starring PAUL MERTON, DEREK NIMMO, GRAHAM NORTON and GREG PROOPS, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Radio, 31 January 1998)

NICHOLAS PARSONS: Welcome to Just A Minute!


NP: Hello my name is Nicholas Parsons. And as the Minute Waltz fades away once more it is my pleasure not only to welcome our listeners, but also to introduce the four exciting and dynamic performers of this game who are going to play the show this week. We welcome back two of our regular players, someone who has been playing the show for nine years, that loveable and successful comedian Paul Merton. We also welcome back a more veteran comedian, but equally loveable, Derek Nimmo. And two young players who have only done it once or twice before, the game I'm talking about naturally! Two excellent stand-up comedians, Greg Proops and Graham Norton. Will you please welcome all four of them! As usual I'm going to ask them to speak on the subject I give them, and they are going to try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation from the subject. They will gain or lose points according to how well they do that. And those points will be recorded for me by Helen Williams who is sitting beside me. And not only that she'll also blow a whistle when the full minute is up. And this edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Radio Theatre in the heart of Broadcasting House in the very heart of London. And we have a very heartfelt wonderful London audience here ready to cheer us on our way. So they're absolutely silent at the moment, so let's get this show started. Let us begin the show with Paul Merton. Paul, the subject is forbidden fruit. Can you tell us something about that subject in Just A Minute starting now.

PAUL MERTON: Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden. The snake came along and said to the woman "how would you like to bite this apple? If you eat from this fruit, you will have the knowledge of God himself." And so she partook of this particular...oh...


PM: Fruit? Apple?

NP: Derek you challenged.

DEREK NIMMO: Hesitation.

NP: Hesitation indeed yes. Right, so that is a correct challenge, a point to Derek Nimmo for that and he takes over the subject of forbidden fruit and there are 41 seconds left Derek starting now.

DN: Well actually forbidden fruit very often means illicit love which is not something that's happened to me for a very long time. I've now reached the age, where as Nicholas very kindly points out, that if a girl says "no" I'm profoundly grateful! When I was younger, I remember, not that much ago really, I asked a girl if she'd like to go with me...


NP: And Paul you've challenged.

PM: Repetition of girl.

NP: Yes you had too many girls in your thoughts there, Derek.

DN: Only in my thoughts, Nicholas!

NP: Right. So Paul, a correct challenge, a point to you, 23 seconds are available, forbidden fruit is the subject starting now.

PM: Every summer I used to go round to my grandfather's house. And he used to say to me "whatever you do, don't touch that banana on the side bowl. It can't have anything to do with you, you must leave it alone. That was handed to me by the great King himself back in those early days just after the war." And when I referred to which particular conflict in the theatre of warfare that he had...


GRAHAM NORTON: Oh no! I was wrong! I was wrong! I step away from the challenge! I didn't mean to do it! It was a horrible accident!

NP: But Graham, it's lovely to hear from you.

GN: Oh, bless Nicholas!

NP: But you thought he repeated the word war...

GN: No I didn't! It was just an accident! I didn't pick it up!

NP: But if you interrupt somebody, unfortunately Graham it's a wrong challenge, and the person speaking gets a point for being interrupted. He keeps the subject, in this case Paul Merton, there are four seconds left, forbidden fruit still with you Paul starting now.

PM: Oranges aren't the only fruit. You can also have...


NP: Whoever is speaking when the whistle goes gains an extra point. On this occasion it was Paul Merton. So you won't be surprised to discover he's in a strong lead at the end of the first round. Greg Proops welcome back to Just A Minute.

GREG PROOPS: Thank you Nicholas.

NP: Lovely to have you with us. Springboard. Let this be your springboard to success on this show.

GP: All right.

NP: As you talk if you can on the subject starting now.

GP: Right. (clears throat) Ah...


NP: (laughs) Yes Paul?

PM: Um...

NP: Oh Greg, don't leave us! Please come back!

GP: All right! I'll stay here.

NP: You'll stay here right. Paul yes?

PM: Possibly a hesitation.

NP: Possibly yes, a huge hesitation. I'll tell you what we'll do Paul, we'll give you a point because it was a correct challenge, you were in first. But we won't take it away from Greg because he hasn't played the game for about four years. And you have 58 seconds to try and continue. But Greg, do try and start as soon as I say now. Fifty-eight seconds...

GP: Right.

NP: ...starting now.


NP: Derek Nimmo yes?

DN: (laughs) I'm afraid hesitation.

NP: All right. I'll do the same thing again. Give Derek a point for a correct challenge but leave the subject with Greg. Greg you have now...

PM: At this rate Greg can survive another 57 challenges!


PM: And still keep the subject!

GP: Yes I believe I'm tied with you!

NP: Never open his mouth and win the game! But right, 57 seconds now Greg on springboard starting now.

GP: April of 1983 was an indolent time in my youthful experience. Most of that while I spent on the corner with my ne'er do well chums, contemplating an afternoon's entertainment. I was neither employed nor was I gainfully... found...


NP: Derek Nimmo challenged.

DN: Hesitation I'm afraid.

NP: Yes you were trying to find another word for employed. So difficult isn't it. Thirty-five seconds are left Derek, you have a correct challenge, another point and springboard the subject starting now.

DN: Springboards what acrobats use to fring themselves into the air. And I remember seeing...


NP: Paul yes?

PM: Was that fring?

NP: He was...


DN: Hang on and I'll tell you!

NP: Yes I mean what, deviation from English as we understand it?

PM: That's right, yes.

NP: The sort of thing I love doing, but it doesn't work in Just A Minute. Yes a correct challenge Paul so you have a point, 30 seconds available, springboard starting now.

PM: I remember at my local swimming baths there was a springboard that was somewhat higher than the other two and it took a great deal of courage. Until one summer I thought to myself "no I'm going to jump off the top of the highest point". I remember climbing up the steps, one by two, and I found myself up to the height. I walked along the springboard, I looked down into the water that was there in the bath beneath me and I jumped! And I soared and I flew out of the window, and I went about 35 miles and ended up in Ascot Racecourse...


NP: And now you know why he's on Just A Minute. If anybody can do that and end up at Ascot, my goodness me! Paul you kept going magnificently, gained that extra point for speaking as the whistle went. And you're now in a strong lead at the end of the round. Graham you're going to speak now.

GN: Am I?

NP: And the subject, I'm sure it's been specially chosen for you. Zeitgeist. Tell us something about zeitgeist. (in German accent) This is going to go down very well in Germany when we do it over there because we know it, in Germany, comes from that part of the country. Zeitgeist is with you Graham starting now.

DN: Is he speaking Welsh?

GN: No! I'm sorry! That was distracting!


GN: Look, I can't start!

NP: Greg you challenged.

GP: Lot of chit-chat going on, in sector four over there! The word now was spoken and I know the rules! The word now!


NP: Give Greg a bonus point! Graham, zeitgeist, 60 seconds starting now.

GN: Zeitgeist is a fascinating word. And I'm sure it's even more intriguing, Nicholas, if you actually know what it means! I'm going to take us on a leap into the friendly swamp of uncertainty, and assume that it might have something to do with cutting edge trendiness, that sort of thing. It means what's now! An idea du no jour...


NP: Paul has challenged.

PM: Repetition of means.

NP: Means, yes.

DN: He was going so well!


PM: All right then, there wasn't!

NP: Well all I can say, in Paul's defence, it's a correct challenge so Graham Norton knows how to work an audience! I must explain to our listeners, his animation, his gesticulations got more and more animated as he went along. So Derek Nimmo actually had to duck under the table beside him. But it was a correct challenge Paul so you have 23 seconds to take over zeitgeist starting now.

PM: The spirit of the age is another definition of this word. Something like perhaps the Spice Girls could have been considered as part of the zeitgeist maybe 18 months ago. Whereas now everybody realises their career is going to dive-bomb very quickly into the sea and then disappear. I don't think there's any chance of the five of them having solo careers because who cares, really? Nobody is the answer to that. Another part of the zeitgeist is perhaps that...


NP: Paul Merton got yet another point for speaking as the whistle went and has increased his lead at the end of the round. Derek Nimmo your turn to begin, a cosmopolitan life. I'm sure that's been chosen specially for you Derek because that is what you lead. But can you talk on the subject starting now.

DN: Well I do tend to lead a kind of cosmopolitan life, very happily and luckily. It gives me tremendous pleasure as I travel around the cosmos enjoying it. Last week for instance I was having lunch in Raffles Hotel in Singapore. The week...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Well this is like, this is the same speech Derek's been making on this programme for 30 years! Bragging about the places he's been to!

NP: I know but...

PM: And I don't believe he spent the last week travelling around the cosmos!

GP: (laughs)

PM: The planet perhaps, but not the cosmos.

NP: Well I know but we expect that from Derek, don't we? I mean, he travels and that's all he's got to talk about.

PM: But not around the cosmos surely Nicholas. That's like Neptune and Saturn and places like that.

NP: He didn't talk about travelling around the cosmos.

PM: He did!

DN: It's the world, cosmos means world.

PM: Does it?

DN: It means the world.

PM: There's a lot of blank faces here that wonder whether you're bluffing or not.

NP: No, it's the Latin for world, cosmos.

PM: Oh have we got to do it latin now, have we?

NP: No, sorry... er... wrong challenge Derek, there are 43 seconds for you to continue on cosmopolitan life starting now.

DN: One is greatly helped in leading a cosmopolitan life if one has a selection of credit cards because it does enable er you to draw money wherever you might happen to be...


NP: Ah Greg Proops.

GP: I hate to be a stickler because I'm sitting next to a very prickly one, but I think he said erples.

PM: Derek has a speech impediment, he always says that!

NP: Mmmm!

PM: We've never known what it means!

GP: Well then, I shall sit corrected next to you.

NP: I think I'll give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion. Derek, a wrong challenge, 34 seconds left, cosmopolitan life starting now.

DN: If you get on an aeroplane to Cairo today you're likely to find very few people there. It's the ideal time to go. Under the circumstances I went to Sri Lanka just after a big bomb had destroyed three hotels, the Intercontinental, the...


NP: And Graham has challenged.

GN: oh now, this is a bit clever. Was it a repetition of hotel?

DN: No, ssssss!

GN: No, Raffles Hotels.

DN: Yeah but earlier...

NP: Three hotels, it's a plural as opposed to a singular.

GN: How galling!

PM: It strikes me as odd though. There are major catastrophes just before Derek gets to these places!

NP: Yes!

PM: Do you think somebody's timing is off by 24 hours?


NP: It could be that someone's tipping them off actually. Derek an incorrect challenge, 18 seconds still available, a cosmopolitan life starting now.

DN: Going to Cambodia just before the Tet Offensive meant that you missed out on all those awful things that were going on in what is now called Ho Chi Minh City but used to be called Saigon at that time. I do like leading a cosmopolitan life. It gives me tremendous excitement and enjoyment. And I know particularly because my wife goes with me, she is also...


NP: So Derek Nimmo began with a cosmopolitan life, and in spite of interruptions he finished with a cosmopolitan life which is probably very apt. He gained a number of points, including one for speaking as the whistle went, he's leapt forward. He's only one point behind our leader Paul Merton, and Greg Proops and Graham Norton trail a little behind them. But Paul it is your turn to begin, the subject, epitaphs. Tell us something about those in Just A Minute if you can starting now.

PM: YOu often see written on tombstones "not dead, only sleeping". And I think that's a cruel trick to play on somebody! And it is odd that many people try to sum up a person's life with 10 words inscribed on a bit of stone. Born 1789, died 1821, in between a loving wife, husband, owned a bakery. It doesn't really summon up the character. In America they have this system in some er...


NP: Derek challenged.

DN: Hesitation.

NP: Yes I think there was Derek. Right, 32 seconds left, epitaphs is with you starting now.

DN: Here lies the body of Elizabeth Harlot,
Born a virgin, died a harlot
She had her virginity, aye, at 17
A very rare thing in Aberdeen.
Was one I remember particularly. Whoa ah, once on tour at Her Majesty's theatre I spied...


NP: Graham Norton challenged.

GN: Oh in fairness there was a bit there that made no sense at all.

DN: No sense!

GN: Wasn't it, it was like a booming noise.

NP: Yes that's right.

DN: Yes there was.

NP: So Graham...

DN: You've been wooooooahhhhh!

GN: I'll do that then!

NP: You do that and have 18 seconds in which to do it on epitaphs starting now.

GN: My favourite epitaph, obviously not my own as I am still alive, but written on a tombstone was "here lies an atheist, all dressed up and nowhere to go!"


GN: I thought that was very fitting, because of course if you are a non-believer...


NP: Graham Norton you were speaking as the whistle went and you have leapt forward by one point. You're still with Greg trailing the other two who are now out in the lead. And Graham it is your turn to begin, the subject pop. Take it any way you wish but talk on it if you can, 60 seconds starting now.

GN: Pop is short for popular, I'm reliably informed. It is curious then that records might be described as pop discs when E17 have recorded them! Since they last had a hit in 1965! Similarly Gina Gee is known as a pop artiste when in fact she's a 95-year old grandmother with dyed hair living somewhere in south London. She's never been in a studio. Pop is also the name of a refreshing drink found in Enid Blyton's stirring novels! I...


NP: Derek Nimmo challenged you.

DN: Shtirring.

NP: What's wrong with it?

DN: Not stirring, he said shtirring.

GN: That's accent! That's an accent! That's an accent!

PM: That's for our German listeners!

DN: We've had zeitgeist already!

NP: (in German accent) More like Deutsche, more like Deutsche people, yeah. Shtirring!

PM: I didn't realise there were so many accents you couldn't do, Nicholas!


NP: It's amazing how when they insult me, you always applaud, isn't it! Ah right Graham, that was your idiomatic way of speaking, I don't think it was a deviation from English so you continue with pop with 22 seconds left starting now.

GN: Pop the cork, they cry at parties. In fact that's...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Well I've never heard anybody... I've been to several parties, I've never heard anybody cry pop the cork! Sometimes I've been to a vet's do, where I've heard somebody say cork the pup! But that's, that's a rather nasty illness that affects young dogs!

NP: I mean, the thing is...

PM: What do they say when you turn up at parties? "Oh my God, he's here"?


NP: No...

GP: They say here's that German man!

NP: They say, they say "you haven't brought that awful Paul Merton with you, have you?"


NP: You see if I insult them, you just go "oh". If they insult me, you clap! I can't win!

PM: That's right, you can't!

NP: Right! Pop is still with you Graham, and 17 seconds, another point of course starting now.

GN: A champagne bottle when opened at a festive occasion should not pop. I'm...


NP: Derek challenged.

DN: Sorry, I pushed when I shouldn't. I do beg your pardon, it's a total mistake, give him a point! Let him go on with his champagne bottle popping. Go on, off he goes!

NP: You made your point which was exactly what I was going to say, but you made it for me. And you interrupted him and he gets a point as you said, 11 seconds still popping with you Graham starting now.

GN: I do feel that my bubble has been slightly popped now. Because my amusing story about fizzy wine being opened, but I said opened already, please buzz me...


NP: But I wouldn't draw attention to it...

GN: Oh sorry.

NP: No, Greg got in first.

GP: I happened to notice then, Graham repeated opened.

NP: Mmmm, and Greg you've cleverly got in with only two seconds to go on pop starting now.



NP: One of those seconds went! Paul came in. Listen it wasn't fair on the other person that challenged last time. I'm going to give you one more chance Greg! (laughs)

GP: Rules, sweetie, rules!

NP: You have two seconds starting now.

GP: Parties that I go to...


NP: So Greg Proops was then speaking as the whistle went and he has leapt forward, and he's still in fourth place. But he's only a little way behind Graham Norton and then Paul Merton and then Derek Nimmo in that order. And Paul it's your turn to begin, the subject, writer's block. Tell us about it starting now.

PM: This is something that occurs infrequently to people who write for a living. They find that suddenly they look at the empty page and they can't think of anything to put on it to fill it up. I have a solution to this. Stationers should sell blank pieces of paper, except at the top of every one, there's a line already put there. It could be anything. It was a dark and stormy night. Horace realised he'd never see that dog again as the typhoon whipped away the kennel towards Kansas. It could be anything like that so the budding writer, sitting at home thinking "I don't know what I can put down here..."


NP: And Graham challenged.

GN: Was there repetition of paper earlier on?

NP: Yes. Earlier on.

PM: Earlier on?

GN: Obviously while you were talking!

NP: Yes you mentioned paper more than once.

PM: And this has only just occurred to you?

GN: Well I was listening, it was interesting!

NP: It was interesting!

GN: And then I got bored and thought "oh I might as well play the game!"

PM: Absolutely!


NP: He was letting the audience enjoy it, and also waiting to go in later. Twenty-four seconds left, writer's block with you Graham starting now.

GN: Writer's block has afflicted many people through the centuries. Oh Jane Austen suffered horribly. Even Carson McCullaughs, Truman Capote, but then why oh w... heaven's sake...



GN: Oh a fool to myself!

NP: Yes! Derek?

DN: Well deviation.

NP: I think so yes. Eight seconds for you Derek, writer's block starting now.

DN: I suffer from writer's block. Sometimes it lasts for a year. Often even longer. The best way to go about it is to get an advance from your publisher which makes you put something down...


NP: Well Derek Nimmo and Paul Merton are now equal in the lead followed by Graham Norton and Greg Proops in that order. And Greg your turn to begin, the subject, bunk. Tell us something about that in this game starting now.

GP: When I was a child, I was forced to go to summer camp in 1969. There all the boys were made to live in one cabin together. Our hut was called Oxaropie which is an Indian word which means it's very cold. And it smells awful. At this camp we all slept in...


NP: Derek Nimmo challenged.

DN: Sorry, repetition of camp. It was awfully good.

GP: Yes.

NP: Yes there was too much camp, I'm afraid.

GP: Funny, I thought Graham would have picked that one!


NP: Right, 36 seconds with you Derek on bunk starting now.

DN: On a ship called the Juliana, I was sailing from Hong Kong to Manila. And my bunk was on the water. And I had to climb out over the side, because I couldn't fix it from the interior of the said vessel....


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Repetition of the Raffles Hotel, Singapore.


NP: Is this what they call a psychic challenge? Because you know it's coming up...

PM: It has to come up in a minute! It always does!

NP: Well as he hasn't said it yet, he still has the subject and 23 seconds on bunk Derek starting now.

DN: A Senator talking in the Parliament of America which I think they call the Senate actually said "I am talking bunkum" to the people of that place which is now called Bunk as a sort of shorthand. It means claptrap, balderdash, and it goes on forever. And I don't mind talking bunk because Nicholas Parsons really rather prefers it, because he has very little actually formal education...


NP: Derek was speaking as the whistle went and he's taken a stronger lead ahead of Paul Merton. And Graham Norton your turn to begin, the subject, floating voter. Tell us something about those strange individuals in 60 seconds if you can starting now.

GN: Floating voter refers back to medieval times, and the early days of democracy. When voters, rather like witches, were flown into water to see if they'd float. If they sank, it meant they were voting for you and you never saw them again! And if they floated it meant they were agin you...


NP: Greg Proops.

GP: Ah repetition of the word meant.

NP: Yes.

GN: Fine!

NP: Yes he's feeling piqued because he was really, got to the... doesn't matter! Greg a correct challenge, 37 seconds, floating voter starting now.

GP: The voters who float are one of ... Neptune's finest...


NP: Graham Norton challenged.

GN: I believe there was a hesitation.

NP: Thirty-one seconds, floating voter Graham starting now.

GN: Is there a dithery woman in a large cardigan in the Midlands who is floating highly above a town, tethered down by wool from her own knitted garment, in case she just goes over the Irish Sea and ends up being on the electoral register in Dublin? I don't know. Don't tell me...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: I do, and there isn't!


NP: Right, we give Paul a bonus point because we enjoyed the challenge, we leave the subject with Graham and there are 14 seconds left Graham, floating voter starting now.

GN: Dear God, if I was a floating voter now, and having to vote on whether I would reach a full minute or not, my vote would have to be...


NP: Derek Nimmo challenged.

DN: Repetition of vote.

NP: Yes you had too many votes there.

GN: Can't I just take vote out of voter?

NP: No...

GN: I swallowed my R! It's an accent thing!

DN: Is it?

NP: No...

GN: All right.

NP: Three seconds Derek, floating voter starting now.

DN: I once went to see an election in Peru, and a floating voter came on...


NP: Well Derek Nimmo was speaking as the whistle went, gained an extra point, he's increased his lead. He's a few points ahead of Paul Merton as we move into the final round. Derek it's your turn to begin, the subject, optical illusion. Tell us something about yours or any optical illusion starting now.

DN: I remember being in the Yiheeba San...


DN: ..and I was walking across and I came on a guy following the steps of Wilford Thessenger. I'd have to make the one remaining beast's vomit, so I could eat it to survive. And there in the distance I saw an optical illusion. It looked like an oasis...


NP: Paul challenged.

DN: What's the matter now?

PM: I bet the illusion was the Raffles Hotel in Singapore!


NP: Right, another psychic challenge. Paul we love the challenge...

PM: Well sooner or later I'm going to be right, aren't I?

NP: I know you're going to be right, but you still get a bonus point for the challenge. But Derek gets one for being interrupted, keeps optical illusion, 33 seconds left starting now.

DN: Sitting in the Raffles Hotel in Singapore, I looked through a champagne bottle which then distorted everything that was before me and this was an optical illusion. It made the person that was on the other side of the room look very large, heavy and fat, rather like Paul Merton. But when I looked carefully I decided this was untrue, because he is the most beauteous creature. And it was only an optical illusion. That's what made me so sad and yet happy because I am terribly pleased when I see this dear face...


DN: What's the matter now?

NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Deviation, you can't be sad and happy at the same time!

DN: You can!

PM: No you can't! I mean if a car ran over Nicholas Parsons...

DN: I'd be sad and happy at the same time!

PM: Well you might be sad if it was your car and it got damaged, I suppose. I withdraw the challenge! You're quite right, I withdraw the challenge.

NP: I was about to, I was about to give it to you Paul until that last remark! I'll tell you what we'll do. Paul so Derek's probably not going to be overtaken so we'd like to hear from you. Bring the show to an end, there are two seconds to go, optical illusion starting now.

PM: This optical illusion suddenly appeared in front of me...


NP: So for those interested in the score, let me give you the final situation in this exciting edition of Just A Minute. Yes as I said before the contributions are more important than the points to my mind and therefore let me tell you that Greg Proops who has only played the game once before, came along and he finished in fourth place. He got a few points, both points that he won and points that he made. Graham Norton made some excellent points and gained a number of points within the game as well. Derek Nimmo who last time this foursome was together did very well, he just pipped Paul Merton. And on this occasion Paul Merton has just pipped him into the lead one point ahead. So this week we say Paul Merton you are the winner. It only remains for me to say thank you to these four delightful players of the game, Paul Merton, Greg Proops, Derek Nimmo and Graham Norton. Also to thank Helen Williams who's kept the score for me, she's blown her whistle delicately and stridently where necessary. We also thank Ian Messiter who thought of the game and we enjoy playing it so much. And also our producer director Chris Neill. Thank you Chris, and thank you, our audience here in this Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. Thank you to our listeners for tuning in, be with us the next time we take to the air we play Just A Minute, till then from all of us good-bye.