Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

January 29, 2009


I'm told the guest for the last recording ths season is Justin Webb.

Now assuming that's right, and unless there is some other Justin Webb, I think we are talking about a very prominent BBC journalist who is currently the Washington bureau chief and is about to take over as presenter of Radio Four's breakfast news programme, Today.

Unlike the last journalist on the programme, John Sergeant, he has no background in comedy, as far as I know.

I will be very interested to see if this is correct.

EDIT : In the Yahoo group, it's been suggested it could be Justin Edwards.

Today in JAM history - January 29th

happy Birthday to Clare Balding - 38 today

1930: John Junkin is born.
1943: Tony Blackburn is born.
1971: Clare Balding is born.
1980: Episode 281 featured Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Aimi Macdonald with Nicholas Parsons.
1994: Episode 438 featured Paul Merton, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Arthur Smith with Nicholas Parsons.
2001: Episode 541 featured Clement Freud, Tony Hawks, Linda Smith and Ross Noble with Nicholas Parsons.
2007: Episode 666 featured Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Sue Perkins and Neil Mullarkey with Nicholas Parsons.

January 28, 2009

Today in JAM History - January 28th

1921: Alfred Marks is born.
1969: Episode 27 featured Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Betty Marsden with Nicholas Parsons. Betty Marsden’s final appearance.
1995: Episode 449 featured Paul Merton, Peter Jones, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Jenny Eclair with Nicholas Parsons.
2002: Episode 560 featured Paul Merton, Clement Freud, Stephen Fry and Liza Tarbuck with Nicholas Parsons.
2008: Episode 687 featured Paul Merton, Clement Freud, Jenny Eclair and Marcus Brigstocke with Nicholas Parsons. This show was included on The Best of Just A Minute 2008.

January 27, 2009

Sue me - I like her

Sue Perkins was great today.

Now that was a very funny show I thought, but Sue held it together.

It's not just that she won for the first time, although that is at least a sign of someone making a big contribution. But she was so funny as well and did so well in the repartee. She dominated Paul Merton and that is a rare thing.

I think we should be hearing her a lot more frequently. She is someone that could (in a Paul-like way) hold a show together because of her ability to improvise and the sharpness of her mind.

Mind you, I thought Paul was good too. He had some good lines and did you notice him doing the old Kenneth Williams trick of putting on a funny voice to disguise the fact that what he was saying wasn't especially funny. Very good.

Gyles was also funny although some of the routines - looking in the mirror, goose her and she livens up no end, Swiss kiss - are now getting a bit familiar. But he still has a quick wit and is different.

Liza didn't speak on a subject in the loast 10 minutes. I'm told she won the second recording so there must have been something in the half-time oranges.

But Sue Perkins was great. More please.

Today in JAM History - January 27th

Maria McErlane made her debut 13 years ago today.

1975: Episode 187 featured Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Sheila Hancock with Nicholas Parsons.
1976: Episode 213 featured Clement Freud, Peter Jones, Sheila Hancock and Graeme Garden with Nicholas Parsons.
1994: TV episode 4 featured Clement Freud, Tony Hawks, Tony Slattery and Richard Vranch with Nicholas Parsons. Debut by Richard Vranch.
1996: Episode 458 featured Paul Merton, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Maria McErlane with Nicholas Parsons. Debut by Maria McErlane.
2003: Episode 581 featured Paul Merton, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Ross Noble and Steve Frost with Nicholas Parsons.

January 25, 2009

Today in JAM History - January 26th

And later today Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Sue Perkins and Liza Tarbuck are due to take the air in a new edition.

1968: Episode 6 featured Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud, Marjorie Proops and Millie Small with Nicholas Parsons. Marjorie Proops and Millie Small’s only appearances.
1970: Episode 54 featured Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Deanne Hart with Nicholas Parsons. Deanne Hart’s only appearance.
1971: Episode 84 featured Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Sheila Hancock with Nicholas Parsons.
1977: Episode 229 featured Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones with Nicholas Parsons.
1991: Episode 410 featured Paul Merton, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Sandi Toksvig with Nicholas Parsons. Sandi Toksvig’s only appearance. This show was included on Just A Minute 1.
2004: Episode 602 featured Gyles Brandreth, Maria McErlane, Fred MacAulay and Nick Revell with Nicholas Parsons.

Today in JAM history - January 25th

Julian Clary made his JAM debut 12 years ago today.

1958: Linda Smith is born.
1962: Emma Freud is born.
1972: Episode 105 featured Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Andree Melly with Nicholas Parsons.
1986: Episode 363 featured Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and William Franklyn with Nicholas Parsons.
1992: Episode 418 featured Wendy Richard, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones with Nicholas Parsons.
1997: Episode 468 featured Paul Merton, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Julian Clary with Nicholas Parsons. Debut by Julian Clary.
1999: Episode 498 featured Paul Merton, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Tony Hawks with Nicholas Parsons.

January 24, 2009

Today in JAM history - January 24th

Today is the 9th anniversary of Peter Jones's last show.

1998: Episode 483 featured Paul Merton, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones with Nicholas Parsons.
2000: Episode 522 featured Paul Merton, Peter Jones, Stephen Fry and Maria McErlane with Nicholas Parsons. Peter Jones’s final appearance.
2005: Episode 620, first edition of the 49th season, featured Paul Merton, Clement Freud, Jenny Eclair and Dara O’Briain with Nicholas Parsons.


For a new feature for the blog I'm trying to get a complete list of birthdates for JAM panellists.

So far I haven't got dates for the following.

Chris Addison, Juno Alexander, Lucy Bartlett, Elisabeth Beresford, Carol Binstead, Barbara Blake, Janet Brown, Ann Bryson, Alun Cochrane, Hugh Dennis, Wilma Ewart, Lynn Ferguson, Janey Godley, Deanne Hart, Tony Hawks, Robin Ince, Geraldine Jones, Shappi Khorsandi, Lee Mack, Carolyn Marshall, Maria McErlane, Malcolm Messiter, Richard Morton, Neil Mullarkey, Chris Neill, Owen O’Neill, Steve Punt, Kenneth Robinson, Lee Simpson, Arthur Smith

Anyone with info on these... please let me know.

EDIT: Thanks to John in the comments - Janey Godley is now sorted! And I now have details for Chris Neill and Neil Mullarkey too.

January 20, 2009


I was shuffling some copy around the website today when my browser crashed meaning I lost some of the cast section - some of it dating back to when the site was created in 1999.

So I've spent the last six hours recreating it from scratch. I lost 12 bios including those of Paul Merton and Andree Melly. Recreating it means rewriting all the transcript links. Unfortunately the Internet archive doesn't include that page.

I have to admit though I enjoyed writing afresh about them and their styles. Made me think it's well past time to improve that section. I think I'll start working through them, rewriting the bios and assessments - and if I can bear it - putting the transcripts in chrnological order.

January 18, 2009

Nice quote

If you ever doubt how highly JAM is rated by the pros - I liked this quote from Helen Lederer's pre-Christmas diary in The Independent.


It's our day off, and so this is when I've scheduled my Christmas party. I invite my new friends from the cast. Some people don't come because of colds or flu, which I don't accept as an excuse at all, but in fact lots of people turn up and it's great. Irritatingly I know very few famous people and none of them come – except for Steve, of course. I spend most of my time showing off about being on Just a Minute in January, and practising talking non-stop.

January 17, 2009

Sad news

Very sad to read of the death of Sir John Mortimer, one of Britain's most prolific writers, TV dramatists and playwrights.

He's best known for the Rumpole of the Bailey series, of which I have every book. The JAM connection is that a regular on the series was Richard Murdoch who played Uncle Tom and remains one of the most loved JAM guests. JAM regular Peter Jones also appeared on the series.

It's such that such a brilliant comic mind is lost to us.

January 16, 2009

Josie gets soap in her eyes

I see my future wife and soon-to-be JAM regular Josie Lawrence has joined the cast of East Enders!

This from the Sun...

TV Editor

Published: 14 Jan 2009

COMIC star Josie Lawrence has signed up to EastEnders as Manda Best — the childhood sweetheart of Phil Mitchell, TV Biz can reveal.
Josie — best known for starring in 1980s and 90s TV comedy improvisation show Whose Line Is It Anyway? — is to play the unlikely Romeo’s former love.
Her Walford-born character returns to Albert Square after her only son goes to university and her marriage collapses.
She soon starts dating Minty (Cliff Parisi) but it quickly becomes clear Manda still carries a torch for Phil (Steve McFadden).
A show insider said: “She returns and keeps busy by teaching night classes in art and pottery and drinking in E20.
“It’s not long before she bumps into familiar faces, including Phil, who she dated at school, and Minty. But are they pleased to see her?”
Josie’s Manda will be the latest love interest for Phil, who had been dating scheming Suzy Branning (Maggie O’Neill).
She’s already started filming and will appear on screen in March.
Josie, 49, told TV Biz: “I’m so excited. Everyone at EastEnders has made me feel so at home.
“It’s mind-boggling to walk into Albert Square after having watched the show for so many years! I can’t wait to see how my character develops on screen.”
EastEnders boss Diederick Santer added: “I’m so excited Josie’s joining us.
“I’ve enjoyed her brilliant comic performances for over 20 years, and can’t wait to see her in Walford.”
Since Whose Line? ended in 1998 after a ten-year TV run, Josie has acted with the RSC and still does comedy improvisation with London troupe the Comedy Store Players.
Her last TV appearance was on E4 hit Skins where she played Liz Jenkins, the estranged mother of Sid Jenkins (Mike Bailey).

January 14, 2009

yet more panel news

According to the local Lincoln newspaper, the team for the shows to be recorded there on Monday January 26th will be Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Chris Neill and Justin Moorhouse.

Justin is a stand-up comedian and radio DJ. He's done some TV work too. You can read about him here.

Welcome to the JAM family Justin!

January 13, 2009

panel news

The panel tonight in London was Paul Merton, Sir Clement Freud, Jack Dee and Josie Lawrence. Great that Josie has been given another go and my friend Keith says she was much more confident this time. Good to hear Jack Dee again too.

Two more recordings to go this season.

January 09, 2009

Graham Norton interview in The Guardian

A really interesting piece - it includes a picture of Graham in drag!

Here it is.

Question time

Graham Norton on why he is perfectly happy to morph into Terry Wogan rather than run up and down stairs waving dildos

You are playing the lead in the West End musical La Cage aux Folles. Which is worse for you: the singing or the dancing?
The singing, because I have to do more of it. I don't have to do that much dancing and it's probably easier to work my bad dancing so that it looks funny rather than rubbish, whereas if we hit a wrong note, that's just a wrong note.

Tell me about your role?
I play Albin. He's a gay guy but he has a drag alter ego, Zaza. Beyond that, it turns into an old-fashioned romantic family story. It's bit of farce with some men doing the cancan and the splits.

How is the drag side of things going?
It's quite depressing really. As a man, you're of an age when you feel all right about yourself, and you think, "When I get some slap on I'll be quite hot." And you get the slap on and you look hi-de-ous. And it makes me feel for women in a way that I didn't before, because the lot of a 46-year-old woman is very different to the lot of a 46-year-old man.

It has also been announced that you will be hosting the Eurovision Song Contest. Why?
I really like Eurovision. I grew up in Ireland where it was an enormous thing. Sir Terry [Wogan] has taken a nothing job and turned it into this iconic role, but he doesn't want to do it any more. They asked me and I said yes.

He doesn't want to do it because he says it's a bit of a fix, with all the block voting.
It's a singing competition, so you can take it seriously, but you can never take it that seriously. It's people singing songs that people vote on, and somebody's going to win. We need to step back and enjoy it for what it is.

Perhaps you are morphing into Wogan?
I wouldn't mind if I did. He's an excellent broadcaster, we're both Irish, we're both quite gentle in our way, so, if that happened, I'd be perfectly happy.

But you started out being very edgy and now you've got national treasure status.
I don't know about national treasure. I've got older, that's what's happened. You are a different person when you're 46. I was 33 when I started and I was a bit long in the tooth to be running up and down the stairs waving dildos even then. But certainly now, that's unseemly.

There has been much discussion recently about crudeness on TV. Do you feel under pressure to tone down your comedy?
No. It's difficult for the BBC. It has to be seen to be whiter than white and really defend itself, but it does an incredibly good job of policing shows so these things don't happen, and what happened on that late-night Radio 2 show was a blip. I'm not defending it; it wasn't a good thing to do. But there are lots of safeguards and firewalls on the BBC. With my chatshow, as out there and edgy as people might think some of those jokes are, they have been seen by lawyers beforehand. There are lawyers watching the recording, there's a lawyer who comes to the edit, so there are a lot of things in place to protect the public from me.

So there's been no memo?
No. As far as I know, it's business as normal. There are things you can't say, but they are the same things we have never been able to say.

How does it feel to have responsibility forced on you, to be seen to represent gay men?
I don't feel a responsibility. I can't. Now that there are so many gay people working in the media and high-profile jobs, I think gay people look to people like me less because I'm not carrying the whole weight of the gay world. I'm representing myself. There are gay people out there like me, but equally there are very serious bookish gay people, and there are gay people who are far more militant and political than me. I'm sorry, I can't represent them all, I'm just doing what I do.

But in terms of prime-time TV, it still tends to be just you.
But if I'm doing prime-time Saturday telly, I don't think I'm doing it as a gay man. I'm doing it as a television presenter. There are gay newsreaders. You don't go, "Oh, it's the gay newsreader tonight. I wonder what the news will be like tonight with a gay man reading it. Will it be cheerier?" It will be the same old news, and I think that's good. People are gay second, they are their job first.

January 08, 2009

team speculation

My guesses at the panels for the three remaining recordings this season

London: Clement Freud, Tony Hawks, Marcus Brigstocke, Pam Ayres

Lincoln: Paul Merton, Clement, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Chris Neill

London: Paul, Clement, Jenny Eclair, Stephen Fry

Let's see how close I get. :)

UPDATE: Oops I forgot the news that Jack Dee had been booked - so switching things around a little...

London: Clement Freud, Tony Hawks, Pam Ayres, Jack Dee

Lincoln: Paul Merton, Clement, Kit Hesketh-Harvey, Marcus Brigstocke

London: Paul, Clement, Jenny Eclair, Chris Neill

January 07, 2009

upcoming shows

next Monday we have the second show featuring Paul, Graham, Charles Collingwood and Shappi Khorsandi. Then acoording to the Radio Times we get Paul, Clement, Julian Clary and debutante Josie Long. So looks like Helen Lederer and Josie are just doing one show each this season.

January 06, 2009

Another goodie

I enjoyed today's show. Always good to have Julian on the show - what a performer he is these days. Helen Lederer gave the best performance she has given on the show. As Ant has pointed out in the comments, it was not her first appearance as Nicholas said several times. She appeared on radio in 1992 with Paul, Clement and Peter Jones, and then in four editions of the 1994-95 ITV television version. I was going to suggest that possibly her performances were so poor, that she had blocked them from her memory, but as I say, I thought her rather good today.

January 05, 2009

new season

Just back from holiday so I have only just heard the season debut, and what a ripper! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Paul at his best, Graham at his best, and I enjoyed Shappi - she has a sort of Peter Jonesian "I'm not very good at this game but I can be funny all the same" quality to her. Charles a good straight man.

Of interest is that it seems the Trudi Stevens era on the whistle is over. She didn't do the two Edinburgh shows last year which were the last recorded, but I thought it might be a one off non-appearance. But no, Sarah Sharpe has the whistle now. Trudi is the fourth most experienced whistle-blower behind Ian Messiter, Janet Staplehurst and Anne Ling.

And Claire Jones back as producer - she may yet catch David Hatch to become JAM's most prolific producer.

Yes I really enjoyed that - and lucky me, more tomorrow!