starring PAUL MERTON, SUE PERKINS, STEPHEN FRY and FI GLOVER, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Radio, 20 June 2011)

NOTE: Stephen Fry's final radio appearance.

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 not only in this country but around the world. But to welcome to the programme four exciting, talented, witty, clever players of this game who are going to display their verbal dexterity and wit and knowledge as they talk on the subject that I give them, and they try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And those four are, seated on my right, Stephen Fry and Fi Glover and Sue Perkins and Paul Merton. Please welcome all four of them! Beside me sits Sarah Sharpe, who is going to help me with the score, she will blow the whistle when the 60 seconds are up. So let's begin the show with Stephen Fry. Oh, the best way to greet someone. Will you tell us about that subject in this game starting now.

STEPHEN FRY: Well I think warmth is important. But short of a sexual lubricity or lubriciousness, a kind of enthusiasm or passion, politeness or politesse, a little element of Höflichkeit, as they say in German. Always goes, I think, a long way when greeting someone, whether a friend, a nodding acquaintance or a complete stranger. Whatcha cock is not probably the right way to do it. Nor would I say sup as young people like to do, which I believe is short for what is up. So greeting has become, if you like, a rather old fashioned form of etiquette. It's almost not necessary these days, it seems. You simply nod your head and give their Christian name. I am in no position to deprecate this, it may be the very best way to greet. Greet incidentally in Scottish means to mourn, to lament. A dirge is a greet. That's quite irrelevant in some respects but it's still relevant to the word on the card, and that's all that I have to do, in order to speak for a minute, I hope...


NP: Well, what a brilliant way to begin the show! Someone took the subject, in this case Stephen Fry, went with it for the full 60 seconds, and you not only kept going without hesitation, repetition or deviation, but you get a point for not being interrupted, and a bonus point for speaking when the whistle went. Two points to Stephen Fry and none to anybody else at the moment. So let's go on to Sue Perkins, will you take the next subject, loyalty cards, 60 seconds starting now.

SUE PERKINS: Loyalty cards are a way of simply saying I don't get out much. It used to mean a swearing or allegiance to country, state, a lover, something portentous. Now it simply bleats, I go to the same place every day and might get a couple of quid off after I've lashed thousands and thousands... I've repeated thousands!


SP: I deserve it. Elementary error.

NP: Stephen you spotted it first, you pressed first, and you got in with 36 seconds to go on loyalty cards starting now.

SF: I think it was on this very, very programme... oh dear!


NP: So Paul you had a correct challenge, and you have a point for a correct challenge of course, and you have 34 seconds still available, loyalty cards starting now.

PAUL MERTON: I remember when I was 16 years old, this man handed me my national insurance card and said that it's very important that you keep this number your, committed to your memory. And I have in fact, but I realise now there's no point to me trying to say this because there'd probably be some kind of security lapse if I was to tell you that my exact, er...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Hesitation, though I was holding out to hear the actual number and writing it down.

PM: Yeah.

NP: I'm afraid you're not going to get it because you got in with a correct challenge and 18 seconds are still available, loyalty cards Sue, starting now.

SP: I have a nectar card and to this day don't have a clue what it entitles me to. It fills up my wallet, occasionally get dusty. I present it in the wrong stores and I'm met with frowns. "We don't take that here." I presumed I might be able to get money off, sadly that's been somewhat lacking. Occasionally I...


NP: So Sue Perkins was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. And has moved into second place behind Stephen Fry, just ahead of Paul Merton and Fi Glover. And Fi we'd like you to begin the next round, crawling. Sixty seconds starting now.

FI GLOVER: Crawling is one of those things that is very very...


NP: Oh! She's only played the game once before.

FG: I'm just copying it! I'm just copying Stephen!

NP: Sue you challenged first, crawling, 56 seconds starting now.

SP: I have crawled twice in my life, firstly as a toddler, secondly as I approach my fortieth birthday. What a night that was! I ended up on Hampstead Heath remarking upon a slow moving hedgehog coming towards my line of vision. It was then I realised I was on all fours, mimicking it. I was delighted there were no members of the Heath constabulary, ready...


NP: Fi challenged.

FG: Two Heaths.

NP: Two Heath, Heath constabulary.

FG: Yes.

SF: Top work.

NP: I think they're called Heath rangers, by the way. They're not constabulary. It doesn't matter.

SF: I don't think...

SP: That's very camp, Heath rangers.

PM: Do you often get a torch shone in your face?

SP: They told Nicholas they were Heath rangers!

PM: Yeah! They told him it was a torch!

SF: It was the sound of belt buckles hitting the ground that should have warned you!

NP: (in accent) Would you try and explain what you're doing here, sir?

SF: Good heavens!

NP: I lived at one time with my family on the edge of the Heath, and because, and the police used to come round and we used to chat to them. And he said (in accent) "you know, over in the bushes, sir," he said "you'd be surprised, some nights, the people we get over there, you know, doing naughty things. I don't want to say more because the children are around. But you'd be surprised, we get them, and they're up to no good at all these fellows. And you know, they're doctors and lawyers and solicitors, you know, and vicars and all kinds of people". (normal voice) I thought that was rather funny but it doesn't really matter.

SF: There's a very, there's a very sweet story of Alan Bennett who was walking in the Heath, taking notes, thinking, you know, composing his plays and so on. And someone came up to him and said "have you got a light?" And he said "no I don't smoke". And the fellow went "oh okay" and looked at him and walked away. And then Alan suddenly realised he'd been propositioned so he called after him "but thank you"!

NP: Brilliant! Brilliant! Fi you challenged on Heath.

FG: Yes I did.

NP: You did yes, it's come back to me now. Right, 34 seconds, crawling Fi starting now.

FG: The A-303 is an absolutely miserable way that...



SP: It's a cruel mistress! I'd travel on the A-30 if I were you! It's a much easier route.

NP: Yeah if you're coming on Just A Minute, avoid the A-303.

FG: Yeah, avoid it at all costs.

NP: But I must say, out of fairness to the game, give it to Stephen, because he challenged first. Crawling is with you Stephen, 31 seconds by the way, starting now.

SF: Sycophancy is a kind of crawling, toadying, flattery, pandering. Has an interesting derivation. It means to show figs. It seems in Greek days those who displayed that fruit to potential buyers were immensely obsequious in their manner and so were called that name, sycophantic is of course the adjective of it. Crawling is not regarded as a very attractive human quality, in fact many of us regard it as frankly, somewhat unappealing...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Repeat of regard. There were two regards.

NP: Two regards.

SF: Oh were there, yeah yeah. One for that.

NP: Well listened Sue and you got in with three seconds to go on crawling starting now.

SP: Nobody bothers to crawl to me. I am seen as someone who might...


NP: So Sue Perkins speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point, has moved forward. She's taken the lead ahead of Stephen Fry, Paul and Fi are trailing a little. But Paul we'd like you to begin the next round, the subject is my musical abilities. Tell us something about that in this game starting now.

PM: When I was seven years old, I was a bit of a child prodigy. They used to see me playing on the linoleum. And then when I went to school, I was given the ukulele and a violin and I was asked to choose which particular musical instrument I would like to play. I... oh!


NP: Sue you challenged.

SP: Hesitation.

NP: Yes there was. So you've got in with 47 seconds on my musical abilities, Sue starting now.

SP: I won't lie, I'm committed to music but I can barely play a note. I falter particularly with the piano. I started learning at the age of six with a woman called Mrs Green who was possessed of one singular tooth. And she would whistle through it as she demanded I play endless scales...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Play.

NP: Yes play, so Stephen you got in with 31 seconds on my musical abilities starting now.

SF: Sadly I have Van Gogh's ear for music and yet I adore it. It is one of the passions of my life. I wish that I could express it. I feel like a bird that cannot fly, a fish that is unable to swim. Inside me is this powerful impulse for the deepest of all the arts, I believe. And yet I simply do not have the capacity to sing or to play or to drum...


NP: Fi challenged.

FG: Well I think there was a play. Did he play too much?

SF: Not that I remember but you may well be right. Nicholas will remember of course.

NP: He repeated or three times.

SF: I certainly said or a lot, didn't I.

NP: So...

FG: Can I nick your or?

NP: Right you said or, and you've got nine seconds Fi, on my musical abilities starting now.

FG: It will surprise many of you that I used to play the oboe to grade eight standard which is why I have got crushingly appalling teeth because...


FG: So everybody else had terrible trouble with that.

NP: So Fi Glover was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. And she's moved forward, she's in third place behind Stephen Fry, and Sue Perkins still in the lead. Stephen, this is an interesting subject that's been chosen, probably specially for you, it's a 36 letter word, it's hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. I don't know whether you can pronounce it, if so you'll do well...

SF: Yeah.

NP: You've heard of it, will you talk on that subject starting now.

SF: I think it's hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia which is a fear of long words. Sesquippedalio is a long word of course and I've said long word twice, probably three times now...


NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: Um well ah it was a repetition of long word.

NP: That's right yes and there are 49 seconds for you Paul on...

PM: Sorry what was the subject again?

NP: I knew you were going to do that. Hippopoto, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia. You're writing it down, are you?

PM: Writing it down would be pointless.

NP: And you have 49 seconds starting now.

PM: The fear of long words as Nicholas has just pronounced is one that I share. Because often language is used to obscure meaning or perhaps to indicate some other direction that the speaker wants you to go in that is perhaps camouflaging...


NP: Oh yes Stephen challenged.

SF: Two perhapses there.

NP: Two perhapses I'm afraid yes. Stephen you've got 34 seconds, tell us more about hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia in this game starting now.

SF: If one's to break the thing down it comes to a large river mammal, added to a sense of monstrosity and the Latin for one and a half feet, which means prolixity using sophomoric over-long if you like constructions. It's not again considered appealing, it's showing off. Cigar store words, the Americans prefer little ones, bitty ones. But we...


SF: Oops!

NP: Sue challenged.

SP: Repetition of ones.

SF: Yay.

NP: Little ones, bitty ones. Right, nine seconds for you Sue on this subject starting now.

SP: I have recently diagnosed myself with a phobia of pronouncing the word for long words...


NP: Fi challenged.

FG: Oh well it's words, but it's words and the word thing.

SP: Words, word.

NP: Yes.

FG: Word and words, sorry. I'm sorry.

NP: No, don't apologise, we love to hear from you. Sue you have two seconds on hippopotomonstrosesquippedalio, hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia, and two seconds starting now.

SP: I actually met a hippo once, he was absolutely charming!


NP: Sue Perkins was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point, has increased her lead at the end of the round. And Sue it's actually, we are back with you to begin and this subject is what you can find in my local library. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

SP: Now Nicholas, I don't want to teach you to suck eggs. But what I find in my local library are books, mainly for people to take away and borrow. They can open the doors, present a card and then leave with nuggets of literature, bound in plastic so n'ere a spill should tarnish their incredible cover. For those who have tunnel vision there also volumes that will allow them to read at some distance. My grandmother used to love a Catherine Cookson from a library. She would mount it at the end of a hallway and still with those un-cateracted eyes be able to make out even the most nugatory of vowels. It is an incredible place of learning. We must fight to make sure that no government removes these accessible institutions...


SP: ... which gain those who have no recourse...


SP: Save the libraries!

NP: Sue your timing was impeccable! You not only kept going without hesitation, repetition or deviation for the full 60 seconds, and you got two points, one for not being interrupted and one for speaking when the whistle went. And Fi it's your turn to begin, the subject, making up your wedding vows. Mmmm, tell us something about that in this game starting now.

FG: I think it would be a very good idea for everybody to make up their wedding vows on a purely individual basis, and to be a little more realistic about what it is they're expecting from a lifetime of unity. I would break this down into days of the week and I would say "dearest Rick, husband of mine, on a Monday night, would you mind terribly if I came home smelling of gin and tonic and disappointment", to which he would say "I don't mind at all". He would then say "do you mind if on Tuesday evening I might arrive back at the front door of our delightful abode smelling..."


SP: Two smellings.

FG: I smelt, didn't I, I did. I went whiffy, I went off.

NP: You were a bit too much odorant, weren't you.

FG: Yes I did.

NP: Right Sue, a correct challenge, 26 seconds, making up your wedding vows starting now.

SP: If I were to get married, I would choose not to obey. Equally I would opt not to love or cherish either, because I'm a capricious sausage...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: What's wrong with Ivor?

SP: I've gone off him!

PM: Have you? Sorry, is this on? Is this on?

NP: So an incorrect challenge then, Sue you still have got making up your wedding vows starting now.

SP: It's a new vogue for people to suddenly freestyle when they get to the altar, less acceptable in heterosexual liasons which are sanctioned by the Lord above. However if one goes off-piste sexually, you can pretty much do what you like. You can get married in a taverna with people singing...


NP: So Sue Perkins is truly on song today and she got another point for speaking as the whistle went then and it increased her lead over Stephen Fry, Paul Merton and Fi Glover in that order. And Paul we are back with you to begin and the subject is the American dream. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

PM: The American dream. The Americans believe in the American dream and I suppose if you give it a certain amount of credence why shouldn't it work for you. The American dream, is that anybody, if they are born in America, can rise to the position of President of the United States. But of course it's not as easy as that. Some people are in triva...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Well he rather fell apart, I'm sorry to say. It was good, it was good, I liked it and then...

NP: You're covering up your rather acid remark, aren't you.

SF: Yeah yeah.

NP: He paused.

SF: Hesitation yeah.

NP: He paused and you've got a correct challenge Stephen, a point for that, 42 seconds, the American dream starting now.

SF: Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, used the phrase "manifest destiny" to describe that sense that America must always push forward, that it's a land predicated on progress, on movement outward, on gaining. Also of course, I suppose, there's a sense, isn't there, as Paul has already intimated, very accurately, that anybody, no matter who they are or where they were born, from what circumstances they sprang, might rise to the highest office in the land. From the smallest backwoodsman to the little urban slum dweller, there is that faint possibility they could become Foreign Secretary or Secretary of State as they're known...


SF: That's Secretary said twice. Oh dear!

NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: Oh repetition of Secretary.

NP: Yes well done. And he goes for so long, that's the agony of this game, you go for so many seconds and get nothing for it.

SF: I know.

NP: But Paul got in with five seconds to go on the American dream starting now.

PM: I am as disappointed as any of you that there are only five seconds left. I really don't know how to make it up to you. Walt Disney...


NP: So Paul Merton was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point. He's moved forward, he's just ahead of Fi Glover, just beside Stephen Fry, and they're all trailing Sue Perkins a little. Stephen it's your turn to begin, and we have had the subject of the best way to greet someone. We'd now like you to take the subject of the worst way to greet someone. You have 60 seconds as usual and your time starts now.

SF: Probably the worst way to greet someone is with disappointment and if you like, acidy. A sense of not caring who they are, not really wanting to know any more about them. Wouldn't that be rude? Impoliteness is perhaps the bane of our life. I do think sweetness of nature, cheerfulness and optimism, are much disregarded qualities in human nature. And they begin with a greeting. So let's remember that the worst way to greet someone as if you don't care who they are. You should matter, they should matter. Oh dear, matter!


NP: Fi you challenged first.

FG: Yes repetition.

NP: Yes. Too much matter there. So Fi you've got in with 27 seconds to go on the worst way to greet someone starting now.

FG: Swearing at somebody is definitely the worst way to greet somebody and it's a...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Two somebodys.

NP: Yeah there were. There was two somebodys.

FG: Oh and in such a short space of time.

SF: I know! It's cruel! I feel horrible! And yet...

FG: And yet...

SF: And yet...

FG: And yet, and yet.

NP: And yet, and yet.

FG: Yeah.

NP: Stephen shall we give you a point for a correct challenge and leave it with Fi because she hasn't played the game much before.

SF: I think you're right, let's patronise her!

NP: You are patronising me now!

FG: I'm over here, I don't want it!

SF: Can someone patronise a man four times his age? I suppose you can.


NP: You're going too far now!

FG: It's only three times!

SF: I'm in trouble now! Oh dear!

NP: Well no, the only trouble you've got in is I'm taking the subject away from you.

SF: Yeah I deserve it!

NP: I am going to give Fi the benefit of the doubt and say there are 22 seconds on the worst way to greet someone starting now.

FG: Didn't really want it back! But anyway now I've got it, I was going to talk about swearing and say that...


NP: Sue challenged.

SP: There was a metaphysical issue of not wanting it, but that's not in the rules. Swearing, repetition of swearing.

NP: No, she talked about swear before, didn't you.

SF: She swear.

SP: Oh forgive me.

NP: She swear, this is swearing.

FG: If you swear, yeah.

SP: I'm wrong, I'm an idiot, I'm a fool. I'm a charlatan, good-bye.

NP: So incorrect challenge Fi, 17 seconds, the worst way to greet someone starting now.

FG: You I'm going to forget about the profane words that might be used as the worst way to greet someone. Instead I'm going to dwell on hand signals which, coming from the world of radio, which I surely do, is often a very effective way to say to someone this is the worst way to greet you. I will spare you as you look like such a delightful audience...


NP: So Fi Glover was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point and she has moved forward but she is still in third place, just ahead of Paul, behind Stephen, Sue still out in the lead. And Sue Perkins we'd like you to begin the next round. Oh a nice subject, Georgian architecture. Tell us something about that, not an easy subject to talk about but a lovely image it conjures up with 60 seconds starting now.

SP: My favourite architecture is Georgian architecture. Who can't but admire the lavish, epic proportions of those beautiful country houses. As they do with (unintelligible) in exquisite parkland, the feature of so many Jane Austen novels. I love Palladian grandeur, the sense of pure space that you can inhabit. You walk into a hallway with its vaulted ceilings, the width of halls, despite the fact the Victorians were yet to come with their lavish gowns. One could slip through so easily in an Empire-lined dress. It shows a commitment to the ample. It says here I am, Imperial monstrosity, that I could wander through architraves with so much space between...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SP: What was I talking about?

SF: It is physically, it's physically impossible to wander through an architrave. An architrave is a solid...

SP: All I can say is thank you.

NP: No the architrave would be above it, you may wander underneath it. But not through it, right. Well listened Stephen, 12 seconds, you tell us something about Georgian architecture starting now.

SF: Elegance, harmony and proportion, I suppose, are the hallmarks of great Georgian architecture. Within urban planning they really did contribute extraordinarily to this capital city in which we are speaking even now...


NP: So Stephen Fry speaking as the whistle went, gained an extra point. He's moved forward. But he is still in second place, ahead of Fi Glover and Paul Merton and Sue is in the lead. We are moving into the final round, right. And in the final round Fi Glover and Paul Merton are equal in third place. They're a few points behind Stephen Fry and he is still three or four points behind Sue Perkins. And Paul we are back with you to begin and the subject is offending people, 60 seconds as usual starting now.

PM: Offending people, sometimes it happens deliberately. Often it can be something that is accidental. You might offend somebody because they don't like the look of you as you walk down the street, the cut of your jib, the shape of your nose, the silhouette that you throw against the public building may be complete anathema to them. They may think to themselves, you are an ugly human being. You do not deserve to walk across this earth. I would like to take your miserable neck. Mind you, I've had some other appearances on Gardener's Question Time that went quite better than that! Also I was... oh...


PM: Going too fast! Too fast!

NP: You were going too well, you were going too fast weren't you.

PM: Going too fast.

NP: You couldn't keep the pace up.

PM: No.

NP: Right, Sue got in, you went for 30 seconds, well done. But Sue got in there with... what was the challenge Sue?

SP: Ah hesitation.

NP: Yes that's right, 30 seconds.... well I have to ask in case it's something different, you see. Thirty seconds, offending people starting now.

SP: I don't like to offend people, and in fact I'm pretty timid in real life. But sometimes just the cut of my jib as Paul was saying can cause umbrage. There's a certain sense that women should deport themselves in a traditional manner, which I don't do. Not by deliberate ploy but simply I can't. I'm not someone who defers, can be demure, look pretty, sit in the corner. No I yap and other words like that. But it's my garrulous nature which sometimes can cause offence. I'm no wallflower...


NP: Right, so Sue Perkins kept going till the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so, and brought the show to a close with a fine panache. Let me give you the final situation. Paul Merton who has been known to excel and win on many occasions, finished in a slightly strong fourth place. Fi Glover who has only played the game once before, filled in a magnificent third place. Stephen Fry who won last time these four were together is in second place. But out in the lead, and nearly five or six points ahead of Stephen, is Sue Perkins. So we say Poo...


SF: We say poo? We say poo! Poo!

SP: Poo!

SF: Poo!

SP: Poo!

SF: Poo!

SP: Poo!

NP: I'll tell you what actually threw me. I was about to say we say...

SP: Poo!

NP: And I was about to say, and there were four people in the front row there with their hands like that, ready to clap, and it just threw me for a moment.

SP: Poo!

NP: So we say out in the lead, so we say this week Sue you are our winner. Thank you. So it only remains for me to say thank you to these four fine exciting, clever players of the game, Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Fi Glover and Stephen Fry. I thank Sarah Sharpe who has helped me with the score, blown her whistle so delicately when the 60 seconds elapsed. We thank our producer Claire Jones. 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. So from them, from me Nicholas Parsons, and the team, thank you, but don't forget, tune in again the next time we play Just A Minute! Yes!