Just A Minute blog

A blog on the BBC radio programme Just A Minute

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

February 06, 2019

website, the long absence and falling out of love

You may or may not have noticed that I have been very poor at updating the website. There was a time when it was a source of pride to have every new edition of JAM added within hours so it's obviously very slack to have fallen so far behind.

There's a few things in play here. As a practical thing - the website was created a long time ago in another era. In fact it celebrates its 20th birthday next month.

It was originally created using a Geocities website maker... if you can now even remember what Geocities was, you have a remarkably good memory. The tools involved have long since passed on, and now every time I update the site, it involves a lot of boring time-consuming pain-staking work, copying chunks of code from place to place, and page to page. The size of the site is a factor too - every show involves amendments to dozens of pages. So amendments take a long time to do and are not much fun any more.

Then there's the personal factor that 2018 was a tough year for me. My father was ill for most of the year and in November, he died. This has been a difficult time.

Another personal factor is that I have been genuinely struggling with what seems like a small point - how to deal with the 50th anniversary documentary broadcast at the beginning of 2018. There's the issue of whether to include the chat show programme as a genuine edition of JAM. This may seem a minor matter, and of course it is. However at some point soon JAM will broadcast its 1000th show and at that point there will be interest in which show that is. I think my site will have some influence on which show is listed as the 1000th.

A factor in this - although I guess it shouldn't be - is how to deal with my own involvement in the documentary. There seems something, well, boastful to include my name alongside so many great comedians and entertainers. If It had been anyone else, it would be far less of a problem.

But perhaps most interestingly I am slowly falling out of love with JAM. There was a time when I would have been desperate to talk about such a major development as Nicholas missing shows and Gyles Brandreth chairing in his place. I find myself thinking about things like this, but not getting on to writing about it at the blog.

Some of the things I used to love about JAM have gone. Kenneth Williams obviously, but what used to make JAM stand out, even when Kenneth wasn't there, were the challenges to the chairman, the arguments over the rules, the straight out abuse of the chairman. Nicholas is now almost always referred to now as a living saint. Of course he deserves this, but the jokes about his age, his incompetence and so on were part of what made JAM fun and different. The idea of the audience as a participant has also slowly died, in part I think because the hall where JAM is now recorded has the audience some distance from the panel. The best improvisation feeds off the audience and I think it is harder to do this if you're not among them.

So where to from here?

Well I have a few weeks off and so I am going to try and get the site up to date. Once I've done that I will try to pen a few thoughts on JAM in 2018 and the chairing of Gyles. I'll try to be better at keeping up to date, and hope you'll forgive me when I cannot.

Jeremy Hardy RIP

I've been sad for several days now about the untimely passing of Jeremy Hardy. He died from cancer, which hits home for me, as does his age (only a few years older than me.

Jeremy made only a few appearances on JAM but was of course a stalwart on other Radio Four shows, especially News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue.

He was among the most witty and original of performers, I think arguably the best of that group of brilliant improvisational comedians that came along in the 80s. He just seemed to think funny and it just flowed from him.

He was a brilliant satirist perhaps because his interest in political jokes came from a passion about the world. So many comedians make jokes about politicians that could just as easily fit any of them. Jeremy's political jokes always seemed to have extra power because they were so often making points about how we could be working towards a better world.

And yet, in Clue in particular, he could also just be gloriously silly. He is best known for his tuneless singing, but his lack of ability in this area was something he took to with gusto. I think that's why it became such a crowd favourite. He embraced the poor singing so heartily that it became great to laugh along with him.

So we mourn the loss of such a wit. And also it brings back memories of Linda Smith, also taken far too early, a brilliant player of JAM and the person Jeremy once described as the funniest he had met. He has a lot of work we can still listen to, but it still seems like we are being short-changed. He had so many more jokes to make, pompous politicians to prick, songs to be sung ...