starring PAUL MERTON, CLEMENT FREUD, TIM RICE and STEPHEN FRY, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Radio, 23 January 2006)

NICHOLAS PARSONS: Welcome to Just A Minute!


NP: Thank you, thank you, hello, my name is Nicholas Parsons. And as the Minute Waltz fades away once more it is my huge pleasure to welcome our many listeners, those who tune in on radio Four, the Internet, around the world. And of course, but most importantly of all is to welcome to the show four talented, exciting, over the top, diverse, intelligent personalities who are going to show off their wit, their humour, their verbal ingenuity and dexterity as they try and speak on a subject that I give them, and they try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And would you now please welcome those four. Seated on my right, is Paul Merton and Clement Freud. And seated on my left it is Stephen Fry and Tim Rice. Please welcome all four of them! Seated beside me is Janet Staplehurst, who will help me keep the score, and blow a whistle when the 60 seconds have elapsed. And this particular edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Mermaid Theatre in Puddledock near Blackfriars down in the city of London. And we have a delightful London audience ready to cheer us on our way. As we begin the show this week with Clement Freud. Clement, the subject is stage presence. Talk on that subject if you can, 60 seconds, starting now.

CLEMENT FREUD: I think boxes of chocolates, bunches of flowers or simply going on stage to end the performance and offering to the players, actors, or whoever is on, some gift at your personal expense... What?


NP: Paul challenged.

PAUL MERTON: I challenged because Clement stopped, looked at me and said what?

NP: That's exactly what happened, yes. So he said what and he paused.

PM: Yes.

NP: Presumably that's what you're getting him for.

PM: Yes.

NP: Because usually Clement winds the others up, but you've managed to wind him up that time. And you've got the subject because it's a correct challenge, you have 44 seconds, stage presence starting now.

PM: It's obvious those who have it and those that... oh!


NP: Stephen challenged.

STEPHEN FRY: Oh bless him, I mean he almost challenged himself.

NP: I know.

SF: Two thoses.

NP: It's so easy however many times you've played it to still slip up on little simple things like that. But Stephen you got in first, a point to you and the subject, stage presence starting now.

SF: It is indeed clear those who have it, it's a strange charisma. It's some remarkable energy that seems to radiate from certain actors when they stand on the stage. They give off this sense of themselves which can really enliven an audience and make them feel part of a most special evening. They're focussed on them, they can't look at anybody else. It's the one with the stage presence who holds them in their thrall. And try... er...


SF: Oh! Oh! It all fell apart!

NP: You had that audience in your thrall! They were in awe, you had it all in spades...

SF: I know...

NP: ... but then suddenly you were carried away and paused. Tim you challenged first.

TIM RICE: I'm afraid there was a hesitation.

NP: There was and Tim you tell us something about stage presence and there are 11 seconds to go starting now.

TR: When I was very young I wrote a play called Presence and I was asked to stage it by my schoolmates. It was an extremely interesting story involving a goat, several candles and a fire escape...


NP: Whoever is speaking in this game when the whistle goes gains an extra point, and on this occasion it was Tim Rice so I don't need to tell you, I'm sure you've worked it out, he's in the lead at the end of that round. So he has the audience with him, one round gone. And Tim it's your turn to begin, the subject is how to be irresistible to the opposite sex. Now I don't know why that's been chosen for you. But it could apply to any of them up here, I'm sure. And we'd love you to talk on the subject starting now.

TR: The secret of being irresistible to the opposite sex is to be strong and silent. Let me give you an example. (silence)


SF: Ohhhh!

NP: You got your laugh but in Just A Minute it doesn't work.

TR: What, what did I do wrong?

NP: Silence is like a pause.

TR: But...

NP: Clement challenged first.

TR: For what?

CF: Hesitation.

NP: It was silence.

TR: I wasn't hesitating, I was demonstrating my point.

NP: I know but...

TR: Where was the hesitation?

NP: I don't have to explain to an intelligent man like you what I'm talking about! You know exactly what I'm talking about!

SF: Ooooohhh!

PM: Could you explain it to me?

NP: It's very difficult to keep your end up with these three bright fellows. Yes, Paul you were trying to...

PM: Could you explain it to me? You know, it's only hesitation if you start speaking again, isn't it?

NP: No. No no no no.

SF: If you're hesitant you're not sure what you're going to say next.

NP: Hesitation...

SF: You're hesitant, he knew what he was going to say next, and it was nothing!

NP: I'm reluctant to take issue with you but there's a difference between being hesitant and hesitation. If you pause, you are hesitating. He didn't carry on...

PM: He's been doing this 38 years!

NP: And I still have to explain the rules to people!

PM: You have to explain them.

NP: So anyway we have fun...

SF: You obviously must be technically right or otherwise the game would fall apart, wouldn't it.

NP: No, I am correct in every sense!

SF: No, you are!

NP: Who buzzed? It was Clement, you buzzed, wasn't it Clement?

CF: Yes I buzzed.

NP: So you've got hesitation, 53 seconds on how to be irresistible to the opposite sex Clement starting now.

CF: Keeping one's trousers on at my sort of age is a very good way of being irresistible to the opposite sex, else they might expect what they will not get. I think that's really all I have to say on this subject.


CF: I could pause for a while...

NP: No, no, sorry, Tim you challenged.

TR: Well if that's all he has to say, clearly a period of silence is coming up. And I was getting, getting my retaliation in first.

NP: I know, but unfortunately he didn't hesitate, he went on. He said "that's all I really have to say" but he continued, which you can do in Just A Minute. Um Clement you had an incorrect challenge, 36 seconds, how to be irresistible to the opposite sex starting now.

CF: Singing I find is...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: There's lots of Is there. He said I have nothing more to say, I think I have nothing more to say...

NP: That's right.

SF: ... on the subject, singing I find...

NP: You're quite right Stephen, three or fours Is, one we might let go, but no, 34 seconds...

PM: Well, one, strictly speaking, isn't repetition!

NP: One repetition!

PM: Oh I see.

NP: Oh they do try and get one over me! Stephen, how to be irresistible to the opposite sex, 34 seconds to tell us starting now.

SF: Paradoxically, and I speak from bemused experience, the way to be irresistible to the opposite sex is to tell them that you're gay. And then they'll be all over you! One of life's strange oddities, a quirk in the caprice of existence that the more unobtainable you appear to be, the more desirable it seems that you are...


NP: Clement challenged.

CF: Two mores.

NP: Two mores.

SF: Oh right, yeah.

NP: More unobtainable, more desirable...

SF: It was a rhetorical chiasma, yeah! Absolutely.

NP: You know Stephen, you've put a thought in my mind. I must try that next time.


NP: I will get back to you if I have any success. Right...

SF: Because you've suffered from the reverse thing, telling people you're straight and then men instantly fall for you. Anyway, enough of that, carry on.

PM: Do you still see Simon?

NP: I think we'll get on with Just A Minute. Ah Clement, 17 seconds on how to be irresistible to the opposite sex starting now.

CF: Telling them that you're a eunuch is also quite effective. In many ways.


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Is that because anything after that is a bonus? Hesitation.

NP: Hesitation.

SF: It takes a lot of balls to tell someone you're a eunuch!

NP: It almost deserves a bonus point, doesn't it.

SF: Almost!

NP: No give him one, go on. Paul we're going to hear from you on it now. 11 seconds, how to be irresistible to the opposite sex starting now.

PM: You look suave, you walk into the nearest...


NP: Clement challenged.

CF: Two you'res.

NP: Two yous, you look suave...

SF: That's a double-U, that's a letter, two Us, W.

NP: He said you look suave, you walk into the nearest whatever it was.

PM: Yes yes.

NP: And he came in, Clement listened well, nine seconds, how to be irresistible to the opposite sex Clement starting now.

CF: I would look suave and walk into somebody's room exuding the sort of personality that is...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: You haven't exuded personality since... 1978!

SF: Outrageous!

PM: I've been doing this show for 22 years! I still think we'd be better off with a glove puppet!

SF: Don't say that to a knight of the realm!

NP: I know! Right!

CF: A bonus point for injury!

NP: I'm, I'm going to give Paul a bonus point for bravery actually. But two seconds on how to be irresistible to the opposite sex Clement starting now.

CF: Opposite is exactly the same...


NP: So Clement Freud speaking as the whistle went got the bonus point and also others in the round, and he's now in the lead. He's three ahead of Paul Merton and Stephen Fry, and four ahead of Tim Rice. Stephen it's your turn to begin, the subject now is cloud nine. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

SF: Ooooh cloud nine, cloud nine, that's a very interesting one...


NP: Cloud nine, cloud nine.

TR: No, oooh, I thought ooohh was definite hesitation. It's a kind of...

SF: No, oooh, I was cooing, I was interested. Honestly I was just oooh. That’s interesting. It wasn't like I didn't know what to say.

TR: It's a kind of posh er.

SF: It's a camp exclamation. Ooohhh! That's interesting.

NP: I think, I think it was enjoyment.

SF: Yeah it was, thank you chairman.

NP: You had pleasure from the subject which was you were communicating to the audience. So unfortunately Tim, an incorrect challenge, Stephen has another point, he has cloud nine and 58 seconds starting now.

SF: It's used to mean a kind of euphoria, enjoyment, elation, pleasure, sense of vadic happiness. The prevalence of the word is recent. Some believe it started in the 1930s as a phrase...


NP: Tim challenged.

CF: Thirty-one.

TR: It's two words! It's two words, cloud nine.

SF: Yes.

NP: That's right yes.

TR: And you said the prevalence of the word.

SF: Nine was the word that I was about to refer to.

TR: Well that was not clear.

SF: No I was coming to it.

NP: You did actually say the prevalence of the word and we've got two words on the card. I think he's trying very hard.

SF: Fair enough, fair enough, okay, absolutely, he's right, yeah.

NP: So Tim you have 44 seconds to tell us something about cloud nine starting now.

TR: Whenever I hear the words cloud nine, I think whatever happened to cloud one, two, three, four, five, six, seven and eight. Why should cloud nine be the cloud that gives one that special thrill...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Gives one and he wonders what happened to cloud one.

NP: Yes. It's a tough game, especially when you've got clever listeners. Right, 30 seconds on cloud nine back with you Stephen starting now.

SF: I can tell Tim what happened to the first eight clouds. They're different levels according to the American Meteorological Society and the ninth is the highest. Hence it represents the best state of being and the most happy condition in which one can be. Others contend that it's a Buddhist phrase. There are 10 levels of consciousness to which...


NP: Tim challenged.

TR: Two levels.

NP: Two levels.

SF: The highest level and then levels. Though one was singular and one was plural, yeah.

NP: So Stephen, well played, 10, 12 seconds still available, cloud nine starting now.

SF: This acme of strata which our eastern religious friends maintain gives one a sense of perfection and joy...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: I think we've had sense before.

SF: I must have said sense, yeah.

NP: We've had sense before, you did indeed.

SF: We had sense earlier, didn't we, yeah yeah.

NP: You started talking about a sense of this and now a sense of that. So Paul you've got in with five seconds to go on cloud nine starting now.

PM: I'm thrilled to hear there is 10 levels of consciousness, that means there's only another nine to go. How wonderful...


NP: So Paul Merton speaking as the whistle went gained the extra point. He's now one behind our joint leaders Stephen Fry and Clement Freud. And also Paul it's your turn to begin, the subject is looking in the mirror. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

PM: I'm not a great one for looking in the mirror except when it's absolutely essential such as shaving. Looking in the mirror gives us the illusion that we are looking at ourselves as others see us. But I don't know that that's true because we carry so much baggage don't we. When we look at our own form there in the mirror there, we think to ourselves, oh God, why am I so attractive to the opposite sex. Is it because I, and I don't ever think that actually. I just look there and think well, maybe in a few years time, I will...


NP: Tim challenged.

TR: Two thinks.

NP: That's right yes, there were two looks as well. But they didn't get in on that one. Right there are 34 seconds for you Tim on looking in the mirror starting now.

TR: Looking in the mirror is a pretty ghastly experience the older you get. It becomes an absolute piece of agony to face that grisly visage every morning. You know that time is marching on. There will be new wrinkles and furrows that were not there yesterday or indeed the day before. All this comes through looking in the mirror. And the answer, don't look in the mirror. I have discovered, unfortunately, as Paul mentioned, it is easier to shave when you are looking in the mirror. The only possible alternative to this is to do it...


NP: So Tim Rice speaking as the whistle went gained that extra point and now we've got an interesting and very fair situation because they're all more or less level pegging. Paul Merton and Tim Rice are equal, one point behind Clement Freud and Stephen Fry. What an even contest but evenly balanced in wit and humour as Clement we turn to you to take the next round and the subject is CCTV. Talk on CCTV starting now.

CF: This is an acronym for closed circuit television. And if one repeated the letters therein, you would be buzzed by somebody, possibly Paul or Stephen...


CF: ... or Tim...

NP: Tim challenged.

TR: Well you wouldn't because they're in the title.

NP: That's right. They wouldn't be buzzed.

CF: No no.

NP: Unless there's a mistake because they're in the title.

TR: Yes.

NP: You can repeat what's on the card.

SF: And you really shouldn't repeat the word or like that. That's very naughty as well.

NP: I know.

SF: Very naughty. I'll tell Sir if you do that again.

NP: Ah correct challenge Tim, CCTV is with you and 49 seconds available starting now.

TR: I'm very indebted to Clement for telling me what CCTV...


NP: Clement challenged.

CF: Repetition of C.

NP: It's on the card Clement.

CF: Repetition.

NP: CCTV, you're repeating C...

CF: Yah, you did.

NP: But it's on the card, CCTV.

CF: That's why I didn't repeat the title.

NP: Clement you've been playing the game...

CF: I've been playing this game for a very long time.

SF: But he's proved himself right, you see. The thing is, you're in a paradox here, you're in a kind of weird time loop. He has proved himself right because he said if someone said the word on the card, they would get buzzed. And you gave Tim a point...

NP: Yes.

SF: ... because you said no, no-one would buzz. But he has buzzed so he is right. So you have to give it back to him.

NP: Do you know you're absolutely right.

SF: Yeah! It's weird isn't it. It's like a womb, it's like a ...

NP: It is a bit of a paradox.

SF: Yeah.

NP: Because what I really meant is they wouldn't buzz because they wouldn't...

SF: No sane man would buzz! But you see, yeah, yeah...

NP: No person that plays the game regularly. But if you've got the involuted and convoluted mind of Clement Freud, you pick up these things.

PM: We can't start having insanity as a challenge! We'd never get through a round!

NP: No! Convoluted challenges, paradoxes, thank God we've got someone here to explain them to us.

SF: Yeah. To explain anomalies.

NP: Yeah and so Clement you are correct actually so you have...

TR: Nicholas, Nicholas, can I just get this straight?

NP: Yes you can get it straight.

TR: I've said the words, the phrase on the title, CCTV...

NP: Yes.

TR: And I was had up for repeating C, even though it's on the title.

NP: Yeah that's right.

SF: No, but what really happened, no, it's so much more complicated and interesting than that. It's what has happened, he's reversed...

TR: Complicated yes, interesting no!

SF: He won the challenge, you won the challenge...

TR: Yes...

SF: By saying he said someone would buzz if he said CCTV and you said no they wouldn't. But he did when you said CCTV, so he was right.

NP: So he was right, so Clement you get a...

SF: So that's why it's...

TR: He wasn't right at the time!

SF: He wasn't at the time but he is now.

NP: No listen you two, listen...

SF: Whoa, it's fantastic!

TR: It isn't fantastic!

PM: What level of consciousness are we at at the moment?

NP: I think I can resolve this matter. Clement Freud, because of the logic of his challenge, gains a bonus point, because it was technically correct, but not within the rules of Just A Minute. But no, wait a minute! But he did, he knew he didn't, you're allowed to repeat C, because C is on the card. So it was an incorrect challenge for you, you get a point for an incorrect challenge, you keep the subject of CCTV and you have 45 seconds available starting now.

TR: The county council of Transylvania has been going since 1864. It is an august body so-called...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Transylvania isn't a county so I don't know how there could be a Transylvania County Council. I think that's deviation. That's like having a Brazil Street.

NP: No no no, Transylvania was a country...

CF: I live in Brazil Street.

PM: Do you?

NP: So Paul yes, you take over the subject now with a point, 38 seconds on CCTV starting now.

PM: When I see CCTV I always do about 20 minutes because I think to myself, I love...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: That's four Is.

NP: You have the subject Stephen, 29 seconds, CCTV starting now.

SF: Cute chic transvestites, I suppose it could stand for. But as Clement told us it really is an acronym for closed circuit television. It's the bane of our modern life in cities, you can't so much as pick your nose in the mall without being observed by somebody in a security suit who will probably tell your loved ones what you have been up to...


NP: Ah Clement challenged.

CF: Three yous.

NP: Three yous yes.

SF: Yes yeah, good point, I deserved that frankly. If you start picking up on letters...

NP: I know, right. So Clement you've got in on three yous and you have nine seconds, CCTV starting now.

CF: I learnt the other day that SKI os not gliding across the snow but spends...


NP: Tim challenged.

TR: Deviation, this has got absolutely, he's got nine seconds to make a point.

NP: Mmm-hmm.

TR: And he's wasted eight of them talking about something else.

CF: You wasted one of them buzzing me!

TR: I wish I'd wasted more of them.

NP: I'm sorry, I think if he doesn't establish it in seven seconds, I think I'll have to give you the benefit of the doubt...

TR: I would say so Nicholas, yes.

NP: Tim has it back with three seconds to go...

CF: Three seconds?

NP: Three seconds to go...

CF: So I only did it for six seconds! Oh I think you can allow it for six seconds.

NP: It doesn't register the half seconds. All right so I should say five and a half seconds, sorry, two and a half seconds starting now.

TR: I'm not clear how long I have to go on about this subject, but I would like to say...


NP: A very stressful performance of Just A Minute. And it's still equal, it's all equal pegging here, as we move into the final, I should say Paul Merton, Clement Freud and Tim Rice are all now equal in second place two points behind Stephen Fry who has got 10 points. And he takes the next round, Stephen, digital radio. Tell us something about that very topical subject starting now.

SF: Digital audio broadcasting, dab it's sometimes called. Sounds like someone farting in a bath if you ask me, you get this most peculiar kind of interference bubbly noise. And it is isn't all it's cracked up to be. Rather like CDs when they came out, do you remember? there was this idea that you were supposed to be able to toast them and throw them across the room. Just bringing them out of their case ruined them forever. Digital radio seems to me to have offered a great deal and have delivered very little, thus far...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Um... I disagree with this. I think digital radio's fantastic.

SF: I said it seems to me, I wasn't claiming it as a fact.

NP: I, I would agree with you Paul, the point is he's entitled to his opinion.

PM: That's true.

SF: Yeah.

NP: And in his opinion he was saying that it seemed to him it hadn't achieved very much so far.

PM: Yes.

CF: So it's a debate.

SF: It's a debate! (laughs)

NP: So again you have the benefit of the doubt and you have digital radio still Stephen, and 33 seconds starting now.

SF: I speak as one who lives in the county of Norfolk where coverage is not all that it should be, Paul Merton. And perhaps this has somehow informed my view of this new style of transmissive journalism and entertainment that we call digital radio. The B repeat letter C, our esteemed auntie, has many channels these days. It is clearly the technology of the future. There is no question this is going to dominate our lives when we listen to...


NP: Clement challenged.

CF: Not my life!

NP: Well, well said Clement, You get a bonus point for your interruption, your interjection. Stephen still keeps the subject and no points there, that's four seconds on digital radio Stephen starting now.

SF: Some kind of radiation from the fingers would be called digital radio because that's what it is...


NP: Right oh I've just been told we're moving into the last round, let me give you the situation. Paul Merton who is often out in the lead, he is in second place alongside Tim Rice and Clement Freud. It's a very even contest but just out in the lead is Stephen Fry. As we move into the final round and the subject is scraping the barrel. No...

SF: Yeah, but what's the subject?

NP: Paul it's your turn to begin, so take scraping the barrel, 60 seconds starting now.

PM: Scraping the barrel does have a rather negative connotation but I don't think that should be right. Think of it positively. You've got all this great stuff in the barrel, and you've got to scrape it out just to get the last remnants of this gorgeous entity, whatever it is. A barrel fill of magnificent quality gorgeousness is...


NP: Clement challenged.

CF: Gorgeous.

NP: Gorgeousness he said.

PM: Gorgeousness.

CF: I didn't, I, I pressed my buzzer before the ness.

PM: Well I pressed my buzzer before I left the house. Where do you go with that?

NP: No no, I like gorgeousness, it's almost a, um...

PM: A word isn't it.

NP: Almost a word yes.

PM: Almost a word.

NP: A real life word, I love gorgeousness yes. I love um creative words and we can have that one Paul. And you have scraping the barrel, 44 seconds starting now.

PM: It belongs to an old tradition in the Royal Navy when the men of that particular branch of the service would import lard from various parts of the world and bring them back to this particular country. Queen Victoria was rather superstitious and liked to cover herself with this noxious substance while walking through Hyde Park in the morning. She was the most extraordinary woman, only three inches tall, but luckily no-one let on. What a wonderful woman, her head on the stamp was actually the real size...


NP: Tim challenged.

TR: Ah two wonderfuls.

NP: Yes and two women as well, but ah...

PM: Oh well!

NP: Tim you've got in with 18 seconds to go, scraping the barrel starting now.

TR: Scraping the barrel has been beautifully explained by Paul Merton. I feel it almost impossible to add to his magnificent explanation of how this expression came into our natural... vocab...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: There was a hesitation there.

NP: There was a hesitation.

TR: There was I'm afraid, yes.

NP: And Paul, you've got eight seconds, tell us more about scraping the barrel starting now.

PM: If you go to any pub in the east end of London, one with a certain prominence, and go up to the landlord and say, I would like to see your barrel...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: There were two goes, go into any pub and go up to the landlord.

NP: Yes.

PM: Oh yes.

NP: Go up to the landlord, yes.

SF: I'm sorry. I feel cruel, I feel vicious, I feel, yes...

NP: Actually I'll tell you how vicious you were, you've got in with half a second to go!

SF: Oh dear! Oh Paul can I ever apologise enough?

PM: Hang on a minute, I thought you said your watch didn't do half seconds?

NP: No...

PM: So either I've got to the end, or there's a second to go.

NP: You've got a good point there Paul.

PM: Haven't I just, yes.

NP: Haven't you just yes. All I can say is the watch says zero...

PM: Yes?

NP: Janet hadn't blown her whistle. She was working on the half second business.

PM: Sack her!

SF: Sack her!

PM: She knew the rules when she joined!

NP: As the whistle hasn't gone, the benefit of the doubt has to go to Stephen.

PM: Yeah.

CF: Janet will...

NP: What's that?

CF: Janet will have to go!

NP: She can finish the subject is she likes. Half a second to go on scraping the barrel after you Janet starting now.

SF: Scraping the barrel and the whistle...


NP: That last challenge wouldn't have made any difference to the result because Stephen would have got an extra point for speaking as the whistle went and that increased his lead. Let me tell you the final situation because it's very fair. And Clement Freud and Tim Rice both came equal in third place with a lot of points, they did extremely well. And Paul Merton who often does brilliantly well came in second place and he was superb as usual. But just ahead of him in first place was Stephen Fry, so once again Stephen you are our winner this week!

SF: Thank you.

NP: So it only remains for me to say thank you to these four outstanding players of the game, Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Tim Rice and Clement Freud. I also thank Janet Staplehurst, for helping me with the score and blowing her whistle so delicately. We thank our producer Claire Jones. We are indebted to Ian Messiter who created this delightful game. And we are very grateful to this lovely vociferous audience here at the Mermaid Theatre who have cheered us on our way magnificently. From our audience, from me Nicholas Parsons, and the panel, good-bye. Tune in the next time we play Just A Minute!