Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

October 27, 2010

new season

starts on November 8th - a run of just six shows...

October 26, 2010

team in London

was Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Julian Clary and Kevin Eldon

I hadn't heard of Kevin Eldon before, but having just googled him, he sounds interesting

October 25, 2010

highest paid UK comedians

Who can resist stories about how much people earn?

The Sun compiled this list of the top earners in British comedy and a lot of it was very surprising - of course JAM is well represented with Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Jenny Eclair, Ross Noble, Stephen Fry, Dara O'Briain, Chris Addison, David Mitchell, Bill Bailey, Jo Brand, Rob Brydon, Eddie Izzard and John Bishop all in the money.

And another interesting fact - with the exception of Rowan Atkinson and John Cleese, Paul and Stephen are the oldest on the list!

Here's the list...

40. Chris Addison, 38, £150,000.
39. Frank Skinner, 53, £200,000
38. Sarah Millican, 35, £250,000.
37. Jo Brand, 53, £250, 000.
36. Paul Merton, 53, £300,000.
35. Leigh Francis, 36, £300,000.
34. Robert Webb, 38, £400,000.
=29. Bill Bailey, 46, £500,000.
=29. Rob Brydon, 45, £500,000.
=29. Alan Davies, 44, £500,000.
=29. Russell Kane, 30, £500,000.
=29. John Cleese, 70, £500,000.
28. Jenny Eclair, 50, £600,000.
27. David Mitchell, 36, £700,000.
26. Ben Miller, 44, £800,000.
=24. Alexander Armstrong, 40, £1million.
=24. Matt Lucas, 36, £1million.
=22. Russell Howard, 30, £1.5million.
=22. Al Murray, 42, £1.5million.
21. David Walliams, 39, £1.8million.
=16. DARA O'BRIAIN, 38, £2million: He hosts TV's Mock The Week and has taken over from Adrian Chiles on The Apprentice: You're Fired. The big money comes from a 73-date tour.
=16. MICHAEL McINTYRE, 34, £2million: He would double this if he was touring this year. His DVDs are massive bestsellers and his Comedy Roadshow was a huge BBC1 hit.
=16. ROSS NOBLE, 34, £2million: The long-haired Geordie is in the middle of the British leg of his Nonsensory Tour and regularly pops up on all the funny panel games.
=16. STEPHEN FRY, 53, £2million: He is filming the Guy Ritchie sequel to Sherlock Holmes, playing the sleuth's brother Mycroft. He's signed for two low budget Brit films, Clovis Dardentor and Jane Austen Handheld with Lily Allen. There are two console games out soon featuring his voice, Fable 3 and Little Big Planet 2. The second volume of his memoirs is out now - the first was a monster hit. He is the host of QI and sells an alarm clock with his voice to wake you up.
=16. JOHN BISHOP, 44, £2million: Catapulted to stardom after the 2009 comedy awards, he had his own show on BBC1 earlier this year. He is now taking his 92-date The Sunshine Tour round the country.
=14. JASON MANFORD, 29 £2.5million: He's taken over The One Show for four nights a week but is fitting a 100-date stand-up tour around it. He also does the voiceover on the Churchill ads.
=14. ALAN CARR, 34, £2.5million: The Chatty Man gets £1.5million a year from C4. He also has a Radio 2 Saturday evening show and royalties from four DVDs and a book.
13. GRAHAM NORTON, 47, £2.75million: The BBC keep him busy for his £2million contract with his chat show, Eurovision, Over The Rainbow and a Saturday morning radio show. The rest of his money comes in merchandising, royalties and a newspaper problem page column
=11. HARRY HILL, 46, £3.5million: His ITV deal is £2.5million per year. Harry's latest book, Livin' The Dream, will be out for Christmas and he rakes in royalties from DVDs.
=11. OMID DJALILI, 45, £3.5million: This year he was in Sex And The City 2 and starred in movie The Infidel. He's also in a US sitcom, The Paul Reiser Show. He stars in ads for Money Supermarket.
=9. RUSSELL BRAND, 35, £4million: Now a Hollywood movie star with the remake of Arthur coming up, and The Tempest with Helen Mirren. He was on screen this year in Get Him To The Greek. He has a £1.8million book deal for the sequel to his My Booky Wook and has a TalkSport radio show on Saturdays.
=9. EDDIE IZZARD, 48, £4million: Has a major role in the US TV comedy show, United States Of Tara, and plays five different roles in Woody Harrelson's new film M, which is out next year. He also starred in Race on Broadway and played two voices in The Simpsons this year.
8. FRANKIE BOYLE, 38, £4.5million: The Sun columnist has a new TV series starting on C4 next month, but the big money is from his current sellout, 50-date tour which, with merchandising, will net him over £3million. His book, My S**t Life So Far, is a runaway bestseller.
=6. STEVE COOGAN, 45, £5million: This year he appeared in two big-budget Hollywood flicks, Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief and The Other Guys. His voice could be heard in the movie Marmaduke and he has a regular part in US TV comedy, Neighbors From Hell, as Satan.
=6. JIMMY CARR, 38, £5million: The hardest-working comic - he does up to 300 stand-up shows a year, playing big venues. He has six DVDs out, is a regular on TV panel shows such as QI and fronts comedy quiz 8 Out Of 10 Cats.
5. LEE EVANS, 46, £5.5million: He kicks off another massive 50-date tour in 2011 and last week sold more than 200,000 tickets, worth £7million, in one day. A raft of DVDs and merchandising bump up his take.
=2. RICKY GERVAIS, 49, £7million: His animated series, The Ricky Gervais Show, made for US TV, has not been well received. But The Office is still in production out there, with the American cast, and he rakes in a good royalty. His UK tour, Science, made him £1million, and he played two massive dates in the US, including New York's Madison Square Garden, which will have added another £500,000.
=2. ROWAN ATKINSON, 55, £7million: His Mr Bean films are a permanent pension, as they are shown around the world - literally, as Mr Bean is the most popular in-flight entertainment ever.
=2. PETER KAY, 37, £7million: The king of stand-up is back on the road next month with his first major tour in seven years. He is playing 50 dates at mega venues, including ten nights at London's O2.
1. SACHA BARON COHEN, 39, £8million: Writing, directing and starring in his own movies brought in the big bucks. And as Bruno and Borat are still shown around the world he is still raking it in. He will be appearing in Martin Scorsese's film Hugo Cabret next year and has signed to play the lead role in a movie about Freddie Mercury. But the bulk of his fortune is still from his movie comedy genius.


Oh and I forgot - a new recording is just 24 hours away in London! If you are going I hope you'll post some information about it here - at least the names of the panel. Wouldn't it be nice to have a Comedy Store Players related show to mark their 25th anniversary - say Paul Merton, Josie Lawrence, Neil Mullarkey and Andy Smart - the only player not to appear so far. I reckon the way those guys all know each other would make it a great show!


I realised I hadn't written anything substantial on the blog for a bit. I've kept it reasonably up to date on news, but I think you guys also like it when I rave on about my views on Just A Minute. Perhaps I'm wrong about that but that's my suspicion. Anyway if you DO like it, here goes. If you don't, you've been warned and can go read something more interesting - such as this perhaps.

Firstly an apology for not keeping the transcripts up to date. I have only two of 20 shows so far this year transcribed. I have been a bad person! I'll make a start by trying to get one done today, and ask your forgiveness at not being better at keeping this aspect of the website as up to date as it should be.

Now, does anyone have any information on when the next season starts? I reported some time ago information that JAM will now have three seasons a year, of eight eppies each. That may mean, if the seasons are spaced out, that the next season could begin in December. That's why I've held off on my annual scorecard on the performers - in case we still have some shows to come this year. That also adds up with when the current season of The Unbelievable Truth is due to end. If my maths is good that show ends its current run on November 30 meaning something new starts on December 7th. That could mean a happy December and January for us JAM fans - maybe even a Christmas themed show?

Last season? I thought there were five great shows, one okay show and two duds. The duds were those featuring Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, John Sergeant and Liza Tarbuck. The show can carry one turkey on the panel but not two, and I'm afraid, jolly as they both are, Liza and John are just not good at this particular game. Doesn't make them bad people but there we are. It's a mystery to me how Liza keeps getting asked back as she does - she just so seldom has anything humorous to say and isn't competitive enough to remain active. These comments go for John times 10 and I suspect he is off any potential list of Nicholas replacements. The Edinburgh shows were better than they've been for many years. Having three experienced players in each wasa big help and as debutants John Bishop and Stephen K. Amos were among the better ones in recent years.

The great shows were the ones featuring highly experienced and capable teams. Paul, Graham, Gyles and Jenny - then Paul, Tony, Sheila and Ross - seven very very good players, true stars of the game. Also seven complete contrasts in the way they play the game. The game needs to keep rejuvenating itself in terms of talent, but sureky there must be some sort of lesson here - great players make great teams and great shows.

In that context, the panel in Salford saw the very welcome return of Kit Hesketh-Harvey, a player with one of the most original and arresting styles, a great improviser, a poet in the way he conjures up word pictures. And this recording apart, he's only done one other recording in the past three years? Surely he deserves to appear more often than say Liza Tarbuck or Charles Collingwood or Shappi Khorsandi?

On the other hand, Alun Cochrane is one of the least capable players of recent times. I will reserve final judgement until I hear the two programmes but I can't think that he was a good choice to come back - how about Robin Ince or Chris Addison or Justin Moorhouse? (If my geography is correct, it's basically in Justin's area.)

It was great to see Nicholas getting inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame. He also turned 87 recently. I think he sounds like a man in his 50s or 60s still, but he is beginning to look his age. He seems to have an ever-increasing list of gigs and I suppose he feels while he is getting work, is enjoying it and is healthy, there is no reasoin to retire. Perhaps he would like to do a Tommy Cooper or an Eric Morecambe and die on stage? There was an incident in one of the shows last season where he appeared to completely lose his train of thought. That got some on the blogs chattering about how he was finally going senile. I take a more sympathetic view - it seemed to me that he played up his mistake for comic purposes.

Still, he did lose it, albeit briefly. I don't hold it against him too much - I sometimes lose my train of thought. We all do.

Nevertheless I wouldn't want him to slowly deteriorate on air. Whether or not you agree with all of his decisions, Nicholas's high level of concentration, timing and mental agility over the years has been a feature of the show over the years. It would be nice to have him retire while people are asking "why he's going" rather than "why he stayed so long". The BBC will be reluctant to push him, of course. I hope people like Paul Merton and Tony Hawks - the grandees of the current show - can recognise too the time when it might be right to suggest a farewell round of shows for the great man.

Finally a note for JAM fans outside the UK who are missing their weekly dose. Two shows also worth watching are currently on British screens. QI is back and in my opinion, the shows this year are the best yet. Ross Noble has appeared on a couple so far. Have I Got News For You is also back. It remains very funny but to my way of thinking Paul Merton is a bit quiet so far this season so the show hasn't been as funny as it has been at its best. Do a search on YouTube and the current shows will come up.

Nicholas gets award

YouTube has a brief clip of Nicholas being inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame

October 24, 2010

happy birthday to the players

The Comedy Store Players are turning 25!

This from the BBC
It all started 25 years ago, without a script, in front of a tiny audience.
The night of 27 October 1985 was the first improvisation gig by four comedians under the banner of the Comedy Store Players.
A quarter of a century on, the Players are still going strong, and about to celebrate with an anniversary show at London's Comedy Store.
"Any minute you can be called onto the stage as a Mexican gardener or a Polish butcher," says Paul Merton - one of the longest-serving regulars.
"There are moments of sheer hilarity, and to do that every week keeps you match fit for other things - like Have I Got News For You, or Just a Minute. It's just a joy to be part of it."
The format of the show has changed little in 25 years. It's still a series of role-play games fuelled by random suggestions from the audience. But now it's twice a week to an audience of 400.
It can get surreal: imagine two surgeons conducting a testicle removal operation in the style of a rock opera, a farce and Japanese kabuki theatre.
Or a sketch about javelin-throwing pigs.
Those are just two of the scenarios that came up in a lively Wednesday night show earlier this month.
"We try not to be weird - we try to create some sense," says founder member Neil Mullarkey, relaxing in the communal dressing room after the lively gig.
Mullarkey doesn't remember that first show in 1985 as a landmark event.
"We were only allowed to do the second half of the show. It was kind of terrifying," Mullarkey recalls. "There was a small audience, but it didn't really feel like the beginning of anything."
The other team members that night were Dave Cohen, American Kit Hollerbach and a young Canadian called Mike Myers (still several years away from the Hollywood stardom of Wayne's World and Austin Powers).
Myers and Hollerbach taught the others the improvisation games they had played for years in North America.
"The first time I ever improvised with Mike Myers. I remember my head was spinning. It was an out of body experience," says Mullarkey.
By January 1986 the Comedy Store Players took over the full evening slot. Later that year Mike Myers returned to Canada, and the crew now included Jeremy Hardy and Josie Lawrence.
A large pool of guest performers has joined the Players over the years, including Greg Proops, Phill Jupitus, Eddie Izzard and Stephen Frost.
"The only things that's really changed is we've got better, and we're older," says Mullarkey.
"It's wonderfully non-hierarchical. We're an anarcho-syndicalist cooperative, really. We have no legal structure, we have no bank account. We all know where we are.
"On stage we are all equal - apart from my singing."
Paul Merton puts the show's longevity down to the fact that each night is different. "There must be something about the fact that it has the lifespan of a mayfly."
He adds: "If you're on the stage and you get a comic idea you just do it, you don't have to have a meeting about it, you don't have to budget it."
Another long-standing member is Richard Vranch, who was with Mullarkey at Cambridge in the 1980s.
"We've got this down to a level where there's no make-up, costumes, preparation. directors, rehearsal, line-learning, nothing. We just turn up and do it," he says.
"Even if you're knackered after doing a scripted thing, this is a re-energiser. It's going into battle as a platoon not as a lonely sniper."
Is there ever a perfect night? When everything goes right?
"It does happen quite a lot," says Mullarkey. "You don't really remember the particular detail. You remember the feel of it."
Merton agrees: "It's like an old-fashioned ticker tape machine where the stuff gets discarded on the floor. You don't store it."
Vranch adds: "It happens a lot. It's like having a nice dream - but you forget it later in the day."

Andy Smart, Richard Vranch, Josie Lawrence, Lee Simpson, Paul Merton and Neil Mullarkey

October 21, 2010

Salford recording

The team was Paul Merton, Tony Hawks, Kit Hesketh-Harvey and Alun Cochrane

October 14, 2010

Award for Nicholas

Mike Peters writes as follows...

Next Tuesday October 21st - Nicholas Parsons is one of four inductees placed in the UK Radio Academy's Hall of Fame. The ceremony will take place at a gala dinner at Salford Quays in Manchester as part of the Radio Festival. The other three recipients are verteran disc jockeys - Bob Harris, Dave Lee Travis and David Jensen.
The Hall of Fame is for those who have made an oustanding contribution to radio and to British cultural life. Such greats as Richard Dimbleby, Kenny Everett, Alan Freeman, Terry Wogan, Tony Hancock and JAM's own Peter Jones and Kenneth Williams are already included as inductees.

October 11, 2010

The Best of Just A Minute 2010

It's due out in November!

The shows this year feature

* Paul Merton, Gyles Brandreth, Julian Clary and David Mitchell

* Paul, Chris Neill, Charles Collingwood and Josie Lawrence

* Paul, Gyles, Shappi Khorsandi and John Bishop

* Paul, Tony Hawks, Sheila Hancock and Ross Noble

Sounds like fun! It can be pre-ordered at Amazon here.

here's the cover of the CD

October 10, 2010

happy birthday!

Nicholas Parsons is 87 today.

October 05, 2010

and another date

Monday 25th October in Broadcasting House, London

Chris Neill on Sir Clement Freud

A really nice profile by JAM star Chris Neill on the great man, Sir Clement Freud. Chris doesn't shy away from Sir Clement's failings, but it has an affectionate tone.

Should you ask, one of the most amazing people I ever met was Clement Freud. He led a life of considerable adventure and individuality, was the patriarch at the centre of one of the twentieth century’s most illustrious clans, and possessed an endearingly intense but off-kilter Englishness, in my experience often the case amongst people born abroad or of foreign parents eager to claim Albion as their own. Capable of great generosity, loyalty and good humour, if he liked you it didn’t mean you need not watch your guard but some leeway was allowed; however, if you were someone he disapproved of or had upset him his ill wishes could last a lifetime. Practically the epitome of the British Establishment, he was the least snobbish person I ever encountered. Having known him, even only slightly, is truly something I cherish. To describe him though as an easy man would be wrong, and I suspect he would have hated being seen as such. There was a price to pay if you wanted to be in his company; you walked on eggshells with him, sniffed the air and tried to stay alert for signs that danger was afoot.

His face could never have been described as lively what with all its lugubrious sagging and drooping but the turn of his mouth gave you all the clues you needed to his mood. He could seem at ease and friendly and then you would notice the lips close sternly and it would be apparent that things had changed. Similarly he could appear unhappy about something and then in a rather unnerving way he might suddenly erupt with a peculiar laughter which seemed both wolfish and not entirely given over to an expression of pleasure, but genuine all the same. He had friendships which lasted a lifetime but he was also prone to harbouring grudges and antipathies over equally long periods, most famously with his brother Lucian Freud. Nobody seems to know the real cause of their not speaking since childhood – there is something rather flimsy about Clement’s story of the two boys chasing each other in a London park and with Clement escaping his brother’s clutches Lucian deciding to approach a policeman and to inform him that the young man he could see running away was a thief who had just robbed him in broad daylight. However, even if the motive seems unclear his trenchant commitment to very cold relations was impeccable. Once, I overheard an untutored soul unwisely ask Clement, "aren’t you Lucian Freud’s brother?" "No," he sniped back, "he once was mine." The lips closed and that was that.

It wasn’t just siblings he could loathe without obvious motive. It may be apocryphal but the story I heard was this. Accompanied by his wife Jill to some function or other – maybe a reunion of former parliamentarians – the first person Clement spotted as he walked in was a a retired lady grandee of the Tory benches. Dame something-or-other. "I can’t stand her," Clement observed to his wife. "Why?" she asked. "I can’t remember but I know I hate her. We’re off." And with that they departed. Clement might have been one to forget, but certainly never to forgive. And I can only imagine what an unfortunate experience to be an enemy of his must have been. Often simply inhabiting the same physical space as Clement Freud was not a relaxing prospect. Even at his most affable there was always the possibility that he would mutter some inscrutable anecdote, to which he would demand some response, or take against something or someone which although not affecting you directly would discolour the whole evening.

Clement Freud was not a friend of mine, but someone I worked with. First, when as producer of Just A Minute on Radio 4, I had to regularly navigate the treacherous waters of the panellists’ inter-relations and secondly as an occasional co-performer on that show. I am well aware that my view of him is as seen through that particular prism. As the producer of the programme he utterly adored performing on I was the person who might make decisions Clement disapproved of and to whom he would bring his objections,. That was sometimes a rather unnerving role to have. Many of the programmes are recorded around the country, often in theatres on a Sunday. Despite Nicholas Parsons’ generous on-air crediting of the producer with having "directed" the show, Just A Minute is a splendid old bird which at some level makes itself and nobody directs it, although Clement’s mood could certainly indicate how the evening might go. When I produced it, apart from booking the guests, thinking up some subjects, and editing the recordings most of my efforts would go into trying to find somewhere nice we could eat afterwards. Hunting down decent places to have a meal on Sunday nights in regional towns and cities wasn’t always the easiest of tasks, and if Clement was on the show the bar was raised higher. I would always ask his advice, not only to get some recommendations but because if the place wasn’t up to much I wouldn’t be entirely to blame. Quickly I discovered that using his name helped enormously securing a table. The mere mention of it to certain restaurant proprietors could command a sudden change in tone and it was only then that it began to dawn on me what a hugely influential force on British kitchens and cooking he was seen to be.

After a few months of working with him, it became clearer the sort of things which could irritate Clement. Certain fellow guests on the show being chief among them. But he kept you on your toes: it was impossible to pre-empt what exactly might upset him. Smoking, mention of a bloodhound called Henry and his chunky meat minced morsels, waiters, garlic, and reference to his grandfather Sigmund were almost certain to bring on his quiet wrath but even then there was no absoluteness to these rules. For instance, cigarette smoking which Clement couldn’t abide and which could lead him to be staggeringly rude to people was an unforgivable sin, unless the smoke was emitted by Stephen Fry in which case it was entirely acceptable. On two occasions even I was allowed to smoke: he took me by surprise when he informed me that if I wanted to light up at the table I could. "Are you sure?" I asked. Wobbling his jowls at me in reply he indicated in some avuncular way that I was silly to think there might have even been a problem. What had pleased him so much that evening that this not inconsiderable concession was allowed? I never got to fathom his methodology. Even Jill Freud, it appears, wasn’t allowed to smoke around him (or not often anyway). At his funeral in April 2009 on the occasion of what would have been his 85th birthday, Matthew, his son, told the story of how the day after their father died, his sister Emma gave their mother a basket containing some items of small pleasure that had been forbidden her during their nearly sixty years of marriage: a pair of Scholl sandals, a packet of cigarettes, a bulb of garlic and a bottle of perfume. (I can’t recall what prompted his observation but Clement once leaned over and told me somewhat conspiratorially how he disapproved of perfume and wanted "a woman to smell of woman." I heard myself replying that I was sure he did and then not knowing how to take the conversation further I asked Derek Nimmo if he could pass a bread roll.) The basket and its contents was a touching and probably not entirely serious gesture but with enough truth contained in its message that it resonated not only with the family but with the congregation, too.

Food, wine, restaurants and their staff were high on the list of things which could cause distress. He didn’t demonstrate anything like the stagey nonsense of Michael Winner but certain things were acceptable and others weren’t and he certainly wasn’t English when it came to complaining. If he didn’t like something pretty much everyone knew about it. But as ever the goalposts were built on shifting sand and so it was hard to know in advance. For someone who had once toiled in the bowels of the Dorchester’s kitchens in some lowly capacity and must have surely understood better than most the rigours of a waiter’s or cook’s life he appeared to have very little tolerance for people who worked in those establishments. Maybe he exacted such high standards on himself when he had his legendary supper club at the Royal Court in the 1950s he expected others to behave similarly. Although having heard Clement describe his running of the place it seemed that if a customer there objected to something he was rarely right.

In a restaurant in Chester, which had stayed open late to accommodate us, Clement tried to have sacked some poor soul who during his break was having a few gasps on a fag. Clement hadn’t been able to smell this but had, on a trip to the gents, noticed an open door, stuck his head around it, and spotted the miscreant at his foul deed. In York, he returned entirely uneaten a dish of veal with garlic in it, even though garlic had been listed as one of the key ingredients on the menu. When the waitress who was forced to deal with him asked what the problem was without looking at her he simply said ‘inedible’ and passed her the plate. I’m just glad no one ever tried to force some comfy footwear on him.

Much mirth was to be had at his funeral when Clement was described as being a man who "not only didn’t suffer fools gladly, but went out of his way to find fools to not suffer gladly." Despite the warm laughter this never struck me as a particularly admirable personality trait. For someone who was a rather astonishing figure and with many splendid attributes to his name he did seem to relish an opportunity to either be disappointed or utterly furious. One November Sunday afternoon in Guernsey where we were recording two shows he hunted high and low amongst the almost entirely closed town of St Peter Port seeking good patisserie and consequently got into a state of rather grumpy despair when he couldn’t find any. In Belfast, insisting that we ate at the only Michelin-starred restaurant there, and more importantly which was run by friends of his, he then unfortunately and bafflingly refused anything served to him, causing much anxiety in the kitchen and a general tone of unease at our table, not lessened as he had brought a friend along to dinner and didn’t introduce her to anyone else present.

Much of this behaviour I suspect was born of a desire to be mischievous rather than downright malicious. We once stayed at The Bear at Woodstock in Oxfordshire, an hotel and restaurant he had some directorial connection with. After dinner, in the bar he asked me if I’d enjoyed my pudding of lemon tart. As we’d sat next to each other during the meal I was slightly thrown by this question as he had complimented me on my choice of ice cream. I reminded him that I hadn’t in fact eaten the lemon tart and he looked rather disappointed as apparently this establishment’s particular version was "the best in the country". He seemed really rather upset that I’d missed this treat and went on about it for a while. We all made our way to our rooms at about one o’clock and after I’d been asleep for a couple of hours with a hangover nicely brewing in my brain I was woken by a knock on the door. Upon opening it, I was greeted with the sight of the night porter delivering an entire lemon tart and a jug of cream. At breakfast the next morning, I thanked Clement for this unusual nocturnal treat and he looked at me blankly before replying that he had no idea what I was talking about. I’d know him long enough by then to know not to take the matter further. Just A Minute that night had been recorded at Blenheim Palace. There was some charitable connection to the event and at a rather turgid dinner afterwards the Duke of Marlborough got to his feet to mutter some warm words about the charity and then toast the Queen, which he remembered to do only after he had sat down and his wife nudged him in the ribs. Getting to his feet a second time I felt certain that he reminded me of someone. I asked Clement if this chap looked rather like the King? "Which one?" he asked, reasonably enough. "George VI," I said. "No." "George V?" I ventured. "Absolutely not," said Clement. "Are you sure?" I stupidly asked. "Of course I am," he replied, "I should be, I met both of them."

Grinding through the English countryside on a very slow train once after a night away recording Just A Minute the splendid and much-missed comedian Linda Smith said to me "the thing with Clement is, it’s impossible to plumb the depths of his weirdness." She was right. He could be as slippery as an eel in his likes and dislikes, his manners impeccable one minute and behaving like a ghastly spoilt brat the next. Sometimes taking umbrage at the slightest thing and on other occasions remaining very relaxed about misdemeanours which probably only a day before would have caused him to erupt with incandescent rage. I must say in his defence that for every occasion I saw him bark at a waiter, or snatch the wine from a waitress’ hand there is another where he showed a common courtesy to somebody or complimented someone on something. In Leicester, Clement was charm itself to the young chap who remembered my mustard but forgot the redcurrant jelly for his lamb chops which were ordered medium but arrived incinerated and yet were eaten by him nevertheless, without complaint.

He was also tremendously generous. After his death, many stories circulated in the papers about gifts of money he had made to people, jobs he secured for others, and in my case it was he who rang me up after I left the BBC and said he thought I should try my hand at being a panellist on the Just A Minute. However, occasionally even his gestures of generosity could be turned on their head, he could morph them from rather thoughtful and kind acts to those which you wish he had never even contemplated. My last recordings as producer took place in Dartmouth on a freezing January night. Very thoughtfully and extremely extravagantly Clement had decided to toast me on my way with a magnum of 1963 port he brought down with him. This was to be a surprise for me and it really was a lovely one. However, it turned out that the bottle had travelled on its side in his overnight bag with all the usual things (as well as his childhood teddy bear which he took with him everywhere) and he then left it there while we recorded the shows and had dinner. When we returned to the hotel, the solitary barman was not only rather taken aback to suddenly be roused from his slumbers by the arrival of all of us but also by Clement’s demand to decant his wine. No decanter could be found and when a jug was finally produced from the kitchen nobody seemed able to open the bottle. Behind the bar stood Clement berating this sorry chap as he failed to extract the cork. Finally it gave, but not before the bottle had been given a shaking worthy of a excitable racing driver. According to the Clement the port was ruined and the barman looked close to tears. The provider of my farewell libation poured each of us a glass however and I was toasted very sweetly. Unfortunately, at that moment Julian Clary, another panellist on the programme that night, decided to light up a cigarette and this was the final straw. Clement stormed from the room we were in almost in tears himself as he cried "that bloody smoke will ruin the fruit, it will ruin the fruit." As I tried to placate him in the foyer I had the image of myself as an infant school teacher trying to calm a child who is upset because people aren’t admiring his new football enough. Where that precise image came from I don’t know but it has stayed with me.

October 03, 2010

another recording date

according to this page - November 22nd at the British Library in London