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 only in this country and around the world. And to welcome to the programme four talented, exciting, clever, original performers who are going to show off their dexterity with words and literature and knowledge as they try and speak on a subject that I give them, and they try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And they are, seated on my left, Sue Perkins and Marcus Brigstocke. And seated on my right, Sheila Hancock and Paul Merton. Will you please welcome all four of them! Beside me sits Sarah Sharpe, who is going to help me keep the score, she is going to blow a whistle when the 60 seconds have elapsed. And this particular edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Radio Theatre in the heart of Broadcasting House in the centre of London W1. And we begin the show this week with Sue Perkins. Who better? Sue would you try and talk on this subject, how I'd describe myself to an alien. Sixty seconds starting now.

SUE PERKINS: Well it all depends on the mode of communication. If I'm on the phone, I'd say I'm tall, slim, long, blonde hair, enormous hooters and incredibly easy to please. In real life I'd say spectacles, on my home planet, mean that I am the Queen of all I survey, and hope I got away with it. I'm a faint believer in extra-terrestrial life, although I have not prepared a welcome speech seeing as there are far more people suitable to meet and greet when it comes to ET and his ilk. However I have seen the Roswell alien, not up close and personal. But it has a distinct resemblance to my late grandmother who was grey around the gills with an enormous and pendulous goitre....


NP: Marcus challenged.

MARCUS BRIGSTOCKE: Yes, repetition of enormous.

NP: You had enormous before.

MB: Yes the first was hooters and the second, the second a goitre.

NP: So well listened Marcus. Marcus Brigstocke has got a correct challenge, he gets a point for that, he takes over the subject and he has 17 seconds available to tell us something about how I'd describe myself to an alien starting now.

MB: The first thing I would want to make absolutely clear to an alien is that I am allergic to being probed. This having been a theme of alien visits over the years. Various simpletons from planet Earth have been taken into the mother ship and have had things inserted into them in a terribly uncomfortable...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: I was in a reverie then. It was almost a sort of panicked reflex at the idea of being taken into the mother ship and having things inserted. I thought it was hesitation but I think he...

NP: No, darling, it wasn't.

SP: I know, I know.

NP: What happens Marcus is you have an incorrect challenge and you get another point and you have one second available now.

MB: Really?

NP: Yes, how I'd describe myself to an alien starting now.

MB: GSOH, non-smoker.


NP: In this game whoever is speaking when the whistle goes gains an extra point. On this occasion it was Marcus Brigstocke and he is the only one to have scored any points at all in that round. And Marcus, actually the next subject has been created for you to start. So you are going to carry on and the subject is hob-nobbing, 60 seconds starting now.

MB: Well hob-nobbing is not to be confused with hobbit knobbing, which is of course illegal in New Zealand. But hob-nobbing over here is a form of chatter used by the aristocracy as they talk to each other about the sort of things they find important, like sending their money away, and when it comes back, it's bigger. They use the same approach with their children of course. When the elite meet each other they also like to discuss how much money they have...


NP: Yes Sue challenged.

SP: Repetition of money.

NP: There was too much money there.

MB: Yes of course.

NP: Sue a correct challenge and 33 seconds are still available, you tell us something about hob-nobbing starting now.

SP: Hob-nobbing is used to describe socialising with biscuits which I have done on many occasions when bored and lonely. Oh the ribald jests I have had with a borbonne, I can't tell you. Sitting there on lonely miserable days as I pick out something from a packet that is possibly sandwich, a custard creme perhaps. And eulogising and waxing lyrical on things that occur to me on the spur of the moment. The conversation is one-sided, that is no matter to me. For I find I can talk pretty much endlessly to any kind of confection you could possibly wish to imagine. A Romani creme, thankfully...


NP: Paul challenged.

PAUL MERTON: Repetition of creme.

NP: Yes.

SP: Oh yes.

NP: Custard creme...

MP: Yes.

NP: So Paul you've cleverly got in with one second to go on... the show is so unfair after all that hard work of Sue's, she's lost it...

SP: That's my life.

NP: She hasn't lost it, she's lost the subject. And Paul's got it, one second Paul, hob-nobbing starting now.

PM: Prince Charles said to me...


NP: So Paul was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. he is now in second place behind Marcus Brigstocke. Sheila Hancock we would like you to begin the next round, ah an interesting subject, the avant garde. Will you tell us something about the avant garde in this game starting now.

SHEILA HANCOCK: The avant garde actually means the vanguard of any kind of art or music. It's a strange choice really because guard gives the impression it is something to be protected. But in fact the avant garde opens doors, changes the world. Authors like Beckett, Jenae, artists like Picasso who now is considered one of the establishment was in fact one of the avant garde...


SH: One of.

NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Rather unfortunately, repetition of one of.

NP: One of, one of those, yes right. So Paul, a correct challenge, 32 seconds, you tell us something about the avant garde starting now.

PM: In many ways I think perhaps as Sheila was saying the avant garde can influence the mainstream and after a number of...


PM: What happened then? What happened then?

NP: Sheila Hancock challenged you.

SH: I wasn't saying that at all.

PM: Weren't you. Well I was trying to put some flesh on it, you know what I mean?

NP: So your challenge is?

SH: Deviation.

NP: Yes so Sheila, another correct challenge, a point to you of course, the avant garde and there are 25 seconds starting now.

SH: Heyden in his time was considered very avant garde. Now John Gage...


NP: Marcus challenged.

MB: Hiding is considered avant garde?

SH: He was in his time. In his time he was incredibly revolutionary.

MB: It's a game! I'm so sorry, are you talking about a person? I thought...

SP: Heyden, not Heyden, he's talking about hide and seek.

NP: But what happens Sheila is, you get another point for an incorrect challenge so you keep the subject, 20 seconds are still available, the avant garde starting now.

SH: Four thirty-three is what he wrote which was silence. People sat there and now perhaps that will become the norm. In film there was Bunuel and Cocteau. And in writing...


NP: Marcus.

MB: Well I wouldn't normally do repetition on a word like in. But it was repetition of that.

SH: Yeah it was.

NP: It was.

SH: He's remembering the last time we played this.

NP: Heavily emphasises dragged out in.

MB: Yes that's why I noticed it.

PM: Yeah.

NP: Avant garde is with you Marcus, two seconds available starting now.

MB: When art is rubbish, it is usually...


NP: So Marcus Brigstocke was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. He's increased his lead, he's one ahead of Sheila Hancock and he's two ahead of Paul Merton, and four ahead of Sue Perkins, if you're interested in the scores.

MB: Well they're not important Nicholas, but it's lovely to hear them.

NP: Right Paul, would you begin the next round, my love of the absurd. It suits you very well with your surreal thoughts on occasions but talk on that subject in 60 seconds if you can starting now.

PM: I manage to indulge my love of the absurd, but I'm currently directing a BB programme and... oh!


NP: Oh that was a classic Just A Minute blunder.

SH: The old...

NP: You knew you couldn't have BB and you left out the C.

PM: Yeah I was being absurd!

NP: You were but what was your challenge Sue?

SP: Repetition of B.

NP: Yeah I'm afraid so.

PM: Yeah.

NP: Yes it wasn't absurd enough to gain a point. So Sue Perkins you have the subject, my love of the absurd, 54 seconds starting now.

SP: I'm a fan of absurdist drama. Authors like Simpson, Ionesco. The idea you could have a fairly staid set of dramatic principals and suddenly in the middle of the action, a rhinoceros would appear, or a hole manifest itself in the ground. It's an extraordinary idea, absurdism...


NP: Marcus challenged.

MB: Yeah repetition of idea.

NP: Yes there were two ideas there. So Marcus you've got another point, you have 36 seconds, you have my love of the absurd starting now.

MB: My love of the absurd. Well I can tell you that she hates it when I call her that. But nonetheless my wife is an interesting woman and occasionally absurd when she tells me off for pointless... I'm running out of...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: He was hesitating.

NP: Yes we call that hesitation. Sue you got in with 23 seconds on this subject, my love of the absurd starting now.

SP: Physical comedy is often predicated on the absurd. A man, woman, walking across the street, suddenly slips on a banana skin. Funnier too if it happens to be the Pontiff or an established member of the aristocracy. It's that juxtaposition of two different scenarios, the high and mighty meeting something calamitous and yet incredibly banal. I'm a massive advocate of the idea you confuse the...


NP: So Sue Perkins with her command of language and words kept going until the whistle went, gained that extra point. She's moved forward into second place alongside Sheila Hancock. And Sue we would like you to begin the next round and the subject, I don't know whether it is your scene or not, but it is the Aztecs.

SP: Oh yeah, that's my scene!

NP: Is it?

SP: Yes it was massive in Croydon in the 1980s.

NP: Tell us something about the Aztecs in this game, 60 seconds starting now.

SP: The Aztecs were an esoteric tribe in central Mexico...


NP: Ah Paul challenged.

PM: Wasn't there a hesitation there, an er.

NP: There was a er.

PM: Did you hear that?

NP: I heard it definitely.

PM: Okay.

NP: Sue, for someone who is normally so fluent, you did actually put an er in your...

SP: I did indeed.

NP: Yes and Paul you got in with 56 seconds on the Aztecs starting now.

PM: Monty Zuma, one of the finest Jewish tailors in Shepherds Bush, was looking out of his window one day and suddenly saw the Aztecs coming towards him. They had got lost south of Mexico, gone via Peru and ended up somewhere near Fulham. It was outrageous. The Aztecs turned to him and said "we invented chocolate and yet Bourneville came along and paid us slave wages". That might be libellous, I'm not sure if it happened at all, it might not have done. And Mars, they were equally as bad...


PM: Rowntree's, don't get me going on them... what happened then?

NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Deviation. He said he wasn't quite sure whether it happened or not. I think he should just admit it's unlikely.

PM: It was metaphysical.

SP: Yes.

PM: Metaphorical.

NP: So what is your challenge.

SP: Deviation from the subject.

NP: The whole thing was deviation. So I don't know what I do, really. I think, what we'll do is because, technically I think you're correct, I'll give you a bonus point for the benefit of the doubt. And Paul because we loved what you were doing...

PM: Yes there mightn't be much more of it.

NP: And having gone into the surreal...

PM: Yes.

NP: ... you're entitled to remain in the surreal...

PM: Okay.

NP: And you have 35 seconds starting now.

PM: They were very big on pyramids, 15...


NP: Sheila Hancock challenged.

SH: I don't think they were!

PM: Aztecs, pyramids, yeah.

NP: No no no, Aztecs weren't pyramids.

SH: Egyptians.

NP: That was the Egyptians.

SH: The Egyptians.

PM: I remember seeing an advert for Aztec chocolate bars where this bloke walks up a pyramid. I know that's not really historical research but, did they not have pyramids, the Aztecs.

SH: No.

MB: Yes they did.

PM: They did have pyramids.

MB: They did, they absolutely did! Built, built, they, they think before the pyramids in Egypt.

PM: Yeah.

MB: The Aztecs predated them with their triangular...

SH: Are you sure?

MB: Yeah, well Sheila, I wasn't there, but I'm as sure as I can be.

PM: We need an eye witness!

SP: Talk to Nicholas who was.

PM: We need an eye witness! Nicholas did the Aztecs build pyramids? Before the Mexicans? Did they build pyramids before the Mexicans?

NP: Well, not when I was there.

PM: No.

SH: They are, they are up on that hill, aren't they? Don't you have to go miles up to find them, the Aztec ruins?

MB: No I think you may be thinking of Machipechu which...

SH: Yes I am! Maybe they did have pyramids wherever they were.

MB: They did have pyramids.

PM: I don't go around claiming people have pyramids if they didn't. I've got better things to do with my time.

SH: Incidentally Paul...

NP: I think as you were in the realms of the surreal...

PM: Yeah.

NP: We will allow you to again have the benefit of the doubt and continue with the Aztecs with 32 seconds starting now.

PM: (laughs) Thirty-two seconds to talk about the Aztecs is not as bad as it seems because now it's probably about 24. At...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: It's probably about 27.

NP: So what's your challenge?

SP: Deviation from time as we know it which...

NP: Actually that's incorrect. Because his timing was correct so I think you're going to continue on the Aztecs Paul...

PM: Yeah great.

NP: Twenty-six seconds starting now.

PM: One of the finest experts on Aztec history lives just over the road from me at the University College of London. His name is a magnificent name...


PM: I was trying to avoid professor.

NP: Right Sue, I think we know what the challenge is.

SP: Repetition of name.

NP: Yes.

PM: Yes.

NP: So at last you've got in on the subject Sue, 16 seconds, the Aztecs starting now.

SP: The Aztexcs love burritos, mariachi bands and human sacrifices. And were doing rather nicely, thank you very much, until around the 1520s when I think the Spanish turned up. A Cokistadore gave them a blanket...


NP: Marcus challenged.

MB: I think it's Conquistador...

NP: It is.

MB: Not Cokistadore.

SP: I'm just a bit common.

NP: I think that's deviation from the correct word or the correct pronunciation.

MB: Yes.

SP: (in Spanish accent) Cokistadore.

NP: Conquistador.

MB: When you pronounce it like that!

NP: Marcus, benefit of the doubt...

MB: Oh thank you.

NP: You get the subject because that is the correct pronunciation. The Aztecs with you, five seconds starting now.

MB: As text speak takes over I find it increasingly difficult to understand what young people are saying...


NP: So Marcus Brigstocke was then speaking as the whistle went and gained that extra point. He's just ahead of Paul Merton, and he's just ahead of Sue Perkins who is just ahead of Sheila Hancock in that order. And Marcus Brigstocke we are back with you to begin and the subject now is winter sports. From Aztecs to winter sports, what a range we cover in this show. Sixty seconds starting now.

MB: I love winter sports. For those of you not familiar it mainly involves paying a phenomenal amount of money to be carried in a lift to the top of the mountain and then prevent yourself from dieing on the way down. This is not easy to achieve, particularly because you have to attach levers to your feet which is something the human body can barely withstand. However I can promise you that hurtling down the side of a hill, with snow spraying in your face, feeling like you are conquering nature is entirely a mistake. Because you're almost certainly going to hit a tree or a rock as Sonny Bono did and so many before him. But I find that being in that wonderful big blue sky with a cold wind rushing towards me and the feeling that I am somehow dynamic and not a man crashing towards 40 fills me with joy and a sense of power that I know I don't truly possess. And yet somehow with my feet strapped down like that I...


NP: Well that was truly magnificent! You were...

MB: I'm done! Thank you.

NP: You were really reliving what you love so much. Marcus you not only kept going until the whistle went and you gained that extra point for doing so, you get a bonus point for not being interrupted. You got the points this time and there you are, out in the lead, way ahead of the others. And Sheila Hancock we would like you to begin the next round, the subject, oh interesting, how to cope with a bore, 60 seconds starting now.

SH: I'm not really equipped to answer this question, but I will Paul. Because I always get trapped in parties by the most boring people on Earth. They tell me their life histories and I am much too kind to say "please go away, you are boring me to death". I read an obituary last week...


NP: Marcus challenged.

MB: Yes repetition of boring. The word on the card is bore.

NP: So Marcus, another point, gosh, you are on song tonight, aren't you. Forty-four seconds available, how to cope with a bore starting now.

MB: I find the best way to cope with a bore is just to buzz in and stop them from speaking. However I think that under the circumstances, making that...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Deviation from the respect owed to Sheila Hancock!

PM: Yes!

MB: I was just about to go on and say that that does not apply to the most recent buzz I just did.

PM: So people, here's your champion now!

MB: It's gone to my head folks. I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself.

NP: I don't think you should ever have started on that line actually.

MB: I agree!

NP: Yes and the audience agree...

SH: He's actually right.

NP: ... that I should take the subject away from you.

MB: Oh yeah absolutely, they've turned on me!

NP: And give the benefit of the doubt to Sheila Hancock.

SH: I didn't buzz.

NP: I know you didn't but you're going to get it because of what he said about you. How to cope with a bore Sheila and there are 34 seconds starting now.

SH: This lady went to a very boring do and she was...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Repetition of boring.

SH: Oh God!

NP: You used the word last time you were speaking on the subject.

SH: Oh yes! Wake up Sheila!

NP: Yes Paul we are with you now, on how to cope with a bore and 31 seconds available starting now.

PM: Get hold of their tusks and flip them quickly over your head, and the animal will have no idea in which direction it is meant to be going. They can be quite vicious. Their habitat is the forests and woodland of Kent and Sussex and if you find yourself in those particular locales and in you...


PM: I went into an Aztec saying then! That's the old Aztec saying, when you see a boar, you go oriore...

NP: Sue you challenged.

SP: Hesitation.

NP: Yes you did. Right Sue, 14 seconds, how to cope with a bore starting now.

SP: I know how to cope with a bore because I am one at parties. I'm the person who comes up and endlessly discusses the weather or what to do about the current political situation. You won't be able to get away from me because I talk so quickly I very rarely pause for breath...


NP: So Sue Perkins was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. And she is now in second place alongside Paul Merton, behind Marcus Brigstocke. Paul we'd like you to begin the next round, the subject is my garden shed. I don't know whether you have one.

PM: No I don't even...

NP: But talk on the subject of my garden shed starting now.

PM: (country accent) My garden shed is a magnificent structure. I built it last Christmas as I was looking to plant some chrysanthemums down by the lower paddock. And you know there's an old country saying that says , people on the radio who can't do the accent shouldn't bother. And I think there's a lot of truth in that. Was it not Marie Antoinette who said one Christmas "oh those spuds that I planted last August, will they never come up? What shall I give my guests?" And the King said to her "you are a historical anachronism that has been fitted into a story for no purpose..."


NP: Sheila you challenged.

SH: This is not about garden sheds, is it! It's gone way off the subject!

NP: I hadn't thought about it, I was enjoying it so much.

PM: Well Marie Antoinette was growing her stuff around the back of the garden shed you see.

NP: You'd got away from my garden shed and that is true, Sheila.

SH: He wasn't even talking about sheds.

NP: I know, you've got the correct challenge.

SP: It's a nice gaffe you've got though. You've got a paddock and everything!

PM: Yeah yeah lovely, it's indoors.

NP: Sheila, correct challenge, a point and 25 seconds, my garden shed starting now.

SH: My garden shed is used for little seedlings and growing things that I am going to replant in the garden. I have pots and I have shears...


NP: Paul challenged.

SH: I haven't got a garden shed!

PM: Yeah! Repetition of have.

NP: I have, I have, yes.

SH: Yes.

NP: Paul, you've got the subject back, you've got 14 seconds, my garden shed starting now.

PM: I do have a garden shed and like most garden sheds, it is made of wood. Good solid pine. As I look at it, I can't help but feel that British craftsmanship is...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Slight stumbling on British craftsmanship.

PM: Yeah definitely!

SP: Slight hesitative stumble.

NP: He got the word out.

PM: I got the word out!

SH: No he didn't, he stumbled.

PM: You haven't even got a garden shed, I don't know what you're butting in for. At least I've got a shed.

SH: You haven't!

PM: I have!

SH: Have you?

PM: Yeah.

SH: Oh.

PM: I saved up for it. And I'll have a garden one day to go with it, just you see! Just you see!

NP: Paul I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt.

PM: Oh yeah, all right.

NP: Three seconds, tell us more about my garden shed starting now.

PM: The interior is beautiful, full of screws...


NP: Marcus you challenged.

MB: Well deviation, he said it's a simple wooden structure made of pine. I mean how beautiful could it be.

PM: Oh full of screws, washers, very neat, it all looks lovely.

MB: Yeah, lovely, it's not beautiful though, is it Paul.

PM: I've got a bastard file hanging up just there.

SH: What's that?

PM: It's something they use in metalwork. You look it up, it's not swearing, in metalwork they use a bastard file.

SH: What is it?

PM: It's a file that's a bastard.

NP: Actually Marcus, if you have a garden shed and you love it...

PM: Yeah.

NP: ... then things inside it do have a beauty for you.

SP: You see this shed is in the eye of the beholder.

PM: Yes.

NP: So benefit of the doubt Paul, oh gosh, you've only got half a second, right, my garden shed Paul starting now.

PM: Tulips!


NP: So Paul Merton was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. And I've just been told we are moving into the final round. And right, I'll give you the situation as we do. Sheila Hancock who did so well the last time these four were together is trailing a little in fourth place. She's not very far behind Sue Perkins who did so well the last time these four were together. She's in second place, but in the lead jointly are Marcus Brigstocke and Paul Merton. And Sue it's your turn to begin. We'd like you to take the subject and begin on anything and everything. Quite bizarre, 60 seconds starting now.

SP: Bats always fly left out of a cave. It's impossible to cry in space. In World War One, the Germans banned the term gezundheit for sneezers. Pope John Paul was given an honorary membership of the incredible baseball team, the Harlem Globetrotters. Scuba divers can never fart at a depth below 33 metres.


NP: Paul do tell me, you are going to contest that last remark, are you.

PM: Well I was going to say it's fun trying! But anything and everything of course, you can't deviate at all from that, can you? Because it's anything and everything so there can't be any deviation.

MB: I felt there was a bit of a deviation. There was a lot of anything but I didn't feel we'd arrived at everything.

SP: I was getting to it.

PM: Well...

SP: I was building towards everything.

NP: You have the benefit of the doubt Sue. Because I think you were keeping going on that subject without deviation and there are 32 seconds available starting now.

SP: Nothing, no word in the English language can rhyme with month. Oranges taste unpleasant to members of the Perkins family to whom they are allergic. My grand...


NP: Paul, Sheila challenged.

SH: Did you say nothing can rhyme with...

SP: Month.

SH: ... muff?

SP: Month.

NP: Month.

SP: Wow!

MB: Yes and in fairness, it's not strictly true that nothing can rhyme with month. My brother has a lisp and doesn't like the people he works with.

SP: Welcome to BBC Radio Four!

PM: Nicholas, Nicholas, whatever you do, don't explain it.

NP: I think there is word that rhymes with month.

SP: What is it?

NP: I don't know. Sue you have the benefit of the doubt, you have the subject of anything and everything and 21 seconds starting now.

SP: Some gerbils are born pregnant. In fact mine wasn't, although I did once have a hamster that had elephantitis of the testicles and we used to use him as a parlour game. We would place him on the mat and watch him drag his enormous spacehopper-like appendages around. It was like an ersatz circus that took place every day in our household. How we laughed at the wee fellow attempting to...


NP: Anything and everything, well that's right. Anything and everything, it was very devious, but it was anything and everything. But Sue you kept going until the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so, you have moved forward. So the lovely Sheila Hancock was in fourth place. But she trailed Sue Perkins. But Marcus Brigstocke and Paul Merton were equal in first place so another round of applause for our winners. It only remains for me to say thank you to these four fine intrepid players of the game, Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock, Sue Perkins and Marcus Brigstocke. I thank Sarah Sharpe, who has helped me with the score, she has blown that whistle most delicately after the 60 seconds elapsed. We thank Tilusha Ghelani who is our producer. We are indebted to Ian Messiter who created this amazing game. And we are grateful to this lovely audience here in the Radio Theatre who have cheered us on our way magnificently. From the audience, from me Nicholas Parsons and the team, good-bye. Tune in the next time we play Just A Minute! Yes!