starring BARRY CRYER, JOHN SERGEANT, SU POLLARD and BRIAN SEWELL, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Television, 19 April 1999)

NOTE: John Sergeant's first appearance, Brian Sewell's first appearance, Barry Cryer's first television appearance, Helena Taylor's first show as producer.


NICHOLAS PARSONS: Thank you, thank you, thank you, hello my name is Nicholas Parsons. And it's my very great pleasure to welcome you to a brand new series of Just A Minute. I am going to be here every day for the next four weeks, and I'm going to have four guests with me each day and I'm going to ask them to speak on a subject I will give them, and they will try and do that without hesitation, repetition o deviating from that subject. So let us now meet the four talented performers who are going to play in the show today. First of all we welcome a very outstanding comedy writer and comedian in his own right, that is Barry Cryer. Beside him sits a talented, effervescent, delightful comedienne Su Pollard. And on my left that distinguished art critic Brian Sewell. And beside him another distinguished individual, political commentator, journalist John Sergeant. Would you please welcome all four of them! And we have a lovely warm audience here as we start the show with Barry Cryer. Barry the subject I'd like you to talk on is ever decreasing circles. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

BARRY CRYER: Who can forger that seminal series, Ever Decreasing Circles, starring Richard Briers, Penelope Wilton, Peter Egan as the next door neighbour. A story of suburban angst, neighbourhood watch, endless conflict and confusion. The plots proliferated and who can forger Howard and...


NP: Su Pollard, you have challenged.

SU POLLARD: It was so fantastic, but I'm sure this is a good challenge. Two forgets?

BC: Two forgets.

NP: Two forgets, yes.

BC: True.

NP: A correct challenge Su.

BC: True.

SP: I'm sad I interrupted you 'cause that was really good!

NP: Yes, not at all, that's the game, to interrupt and gain points. Because you get a point for a correct challenge Su...

BC: You've got ears like a hawk!

SP: They're rattling a bit today!

NP: Right Su so you have a correct challenge, you get a point for that. There are 42 seconds available and you take over the subject of ever decreasing circles starting now.

SP: A singular popular enjoyment, enjoyment...


NP: Su you've been challenged immediately by John Sergeant.

JOHN SERGEANT: Hesitation I'm afraid Su. Appalling!

NP: Yes...

JS: Absolutely appalling!

NP: Well don't rub it in John!

SP: Yes because I realised I'd got to say singularly! But it only came out as singular. Oh go on, take pity on me! I've been waiting here a long time!

NP: I know, I've heard you a long time and you're lovely with it. We don't mind whether you hesitate or do anything, it's lovely to have you on the show Su. But John it was a correct challenge so you get a point for that and you take over the subject of ever decreasing circles and there are er 37 seconds available starting now.

JS: Ever decreasing circles tend to give the impression of confusion if you're the person involved. If you're a small rat or rodent and you're chasing your tail, it's harvest time and you've been upset by the harvest combiner...


NP: And Su you challenged first.

SP: I believe there was repetition on harvest.

NP: There was indeed Su, you listened well. You might have a lot in your ear holes but...

SP: No there's not, I cleaned 'em out this morning!

NP: On your lobes, I should have said, on your earlobes.

BRIAN SEWELL: No, no, that's not a right challenge. A harvest mouse is a definition of a particular kind of mouse. You cannot just say mouse if you mean a harvest mouse.

NP: Have you come on here to be difficult and cantankerous?

BS: Isn't that what you expected?

NP: Yes, no, it's all right darling, you have, you have got a correct challenge?

SP: Yes but we're deviating now from the challenge aren't we? By talking about what's a harvest mouse and what isn't!

NP: I know we are!

SP: I've got to get a train in a minute! I'm booked to go back!

NP: Su save it for the show but...


NP: Barry yes?

BC: I had black hair when I came here today!

NP: Su...

SP: Oh I'm glad I've come on this! I'm having a nice time! Yes?

NP: You have got a correct challenge and you have 27 seconds to tell us something about ever decreasing circles starting now.

SP: Ever decreasing cir...


NP: Brian what are you playing at?

BS: Hesitation.

SP: Now, just a minute! I've got to breathe Brian!

BS: No, no, no, please stop! Stop now!

NP: Su an incorrect challenge because you did not hesitate, you really got going with speed and panache. Twenty-six seconds left, you barely went for a second! Twenty-six seconds now, ever decreasing circles starting now.

SP: Ever decreasing circles seems to me what we've all been doing in the last few seconds actually. I'm delighted to get on to the correct subject. I'm hoping not to be interrupted at all by any further seconds. Of course as I said...


NP: Why?

BC: Repetition of seconds.

NP: Yes Barry you have a correct challenge, you have a point to you, you take back the subject, 15 seconds are available, ever decreasing circles starting now.

BC: One of the most marked characteristics of the harvest mouse is the ever decreasing circles in which it runs in a field of crops. Having no sense of direction, being disorientated and confused. The aforementioned animal tends to pursue...


NP: Yes! Whoever is speaking when the whistle goes gains an extra point. On this occasion it was Barry Cryer. So at the end of that round Su Pollard, you'll be interested to hear, is in the lead. She got a lot of points in that round with Brian Sewell's help. And Barry Cryer in second place. And er Su would you take the next round. A lovely subject, bananas. Tell us... why do you laugh? What is associated with bananas and Su Pollard?

SP: I'm coming to that in a minute!

NP: You have 60 seconds as usual starting now.

SP: In America you could be a top one. I've been called this. But the correct term for bananas is an object that can be eaten with... oh no I've said that wrong? Can I carry on?


NP: No! John Sergeant challenged you.

JS: You can't be eaten with a banana. Nobody can be!

NP: Deviation from English as we understand it. But you do create wonderful images in the mind, which are wonderful Su! John a correct challenge, a point to you for that and there are 51 seconds available on bananas starting now.

JS: Bananas, the whole subject must be straightened out! If you remember there was a famous mafia chief who was called Joe Bananas. The last conversation he was involved with was when a man...


NP: Why have you challenged Su?

SP: Because John mentioned the whole subject of bananas, and then he said there was a man called Joe Bananas.

NP: You're talking rubbish darling!

SP: So you're actually accusing me of what this topic is all about then! In a polite way you're trying to say I'm bananas!

NP: You can repeat the subject on the card as often as you wish and in whichever context you like to repeat it. So that is not actually deviating. So you still have the subject, you have a point for an incorrect challenge from Su and you have 42 seconds available starting now.

JS: Right let's clear up these bananas. There was a Reverend Canaan Banana who worked in Africa and he was in Zimbabwe. He was a chief leader and he's now in prison. There was another banana called Joe Bananas and he was a mafia chief in New York. And the last reported conversation that he had was when a man stopped a car, pointed a gun at him, and said "okay Bananas, this is it". And in America they call it ba-nah-nas whereas we call it ba-nar-nas but then what's a tomato but any other name than banana...


NP: Why have you challenged Brian?

BS: I think talking about tomatoes is deviation.

NP: No it's not deviation, mentioning the tomato in connection with bananas because he was going on, and I've never heard a man go on a subject and mention the word bananas so often, and so successfully and so succinctly. So John you have another point and you keep the subject and there are 14 seconds available, bananas starting now.

JS: The other point about bananas at the moment is that they are at the centre of a dispute between the United States and Europe in a trade war. Nothing less than something which could cause an enormous difficulty between our two great continents. And you may think it's funny but bananas in this country are very serious...


SP: Oh yes! Excellent!

NP: So John Sergeant with style and panache kept going on the subject of bananas until the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so and he has taken the lead at the end of that round. Now then Su Pollard, some bananas. Brian Sewell, we'd love to hear from you on Monet's paintings starting... no sorry, it's singular. Monet's painting starting now.

BS: Monet's painting of course was an activity rather than an object. The activity began...


SP: Oh yes! Oh yeah he said...

NP: It's a difficult difficult game Brian!

BS: Yes it is yes! I'm sorry! I was thrown completely by your quibbling about the singular or plural.

NP: Those have been the rules of Just A Minute for 34 years actually.

BS: But you're, you're not allowing me the rhetorical device either.

NP: No, no...

SP: Oh look, you're just approaching the male menopause Brian! Just just leave, accept that!

NP: Fifty-three seconds available for you John on Monet's painting staring now.

JS: When Monet started his career he was called Monnet. And...


NP: Brian Sewell challenged.

BS: I, it's not exactly deviation but when he started his career, he was called Oscar.

BC: Excellent!

JS: The Monet that I'm talking about was called Monnet! And I will explain that as the time goes on.

NP: I know, I know...

JS: I've got 53 seconds and I can explain this difficulty. He started his life, everyone has personal problems. He...

NP: I know but...

JS: .. had his problems about whether he should be called Monet, Monnet or Money.

NP: I think you should keep that for the show actually. Because if we're talking about Monet's painting, I think we must be talking about the painter. And I think Brian knows more than us about him, we accept the fact...

JS: It just needs a bit of explanation. Brian hasn't given me a chance to explain how I know about this problem that Monnet had with his pronunciation.

BS: Do you mean Monet the painter or Monet the politician?

JS: No because you'll know as it comes out. We've got 53 seconds...

NP: Listen, do you two boys want to go outside and have a real...

SP: Yes!

NP: I'm giving the subject to Brian Sewell and tell him he's got 49 seconds on Monet's painting starting now.

BS: Various pictures were signed with this um middle name, rather than the first which was Claude. He came into his own at about the age of 26 oh six...


BS: Blub blub! I got my six and my nine muddled up!

NP: So you see John, you get back in again, don't you, and you have another point as well and you have the subject and you have 37 seconds, 38 seconds starting now.

JS: I will keep very carefully now to Monet. He lived in France in a lovely house with a big garden. At the bottom of the garden there was a lake...


NP: And Su you've challenged.

SP: Yes I would like to challenge that description given by John. Because unless you were actually a frequent visitor to his abode, how do we know that he...

NP: Why don't you have him for repetition of garden?

BC: Two gardens.

SP: Oh I never thought of that! I thought mine was better! Mine was better than that! Oh I've gone on a bit there, haven't I!

NP: All right, we give it to you Su because you haven't played the game very much. You have repetition of garden and 30 seconds for you to tell us something about Monet's painting starting now.

SP: Of course Monet is not to be confused with the other painter of the same initial and we can almost pronounce it equally the same. He has been known...


NP: Yes you challenged?

BS: Two same.

NP: Two sames.

SP: Oh what's the matter with me? I'm mental!

NP: No you're not, you just find this very difficult...

BS: No you're just bananas!

SP: That was the last topic Brian! Meet me outside, I can pack a punch!

NP: Brian you have a correct challenge, you have a point for that, Monet's painting starting now.

BS: There's a very large exhibition of Monet's paintings at the Royal Academy at this very moment. Most of these are associated...


NP: Barry?

BC: Slight hesitation I thought.

NP: No, no, no, slight hesitation but not enough to be, you know...

BC: What's the dividing line then between slight and not enough?

NP: I've never worked it out. Over 30 years I've never worked it out. And er I just have to make that sort of instant judgement. And on this occasion the judgement goes towards Brian Sewell so he gets a point for being interrupted, he keeps the subject with 15 seconds, Monet's painting starting now Brian.

BS: Nineteen hundred and ninety... twenty-six when he died. Unfortunately poor Monet was blind most of the time and these are unspeakable daubs rather than fine paintings. Nevertheless the Royal Academy which is blind most of the time...


NP: So Brian was speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. Barry challenged just after the thing because he thought he'd said blind twice which he did. But it was too late. And Brian has leapt forward, yes, he's in second place with Su Pollard. Nice to be equal with Su Pollard, I'm sure.

SP: Yes.

NP: Fine, it's John Sergeant's turn to begin, the subject is pests. John I'm sure in your political time you've met quite a few of those, maybe interviewed some of them. But tell us something about the subject in this game starting now.

JS: Pests can be terrible in Africa, the Biblical pestilence and famine. Millions of locusts come down and they rip the leaves off the crops. And all you can see in the gloom, the sun has darkened, is just the sight of what...


NP: Barry you challenged.

BC: How does the sun darken?

JS: Well it's, you know how the sun is usually quite bright...

BC: Yes...

JS: ...and it can hurt your eyes...

BC: Yes...

JS: You put millions of locusts between you and the sun...

BC: So the sun hasn't darkened...

JS: It darkens, well, the sun, to you, has darkened.

BC: No, the locusts have darkened the sun.

BS: I think he has the authority of Genesis on his side!

NP: God, we're going to bring the Bible into this, are we? Shouldn't have said God before the Bible, should I? Barry I think that's a clever challenge of deviation so I give you the benefit of the doubt there and tell you that you have the subject of pests and you have 45 seconds starting now.

BC: Pests to me are represented by people who say "dare I say" and "pardon my French" and "for my sins", these idiosyncratic irritating conversational ploys. They throw at you endlessly, they din on my ears...


NP: And Brian you've challenged.

BS: They and they.

NP: Yes...

SP: Yes that was very well interrupted there I thought Brian.

NP: I don't think, I don't think you're in a position to comment on other people's challenges Su!

SP: I've been listening! I mean you couldn't help but hear it!

BS: Her reactions are slow!

NP: Yes! Right, we often let two theys go, but three, all right Brian, we give it to you. Pests is with you now, 33 seconds starting now.

BS: I recently sold a house. And one afternoon when a party of rather important people were about to arrive with the possibility of making an offer for it, what should I discover in my kitchen but ants. Not just two or three but several thousand ants...


BS: Oh!

NP: Yes I know it's a tough game. John the ants came in there too often and 15 seconds for you on pests starting now.

JS: The real pests are those who work for private clamping companies and you are suddenly told...


NP: Just a minute...

BC: Hesitation there!

NP: There was a hesitation, but after that particular remark... I think you were waiting for the laugh that didn't come actually!

JS: No I was, my memory was going back to the incident I'm about to describe where I was clamped...

NP: You've got more...

JS: Anybody would hesitate for a second!

BS: Oh I thought you said camping!

JS: No, clamping!

SP: Oh no, we thought he said camping. Your diction is terrible!

JS: If we're talking about clamping...

NP: We all thought you said camping!

JS: ...when you're parking illegally.

BC: I say, ask the audience Nicholas. Do you think he said clamping?


SP: Yes!

NP: Anyway John the thing was that Barry had you for hesitation and that was a correct challenge. So Barry you have the subject of pests back with you, eight seconds starting now.

BC: Two recent blockbuster films, Ants, and A Bug's Life, deal with pests, delineating as they do a vast community of these small insects...


NP: So Barry Cryer was then speaking as the whistle went, gained an extra point for doing so. And he's leapt forward now, he's equal with Brian Sewell in second place, just behind our leader who is still John Sergeant. And John it's your turn to begin, the subject... oh that's pests, we've just done that one! We're back with Barry Cryer!

BC: Oh!

NP: Drawing a blank, that's a good subject. And by the way, they can repeat any of the words on the card, if it's a phrase, you know, individually or separately. So Barry, drawing a blank, 60 seconds starting now.

BC: I'm daunted by the presence of Brian Sewell on this programme. Because I would have thought that drawing a blank is a contradiction in terms. How on earth can you draw a blank? An empty canvas, a void...


NP: Um...

BS: Sorry that was a mistake.

SP: Yes!

NP: It was a sort of Sewell slip, was it?

BS: Yes.

NP: Yes it was. What actually happens then if someone's interrupted, they get a point for the interruption and then they carry on speaking on the subject. And there are 49 seconds with you Barry on drawing a blank starting now.

BC: In my own life of writing through the years, I often drew a blank, reached a mental block. I remember, years ago, trying to think of the right word for two weeks. And then I thought fortnight, that is the word I was searching for...


BC: I've said word.

SP: Oh well, never mind!

NP: John you challenged.

JS: Word I'm afraid.

BC: Word.

SP: Yes.

NP: There were too many words, but then he lives with words, it's his...

JS: I know, he loves them!

NP: Yes and he puts them together so beautifully as well and so funnily. Um, I'm giving you all the build-up I can but the audience aren't reacting!

BC: They were nodding! They were nodding!

NP: So John Sergeant, you have the subject of drawing a blank, there are 35 seconds available starting now.

JS: Drawing a blank is one of those American phrases. It could be the title of a book by Raymond Chandler. He wrote The Lost Weekend. He also wrote The Big Sleep...


NP: And you challenged?

SP: Two wrotes, am I correct in saying that?

NP: You are, he had two wrotes.

JS: Yes yes.

SP: I reckon I've got the real reason why you do so well on this. Because you don't flow, do you?

NP: What do you mean you don't flow?

SP: He don't flow. He hasn't got a flow.

BC: Who hasn't got a flow?

SP: You haven't got a flow.

BC: Haven't I?

SP: Because when he talks, he does things like (staccato) the reason I have come across this word pesticide is because in the 20th century. (normal) Don't you think he attacks every word?


BC: Deviation from sanity!

NP: Well Su Pollard, we now have a chance to see your flow, and I can't wait for it!

SP: What was it again? What was it?

NP: All right darling, don't get too...

SP: Drawing a blank.

NP: Drawing a blank, yes.

BC: Drawing a blank.

SP: Oh I don't want that one, no, I won't bother.

NP: Drawing a blank, flow away Su, and you have 27 seconds if you want them starting now.

SP: Drawing a blank is not the phrase that could be levied at Rolf Harris as he usually...


NP: Um Barry yes?

BC: Can a phrase be levied? Levelled! Can it be levied?

BS: No!

BC: Can it be levied Brian?

NP: It cannot be levied...

SP: I meant to say levelled!

NP: I know!

SP: But it kind of, you know, got stuck on my tongue and came out as id instead of elled.

NP: I know, I know. So you're challenging for deviation...

BC: Deviation from the English language.

NP: As we understand it, yes. Sorry what were you saying Brian?

BS: I claim that Su's been taking lessons in Japanese and can't get her Ls and her Rs!

NP: Barry you had a correct challenge, so you have the subject of drawing a blank, it's back with you and there are 19 seconds available starting now.

BC: The endless vista of no ideas, inspiration, or I've forgotten what I was going to say next...


BC: It's a deadly subject this!

NP: It is the most frustrating game you've ever invented! John... and when you've got three bright sparks breathing down your neck, trying to trip you up all the time, it's even more difficult. John Sergeant you had a correct challenge, drawing a blank, and there are 18, no there are not, there are 13, no they're not, yes, 13 seconds... I've got a little clock in front of me, and um... I'm sorry...

BC: That word had a L in it!

JS: Can I get started?

SP: Oh yes!

JS: It's very frustrating...

NP: I wish you hadn't said that!

JS: I don't care, oh I want to get going.

SP: I've got four men with me who are obviously in great need of viagra! No...

NP: Maybe that's what's wrong with my little clock!

SP: Oh this is fun, aren't it!

NP: Thirteen seconds are still available for drawing a blank, it's with John Sergeant starting now.

JS: Drawing a blank...


BC: Excellent!

NP: Brian?

BS: Hesitation.

NP: No!

BS: Yes a distinct drawing of breath on my left here!

NP: I know, he has to draw his breath before his... he only went for less than a second! So John I'm giving you the benefit of the doubt and you have 11 seconds on drawing a blank starting now.

JS: Drawing a blank is when a detective in America drives up in a white car to a big mansion. In the side of the mansion there is a green...


NP: Brian?

BS: Hesitation before greenhouse.

NP: That's right, greenhouse.

SP: That's right, we're in agreement with that!

NP: Brian...

JS: Mmmmm! Mmmmm! Mmmmmm!

NP: ...you very cleverly got in with two seconds to go on drawing a blank...


NP: What do you mean awww? It's part of the game!

JS: No, thank you for whoever said awww!

NP: Right...

JS: Yes!

NP: Two seconds...

JS: I'll talk to you after the show! Thanks!

NP: ...with you Brian starting now.

BS: It is the activity of most contemporary artists!


NP: Brian Sewell was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. And he's getting quite a few points, now he's equal with Barry Cryer in second place. And Su Pollard is trailing a little, John Sergeant's in the lead. And Su Pollard it's your turn to begin and the subject is, Oh I think this has been thought of specially for you, the kiss of life. Oh yes! I'm sure anyone would love to give you the kiss of life because they would get more life back than you! Su you have 60 seconds to talk on the subject starting now.

SP: I know many women and indeed men who would love to be on the receiving end of the kiss of life. Preferably given by somebody of wonderful gender, ie. Brad Pitt...


BS: What is... surely that is a deviation?

JS: Hold on, wonderful gender...

BS: You can either be male or female, but wonderful gender suggests something else.

JS: Hold on Brian, my buzzer went on first!

SP: Yeah but you, Brian!

JS: It's so terrible to play this!

SP: Brian you at least knew I meant male or female so you can have gender.

JS: As it happens...

BS: We both...

JS: I want my lawyer here!

SP: I'm going! I'm of that age! I have to stand up!

NP: Darling...

SP: Not bad legs are they for, you know...

NP: Darling we haven't come on... Su for goodness sake, listen... sit down dear! Right, now as much as we love you, you haven't come on Just A Minute to show off your legs!

SP: No, sorry!

BC: As neither have you!

SP: Yes! Well interrupted!

NP: John Sergeant has the subject and there are 47 seconds available, the kiss of life starting now.

JS: We were very keen on the kiss of life when we were doing lifesaving courses...


SP: Oh no, sorry, I interrupted too soon!

NP: Why?

SP: Coz he just said two wes! He said we were very keen on the kiss of life when we!

JS: well how else would you make a sentence work?

SP: Yeah but you just tried to trip me up on wonderful gender! I mean that was not right!

NP: I think if he did repeat we, you're entitled to have it, though we usually let little words like that go.

SP: Oh do we?

NP: Yes.

JS: Otherwise it's very mean Su. People like me burst into tears and walk out!

SP: Granted! I can understand that!

JS: You see to me, it's that serious. It's that, sort of, getting personal!

SP: It's just a, the key to the debate...

NP: Su you've got the subject back again and you have a point for it and you have 43 seconds and it's the kiss of life and you start now.

SP: Unfortunately...


BS: That was a hesitation.

NP: That was a hesitation. So Brian...

SP: No I was gathering momentum...

NP: I know!

SP: ...to go into my flow again!

NP: But your momentum didn't come quick enough darling! So Brian you have 41 seconds for you to tell us something about the kiss of life starting now.

BS: For some of us the kiss of life might well be the kiss of death because if we came round to consciousness...


NP: Barry?

BC: Blatant hesitation!

SP: Yes!

BC: Oh you could have driven a coach and horse through that!

NP: There's no need to rub it in, it was hesitation and I agree...

BC: More salt with your wounds, vicar?

NP: You're sort of playing the audience, getting them to groan in sympathy with you. So you get a point for a correct challenge, you take over the subject of the kiss of life and there are 34 seconds and you start now.

BC: I was in a pub in Glasgow which may surprise you. And one of the less regular of the customers had misunderstart the term...


BC: Start? Start?

NP: John Sergeant you challenged, a hesitation.

JS: Yes, got into a muddle there.

NP: Yes, the kiss of life is back with you and there are 26 seconds starting now.

JS: When we were doing lifesaving courses, we were particularly keen, the boys were, to make sure that we blew a lot of air into the lips of some of the girls. The staff didn't think this was a very good idea. We said we were trying to help them because we didn't want them to pass away because of a silly accident in the swimming pool. So they decided...


NP: Brian Sewell challenged.

BS: There seemed to be rather a lot of becauses.

NP: Yes there was more than one because. So Brian you got in...

BC: Oh look at his face! That's awful! Not like this on the News, is he?

JS: No!

BC: Not petulant on the News!

NP: Right Brian, a correct challenge, the last 11 seconds of the show today, the kiss of life starting now.

BS: Imagine there you are, flat on your back, unconscious, and somebody has pinched your lips in a way that allows them to suck air in as somebody else is... blowing...


NP: John Sergeant got in first, and you got in John with half a second to go!

BC: Ohhhhh!

BC: Oh dear!

JS: Bad luck!

BC: Oh dear! The total is, nobody loves a smart-arse!

NP: John Sergeant, half a second, the kiss of life starting now.

JS: The kiss of life...


NP: So they all got lots of points in that show, they all contributed so well, the contributions were what I enjoyed, the points is what they enjoy. And coming out on top with most points of all was John Sergeant. So we say John you're our winner! So on behalf of Barry Cryer, Su Pollard, Brian Sewell, John Sergeant and myself Nicholas Parsons, we hope you've enjoyed the show. And be at the end of your televisions the next time we play Just A Minute. Until then good-bye!