Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 30, 2007

JAM - this week's buzz by buzz account

This week's team is Paul Merton, Neil Mullarkey, Sue Perkins and Tony Hawks. It's the first tiem this year we've heard from Tony and Sue. Tony is a very experienced hand now and Sue is arguably the best of the current women panellists. Neil hasn't done the show in 10 years - will be interesting to hear him again. For those who don't know, Paul and Neil have been working together with The Comedy Store Players for 21 years.

And the show is coming from Brighton - I think it's the third time they've been to Brighton.

Paul starts off with "all things bright and beautiful" - he mentions James Herriot, the famous vet-writer. He's off on an un-Paulian rant about Brighton which sounds very poetic and then mentions "walking along dressed as a woman". That creates the laughs and the first challenge from Neil:"I'm sorry but we're talking about things bright and beautiful, and you dressed as a woman is not bright or beautiful!" Sue: "I beg to differ!" But Nicholas thinks it would be! So Paul keeps the subject. Sue takes on the subject and the theme of Paul in drag. She always gets a real speed on and is very funny. She reaches the whistle.

Neil starts with "the fountain of youth". Neil says "youth is over-rated, with age comes experience, nostalgia...". He's buzzed and says "I'm 67 you know..." Paul's off now, "Nicholas washes his underpants in the fountain of youth..." Tony gets a word in, challenging for repetition of "pants", but Paul says "didn't I say underpants the first time?" The crowd cheers and Paul says "It's like I've played this game before, isn't it!" He then teases Nicholas for getting the decision wrong initially. Sue has the subject now and again gets the whistle. She's in the lead.

Tony starts with "there's nothing like a Dame". He hasn't had any subject yet. He trips over the names of the authors of the musical to everyone's amusement. Gyles Brandreth gets a mention from Paul - there should be a bonus point for mentioning another JAMmer. Tony beginning to sound a little hysterical as he keeps going, and Neil challenges "he looks as if he's about to expire!" He gets a bonus point, his first point. Tony now doing a funereal voiceover of a vaguely Clement-like voice. Tony challenged for repetition of "of course" so Sue must be channelling Clement even in his absence. Again Sue is speaking as the whistle goes, three rounds and three times that has happened.

Paul starts with "the end of my tether". They're bickering over a challenge and Tony tells Nicholas that the panellists will sort it out. Sue again picks up on Paul's theme, when she first came on the show she clearly pre-prepared a lot of material, but these days she is a great improviser. The subject really becomes long tethers rather than ends of tethers, but who cares...

Neil begins on "all mod cons". He gets the benefit of the doubt, dubiously, as the inexperienced players often do. Tony takes the subject off him, thankfully! We haven't heard much from him so far. Sue takes it up and is the best so far, but Paul now has it for the last 10 seconds, and he's trying to imitate Neil's rather unique voice. Very nice!

Tony to begin with "hot potato"- we haven't had Sue start a round yet and this is the sixth. Paul comes up with the good line "you're more likely to have a heart attack in a hospital than in a snack bar!" It makes you think... Tony talking about potatoes being a bit sexy to brussel sprouts. Paul challenges - he likes to be the only one doing the surreal stuff! Nicholas defends Tony's tangent and reveals he liks brussel sprouts. Tony says he was brought up in Brighton - he always seems to have a connection with whatever town he is visiting.

As we go into the final round, Neil is in fourth and then one point separates each of Paul in third, Tony in second and Sue in the lead. I hope Sue wins - it will be the first time she has won if she does. But if I had to bet on someone at this stage it would be Paul.

Paul begins with "the icing on the cake". So Sue didn't start a round on the show. I think the last time that happened was 2002. Anyway Paul's off and says for him the icing on the cake of doing the show is being able to sit and chat with the others afterwards. Tony gets in and says the icing is when you get interrupted and Nicholas gives you the bonus point. Paul says "the bonus point goes to the person who was interrupted..." and gets a point and the subject for that. The audience jeer and Nicholas says "he is correct and you're not running the show!" Paul takes it up again and says the show has been going for 40 years. Neil picks up the repetition of "show", but doesn't think he challenged. Nicholas assures him his buzzer came on. Neil: "calm down, it's all right, we'll have a lie-down later. Nicholas: "Not with you, if you don't mind." Paul: "you've changed your tune!"

Isn't that a thought, Neil and Nicholas as lovers....?!!

Sue hasn't got in yet, she will need to if she is to win. Tony has it now, saying it's very cruel for a child to eat only the icing on the cake. A typical wrangle about whether it's cruel to eat only part of a cake, but Nicholas sides with Tony. Looks like he is going to win. He gets the whistle.

And the result is Neil in fourth, Paul third, Sue second, and Tony wins.

That was a good show. Sue was best in my book but Paul was also in top form. Neil okay and Tony his typical self. Nicholas was very good too. I enjoyed him immensely.

Well done all!

NOTE: That was episode number 666.... (plays spooky music)

January 27, 2007

very amusing

for the Stephen Fry fans, but amusing in its own right, I think... from the Chortle website

Stephen Fry has lent his voice to a talking alarm clock, which eases you into the morning like a perfect with such soothing wake-up calls as: 'I'm so sorry to disturb you, sir, but it appears to be morning. Very inconvenient, I agree, sir. I believe it is the rotation of the earth which is to blame, sir.' Listen to more samples here.

January 26, 2007

Tilusha Ghelani

A reader here, Ant, pointed me to this Wikipedia entry on the new Just A Minute producer, Tilusha Ghelani.

What's interesting is what a varied background she has. She's clearly very experienced in comedy.

Look at her choices for her first season. Of the 12 shows recorded, (one will be held over until the middle of the year)....

Paul Merton did 10 shows

Sir Clement Freud did eight shows

Chris Neill did four shows

Tony Hawks, Graham Norton, Sir Tim Rice, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins, Maria McErlane, Greg Proops, Neil Mullarkey, Marcus Brigstocke, Pauline McLynn, Chris Addison and Alun Cochrane did two shows each.

You get the feeling she will be a producer who will spread her net widely!

Good luck Tilusha!

Chris Neill and Tim Rice

Chris will be the only person this season to appear more than twice - apart from Paul and Clement. Chris of course produced the show for two and a half years from 1998 to 2000, and then again for a few months when Claire Jones was pregnant in 2004. He left the BBC to pursue a comedy career, and has been combining radio work with stand-up gigs.

He has been funny on the show since he first appeared as a panellist in 2002, but I feel he has really come into his own in the past year or so. He's become more competitive, more involved, and is funny every time he speaks. He would probably have won a game or two by now, because he's a very regular challenger, but he tends to run out of steam while speaking and then make it clear by saying "oh I've said that..." or something like that.

The advantage he has in the show is he knows the others so well. I may be biased, given I'm a producer too, but a good producer has to know their performers well, and the reality is that most of the current panellists were around when Chris was producer. He knows how to rile the others, how to get Nicholas going and so on.

And of course he sounds a lot like Kenneth Williams, which makes him very good fun to listen to. A tantrum he had this week sounded so much like a Kenneth paddy. He had a good line against Tim in particular. Yet his style too has something of Peter Jones - a realisation that he's not very good and a sort of poking of fun at himself and the others and the whole game.

I think he's very good. I expect we'll be hearing lots more of him.

Tim Rice was also awfully good this week. He has now done 43 shows over 27 years! He's very quick, funny, and sharp on the buzzer. I'd like to hear him more often. He could be a long-term successor to Clement as the elderly pedant.

January 23, 2007

JAM turns 40

The discussion about what JAM should do to celebrate its 4oth anniversary came up with some excellent suggestions, although the discussion did deviate a bit! You can catch up with what was said here.

I said I would post my thoughts...

* I would like a serious doco/memories/highlights/reunion sort of show. I would do four shows one for each decade, and invite a mix of performers and producers from each deacde. I may be wrong but I think all of the long-serving JAM producers are still alive, with the exception of John Browell. It would be interesting to hear from each of them about they saw the show and what they were trying to do with it while in the chair.

Suggested guests....

1967-77 Nicholas Parsons, Clement Freud, Andree Melly, Aimi Macdonald, David Hatch, John Lloyd

1977-87 Nicholas, Clement, Sheila Hancock, Tim Rice, David Hatch, Pete Atkin

1987-1997 Nicholas, Clement, Paul Merton, Wendy Richard, Edward Taylor, Anne Jobson

1997-2007 Nicholas, Clement, Graham Norton, Tony Hawks, Chris Neill, Claire Jones

Nicholas has already given a lot of his recollections in the Just A Classic Minute series - so maybe he could act as talk host, and cue in appropriate clips to illustrate points being made.

As for a special programme, I like the idea of having six people - maybe four at a time with two people being replaced at half-time? Clement and Paul could be there throughout, Graham and Andree could do the first half and then be replaced by Tony and Sheila. Subjects to all be JAM related!

Still remembered

According to today's Independent, the most watched TV programme on BBC4 last year was "Fantabulosa" the movie about the life of Kenneth Williams.

I'm sure Kenneth would have been amazed to think that 19 years after his death, he is still an amazingly popular figure. The film was accompanied by other biographical documentaries about Kenneth.

It might be going too far to say he is more popular now than when he died. But his antics are clearly not going to be forgotten.

this week's eppy

looking forward to this week's show! Will be great to hear Tim Rice again - and a newcomer in Alun Cochrane.

The familiar tune - it always puts a smile on my face! And this week it comes from Cheltenham. In seating order the team is Paul Merton, Alun Cochrane, Chris Neill and Sir Tim Rice.

Alun gets first subject which means that one or two rounds were ditched - they always start with Paul if he is there. The subject is "round robins". A good joke for his first sentence on JAM: "Obesity is a huge problem in the bird community..." He then says "many many animals..." oh dear! The local football team is the Cheltenham Robins apparently! Paul says they are terrible, Tim reckons superb - an early dispute! Tim being very funny talking about running round a robin. He then repeats himself and begins to say "oh shit" but stops himself! All four have had a go at this subject now. Paul now has a good response to Nicholas's phrase "I don't think that was good English there..." Paul responds "I was thinking of our World Service audience!"

Doesn't Chris sound like Kenneth Williams at times!

Chris now has "all day breakfast". Alun gets in with an early challenge. Chris is now doing a Kenneth-like performance over losing the subject - it's successful and he gets the subject back. Lots of arguing over points today - always a good sign of a fun show.

Tim says you can get breakfast all day at the Ritz - Paul replies Tim worked there as a cleaner!

We're 10 minutes in and only two subjects done!

Paul starts with "the director's cut". "It's when you buy films on D-V- well you know the format!" He's clever all right! Paul says he likes the audio commentaries you get on the DVDs, and I quite agree with him. Alun wins his first challenge! He says the director's cut of JAM is wonderful - Chris says "it's really not!" Alun having trouble with his words - Chris sounding very acerbic! He's really becoming a top player, our Christopher! And he's now equal with Paul in the lead. If he wins, it will be a first for him!

Chris starts with "the last laugh". Tim challenges for repetition of "the" and is told you can repeat the words on the card! He says "come with me now to the plains of Africa..." and Paul buzzes in: "I've got plans!"

Alun starts with "down the back of my sofa". He's not great so far - I think he needs to just talk and not worry about the rules excessively. Chris kissing Nicholas after some banter with him. Nicholas gives him a point for the rudeness but not for the kiss. Chris: "all I can see there is Mrs Parsons out there, grinning because she's got the night off!" Paul having fun helping Alun out! Tim going now well, gets the whistle - apparently Chris was trying to stare him out, another old Kenneth trick.

Paul starts with "January sale". Chris seems to get a couple of sentences out and stop! All four have had the subject now - I would think just about everyone has spoken on everything today! Certainly no-one would have gone more than 20 seconds! Paul challenges Tim after he says his mother said "crap"! Tim continues with one second to go, "as for my dad..."

The last subject, Chris starts on "stuff and nonsense". He says it's Cheltenham's premier gay nightspot. Paul gets a good head of steam up and goes well to the whistle.

Alun finishes fourth, Chris and Tim equal second, Paul wins.

I did like Tim and Chris and Paul a lot. Alun struggled but maybe he will do better in the second show. But that was a very good show, the best this season so far. I think because Paul, Tim and Chris all know each other reasonably well.

Good stuff. I enjoyed that.

January 22, 2007

Episode Sharing

In the thread under "JAM turns 40" discussion has "deviated" to episide file sharing/trading. The discussion can be found here.

I thought it would be better to open a new thread on how to make this happen without having to search for a thread on an entirely different subject. I also think it would be preferable if people didn't feel they had to post their own email address in the blog comments as that can be a spam magnet.

Here's my suggestion. I've today opened a Yahoo Group. It will be open to anyone who wants to join. It can be used for JAM related discussion - but I would think it would principally be a place for people to share epppies. Here's the link to it.

Once people arrive there, those interested can discuss the ins and out of sharing shows. The Yahoo groups have a place to post files. But if people prefer person to person sharing, that's fine too. The group can then be used just as a place for interested people to meet.

If this is not what people want to do, I am happy to close the group again.

Assuming there's some activity and interest, I'll post links to it on the website.

January 19, 2007

This week's show

I listened again to it and quite liked it. Pauline almost never had the subject but contributed well banter-wise. I get the feeling Marcus is going to do a lot of JAM in the next few years. He has the right style somehow - a nice dry humour and a weird take on the subjects. And he likes words. Gyles was Gyles - you like him or you don't. I do.

JAM turns 40

later this year. Any thoughts on how this should be marked - if money were no object?

I'll give my thoughts tomorrow...

London recording

The team for the sixth recording of the series was Paul, Clement, Graham Norton and Chris Addison.

Chris is another newcomer and according to a poster at the Comedy Store site, was very cheeky to his more experienced team-mates!

Great to have Graham back again too. He's a real favourite of mine.

So that's it for this season! No more recordings now till May and June I'd say.

Interesting that Tony and Graham only did one recording each in the season, as they did last season - once JAM had five regulars, but these days the only true regulars are Clement and Paul.

Anyways some information on Chris Addison - this gives the best biography of him that I have seen, though this here is his own website. And he won the Sony Radio comedy award last year for his own show The Ape That Got Lucky.

His humour is described as polite and observational!

Sounds like a distinguished newcomer indeed! Welcome to the JAM family, Mr Addison. And he goes to the top of one JAM list anyway, being first in an alphabetical list of performers, defeating previous champion Ray Alan! Let's hope he goes to the top when it comes to performance too!

Happy birthday to youuuuuuuuuuuuuu

Paul Merton turned 50 on Wednesday! Let's hope he had some fun!

He looks young for 50 - or do I think this just coz I'm getting near that age...

January 16, 2007

JAM Brighton recording

The team was Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Sue Perkins and Neil Mullarkey.

Good to have Sue back - she's been terribly good the past few times she has been on.

There is one more recording this season. Not sure of the date. We know two of the names for sure - Graham Norton and Rob Brydon. I'd say Clement will be there. That leaves one gap. and I'd guess they would want a woman, especially as neither Maria McErlane or Pauline McLynn have set the world alight this year. I'd hope... Jenny Eclair...

I saw Neil on Have I Got News For You in the last season and he hardly said a word. I hope he does better on these recordings.

JAM 15th January

This week Clement joins Gyles Brandreth, Marcus Brigstocke and Pauline McLynn in the Mermaid Theatre in London - a show without Paul or Tony Hawks or Graham Norton. A good show needs a lead comic - will this show be sub-standard as a result?

Clement leads off with "mermaids". He says "I loathe mermaids". An early incorrect challenge from Gyles. Clement says "there are a number of things you shouldn't give a mermaid, like a bicycle." Marcus has the subject now saying they make useless girlfriends as you can't find a place to take them to dinner as they only eat fish. Clement challenges to say he knows mermaid who are carnivorous. There's a very silly atmosphere already. Pauline: "this programme could turn ugly!" Marcus quite competently reaching the whistle.

Second round led off by Gyles on "infamy". Will he use the famous Kenneth Williams phrase? No, goes into a historical monologue. Then into one of his favourite jokes "that was the chair Schmitt sat in when he was shot." he often brings in his favourite jokes whatever the subject. Gyles went for 52 seconds and Clement now has it. He doesn't use the Kenneth joke either, that Julius Caesar said "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it in for me!"

Marcus starts with "my New Year's resolution". Says it's been ratified by the UN which means he doesn't have to adhere to it. He hesitates. Clement says his was to give up smoking, drinking and women. "I thought that would make me live longer but it only seemed so..." Dear me, a lot of favourite jokes today.

Clement starts on "the rat race". Pauline makes her first challenge, and it's on Clement's grammar. Nicholas turns it down, but says it's lovely to have her there. Pauline: "the token woman!" True things said in jest? Gyles has it now. "The rat race, I love it!" He's in good form, always good to have his different style of playing it. Clement goes into list, then hesitates. Gyles has it back "Dick Whittington was a very good production..." Marcus challenges, "there's never been a good production of Dick Whittington..." The audience join in the humour in panto-style, that's something a bit different!

Gyles starts with "London bridge". he interprets it as being about the card game. Rambling on... he says "I have to say... Clement interjects: "why does he have to say that?" Gyles now using his quadruped joke - he is very skilled at bringing these things in, whatever the subject. Clement says of "London Bridge is falling down... I simply don't believe it". He's doing well tonight. We could do with more from Marcus and Pauline though.

Pauline starts with "the blarney stone". She doesn't get far before Marcus interjects. This round is very stop-and-start. Nicholas doing his bad Irish accent. Gyles going on again. Not a memorable round. Talking about kissing, Nicholas flirting with Pauline. Clement says "my relationship with a blarney stone is purely platonic..." Not a bad line!

Clement starts with "Maid Marian". Marcus in, let's hope he goes for a bit. He is challenged for repeating "her'. Might have been better to let him go on. Clement does the joke about "Friar Tuck being a spoonerism"! Marcus and Pauline enjoyed that. Marcus challenged on BBC! Clement says he auditioned for the part of Maid Marian. Now Marcus is challenged on repetition of "she"... let him go a bit!

Marcus starts on "whippersnappers", it's the last round. Clement gets the subject, but says he doesn't want the subject. "Can I sell it?" Clement starts "you need a camera and a whip!" Gyles says "whippersnappers are ruining the world..." winding himself up into a frenzy. "Even the Pope is younger than Sir Clement Freud!" Gyles now describing Clement as "one of the wisest and most physically attractive men I have ever met"! Oooh err!

Results - Pauline in fourth place - she hardly ever had the subject! Clement in second. Joint winners today, Gyles and Marcus.

That was okay, bit of banter. We could have done with more from Marcus and Pauline....

January 14, 2007

Lovely article on Sue Perkins

Can be read here

January 12, 2007

Brighton team

One of Paul's Comedy Store collegaues, Neil Mullarkey, was among the team there. Neil hasn't been on the show since 1997. He also did two TV editions of JAM, back in 1994.

Chris Neill's blog

While doing some searches on the JAM newcomer, Alun Cochrane, I stumbled across Chris's blog. As you might expect it is very funny, I highly recommend it. Have a good read of it here.

I hope he doesn't mind too much if I copy what he has to say about his four JAMs that he has recorded so far this year - it gives you a taste of his views on the show.

<>December 3rd.... Full of cold and chest infection, on Friday I drove down to Winchester to take part in a recording of Just A Minute at the Theatre Royal. I always find appearing with Paul Merton and Clement Freud a rather worrying prospect what with them being the absolutely most senior and yet ruthless players of the game; and my angst wasn’t soothed by the fact that Greg Proops was also on the panel who I expected to be a little difficult. Why, I’m not really sure as whenever we’ve worked together before it’s been a happy thing, particularly I recall when he was narrator for some Woody Allen short stories I was dramatising for Radio 3 about ten years ago. As it turned out - almost inevitably - my default position of utter paranoia was misplaced; Paul was most chipper, Clement as easy-going as he gets and Greg was utterly delightful. He and I sat next to each other on stage and had quite a laugh. Paul and Clement play the game rather seriously so we took the role of unruly children. Needless to say we lost stupendously. I have never reached higher than third place and feel it is my right and proper place in the Just A Minute universe.
January 3rd... A much cheerier evening the following day where I appeared on a recording of Just A Minute for Radio 4 at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham. Paul Merton, Tim Rice and Alun Cochrane were also the panel and they seemed most jolly shows all in all.

Incidentally - I have a feeling Chris did actually come second at least once! He's too hard on himself!!!!

Cheltenham recording

According to the BBC's website, the team at Cheltenham was Paul Merton, Sir Tim Rice, Chris Neill and Alan Cochrane.

This is the first time Chris has done more than one set of recordings in a season - is he the new regular? I hope so!

Despite the BBC naming the new panellist as Alan Cochrane, I am fairly sure it is actually a very talented man called ALUN Cochrane. He has his own website here - but it is not very informative! According to this blurb, despite a Welsh name like Alun, he is actually a Scot - with a Yorkshire accent! This website has a full CV - and he has the sort of pedigree you might expect from a JAMster. He's also done Have I Got News For You recently - so maybe Paul recommended him!

It will be great to hear Tim and Chris again - and Alun! I still haven't heard anyone tell me who the team was at Brighton....


January 10, 2007

The magic of JAM

My friend Mike Lindeen made a good point about JAM in an email which I thought I might expand on a little.

What is it that sets JAM apart from other panel games and quizzes? My opinion is that it is the banter between the panellists and the arguments between them and the chairman. In most shows of this type, the chairman/quizmaster is a God-like figure and their rulings are not questioned. Rulings are questioned on JAM.

If you allow that, of course chaos can ensue. That also happens on JAM and there was a classic example on JAM this week. That too is part of the magic of JAM and what makes it different.

It would be possible to run the show strictly with a tough host and edit out any disagreement over rulings. The chairman could be totally consistent. But it would change the whole ethos and atmosphere of the programme.

I think much of Nicholas's chairmanship is a performance to instigate the banter and argument, and he has a real feel for when to keep an argument going and when to move on. It would be a totally different type of show if he wasn't prepared to be the butt of so many jokes. He is going to be very hard to replace.

I'd make another point. We at home hear things better than Nicholas does. He isn't sitting there with headphones on - so we will hear some comments better than he will as he is coping with five people sitting around him, a loud audience and the producer talking in his ear. I'm sure that was part of the confusion over the "TV - transvestite" comment - he simply didn't hear Kit the first time he said it.

Panel shows like The News Quiz and Quote Unquote and even I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue don't have wrangles over the rules. But to me they lack spontaneity too. It all sounds like it could be - and in many cases is - read from a script. If you like that, that's fine. But for me anyway, those shows are inferior to JAM.


Bangalore folk - a message from Nicholas!

Nicholas Parsons has sent me a message which he's asked me to post on the site.

He recently went to Bangalore in India as part of a TV doco on quizzes. He went there to talk to JAM fans there. He says they called themselves "jammers" and love actually playing the game. Anyway Nicholas wanted to say hello to the jammers and say he enjoyed meeting them very much.

I know there are a lot of Indian fans of the show - if any of you read the blog, please post about your meeting with Nicholas and how your JAM competitions are going.


January 09, 2007


a small problem with posting of comments has now been fixed - I hope!


JAM - new eppy from Tunbridge Wells

I thought again I'd blog the show and give you instant reactions to what I hear.

And we're in Tunbridge Wells with Paul, Clement, Maria McErlane and Kit Hesketh-Harvey - a solid combo. The introes seem back to their normal length so maybe I read too much into the shortened version last week!

Nicholas: "we begin the show with Paul Merton, and Paul, actually the next subject is the first one..." try that out for logic! The subject is "taking the waters". He compares it with "taking the urine". Kit says he will spring to the defence of Tunbridge Wells and gets the subject. He says he comes from there! He's very erudite and very funny at the same time. A typical wrangle over whether Kit repeated himself - I really like Kit, he's just so different to everyone else in style, so fluent, so interesting, and he sounds like a really nice guy!

Maria challenges and is accused of being too pedantic - hmmmmmm....

Kit starts with "in the back of my mind". He goes back to his younger days there and is very funny... He is so good on this show. At the moment he must be well in the lead as he is having several challenges against him turned down. This show is going very very well - Paul in great form, he now has the subject, and turns it against Kit's reminiscing. We must have missed a round as Kit is said to be four points behind Paul.

Clement now begins and the subject is "the last resort". This is the first time he has actually had the subject - and Maria hasn't had it yet either. Clement starts listing towns and not really getting on to the subject. Maria asks if listing is allowed - "it was about the last resort". She then says she is quite new to it - she actually first appeared 11 years ago. Nicholas says listing is hard to do... It is but it's not huge fun to listen to. Paul gets him on repetition of Wells. Paul dominating - he now has a bonus point. Kit again talking about the area, says "as a young TV", and accepts Maria's suggestion that that meant transvestite. He gets a benefit of the doubt - this is a really good show. Big smile on my face. Lots of interaction between the cast - that always makes for great listening. Clement, Maria, Kit and Paul bantering, teasing Nicholas. Paul: "I've got 10 quid in my pocket that says let's forget the last 10 minutes." Kit eventually continues - I really enjoyed that. Maria still hasn't had the subject.

Paul begins with "Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells". Attributes the phrase to Private Eye - he is getting on to his school days with Kit in Tunbridge Wells. Off the subject but repeats "wonderful" too. Kit gets in and then Maria for the first time today. Paul makes it into a letter complaining about what Nicholas is wearing.

Maria begins with "meat and two veg". Subjects have been very funny today - the new producer's input? Paul leaps on her saying she saw someone eating a kangaroo's testicles. Clement quotes the old line "she sits among the cauliflowers and peas"....

We must miss two rounds as it's Paul starting again, this time with "ducking and diving". Kit has it again - he is so interesting and funny. She's doing a list of things banned in a swimming pool. Paul picks that up and Clement laughs, "we don't like lists". Maria gets through to the whistle and cheers herself.

Maria starts with "off the record". She is stumbling and they're not challenging - she still hasn't been buzzed. Silence now - Clement eventually saves us - he can't believe he has 40 seconds left. Certainly it seemed longer! Kit says off the record, he can reveal he was married to Nicholas Parsons in a civil ceremony. Nicholas says "as far as I know that is deviation". He says he can't remember it. Paul says "that must hit home, Kit". Gee this show is good. Paul takes the theme up, says Nicholas is in the habit of marrying panellists. Clement gets in with half a second to go, so there's the icing on the cake.

Maria comes fourth, Kit third, Clement second, Paul the winner - I bet it would be different if we just scored what went to air.

That was a fine fine show. Well done to Kit in particular, but I thought Paul was at his brillaint best too.

Next week it's Clement, Gyles Brandreth, Marcus Brigstocke and Pauline McLynn.

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January 08, 2007

JAM guest approaches 50th anniversary

Sir Patrick Moore, who appeared on JAM 11 times in the late 70s, is approaching his 5oth anniversary on his TV programme The Sky At Night. He's about to present his 650th edition of the show - but is annoyed his programme now runs at 1.55AM!!!!!!!!

Have a look at the article here.


January 07, 2007

JAM Brighton recording

is going on tonight UK time - please feel free to post any info here...


January 06, 2007

JAM star gets Grammy nomination

JAM semi-regular Kit Hesketh-Harvey is in the running for a prestigious Grammy award.

Kit is one of those nominated for best opera recording for “Smetana: the Bartered Bride.” Kit translated the whole opera into English from German, and also performs in the recording.

The Grammys will be announced on February 11th in Los Angeles - ket's cross our fingers for Kit who is such a great comedy performer as well as being so musically talented.


January 05, 2007

Linda Smith book

Santa finally arrived today with "The Very Best Of Linda Smith" in his sack.

It's an anthology of much of Linda's work, transcribed from the original by her partner. He is now working on a biography of her.

There isn't much from her JAM work - just one para of her going the full 60. But there are two lovely pieces written by Nicholas and Claire Jones about her work on JAM. And there is a rare photo of a JAM panel - the panel from her first show which included Tony Hawks, Graham Norton and Derek Nimmo, in his last recording. The pic is a classic - Nicholas hamming it up, Derek and Tony smirking, Graham grinning, Linda looking coy as she often did.

There are also other articles by other JAMsters including Barry Cryer, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Chris Neill, Jeremy Hardy, Jo Brand and Sandi Toskvig.

But the bulk of the book is Linda's comedy and how good it reads. She was such a clever comedian and satirist, a lover of words. A tremendously funny woman. The book is just unputdownable - far better than I expected.

What a loss Linda is - not just for JAM, but to Britain's comedy community.


Further thoughts on the season debut

I had another listen and I thought it was better than on my first hearing. Paul was the star - he always is these days. But I thought Chris Neill was very good too.

Chris has an interesting style. He sounds a little like the great Kenneth - and obviously has a camp style like his. But there is something of Peter Jones in him. He likes to poke fun at the show, and the others and his one-liners in reponse to something someone has said are often high points of the show. I like the way he intercats with the others - this is really the key to the show in my view, how do the panellists interact? He does this very well.

But what I don't like about him is that when he gets the subject, he usually puts out two sentences and one punchline and then stops rather than even try to play the game. I think he's sharp enough on the challenge, and loquacious enough to win a game or two. Amd I'd like him to, it's dull when Paul wins every time. Hopefully he'll win next time.

I liked Greg Proops too. Of course he only spends half his time in the UK, but I think he would be worthwhile to have more often. I loved him on Whose Line. I think he needs to relax a little.

So a very good debut. I'm looking forward to Kit Hesketh-Harvey next week.

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January 02, 2007

JAM guest dies

Have only just heard that JAM guest William Franklyn died a couple of months ago.

He appeared four times on JAM, in 1984, 1985 and 1986. He was good fun as he clearly knew the others well, without doing enough to suggest he should have apopeared more often. he was teased nicely by Peter Jones, my favourite memory from his shows.

A nice obit from The Daily Telegraph follows.

William Franklyn

William Franklyn, who died yesterday aged 81, was a character actor on stage and television, but was equally well known for his voiceovers in commercials – his tour de force in that department was as the debonair globe-trotter in the advertisement for Schweppes tonic water, in which he whispered sexily: "Schhh… you know who."

This award-winning television campaign (which boosted sales by nearly £1 million) was created by the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather; the slogan was the brainchild of Royston Taylor, who had tried to think of a way of promoting the product without mentioning its name. The "Schhh… " was supposed to suggest a bottle of tonic water being opened.

The commercials placed Franklyn in exotic locations surrounded by swarms of beautiful women; he appeared in more than 50 of them between 1965 and 1973, later observing: "They were great fun, but they typecast me."

Franklyn was often seen on the stage, but although he confessed that he would have liked to have played Hamlet, he had no general ambition to play the classic roles. His suave, easy style, however, earned him many and various opportunities on the small screen. In Thames Television's Paradise Island he played a sex-hungry ship's entertainments officer stranded on a desert island with a vicar (Bill Maynard); in a different vein, he was link man for the quick-fire gag show What's On Next.

William Leo Franklyn was born in London on September 22 1925, the son of Leo Franklyn and Mary Rigby, both of whom were actors. He spent his childhood in Australia, where his father, an established comedian, was busy touring. While his father was away, Bill attended Haileybury School in Melbourne.

As a child he was terrified by the theatre, associating it with being dragged, blushing, through dressing-rooms peopled by half-naked women. At the age of 11 the family returned to Britain and Bill was sent to boarding school, which was evacuated during the war to Luscombe Castle, Devon. He made an early appearance on stage at the Savoy, as one of a squad of Panamanian sailors in a conga line in My Sister Eileen. He then served as a paratrooper in Palestine.

After demobilisation Franklyn pursued his acting career in earnest, appearing at Southsea in Arsenic and Old Lace, and going on to rep at Ryde, Margate and Northampton. At Windsor he played the lead in plays such as Night and Day, Relatively Speaking and Springtime for Henry. He also appeared at the King's Head, Islington, where Rattigan's In Praise of Love gave him a more subtle role, which he tackled with his usual confidence.

Franklyn got his break in the West End in The Love of Four Colonels, and went on to become one of the early stars of ITV, appearing in its first broadcast play, Mid-Level. This was the start of a long career in television, which included appearances in The Makepeace Story; The Last Flight; Top Secret; No Wreath for the General; No Cloak, No Dagger; Latterly; Masterspy; and The Purple Twilight. More recently he had parts in Lovejoy, Doctors and French And Saunders. He was a regular contributor to BBC radio programmes, and in 2004 took over from the late Peter Jones as the voice of the Book on Radio 4's Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Throughout his career Franklyn's regular voiceover and commentary work provided him with a steady income, and he fitted in theatre work when he could. He appeared in London in plays such as Tunnel of Love, There's a Girl in My Soup and Ghost on Tiptoe, as well as in thrillers such as Deathtrap, Dead Ringer and A Touch of Danger.

On the cinema screen Franklyn featured in Quatermass II (1957) and in Roman Polanski's Cul de Sac (1966). Other screen credits included Fury at Smugglers' Bay (1958); Pit of Darkness (1962); The Legend of Young Dick Turpin; The Intelligence Men (1965); and The Satanic Rights of Dracula (1973).

In 1969 Franklyn directed an Italian production of There's a Girl in My Soup, even though his knowledge of the Italian language went little beyond Linguaphone lesson one. When he was provided with an interpreter, Franklyn observed: "The Italians are too busy talking among themselves to hear what language is being used."

Franklyn could tear up a script on the set, or announce at a rehearsal (with the author well within earshot) that he had put in a few of his own one-liners to liven things up a bit. But he was warm-hearted and friendly, and always conscientious.

He hated periods of inactivity, and at one time – when acting opportunities were scarce – he turned his hand to the antiques business. His hobbies included philately and squash, but his principal recreation was cricket.

As a young man he had had a trial for Essex as a fast bowler, and he continued to play into old age, though by then he had metamorphosed into a leg-break specialist. He was for many years a prominent member of The Stage's Cricket Club; he also ran his own team, the Sargent Men, which raised money for the Malcolm Sargent Cancer Fund for Children.

William Franklyn married first, in 1952, Margot Johns. They divorced in 1962, and in 1966 he married the actress Susanna Carroll, among whose roles was that of a Drahvin in Dr Who.

By his first marriage he had a daughter, the actress Sabina Franklyn; by his second he had two daughters: Francesca, a film producer, and Melissa, also an actress.


and a JAMmy New Year

In honour of the first show of the new season, I thought I'd try and live blog it - my reactions as I hear them. It's something different - if it goes well, I will try andf do it again. Note I find my first reactions are often harsher than a second or third listening - but hopefully you'll get an idea of how the show was, through my ears...

I'm listening live - just two minutes till the Minute Waltz. The BBC has a news bulletin leading up to the programme.

Those familiar words - "weclome to Just A Minute" and the theme song sounds shorter than usual. Only about three seconds of it before Nicholas comes in again.

Introductions are also short - just names! I quite like the longer introductions. Could this be a move to cut back the long long introes by the new producer?

Paul Merton starts with "Alfred the Great" - he only goes a few seconds before being challenged. Lovely then to hear Greg Proops' voice again. He only lasts a few seconds too, before Chris Neill gets it. He goes a sentence before it goes back to Paul - and then Clement Freud is in with only 30 seconds gone. Paul has it again now and he is talking about Batman - not many great jokes so far but they all sound well lubricated! Paul reaches the buzzer.

Greg starts with "Zen Buddhism". Greg says he lives in Hollywood - for some reason I thought he was a New Yorker. I like hearing him, he is very funny. Paul suggesting silence for the next 45 seconds - gets a deserved joke. The programme is getting patchy - no-one able to get going, not because of over-enthusiasm but because it seems no-one can go no more than a few seconds without hesitating. Programmes with too many challenges can lose momentum, let's hope this gets better. Clement goes a while and gets the buzzer.

Chris now on "how to write your autobiography" - he's being very rude and funny about "potato-faced" Wayne Rooney, says he must write five volumes because he can only write in crayon. Paul then , now Clement, who has written an autobiography. He says "how to write a biography is, in a word, by yourself..." and Paul challenges "by yourself is two words". I would have given that challenge as funny and sharp, but for some reason Nicholas doesn't.

Clement on "Picasso". Chris is again challenged quickly after winning a challenge - I doubt he's gone 10 seconds so far. Greg Proops on art? It's back to Paul now. There's a nice fun atmosphere but it's a show with probably too many challenges at the moment. Paul ends strongly with some quick-fire surrealism.

Paul starts on "the local High Street". Says Winchester's High Street is one of the best and responds to a cheer from the crowd by saying "you are joking, aren't you?" That works well! This round is going well - Chris Neill has just started on the subject and apparently doesn't even have it. Nicholas says "he's on another planet!" Order now being restored - Greg Proops has it, says it's a really tough game. Clement getting a good laugh now - he sounds in good form.

Chris starting on "the round table". He's got a distinctive style in that camp voice of his - I think he is a welcome addition to the semi-regulars. Paul joking about Nicholas's age, says he was born in 1168. Nicholas replies "for someone born in 1168, I've worn rather well." Paul: "But for someone born in the 20th century, you're a disaster!" Scorewise, Clement is two points behind Paul, with a distance then to Chris and Greg.

Clement starts on "breaking news". He says "I don't know why it's called breaking news, like breaking wind..." Chris starts on that theme and starts to stumble and says breaking news is behind a screen, tries to explain. Nicholas: "you're talking rubbish." Paul: "don't knock it, we've been doing the show for 40 years".

One thing about this show - just about everyone has talked on every subject!

Greg starts on "how to throw a great party". He's trying a list - stumbles, challenged, Nicholas says "yes and no"... Greg going well. "It's important to have twice as many women at a party as men", and Chris challenges, "it really isn't". Greg at last seems comfortable on this subject - could he be a great party host? Paul suggests Nicholas Soames as a great party... great ending, the idea of throwing Nicholas Soames out the window!

Greg finished 4th, Chris 3rd, Clement 2nd and Paul is the winner!

The producer is named - and it is someone new. The name was something like Toulousa Kimlani - but I'm bound to have both heard that wrongly, and spelled it wrongly. So anyone who has the correct spelling - please please let me know.

Overall - a good solid start. Not a great show but plenty to smile at. Greg Proops was good, Chris Neill was good, Clement and Paul and Nicholas good. Great to have the show back!

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