starring PAUL MERTON, PETER JONES, STEPHEN FRY and MARIA McERLANE, chaired by NICHOLAS PARSONS (Radio, 24 January 2000)

NOTE: This was the last appearance on Just A Minute of Peter Jones before he died on 10 April 2000. But clips of him are heard in the 40th anniversary special in 2007.

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 our many listeners throughout the world but also the four popular and talented players of the game who have joined us this week. We welcome back one of our regular players who've given such a tremendous contribution over the years, that is Paul Merton. We also have one of our oldest players, he's been with the show since it first began, he's the senior citizen of Just A Minute, his contributions are valuable, that is Peter Jones. Someone who's played it less often but with great aplomb when he does come here, the effervescent and witty Stephen Fry. And bringing up the feminine side of our show we have the delightful and humourous Maria McErlane. Would you please welcome all four of them. Beside me sits Janet Staplehurst who is going to help me keep the score and she will also blow a whistle when the 60 seconds are up. And as usual I am going to ask our four players of the game to speak on a subject I will give them and they will try and do that without hesitation, repetition or deviation. And this particular edition of Just A Minute is coming from the Radio Theatre which is in the centre of Broadcasting House near the centre of the great metropolis of London. We're going to begin the show this week with Peter Jones and who better. Peter, the subject is miracles. Will you tell us something about miracles in this game starting now.

PETER JONES: A miracle is an event that cannot really occur without some divine or supernatural invention. And it's often misused, this word. And you sometimes hear that a script writer has submitted a script to the BBC and he tells you that within two days he received a telegram in reply and an offer of a huge amount of money if they were able to use it. And this of course he describes as a miracle which indeed it would be. But er, what, I'm hesitating...


NP: Maria McErlane you challenged.

MARIA McERLANE: Well he just looked like he was fed up with it then.

NP: No, no, he realised he was hesitating and he admitted it. And that is a correct challenge Maria so you get a point for a correct challenge, you take over the subject of miracles, you have 21 seconds available starting now.

MM: Frankly it will be a miracle if I get through the next 10 seconds without being challenged because...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PAUL MERTON: I don't believe in miracles!

NP: Well as that's not a correct challenge, we give Paul a bonus point because we enjoyed the interruption but Maria gets a point as she was interrupted, she keeps the subject, 16 seconds available, miracles Maria starting now.

MM: One of my favourite miracles was turning water into wine...


NP: Stephen Fry challenged.

STEPHEN FRY: A little bit of a hesitation I think.

NP: Yes, I think she waited for effect and it didn't come.

MM: No I didn't wait for effect, I really had nothing more to say. That was my favourite miracle.

NP: So Stephen Fry, correct challenge, a point to you, 10 seconds available, miracles starting now.

SF: Turning le quiador into wine, that would be a miracle, wouldn't it! Of course that was our Lord's first miracle, at the wedding at Canaan I believe...



NP: Yes Paul challenged....

PM: Was that a er Canaan, wasn't that a er Canaan there.

NP: I didn't notice it.

PM: Did you not? It probably didn't happen then!

MM: I did! I did!

NP: Are we going to have a confrontation already are we, in the first round? Because the whistle was blown very strongly in my ear so I didn't actually hear whether there was a hesitation or not. So I think the fair thing to say is that I didn't hear it. So Stephen you were speaking as the whistle went, you gain an extra point for doing so and er at the end of that round Stephen Fry and Paul, Maria McErlane are equal in the lead with two points. Paul Merton has one, Peter Jones, um, started but as you know... And Paul Merton it's your turn to begin, Paul the subject now Beelzebub. Tell us something about that character or anyway you like in Just A Minute starting now.

PM: I would pronounce it Baelzebub. Of course it's the name for the horned one, Satan, Lucifer, whatever you like it, Metistopheles...


NP: Stephen Fry you challenged.

SF: I also answer to Stephen!

NP: Yes Stephen yes you challenged?

SF: No, I'm saying the horned one, I'm saying...

MM: He was making a joke Nicholas.

SF: He was looking for names.

MM: He was making a joke.

NP: He was making a joke?

SF: No, no....

PM: You probably couldn't hear it because the whistle was going at the same time!

NP: So what was your challenge?

SF: No there wasn't one!

NP: There wasn't one! Just a waste of time! So Paul gets a point for being interrupted...

PM: So you've been told now haven't you!

SF: Sir's in a bate today!

NP: Forty-nine seconds available for you Paul on Beelzebub starting now.

PM: I suppose if one believes in the Devil, you also have to think that there is such a thing as God. And I'm not really sure and everyone knows that I don't think there is such a thing as the Great...


NP: Paul, Stephen you challenged.

SF: Stephen, Stephen, my name's Stephen.

NP: I know it is...

SF: Two such a things.

PM: Two such a things?

SF: Yes. Such a thing as God and such a thing as the Devil.

NP: Correct, that is perfectly right, he did say that, so Stephen you have a correct challenge, you have 37 seconds, tell us something about Beelzebub starting now.

SF: You keep saying Beelzebub, I think most people say Baelzebub. However we don't mind, you can say what you like. No-body cares really. Satanic of course but a wonderful word, what a marvelous sound it is, Baelzebub. You don't get many nicer conjunctions of syllables and consonants than that. Not in my book anyway. In other people's books, you might. I believe Satan is in history and mythology and all kinds of cultures and civilisations. It's hard to imagine the human condition without some manical division between good and evil. Satan was... I said Satan...


NP: Yes and Paul Merton challenged.

PM: There was repetition of Satan.

NP: There was a repetition of Satan, yes so Paul another correct challenge, another point, another seven seconds on Baelzebub or Beelzebub depending on which Latin you were taught at school, starting... is it not? That's not Latin, no. No but some of, some of the pronounciations are er um...

SF: Oh you escaped well from that one Nicholas!

NP: Seven seconds Paul starting now.

PM: I can picture that Satanic face now announcing the words "welcome to Just A Minute". And you know the smell of brimstone is in the ear...


NP: And you really think they play this game in hell do you? So Paul Merton speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so and he's in the lead, one ahead of Stephen Fry and then Maria McErlane and Peter Jones in that order. And Stephen your turn to begin, the subject is defying the laws of nature. Sixty seconds as usual starting now.

SF: Something I've been doing all my adult life I fear! I don't think it's actually possible to defy the laws of nature. Nature as Greek thusis means of course what is, the state of things. People often say that humanity defies the laws of nature by the invention of machines and so on. We're a product of nature, everything comes out of us is natural, you see. However we're so guilty, we're so raddled by this appalling shame of our human condition that we somehow imagine that we defy the laws of nature. We don't! We are nature! For God's sake, get that into your thick skulls, all of you! We imagine that somehow we have to apologise to the universe for being what we are, products of nature, proud of it, we should be! Also aware of the differences we make to the environment where nature's laws seems not to be flouted, so much as to be...


NP: Paul Merton chal...

PM: We got, we got a bit garbled there!

NP: I don't know, I think he was looking for votes there!

PM: He was doing very well.

NP: Yeah he was, he was doing very well, yes. So what is your challenge then?

PM: Well sort of, sort of...

SF: Anything really will do I think!

PM: Deviation really, it was a bit garbled there wasn't it.

NP: Well he did repeat something but you didn't spot that. I don't think he was garbled, no I think he was keeping on...

PM: Could you follow everything he was saying?

NP: Yes absolutely every single word.

PM: Would you like to repeat the last sentence?

NP: Stephen because of your great aplomb I'm going to say that you didn't hesitate in any way, so you keep the subject, defying the laws of nature starting now.

SF: It rather defies the laws of nature to have a greater aplomb than other people. However you're the one who said it and I must believe you and everything you say is law, is nature to us. We couldn't defy the laws of Nicholas Parsons any more than we could defy the laws of... oh...


NP: Stephen Fry kept going till the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. In fact he started with the subject and finished with the subject, he was interrupted once. He got points in that round, he's equal with Paul Merton in the lead at the end of the round. Peter Jones, the sound of music. Sixty seconds starting now.

PJ: It was one of those great musicals that was composed by my old friends, Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers. Including Carousel, Oklahoma and one other that escapes me... South Pacific...


NP: Stephen Fry challenged.

SF: Oh I thought he might have been thinking of the Flower Drumsong. I was just helping him out there. Another one of theirs, not such a great one, but South Pacific is right yes.

NP: Forty-four seconds to continue with the sound of music starting now.

PJ: Many people appreciate the lyrics and they were, I thought, terrific. One in particular in South Pacific which was "you've got to be taught to love and hate" and I thought that was so clever of them...


NP: Stephen Fry challenged.

SF: Well I do agree but we are drifting a little from the sound of music, talking about the lyrics of South Pacific.

NP: You're on to the subject of South Pacific now, not The Sound of Music. It would have been better if it had been The Sound of Music.

PJ: Well that's a sort of post-mortem remark!

NP: So Stephen has a correct challenge, and he has 31 seconds, he will tell us something about the sound of music starting now.

SF: He who has no music...


NP: Paul challenged.

PM: Hesitation.

NP: Yes for the first time he didn't come straight in, that's amazing yes.

SF: Sorry.

NP: Yes. Thirty seconds, the sound of music's with you Paul starting now.

PM: Well it's a universal sound. Wherever you go in the world, it has its own particular type of music. The Aborigines play music called sounds on a didgeridoo which is a marvelously long instrument that makes very deep bass notes. If you go to somewhere like Bali they specialise in this huge gongs which they hit regularly which make the most extraordinary...


NP: Maria McErlane challenged.

MM: Two whiches in quick succession.

NP: Yes. Maria you have a correct challenge, you have eight seconds, the sound of music starting now.

MM: I'd like to...


NP: Stephen Fry challenged.

SF: Well that was as long as my hesitation.

NP: No it wasn't.

SF: Yes it bloody was!

NP: No it wasn't. Maria you have an incorrect challenge, she didn't even go for more than a second, six and a half seconds available, the sound of music starting now.

MM: I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. So...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Why? Think of the racket if everyone in the world was singing at the same time.

MM: It would be a beautiful sound of music.

NP: Maria you have two seconds to continue on the sound of music starting now.

MM: Is a...


NP: Stephen?

MM: Argh!

NP: Yes that hesitation was definitely very strong and one second for you on the sound of music starting now.

SF: Maria von Trapp!


NP: Stephen Fry was then speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point for doing so. And Paul your turn to begin, goody two shoes. Tell us something about that in this game starting now.

PM: Well it's a derogatory term for people who have no apparent personal vices. They don;t smoke, drink, gamble, any of the sort of habits that we associate with someone who's an interesting person. I think most individuals who are goody two shoes are in fact quite boring because you have to have some kind of criminal activity to make an interesting person I think. Look at Dr Crippen, who would have heard of him if he'd simply filled out his prescriptions, day in... 24 hours out...


NP: Stephen?

SF: I concede gracefully there.

NP: Well it was almost hesitation.

SF: It was but you've got to admire him.

NP: Because he so cleverly struggled out of it you're going to be generous and say let him continue. Right, another point to you Paul, 27 seconds, goody two shoes starting now.

PM: I think people who are goody two shoes are actually quite devious underneath the surface. They're up to something the rest of us can't fathom. Because there's no fun in being perfectly good. What would be the reason for... oh...


NP: Stephen you challenged.

SF: That time there was a hesitation.

NP: Yes, goody two shoes is with you Stephen, 12 seconds available starting now.

SF: There's never been a goody one shoes has there, or a goody three shoes. This is rather mysterious. What is it about the number of feet footwear... argh...


NP: Maria's challenged.

MM: Yes, mumbling.

NP: Well all right, hesitation if you like, four seconds, goody two shoes with you Maria starting now.

MM: I would say that Stephen Fry was perhaps a goody two shoes when he was at school. His certain something of...


NP: Oh yes I'm sure Stephen's a goody two shoes when he first started yes! But he made up for it later didn't he!

SF: Now I'm a Baddy No Sandals!

NP: So at the end of that round Stephen Fry is one point ahead of Paul Merton, Maria McErlane follows and it's her turn to begin. The subject is my best impressions. Tell us something about those in this game starting now.

MM: It's unfortunate that I was going to do my best impression which was Schnozzle Durante singing (singing in a not very good Jimmy Durante voice) I shifted my piano the other day. (Normal voice) But of course...


NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: That was your best impression? God help us all! I mean that couldn't be further away!

NP: It could have been awful but it could still be her best impression then couldn't it?

PM: All right, well let's see then! As she runs the gamut!

NP: Fifty-one seconds Maria...

MM: Oh no!

NP: ...still with you, my best impressions...

MM: Is it too late for me to kill myself?

NP: Carry on, now, now.

MM: (In higher voice) Oh Tom! (normal voice) Felicity Kendal. (singing) We-e-e-e-e-e-e-ell, you know it...


NP: Stephen challenged you.

SF: Repetition of e-e-e-e-e.

PM: Why you started with Jimmy Durante is beyond me! He's your worst one!

MM: I thought it would make the others sound better.

PM: It did!

SF: I'm sorry to have interrupted the Bryan Ferry because that was obviously going to be...

NP: That was, that was a correct challenge by Stephen but I was... so Stephen you had a correct challenge so you take over my best impressions and 37 seconds are available starting now.

SF: I think my best impressions are made when I sit on soft wax when naked. However perhaps the question on the card expects everyone to talk about impersonations, mimicry of some kind. This is not really my game. I know Nicholas Parsons when he started out gave very good impressions, that was indeed his trade, his business. Ah I used to do a lot of...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: Was there a hesitation there?

NP: Yes I think he was running down to a, to a halt actually yes.

SF: Horrible.

NP: Right there we are. Paul so you take over the subject of my best impressions and there are 18 seconds starting now.

PM: (in Clement Freud voice) Perhaps my best impression is Clement Freud as he sits behind his desk in his usual bonhomie and his wonderful way of spreading happiness wherever he goes, in that voice that can't help but make you feel so light hearted and...


NP: When Clement Freud is on the show he sits beside Paul Merton and so he's had a lot of practice listening to that voice in his ear. And he reproduced it most entertainingly and he's now equal in the lead with Stephen Fry. And Peter Jones, oh Peter, it's my first 70 years. Well could be mine, I don't know, but I mean we're talking about the subject, that is it. take it any way you like and you start now.

PJ: My first 70 years was er a lot of fun really and I enjoyed it enormously. Until when I was 71 I was invited to join the National Theatre or maybe Royal Shakespeare, one or the other. One of those er big...


NP: Paul Merton challenged.

PM: It was National Carparks!

PJ: And er...

NP: But it felt like the National Theatre did it?

PJ: It was one or the other, you know, it was little Barbican, that's right, it was.

NP: Paul have you any other challenge?

PM: No that was it, that was it.

NP: No other challenge? That's very generous of you. Peter you continue with 44 seconds still available, my first 70 years starting now.

PJ: I was unfortunate in so much that the director of the play that I was in at the beginning was er out of his mind in my opinion, because he wanted me to do things that were quite unnatural to me, and he was dressed head to foot in black. And he was quite notorious and people said "is he having a nervous breakdown?" And I said "yes, it's the 15th year of it!" And er anyway I didn't subscribe to his view of the play or the part and I left halfway through because the revolved didn't go round which is one of the things the Barbican is famous for. Not it not going round, but going round...


NP: You challenged Paul?

PM: Repetition of round.

NP: Yes that's right yes he did say round, I heard him say it. Perfectly true. Actually I was so transfixed with Peter's description which was so repetitious that I couldn't believe it. And I thought when is someone going to challenge? And I didn't realise that Paul had because there was no noise came, the light came on and that's why I didn't immediately leap round and say Paul you challenged. According to this thing the time is up! Did Paul challenge before the time up came? He did! Right! Paul what was your challenge?

PM: Well...

NP: Repetition of round.

PM: Repetition. Well done! Now I've got to guess how many seconds were available when...

PM: I think it was about three!

NP: No it was more than that! Ah so there are seven seconds on my, my first 70 years starting now.

PM: Well I'm only 42 at the moment and if I do live to the appropriate time I hope to be playing Just A Minute here...


NP: So Paul Merton was speaking as the whistle went, gained that extra point and he's now one point ahead of Stephen Fry, the other two are trailing a little bit behind them. And Maria it's your turn to begin, troglodytes. Tell us something about those creatures in Just A Minute starting now.

MM: Troglodyte, cave dweller. I had the most extraordinary dream last night about Nicholas Parsons dressed in a loin cloth, dragging me round the cave by my hair...


NP: Paul you challenged.

PM: Seek professional help!


NP: Peter you have a challenge too.

PJ: I think she said caves twice.

SF: Yes that's a much, that's quite right, cave dwellers and then dragging round caves. Well done!

NP: Peter well listened and you have 50 seconds to tell us something about troglodytes starting now.

PJ: Troglodytes, it was a pop group that started in Devon in 1960 and finished in Somerset like many of them do, a few months later. But the original troglodytes lived in caves, they couldn't find any houses so they lived in them. And they were able to communicate with each other by tapping the walls or the bones or skulls of the dinosaurs...


NP: Maria you challenged.

MM: Well why didn't they just go outside and speak to them? Why did they have to tap the walls?

NP: That doesn't matter. I mean...

MM: It does matter!

NP: In Just A Minute unless he's hesitating, repeating something or deviating...

PM: If you're living in a cave it doesn't show a high degree of intelligence in the first place so you may well tap on the wall.

NP: We haven't come here to have an intellectual discussion about cave dwellers...

PM: Well why are we here then?

MM: I'm so sorry, I feel a fool now!

NP: To entertain and keep going on the subject without hesitation, repetition or deviation. Maria did he commit any of those particular um sins or faults or break any of those rules in Just A Minute?

MM: Ah no!

NP: Peter so you had an incorrect challenge and you had 28 seconds available now with troglodytes starting now.

PJ: If we were able to go back in time, millions of years of course, an enormous amount of er this er...


NP: Paul yes?

PM: There was a hesitation there.

NP: There was a hesitation, he couldn't get another word for years. Right! Nineteen seconds troglodytes with you Paul starting now.

PM: One of the most charming people, they are very small, they're easily (starts to giggle)


NP: Stephen challenged.

SF: Again really...

NP: Hesitation right, troglodytes is with you Stephen and 14 seconds available starting now.

SF: I'm rather intrigued by these original Troglodytes who went to Devon and ended up as so many of them do in Somerset. Yes I want to know more about them. I don't know if there was a band called the Trogs...

PJ: Yes there are.

SF: That's who they were is it?

PJ: Oh yes!

SF: Rather pleasing isn't it!


NP: Maria challenged.

MM: That was a conversation!

NP: I know!

PM: He didn't hesitate, repeat or deviate did he?

NP: I know! but this is the interesting thing that though it was a conversation Stephen Fry still managed to keep going without...

SF: As I usually do in conversations I'm afraid.

NP: So Stephen it was an incorrect challenge, you have two seconds on troglodytes starting now.

SF: Lived in caves as has been amply pointed out by most of our contestants in this game...


NP: Stephen speaking as the whistle went, gained an extra point, he's now one ahead of Paul Merton as we go into the final round, followed by Peter Jones and Maria McErlane in that order, not far behind. Stephen begins and it's a bee in my bonnet is the subject Stephen, you start now.

SF: There is a bee in my bonnet. There are two ns in my bonnet and one y in my bonnet.


NP: Maria McErlane challenged.

MM: Sorry no, I was doing bonnet and that's part of it, isn't it. Sorry Stephen.

NP: Stephen it's still with you, a bee in my bonnet, 53 seconds available starting now.

SF: In regency days or at least in what Georgette Heyer called regency days they used to say... I've said regency days twice...


SF: Sorry!

NP: Stephen you did exactly what you did last time.

SF: I'm sorry I keep doing that! It's the excitement.

NP: Well you challenged yourself.

SF: Oh yes!

NP: I know so what is your challenge?

SF: I said regency days twice.

NP: I know you did. That's a correct challenge.

SF: Thank you.

NP: You're getting too clever at this game. I really do...

PM: I can't help but feel this is a loophole that should be closed!

NP: Stephen another point, 48 seconds, a bee in my bonnet starting now.

SF: A maggot in my brain was another phrase meaning the same thing in the old days. Bee in the bonnet means of course to have some sort of obsession, some edict fixe or other. I have a bee in my bonnet about Christian Scientists, for example, I think they're rather wonderful and rather sweet people. I meant to say Scientologists who I think are absolutely arse wipingly bad. However I got it slightly confused. I have a bee in my bonnet about my inability to separate different cult religions, one of which is respectable, the other of which is simply appalling. I have a bee in my bonnet about the fact that I have a bee in my bonnet. That's the most annoying thing! Why does one get so exercised about life's enormous variety. Losing a key or a sock or something can send one into an absolute spin. There are so many more important things to worry about. One gets bees in one's bonnet about silly things. That's what the phrase really refers to...

PJ: If the key is the key to your house, it's quite...

SF: Fair point! I accept that, if it is indeed the opening device that unlocks your house then you've got something of a problem...


NP: Paul Merton has challenged you.

PM: Well he was definitely not talking when Peter was! It's got to be hesitation.

NP: Yes that, I think we interpret that as hesitation, I mean...

SF: Can we be thrown off our stride simply by talking?

NP: When another panelist actually as you're talking starts to have a conversation with you...

PM: I know he's being friendly!

NP: Playing with great style! You should save your material for when you get in Peter! Losing the key. Anyway no I agree with your challenge um Paul so you have a point for that of course, you have only six seconds available..

SF: I bet you'll find I loosened the lid now, you can probably unscrew it fairly easily!

NP: Paul you have a correct challenge, a bee in my bonnet starting now.

PM: Perhaps the biggest bee in my bonnet is that in Just A Minute you are allowed to repeat yourself, then challenge...


NP: Well as I said earlier that was to be the last round and indeed it is. So let me give you the final situation. Maria McErlane who gave such sterling contribution and against this aggressive male opposition outnumbered three to one, great, but she finished only just in fourth place, a couple of points behind Peter Jones who did magnificently finishing in third place. He was a few points behind Stephen Fry and Stephen was only one point behind Paul Merton so we say Paul you are the winner this week! So it only remains for me to say thank you to these four outstanding exponents of Just A Minute, 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 blowing her whistle so magnificently. And also our producer Chris Neil who keeps us in order and makes sure it all goes out nice and coherently...

PM: He's got a job on his hands tonight!

NP: And we mustn't forget Ian Messiter who created the game which means that we all come together so often and enjoy ourselves. And we hope this audience here in the Radio Theatre in London enjoyed themselves because we've enjoyed being with them and entertaining them. From them, from the panelists, from me Nicholas Parsons, thank you for tuning in, be with us the next time we play Just A Minute. Till then bye-bye!