hancock, Gyles Brandreth, Tony Hawks and former producer John Lloyd with their own early memories worked very very well - John Lloyd's contribution, brief though it was, was especially good. How I would love to spend an hour talking to John about his thoughts on JAM and working with the old gang of four. This whole programme struck just the right note.

Graham Norton also contributed a brief taped tribute to Nicholas and the show, so all of the living centenarians were involved.

The other contributor was me. I recorded two questions and thought the other had been picked. It was played right at the end, and I rather thought I had been dropped! Anyway it was very nice to be asked and included in such select company. It is a nice nod to the importance of the fans, and it was especially nice to have my contribution to setting down the show's history so very publically acknowledged and thanked.

Two very fine programmes indeed.