starring PAUL MERTON, PETER JONES, STEPHEN FRY and MARIA McERLANE, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Radio, 17 January 2000)

NICHOLAS PARSONS: Welcome to Just A Minute!


NP: Hello my name is Nicholas Parsons. And as the Minute Waltz fades away once more it is my pleasure to welcome the many listeners throughout the world to the show, but also the four diverse dynamic and scintillating personalities who this week are gathered together to play Just A Minute. We welcome back one of our regular players of the game whose contribution we value so much and that is Paul Merton. We welcome someone who hasn't played so often but we welcome his contribution which has always been so absolutely outstanding and that is Stephen Fry. We welcome back one of the longest standing players of the game and that is Peter Jones. And we welcome someone bringing up the distaff side with her wonderful feminine humourous charm and that is Maria McErlane. Would you please welcome all four of them! As usual I am going to ask them to speak on a subject I will give them and they will try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviating from the subject. Beside me sits Janet Staplehurst who is going to help me keep the score and she will blow her whistle when the 60 seconds are up. And this particular edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Radio Theatre in the heart of Broadcasting House, right near the centre of that great metropolis of London where a lot of people have escaped from the crush to come in here and egg us on our way with a great enthusiasm I'm confident of that. Let's begin the show, Stephen Fry would you take the first subject, it is laying it on with a trowel. Sixty seconds as usual starting now.

STEPHEN FRY: Haha, what do I know of that subject compared to our chairman Nicholas Parsons? Dynamic, diverse, scintillating, talented, warm feminine humour on the distaff side, teaming metropolis and egging us on! That's laying it on with a trowel. I believe the phrase unless I'm much mistaken comes from either As You Like It or Twelfth Night. It's certainly Shakespearean, I think it may be Touchstone or Feste who first described the eupheuistic trope, I suppose one would call it, a hyperbolic mechanism of speech...


NP: And Paul Merton has challenged.

PAUL MERTON: I'm not sure, he might be making up words! I don't know!

NP: So that euphemistic, I don't think...

SF: No, I didn't say euphemistic, I said eupheuistic.

NP: I know! Which is a made-up word.

SF: No, it isn't, no, no it's a 16th century word, it describes the writings of writers like Lodge!

NP: As it was an incorrect challenge Stephen gets a point for an incorrect challenge, he keeps the subject and there are 33 seconds available, laying it on with a trowel Stephen starting now.

SF: The Right Honourable Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, MP, Prime Minister of our country for many years of course, laid it on with a trowel both in the figurative and the literal sense because he was a bricklayer amongst his many other accomplishments. For instance, kicking German bum...


NP: Yes...

PM: Did you say amongst his, amongst his many other accompliments?

NP: He did...

SF: Oh did I?

NP: Yes you did say accompliments...

SF: Well I'm a fool then and I must be punished!

NP: Paul has a correct challenge, he has 19 seconds, laying it on with a trowel, Paul, starting now.

PM: It's probably the best way to build a brick wall in the end, is to get hold of a load of mortar, put it on to a trowel, place the particular substance I mentioned earlier on to a brick, then...


NP: Stephen you challenged.

SF: A couple of bricks.

NP: There were two bricks, you dropped a brick there Paul. Stephen's got in with a correct challenge and got the subject back, seven seconds available, laying it on with a trowel Stephen starting now.

SF: I once laid it on with a towel which is not nearly so recommendable as laying it on with a trowel...


NP: Paul's challenged.

PM: Deviation.

NP: Yes!

PM: The subject's laying it on with a trowel, and he was talking about laying it on with a towel.

NP: I know.

PM: Completely different thing altogether!

NP: I know.

PM: More exciting...

NP: More exciting. Right now it's two seconds, Paul, you have another point for a correct challenge, two seconds available, laying it on with a trowel starting now.

PM: I want you to picture the scene. First of all you must...


NP: Whoever is speaking when the whistle goes gains an extra point. On this occasion it was Paul Merton and at the end of that round you won;t be surprised to discover that they're both, Stephen Fry and Paul Merton are equal together in the lead because the other two haven't spoken yet. Peter Jones will you take the next round, a lovely subject, cults. Would you tell us something about cults in Just A Minute starting now.

PETER JONES: Well they usually have some kind of religious origin, and they've split off from the mainstream. And I know Kenneth Williams, God bless him, he used to use this word quite often. Mostly in the singular. And he once described me as one of them! Well I didn't er, I didn't mind because he called me many things during the many years that he was with us. And what a joyful man he was! And um I don't say much more...


NP: Paul Merton has challenged you.

PJ: Yes.

PM: A possible hesitation.

NP: I think you're possibly correct Paul yes.

PJ: Sorry.

NP: Paul a correct challenge so you have the subject of cults, you have 19 seconds starting now.

PM: As Peter says it was one of Kenneth Williams' catch-phrases on this very programme. He used to say "I'm one of the biggest cults around here! You won't find a bigger one than me!" And that was one of the things he used to say all the time. And I used to love listening...


NP: Stephen you challenged.

SF: Two used to says.

NP: Used to say, used to say, yes indeed. So Stephen listening well gained another point for a correct challenge...

SF: Oh I'm sorry!

NP: He has nine seconds to tell us something about cults starting now.

SF: Moonies have always struck me as a pretty desperate cult but the one that most irritates me is those dianetic people following L Ron Hubbard. I think they call themselves ah Scientologists...


NP: Maria McErlane you've challenged.

MARIA McERLANE: It was a challenge because I thought there was only about three seconds left and he did a hesitation, he hesitated!

SF: Absolutely right!

NP: He did, I mean he not only admitted it, it was a hesitation. But I wouldn't do it just because there's three seconds but er...

MM: I was hoping to get the point and you know how competitive I am.

NP: You've got the point, you've always had the point Maria...

MM: Do I?

NP: Pleasure to have you on the show, yes and it's a very pointed challenge and you have the cults and you have three seconds available starting now.


NP: And Paul Merton's challenged.

PM: I thought I'd challenge because there's only two seconds left!

NP: Yes! Well I think that was a very generous challenge because it was incorrect and so Maria now has another point and she has actually two and a half seconds on cults starting now.

MM: Paul Merton is a right cult frankly!


NP: Maria McErlane was speaking as the whistle went then, gained that extra point for doing so, and she is now in second place behind our joint leaders Paul Merton and Stephen Fry. And Peter Jones is pulling up the rear there. And Maria it's your turn to begin, the subject is knowing when to stop. Tell us something about that Maria in Just A Minute starting now.

MM: Knowing when to stop is very important. For instance if you're driving a car or eating in a self service restaurant, one of which could of course end up in an accident, the other in obesity and possibly death. Knowing when to stop breathing is very important not to do for the...


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Two very importants there.

NP: Very important yes.

MM: I'm a very important person Stephen!

NP: Forty-two seconds available, knowing when to stop Stephen, starting now.

SF: I believe I know that I should stop in 42 seconds but I don't quite know how to fill the great yawning gap of time between then and now. I suppose I should point out that I've never really known when to stop. I've always been a rather excessive child. Ah it's been my downfall many...


NP: Peter Jones has challenged.

PJ: My suggestion is you stop.

NP: What is the challenge within Just A Minute? Have you got a good one Peter or not?

PJ: Ah well I just... he was getting a bit... I mean he seemed... he had a kind of death wish about it all.

NP: You have 30 seconds on telling something about knowing when to stop starting now.

PJ: I think it's the business of a bus driver to know when to stop. And there are signs all along our city streets showing him where it can be. And if you are a request customer you hold your hand out into the middle of the road if you can. And he should stop, he usually does a few yards ahead of a where it should be or even some distance behind. And I get a bit fed...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: This is all very controversial stuff, isn't it! Are we allowed to broadcast this kind of thing?

NP: Do you have a challenge within the rules of Just A Minute?

PM: No, not really.

NP: Peter, incorrect challenge and Peter...

PJ: Yes.

NP: ... you have three seconds more to go on having gained a point to tell us something about knowing when to stop starting now.

PJ: If you're driving a bulldozer the same...


NP: Maria you challenged.

MM: Two drivings, we had driving a bus.

NP: You were driving a bus.

MM: And also only two seconds left!

NP: Yes he did say driving before, Maria you have one and a half seconds on knowing when to stop starting now.

MM: You must...



NP: And Paul has, no Paul challenged before the whistle. Yes Paul?

PM: Hesitation.

MM: When?

NP: You hesitated last time. He's obviously enamoured of you because he's sitting beside you Maria and he wasnts you to have another point and you've got it because you did not hesitate and you've now got three quarters of a second on knowing when to stop starting now.

MM: Paul Merton is a cult!


NP: So Maria McErlane with the help of Paul Merton kept going until the whistle went and gained that extra point and she’s now in the lead at the end of that round. Paul will you take the next round. The subject is agony aunts. Tell us something about those ladies, those creatures, those women in Just A Minute starting now.

PM: I'll never forget the day my Aunt Nellie fell off the greenhouse. She broke her leg and she was in agony! She was rushed to hospital. They said there's nothing we can do, she's going to have to have it taken off. And so indeed the surgeons sawed her particular limb off from... I've said off about four times now.


SF: I have it on the best authority that he said off about four times.

NP: That's right yes so Stephen you have got the subject of agony aunts and 45 seconds starting now.

SF: When I was at school I used to write letters with friends to agony aunts of newspapers pretending to be a divorcee or a sex change mother or something like that, and see what...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: So you're Disturbed of Tunbridge Wells!

SF: You got it! I&'m also Hairy In Surprising Places of Ashby-dela-Zouch!

NP: Right so we don't call his points on that but we did enjoy the fun, 36 seconds, still with you Stephen, agony aunts starting now.

SF: Anna Kutz, Clare Rayner, somebody called um....


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Hesitation.

SF: No that's her name, her name is Um.

PM: Does she get many letters?

SF: She's Swedish, the pause is an accent.

NP: Thirty seconds available now on agony aunts Paul starting now.

PM: People say that you have agony aunts now in magazines because we've lost the extended family. If you were perhaps a distraught teenager you could speak, perhaps not to your parents but to an aunt...


NP: Ah yes...

SF: There were two perhapses.

NP: There were two perhapses I'm afraid Paul, so...

PM: Yes.

NP: Back with you Stephen, agony aunts, 19 seconds starting now.

SF: I suppose I should take up the cudgels of this extended family point. It is true that perhaps the function was performed before by priests, doctors, learned people of the village and so on. And now its distance, distance advisors and indeed I've said distance twice...


SF: It was a pretty naked repetition wasn't it. Shameful!

NP: I quite...

PM: There's a big echo in this room!

NP: There are seven seconds for you Paul on agony aunts starting now.

PM: Dear Clare Rayner, I am having unnatural relationships with a goat at the end of my garden. What do you...


NP: So at the end of that round Paul Merton speaking as the whistle went gained the extra point. He's equal with Maria McErlane who's in second place, one point behind Stephen Fry. Peter Jones is bringing up the rear and Stephen it's your turn to begin and the subject is now body langauage. Tell us something about that subject in this game starting now.

SF: My bottom speaks fluent German... oh no it.... did somebody challenge?


NP: Oh I'm so... oh... Paul you challenged?

PM: You don't have to tell me, I heard it clear it's throat earlier!

NP: Yes it was a very guttural sound, you're quite right! So anyway what is your, any challenge within Just A Minute or not?

PM: That was it!

NP: That was it!

PM: Human decency! Does that count for nothing these days!

NP: No actually we er um, we won't allow it Paul but er because Stephen was riding one of the biggest laughs we've had in Just A Minute and deservedly so because the image it conjured up was absolutely bizarre and delightful and um....

SF: I never knew you cared!

PM: I wouldn't say that the image of Stephen's bottom speaking German is necessarily delightful!

NP: And body language is still with you, and we're waiting with great anticipation for the next comment, 52 seconds still available Stephen starting now.

SF: Well they say don't they that if you lie, you tend to touch your nose and there are other poor old indications of untruth and certain mendacities and indeed attitudes and positions and so forth that the body would give away, simply by gesture and performance and manifestations. For example you might cross your legs when sexually excited. But that's probably more functional than semiotic, I don't know. And there are various... I've said various again, I'm sorry...


NP: Stephen you actually challenged yourself.

SF: Repetition of various.

NP: What was your challenge?

SF: I said various twice.

NP: Well that's a correct challenge isn't it! So within the rules of Just A Minute I suppose I have to say yes, correct challenge, Stephen, well listened...

SF: The only one who was!

NP: You get a point for a correct challenge, you keep the subject, 29 seconds available on body language starting now.

SF: Twenty-nine seconds, he said, his arms stretching to either side of him to indicate disbelief at such a vast expanse of temporal habitude, I don't know. But I don't make any sense whatsoever! Oh God I wish somebody would interrupt me because I don't know what's going on!


NP: Ah yes Paul?

PM: A mercy dash!

NP: A mercy dash, right!

SF: Bless you Paul!

NP: Right! We interpret that as hesitation. Paul, you got body language, you have 17 seconds starting now.

PM: There is a man called Bobby McFerrin who does various cabaret acts. He hits his body with his hands and sings at the same time. And it's like a curious acoustic that he manages to get from his chest cavity. And it's the most amazing performance when you listen to it on CD...


NP: Um Maria McErlane challenged.

MM: No I didn't.

NP: Oh sorry Peter Jones. Peter Jones, I'm sorry, your light came on. I was looking at Maria, it's rather difficult you see, I automatically assumed it was her light. It wasn't, it was yours Peter. What was your challenge?

PJ: Ah repetition of amazing.

NP: It was amazing yes indeed.

PM: Was it really?

NP: Yes. Yes and Peter you've got in with one second to go...

SF: Whoa!

NP: ... well listened on body language starting now.

PJ: Well I can't make any sound which...


NP: So Peter Jones was speaking as the whistle went, he gained that extra point for doing so, he's still in fourth place but he's moving forward. And Maria it's your turn to begin and the subject is playing it by ear. Sixty seconds as usual, playing it by ear starting now.

MM: Playing it by ear was not something Vincent Van Gogh was really able to do. Or indeed Ludwig Van Beethoven or...


NP: Stephen Fry.

SF: Two Vans.

NP: Two Vans!

PM: It's like Pickfords round here!

NP: Fifty-two seconds, with you Stephen, another point as well, playing it by ear starting now.

SF: I can't play much by ear. I can pick out a little bit of the National Anthem, the Marsellaise or of course the Prelude in F Sharp Minor on the piano by ear but not much more than that...


NP: Peter Jones has challenged.

PJ: There was a definite er in the middle of that sentence.

NP: I know, he's such a...

SF: I was saying ear. It's on the card, ear.

NP: No, no, no, there was an er...

SF: No it was ear, the Welsh accent, play it by er!

NP: Well struggled Stephen but no I think...

PM: Did you say Welsh?

SF: Yes that's true!

NP: I'm going to give you Peter the benefit of the doubt and say yes there was a hesitation, 35 seconds for you Peter on playing it by ear starting now.

PJ: Well I can't play it by ear because I'm actually tone deaf which is one of the many disadvantages I have as a performer. The other is not being able to see very well and er not being able to read a script without any hesitation. And er apart from the fact that er I have some questionable relatives, I don't think er I am really qualified to be in this business at all! And it's something of a miracle that I've managed to survive for so long. Er I mean it's not all that long...


NP: So in spite of his hesitations Peter Jones kept going till the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so and he has leapt forward, but he's still in fourth place but er but he's only just behind Maria McErlane who is only just behind Paul Merton who is one point behind Stephen Fry our leader. And Paul your turn to begin, the subject is the best excuse starting now.

PM: I used to go to school with a bot called Stephen Pendrie who was habitually late every day. And he would come into the classroom and tell the teacher a whole catalogue of different excuses. I remember once he said "I'm sorry I wasn't here at the beginning of the lesson but I caught my foot in a drain". On another occasion he claimed there had been an explosion...


NP: Peter you challenged.

PJ: Repetition of occasion.

NP: Yes!

PM: Was there?

NP: Yes there was, so Peter well listened, 38 seconds are available for you to tell us something about the best excuse starting now.

PJ: It's always difficult to find an excuse if there's some event that you don't want to attend and would prefer to stay at home. And the best of all these excuses is to die! Nobody can really argue with that, you know, you just will not be there because you've gone to some better place, which in many cases would be true, er particularly if it's er an occasion which you don't want to be...


NP: Peter Jones was then speaking as the whistle went and gained that extra point for doing so. And it's your turn to begin. The subject is filleting fish. Talk on the subject if you can Peter, 60 seconds, starting now.

PJ: It's very important to fillet the fish if you want filleted fish, because they have to get...


NP: Maria McErlane challenged.

MM: He said something funny like fille-ted!

NP: Well he was, he was trying to emphasise the fact that the subject is filleting fish, and he did say, he didn't repeat that word, he repeated filleted. Peter an incorrect challenge, 53 seconds available on filleting fish starting now.

PJ: Me?

NP: Yes you.

PJ: Oh.


NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: Hesitation.

NP: No he didn't hesitate, he actually said me. He didn't hesitate, there was no gap there, he said straight into me, I nodded, he was about to go into...

SF: Don't get yourself in a lather about it! Incorrect challenge, Peter you have the, you have the point...

NP: But you don't realise Stephen, you don't play it as much as some of the regulars, they get passionate about getting their points. Peter you are still filleting fish and 51 seconds are still available to you starting now.

PJ: If you successfully get all the bones out of it, then you can make fish fingers, or even kipper fillets which are an inferior type of smoked fish. But er...


NP: Stephen you challenged.

SF: There was a bit of erring going on there.

NP: I think there was Stephen yes. You have 38 seconds, do tell us something about filleting fish starting now.

SF: I suppose smelly fingers are an occupational hazard in fish filleting. There's not much you can do about that, you can wear gloves, no doubt. Filleting fish is quite an art. I've tried to do it myself, it's not easy. You go to a restaurant, you ask for something off the bone and watch them pulling off the spine from the sole or something...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Very harsh, two offs, but in quick succession.

SF: True, true.

NP: True, true, yes.

PM: Two quick offs.

NP: You tell us something about filleting fish, there are 23 seconds available Paul starting now.

PM: Well I don't really enjoy filleting fish because I think it's cruel.


NP: And Maria McErlane challenged.

MM: Well he just sort of stopped.

NP: Yeah that's right.

PM: That's all I had to say on the subject.

NP: And you were the first in there Maria, so you have the subject of filleting fish and 16 seconds starting now.

MM: A few years ago I was working for Buckingham Palace in the kitchen. And I was filleting fish but didn't do a very good job because the Queen Mother choked on something that I had left in. And I was fired immediately and had to take up a career in show business since I'm very...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Did you say a career in show business?

NP: How cruel can you get!

PM: Deviation. No, no, deviation, deviation, you have never worked at Buckingham Palace.

NP: I know, no, no, that is actually a very generous challenge because it's incorrect. Because it shows that Maria I believe is in show business...

PM: No, no, deviation, I'm saying she's never worked at Buckingham Palace. Not that she's in show business.

MM: In my own little head, I've worked in...

PM: Oh in your own little head, how are we, how are we going to play this game then if your own little head is allowed!

NP: I think you said something first before that.

PM: No, no!

NP: All right, it's only half a second, who do I give it to, Maria or Paul?

PM: Give it to Maria.

NP: Right. Maria you've got half a second...

MM: I don't want it!

NP: Fill...

PM: Well I'll have it then.

NP: Paul half a second, filleting fish, starting now.

PM: Kippers are one...


NP: Right so it's pretty even now, in fact only one point separates all four of them...

PM: It's nip and tuck!

NP: Nip and tuck yes.

PM: Even stevens.

NP: Even stevens, whatever you... not quite even stevens yet.

SF: I prefer nip and tuck.

NP: So it's still anybody's game for those interested in the points. Ah well the humour I think is more value and there are 60 seconds once again...

SF: It's certainly rarer!

NP: Not when you're around Stephen I can assure you! Lifting the lid is the subject, Paul Merton it's your turn to begin and you start now.

PM: Pandora's box was a bit of mistake wasn' it, when somebody peeked inside it and let all the evil out into the world. I once had a marvelous jam jar at home, it was full of frogspawn. And I wanted to look in the lid, I don't know why I particularly wanted to lift the lid up...


NP: Peter Jones has challenged.

PJ: Repetition of wanted.

NP: That's right!

PM: You're not confident though are you?

NP: No!

PM: Well when it goes out we'll see if you're right or wrong!

SF: Why would you keep French pornography in a jam jar!

PM: Frogspawn!

NP: Frog's porn! Oh!

SF: Oh I see!

PM: That's rich coming from somebody whose bottom speaks German!

NP: Right Peter...

PJ: Yes?

NP: You have the subject of lifting the lid and 46 seconds available starting now.

PJ: Well it's something that you should not lift very far, and immediately put down again. particularly if you're sitting next to Stephen Fry...


NP: Oh you stopped. Right Paul?

PM: Hesitation.

NP: Yes there was, he came to a full stop. So Paul...

SF: Ooooh!

NP: You got in...

SF: Sorry, carry on!

NP: Thirty-five seconds, lifting the lid, starting now.

PM: Edgar Allan Poe, the famous American story writer wrote several tales concerning people... oh...


NP: Stephen you challenged.

SF: Ah a little bit of a hesitation.

PM: I know, yes!

NP: Yes...

PM: I was looking for a premature burial but I couldn't think of a way out of it.

NP: Yes, 23 seconds, lifting the lid, starting now.

SF: During the daytime you lift the lid and there is the whitened face glittering. You raise the crucifix and the wooden stake, hammer it through the heart and lo, Dracula is dead! Or is he? He always seems to come back! You lift the lid, stab him, do it again...


NP: Maria McErlane.

MM: Sorry, I no, I um, I just don't like Stephen very much!

PM: That's fine!

MM: I really didn't have a challenge...

NP: He's very good at the game, he's...

MM: I thought he said lifting the lid, but of course that's the subject.

NP: I know! It's the subject.

MM: I nodded off momentarily!

NP: For those who haven't already spotted it, you can repeat the subject on the card as often... well within reason! So Maria incorrect challenge, alas, Stephen still has it, lifting the lid, 10 seconds starting now.

SF: Maria has lifted the lid on a very sad thing! I thought she loved me, she told me so earlier, and I believed we had something going, some deep...


NP: Maria has challenged you.

MM: He's suffering from delusions!

NP: Maria we enjoyed the challenge and the two fellers are equal in the lead. So would it not be a very fair way Stephen to say let Maria take the last two seconds of this subject...

MM: No it would be patronising!

SF: Ooooh! These modern women, you can't please them!

NP: So Maria doesn't want it.... I'm sorry...

PM: She's lucky to be in a position to choose!

NP: She's got three or four of us up here! Right! Um the...

SF: Only three I fear!

NP: And so...

MM: I'm sure I could make you jump the fence Stephen!

NP: I don't think I can actually...

SF: Dream on sweetheart!

MM: I'll use my trip pelvis and others while you wait!

NP: I don't think I can extricate myself from that one! So I think we shall press on with Just A Minute, lifting the lid and we'll finish in a blaze of glory with Stephen Fry talking for two seconds on the subject starting now.

SF: Lifting the lid (gibberish)



NP: Maria you did actually challenge before the whistle went.

MM: He just went (gibberish).

NP: Hesitation, Maria you have half a second on lifting the lid starting now.

MM: Boys never lift the lid!


NP: Oh what a lovely fair way to finish with that last point that Maria McErlane got when the whistle went, she's now equal in second place with Peter Jones but they are four or five points behind our joint leaders Stephen Fry and Paul Merton, so we say Paul and Stephen you are our winners this week. It only remains for me to say thank you to our four fine exponents of this difficult game which is Paul Merton, Stephen Fry, Peter Jones and Maria McErlane. I also thank Janet Staplehurst for the way she has helped me keep the score and blown her whistle so magnificently. Also to thank our producer and director Chris Neil who keeps us all in control as best he can and also the creator of the game Ian Messiter who makes sure that we all keep in work. And also this delightful audience here in the Radio Theatre in Broadcasting House. From them, from me, from our players and from me, Nicholas Parsons, thank you, tune in the next time we take to the air and we play Just A Minute. Until then from all of us here goodbye.