JAM40th Anniversary:PMerton,KWilliams,CFreud,GNorton


NOTE: Producers of this show were Tilusha Ghelani and Carol Smith.


NICHOLAS PARSONS: Hello and welcome. My name is Nicholas Parsons and as the Minute Waltz fades away, I'd like you to join me in a celebration of a show that has now clocked up a remarkable 40 years on BBC Radio. I refer of course to Just A Minute, the comedy panel game that's been my great privilege and sheer delight to preside over as chairman, ever since that first broadcast in December 1967. All those years ago the BBC top brass commissioned just one series. But now as we approach the 41st year, I think they realise that finally we're getting the hang of it!


NP: Sheila Hancock your turn to begin. The subject, curry.


NP: Will you tell us something about that hot subject in Just A Minute starting now.

SH: The hotter the better! It does in fact make me very... ill the next day...


NP: Kenneth Williams challenged.

KENNETH WILLIAMS: Hesitation, I'm afraid!

NP: I agree.

SH: Well I was going to say something....

ALFRED MARKS: You had a mouthful of curry! It's not easy!

SH: I was being, I was going to be indelicate but it doesn't matter!

NP: Yes well It's in the Bible! So I wouldn't worry!

PETER JONES: What, the curry?

SH: No, the way it makes you the day after!

PJ: Oh really?

AM: A great wind came upon Jerusalem.....



NP: So words of wisdom and humour from...

KW: Yes and it gets me nowhere! I don't get no marks anyway! What's the point! What's the point! I ask myself!

NP: (doing very good impression of KW) You can ask yourself as often as you like!


KW: They're clapping your performance! It's a disgrace! Shut up!

NP: (doing very good impression of KW) Maybe it was the impersonation!

KW: Oh I see! Is that how I look?

NP: (doing very good impression of KW) Oh I'm in the lead! I'm in the lead! Good, good, I'm in the lead! Oooooohhhh!

KW: If that's what I look like, well one of us is terrible!



NP: And Graham Norton it's your turn to begin. And the subject here is socks. Can you tell us something about socks starting now.

GRAHAM NORTON: Socks is famously the name of Bill Clinton's cat. And I'm reliably informed it's the only pussy in the White House that Hillary doesn't mind Bill Clinton stroking!



ROSS NOBLE: Colonel Sanders as well, he was another fellow who enjoyed counting chickens. The reason for this is because he wasn't actually a military gentleman, no! He would stand all the poultry in front of him and make them call out their numbers. (squawking) "One!" "Two!" "Three!" "Four!" "Five!" "Six!" "Seven!" "Eight!" "Nine!" "Ten!" "Eleven!" "Twelve!" "Thirteen!" "Fourteen!" "Fifteen!" "Sixteen!"


NP: How fascinating to hear those clips, stretching over 40 years in Just A Minute. And fascination is something this show certainly seems to exert, not only on its listeners, but also on its regular panellists. Let's hear from two of them now, Paul Merton and Graham Norton.

PAUL MERTON: I love doing Just A Minute so much, I travel anywhere in the country to do it. And when I sit there and Nicholas announces the panellists for tonight, and I look out at the audience wherever we are, and I just pinch myself that I'm involved in it. It's an absolute pleasure!

GN: That is the wonderful thing about Just A Minute, that when you go out to these towns and cities and do it, the love there is for the show. And if you landed from another planet, it would be inexplicable that people can follow this game. They know the rules, agree with the decisions that Nicholas makes, they disagree. It's proper theatre!

NP: As they say in the legitimate theatre, the show must go on. And this one definitely has gone on for quite a time. But exactly why has Just A Minute lasted so long? How better to find out than to pose that very question as a subject to some of our very distinguished panellists.


NP: Right, 44 seconds, you tell us something about why Just A Minute has lasted so long.

GN: The main reason Just A Minute lasts so long is because people keep interrupting! They... continually...


NP: Paul?

PM: Hesitation.

NP: Yes. Because you interrupted. Right, why Just A Minute has lasted so long and 37 seconds available Paul starting now.

PM: It's extraordinary. I think because the actual way of playing it is capable of infinite variety. It's a bit like a game of draughts. It seems very simple first of all, the rules aren't many. But because of the personalities that play the game, they each bring...


NP: Clement Freud challenged.

CLEMENT FREUD: Repetition of game.

NP: Yes you did repeat the word game before. So Clement a correct challenge, you tell us something about why you think Just A Minute has lasted so long, 22 seconds starting now.

CF: I think it just seems long!



NP: Sheila has challenged.

SH: Hesitation.

NP: Yes it was hesitation but, but let's be fair to Clement, he paused for comic effect and Sheila you get a point for a correct challenge and you have 19 seconds on why Just A Minute has lasted so long starting now.

SH: Without a doubt, it's because of the participants excluding myself of course. Kenny and Derek and Peter Jones and now the younger generation. It's a wonderful game for letting people...


NP: Clement Freud challenged.

CF: She missed me!


SH: Ah!

PM: Clement, um, there's no easy way of saying this...


NP: We heard in that clip the lovely Sheila Hancock say that it's a wonderful game. And the creator of this wonderful game is the sadly missed Ian Messiter. As a schoolboy in the 1930s, Ian was caught talking in class. For punishment his teacher ordered him to recount the content of the lesson so far without hesitation, repetition or deviation. Ian failed in the task, but the experience impinged upon his memory. And later he saw the potential as a basis for a panel game for BBC Radio. Guests who appear in the show for the first time must feel somewhat like that daunted schoolboy as they prepare to meet the formidable challenge of this game. One such debutante was the irrepressible Kenny Everett, towards whom quite frankly we weren�t entirely fair. Try to spot just how much flagrant rule-bending takes place during his unforgettable first attempt.


NP: And the subject is marbles. Kenny will you tell us something of those in 60 seconds starting now.

KENNY EVERETT: Marbles is a game which I last played when I was at St Bede's Secondary Modern School For Aspiring Twits. And I always used to wonder, as I got my thumb into the marbleising position, about to flick and ruin all the others in the circle, I used to wonder how the heck they got those little coloured squirly bits to go through the glass. You know, the the aaaaaaaaahhh! Ahhh...

NP: Keep going!

KE: And anyway, um, I used to wonder whether they put them in after with a hypodermic, or whether they built the glass around the coloured squirly, and how they got all the colours also entangled with each other. All sort of mangling and tumbling in gay abandon throughout the glass. That's what I used to wonder. And then I'd flick 'em and in the middle of the circle they'd go, scattering all the other marbles in all various directions, from east to west, north and probably south as well. And all the other kids would rush around saying "what a wonderful holly player the old geezer is", because they used to call them hollies as well you know. And they used to call them other things, but I've forgotten what the other things were they used to call them. Because I was very young at the time. It's been absolutely ages since I was at school. And so I've forgotten the whole thing. And anyway it was the coloured squirlies that caught my eye really, because I had a great eye for coloured squirlies. And I think I've done much more than a minute!


NP: Well I'm afraid we were very wicked. We let Kenny Everett go on talking for 90 seconds on the subject of marbles! During that time, he continually repeated himself, deviated, and also hesitated.

KW: But didn't lose his marbles!


NP: While Just A Minute may be held in esteem by listeners and performers alike, it's also highly regarded by the team behind the scenes. Former producer Chris Neill tells us what working on the show meant to him.

CHRIS NEILL: What I loved about producing Just A Minute was, well, you were in charge of this brilliant classic comedy show, and also working with some great people. Paul Merton and when I was doing it we had Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo and Peter Jones. And I was very proud to be the producer who introduced Linda Smith on to the show. I remember we did that in Sheffield. And also when I was first on the show as a performer, she sat beside me, and I remember she, very sweetly wrote on a pad, she didn't say "good luck", she said "have fun", which I think is always the most important note for any new player of the game. It's all about having fun.

NP: Chris there speaking of the marvellous Linda Smith, who died far too soon and is sadly missed. Here she is at her very best and having fun.


NP: Linda a correct challenge, 30 seconds available, answering back starting now.

LINDA SMITH: Answering back is something that you're told not to do when you're a child. You'll be asked a question, "what do you think you're doing?" You try to answer this enquiry and immediately get shouted at. Someone will say "don't answer back". Well what a ridiculous thing to do. How are you supposed to respond? With silence, I suppose that would be called dumb insolence, wouldn't it. You just can't win...


NP: Ah Paul challenged.

PM: Ah repetition of you, the word...

LS: Yeah.

NP: You, yes you did come in.

LS: It was like a festival of you, wasn't it. It was like a competition to see how many times I could say the word you. And I'm just glad someone's had the guts to stop me!

NP: Yes he let two go but after that he couldn't...

LS: No, I need boundaries! I need boundaries!


NP: Marvellous! Now Paul Merton again, recalling how he first came to appear on the show and what that also meant to him.

PM: Thank you Nicholas, yes, I remember it was Ted Taylor who was producer at that time in the late 80s and I had a phone call from him. He wanted to know what I would be wearing, he suggested I should wear a suit. He also suggested that the language was fairly moderate. I think he thought he was booking Sid Vicious! And just the joy of being associated with the programme that I had grown up with was enormous. I did my first one in 88. Five years before that, when I was living in a bedsit, I used to record Just A Minute off the radio and keep it in little tapes. And that would be my home entertainment, I didn't have a television. Five years before I did it, I was listening to it in a bedsit on a little tape recorder. So it was amazing to actually do the show.

NP: Since that first appearance Paul has become a true master of the game. As is ably demonstrated by this wonderful example of his unparalleled improvisational skills.


NP: Flying saucers, 60 seconds, starting now.

PM: Well a flying saucer landed in my back garden about 19 years ago, and I got on it and went to the planet Venus. And it's true because I've got photographs here of me standing on the surface of that particular planet. And anybody who says that this is false can come outside and I'll give them a damn good fight! Because I was trapped on that particular orb in space for years! I tried, benee, speaking to the Venusians and said "look it's not my fault I'm here, I was kidnapped by one of your people." They said "it's got nothing to do with us, it could have been anybody they picked up. We had Winston Churchill about 30 years ago. And before that Sir Stanley Matthews, the wizard of the wing, spent a fortnight on this very surface." I thought well, I'm very proud to be in such august company. And they said "so you should be and all! What do you want for your dinner?" I said "well what have you got?" They said "well, we can offer you fish cakes if that's not too fantastic for you." I thought it's quite an extraordinary concept, the idea of eating that particular meal out here this far away from the Earth where I originally came from. They said "well, look do you want it or not?" I said "well that'll be fine". So at that point they produced a doner kebab which to my, to all intents and purposes was completely cold. I said "why is this not served up hot?" They said "we got it from a shop in Highgate and it's a long way away to bring it all the way from that particular part of North London to where we're standing now." I said "okay, I go along with that, what have you got to drink?" They said "well we've got Whatney's Red Barrel." I said "oh that is just too fantastic because nobody outside of the..."



NP: Paul was part of the new wave of Just A Minute panellists who took up the baton from the early generation, those unforgettable stars, Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo and Peter Jones. But one member of the old guard is still with us, showing the young ones a thing or two. Sir Clement Raphael Freud took part in the very first episode and has appeared in every series since. Graham Norton pays tribute.

GN: Having Clement there is terrific because he does give you a real sense of how long this programme has been going. Also he is one of the few players who is quite competitive and makes it still a game. Because I think the rest of us would just let it drift off into just rambling and white wine.


NP: Clement benefit of the doubt, 13 seconds, why I love each and every one of you starting now.

CF: As for loving each and every one of the people on this panel, let me begin with Nicholas Parsons, go on to Paul Merton, and then explain how very fond of myself I am...



NP: So let's get on with Just A Minute which is much funnier than One Minute Please. And we begin the show with Clement Freud. Clement, the subject is answering back. Sixty seconds as usual starting now.

CF: Shan't!



NP: So Clement Freud would you like to start us off. The subject is why I love Just A Minute and your time starts now.

CF: I actually prefer I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue!


NP: That lugubrious master at his deadpan best! Now this next comment from Graham Norton was put in by our producer. And it really makes me blush.

GN: For me I think what makes Just A Minute truly special is the involvement of Nicholas. Because he is unique, there's nothing else like him. And I love his relationship with the people on the panel, because he can take so much, I mean teasing is a very small word for what happens to him as he tries to chair the show. It really is very close to bullying a lot of the time. But charming he is with it.


NP: And you take over the subject of parbuckles starting now.

CF: Parbuckles is sort of nautical. Like a rope which they call a sheet. Or it might even be a knot...


NP: Kenneth Williams has challenged.

KW: Well deviation, it is not a knot.

NP: No, but he said it could be...

KW: It can't be a knot! It is a rope!

NP: He was giving an example of how this word...

KW: Parbuckle is a rope, it can't be a knot! It's a rope, it's got to go up and down! A knot can't go and down! What are you talking about? A knot's for tying, you great nit! He's an idiot! He doesn't know anything! He's never read a dictionary!

PJ: Well it doesn't matter, it's not er...

KW: Why, it matters to me! It matters very much to me! What do you mean it doesn't matter! I think it's important that these people here are given an accurate account of these things, otherwise they're going out of this place, full of misinformation!

PJ: But a few, a few weeks ago...

KW: Is that what you want, a nation of illiterates walking round not knowing, not having any idea all their lives, what a parbuckle is! They want to know, they're throbbing with it, aren't they! That lady there, she's dying to know what a real parbuckle is and I happen to know!

NP: Kenneth! Clement's already told us what a real parbuckle is but he's given us an example, you've done your little bit, the audience loved it. We'll get back to the contest, it was an incorrect challenge. Clement wasn't deviating from the subject, he keeps it, there are 13 seconds left starting now.

CF: In a ship's chandler's shop in Leyton buzzard...


NP: Derek Nimmo challenged.

DEREK NIMMO: Repetition of ships.

NP: Yes, you did mention the word ships before...

CF: Not ships chandler, ship-apostrophe-S chandler.

NP: You're quite right, yes it was ships before in the plural and this was ship-apostrophe-s, I'm sorry Clement...

DN: Well is that...

NP: Ten seconds...

DN: Oh for goodness sale! Really!

NP: ... on parbuckles starting ...

DN: Since he was a prefect at school you've always been terrified of Freud haven't you!

KW: Yes! He's right! Yes! Right, yes! That's true, isn't it!

DN: If anybody else on the team had said ships twice...

NP: I try to be...

DN: Ships-apostrophe-s! A load of rubbish! You ought to resign!

KW: Resign!

DN: Resign!

KW: Resign!

DN: Shall we ask the audience if Parsons should resign?


NP: I would hardly call that teasing! It was much more like haranguing! But if I'm going to be harangued by anyone, I'm glad it's from masters of that particular art. But then you see, they were my comtemporaries, they could get away with murder! The younger generation is much gentler.


STEPHEN FRY: No Nicholas, darling?

NP: Yes?

SF: Angel, baby, I want... I just want to say, I want you to know two things. One, my mother is recording this. Two, if you deny me this challenge I will devote the rest of my life to hunting you down and killing you! I said that I believed Rhodes was between Turkey and Greece, and that was true, I did believe it. I now no longer do, because you told me it's somewhere else. But that is, I rest my case on that fact. I can say I believe that Cecil Rhodes talked to a bloody zebra apparently! But I can't say that I believe, in all ignorance, that Rhodes is between Turkey and Greece...

PM: Nicholas...

NP: I never thought...

SF: ...without you leaping down my throat!

NP: I never thought you could be so passionate about gaining a point in a game!

SF: It's justice! Justice!

NP: It's justice!

SF: Another word you probably don't know about. It's called honour! I'll spell it for you, it's...



DN: ... a medeval... practice...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Medeval?

NP: It's the way you want to pronounce it, medieval...

PM: Oh so we can just pronounce the words that we like to pronounce in any way that we can?

NP: I think...

PM: This is a new rule is it.

NP: No, no, there is a perceived pronunciation...

PM: So if I want to say house, I can go hoosee, and that�s fine?

NP: Up in Edinburgh they might say hoosee but you never know... (Scottish accent) It depends where you are in the country, but I think up in Scotland they do say medeval.

PM: What is that accent you're doing?



NP: Well Peter Jones was speaking as the whistle went, gained an extra point for doing so. But Stephen Fry fortunately is still in the lead.

SF: No thanks to you, honey bun!

NP: And I have this audience here as witnesses to the fact that he's now going to hunt me down and try and kill me! So...

PM: I think he could probably get sponsorship if he really...


JULIAN CLARY: The remarkable thing is that Nicholas Parsons has never missed a show in 40 years. Who else in whatever branch of life could ever say that, you know, never missed a day. I don't think it would have lasted anywhere near as long without Nicholas.

NP: Kind words from lovely panellist Julian Clary. Now we have the equally silver-tongued Gyles Brandreth, respectfully doffing his cap before the seniors of Just A Minute legend.

GYLES BRANDRETH: It was some 38 years ago that I first encountered Just A Minute when I found myself on the roof of Broadcasting House with a line-up of extraordinary people, led by Kenneth Moore, the actor and Nicholas Parsons the matinee idol of the day. At the end of the line-up was myself and Kenneth Williams. I had never been so close to this extraordinary iconic figure who was dancing and screaming and saying "we're on just A Minute! We're on Just A Minute!" When I first came to the programme I was in my 20s and these were senior people in the industry and they were so friendly! I loved them all! The laconic humour of Peter Jones is one of the great joys for me of Just A Minute. And those early days are part and parcel of my adolescence. And so I came to maturity through Just A Minute. Well that's, my psychiatrist says this explains almost everything.

NP: Now let's enjoy once more the show's original team who pioneered the way in this amazing programme. Here they are in full magisterial flow.


DN: That's the word as a little brownie, she was an elf actually in fact. And there were only three in her six...


NP: Clement Freud why do you challenge?

CF: Repetition, actually in fact. It's only 60 seconds, I mean one ought to be able to manage 60 seconds without actually in fact. I was barely able to... it was sickening listening to the little chair and the little girl and the little bear.

DN: It was my daughter!

NP: All right Clement you have a point, would you continue talking about the brownies starting now.

CF: The brownies...


NP: Derek Nimmo.

DN: Hesitation, it takes such a long time to get going!

NP: No no I think he got going just in time. It is still with you Clement Freud, the brownies starting now.

CF: The brownies...


NP: Derek Nimmo, you've challenged.

DN: Well I was going to say hesitation again because he's so, he's so slow! He's so ponderous and so boring really! I mean every time he goes (imitating CF's voice, drawing out words) "the browwwwniees, bla bla bla bla bla bla, and take three onions and two turnips..." (normal voice) And we all have to do three times as much work in 60 seconds as he does!

NP: Clement still has another point and also 15 seconds in which to continue talking about the brownies starting now.

CF: The brownies are the female junior organisation of the Boy Scouts which are talking about...


NP: Derek Nimmo?

DN: Can't hear him!



NP: Peter your turn to begin, the subject is wrong numbers. Will you tell us something about that in this game starting now.

PJ: I think I must have a wrong number. Now this is absolutely true! Because five times in the last two weeks, I've had messages on the answering machine asking for a male stripper! Now my wife has encouraged me to go and apply for this job. But they haven't made me an offer I can't refuse, in fact I've not been in conversation with these ladies, all of them were females. But you see I've done a lot of things like... Carry On...


NP: Stephen Fry challenged.

SF: Sorry it was a reflex from my thumb. It was so interesting, it seemed a bit hesitant though.

NP: It was definitely hesitant.

PJ: It was, yes. Well it was a rather delicate subject, you know.

NP: What worried me Peter is you thought of all the things you'd done and you dried up.

PJ: So would you if you'd done some of the things I've done!



NP: Kenneth there are 16 seconds left for you to talk on the subject of advice to a 21 year old girl starting now.

KW: (very slowly and solemnly) It has already been set down by one of our greatest writers. Neither a borrower nor a lender be. And this above all to thine own self...


NP: Bob Monkhouse has challenged.

BOB MONKHOUSE: I've been listening to this show for 13 years and that's repetition. He always goes on like that!


NP: Bob, he does, but he wasn't repeating the subject on the card which is repetition. Not repeating his style, his phraseology or his monotony! So it's an incorrect challenge...

KW: That's lovely, isn't it! Charming, isn't it! How you get treated, you see! You end up with your ego round your ankles! It's wonderful, isn't it! He's supposed to a be a friend! Marvellous!

NP: Kenneth...

KW: Charlotte Bronte said with friends like that you don't need enemies!

NP: Kenneth, you don't need any encouragement! As people have said of you, you are actually becoming a cult in your own time.

KW: That is true. I am a cult. An enormous cult. People have said that to me, "you are a cult". You, I, I'm one of the biggest cults around! It is true! It is true! You're quite right! Quite right! And yes very percipient of you to say that Nick. That is percipient of him, isn't it. He's very percipient.

NP: So I've built up your ego again...

KW: That has done it. That's done the trick beautiful, yes! Lovely!

NP: You've got half a second to continue on advice to a 21 year old girl starting now.

KW: And of course you then must...



NP: So there it is, 40 years of Just A Minute, 40 years of warmth, whimsy, wit and of course repartee.


NP: Peter Jones your turn to begin. The subject is my pleasure. And there are 60 seconds starting now.

PJ: My pleasure is to sit in the huge library of my country estate, and look across the lawns which were beautifully landscaped by Capability Brown...


NP: Tommy Trinder challenged.

TOMMY TRINDER: That is no way to describe the Wandsworth Road!



NP: And Jenny it's back with you to begin and the subject now, a great subject for you I'm sure, a bodice ripper. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

JENNY ECLAIR: I wish I had the sort of bosom that could rip fabric. Unfortunately I've got one of those mean British measly old women's bosoms...


NP: Gyles challenged.

GB: This is truly deviation!

NP: You mean she's well upholstered?

GB: She has got beautiful breasts!

PM: Well there's only one way to find out!

JE: They're not going to rip fabric, let's face it Gyles!



NP: Well he hasn't started yet, but he'll start I hope, soon, sometime on Spanish dancing starting now.

BARRY TOOK: Tap, tap, tap, tap! Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap...


BT: ...tap, tap, tap...

NP: Clement Freud has challenged you.

BT: What on earth for?

NP: Too many taps!



NP: Twenty-nine seconds, Achilles heel starting now.

PM: My Achilles heel is that I find Nicholas Parsons intensely sexually attractive. When I look over there at that blazer and that tie, his hair, the glasses, everything about him says "take me"! I don't know what it is. I go home at night, I see these visions of this erstwhile chairman coming towards me. The silvery glint in his eyes, beckoning...


NP: Stephen Fry you've challenged.

SF: This is not an Achilles heel, this is a strength!

PM: It is!



NP: Bob Monkhouse will begin the next round and the subject is my happiest holiday. Bob will you tell us something about that in Just A Minute starting now.

BM: My happiest holiday was spent at a nudist camp. Because I approve of nudism, except of course on Flag Days. I believe that there is nothing to be ashamed of in the human body, or in mine either, for that matter. And so I like naturist colonies where men and woman can go to air their differences...



NP: Tony, you, you have, er, the subject. Bubble and squeak, 25 seconds, starting now.

TONY HAWKS: As a teenager, I had three hamsters: Bubble, Squeak and Norman.


NP: Ah, Clement challenged.

CF: Norma?

TH: Norman, it was a male.

NP: Norman.

CF: How can you sex a hamster?

TH: By, uh, staying in a lot and not having many friends!


NP: Spontaneous improvised comedy is the most exciting and exhilarating entertainment. And it's been a privilege and a joy to be associated with such an iconic show for four decades. Here's to the next 40 years. Thank you so much for listening.