4 celebrates 35 years of repetition, deviation and hesitation
BBC Radio 4's most devious panel game celebrates a special anniversary
on New Year's Day, 2003.
was in 1967 that creator Ian Messiter and producer David Hatch put
the pilot for a new game show, Just A Minute, before a BBC
development board, who were sceptical that the series would run
for more than six programmes.
years and a total of 567 editions later, Chairman Nicholas Parsons
continues to attempt and mostly succeed in keeping
control over a roll-call of celebrity contenders attempting to talk
on a subject for 60 seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation.
a special hour-long anniversary edition, Just A Minute's 35th
Birthday Show, (New Year's Day 2003, Noon-1.00pm) the panellists
pitting their verbal wits against each other under Nicholas's eagle
eye are: Paul Merton, Graham Norton, Sheila Hancock and Clement
are also contributions from regular panellists including Jenny Éclair,
Ross Noble, Steve Frost and Pam Ayres.
producer David Hatch attributes the show's initial success to the
special cocktail of the simplicity of its rules combined with five
think it's interesting how these games build," he says.
Just A Minute, it started with the element of chemistry between
Clement Freud and Derek Nimmo. Then they brought in Kenny Williams,
and he added the madness element.
Peter Jones came along and he was completely different very
dry he probably only said six lines in each show, but they
would be the best six lines in the show.
then there was the rivalry against Nick (Parsons) so suddenly you
have five ingredients instead of just the war between Clement
and Derek, that even on its own, was fantastic."
show is now produced by Claire Jones who agrees with her predecessor:
"It's a great format fuelled by very funny, very clever people
and I feel very lucky to be working on it."
Parsons says: "Colloquially, we refer to Just A Minute as JAM.
Those who play the game enjoy it so much, it certainly is the jam
on top of the bread they earn for taking part."
Messiter recalls, of her husband: "Ian
didn't become a doctor as his family hoped his brand of medicine
was making people laugh.
"To quote from his autobiography, written in 1990, 'pleasure
is not something we can go out and buy, beg or steal. Pleasure can
only be found by giving it... that is what children, grandchildren
and friends are for. That is what my inventions are for'...
am so proud of the legacy Ian has left me, my family and the BBC
and look forward to hearing the 35th birthday edition."
Arena special, Radio Ha!, on BBC TWO, Boxing Day, 9.00pm, presents
a double bill from the funny side of Radio 4, taking an irreverent
look at Just A Minute and Dead Ringers.
A Minute A Short History
show was devised by the late Ian Messiter as a successor to his
One Minute Please.
came up with the idea on top of a number 13 bus, where he suddenly
recalled the dreaded task of having to speak for one minute without
hesitation or deviation which was meted out by one of his school
masters to his class.
Edwards was originally invited to be the programme's chairman, but
because the pilot was recorded on a Sunday, he would have to have
given up his weekly game of polo.
Nicholas Parsons was appointed host, dealing with the verbal backchat
of the likes of Clement Freud, Peter Jones, Kenneth Williams and
first programme was broadcast in 1968.
the early days, it hosted the cream of British comedy talent, including
Peter Cook, Willie Rushton, Beryl Reid, Barry Took and Brian Johnston,
performing to a packed studio audience.
rules of the game remain the same. Four contestants are given 60
seconds to speak on a subject shown on a card, but they have to
do so without hesitation, repetition or deviation from the theme.
Only the word or phrase on the card may be repeated.
each correct challenge, the challenger is given one point. For an
incorrect challenge, the person being challenged receives the point.
There is a point for speaking when the whistle blows and a bonus
point for speaking for the whole minute without interruption.
the death of Kenneth Williams, there was a fear that the show would
die with him, but this wasn't to be the case as new comedians stepped
in to continue the show's popularity, including Julian Clary, Stephen
Fry, Graham Norton, Jenny Éclair, Liza Tarbuck, Ross Noble
and Paul Merton.
things you may not know about Just A Minute
Messiter, the show's inventor, was originally an illusionist called
Cassan The Mystic, named after his surgeon father Dr Cyril Cassan
Freud and Nicholas Parsons were at the same school.
Parsons originally didn't want the job of chairman, preferring to
be on the panel. He has now been chairing for 35 years.
Merton wrote to the producer asking to be on the panel.
Williams' mum sat in the front row for every performance he appeared
in, laughing loudly at her son's jokes.
was a Just A Minute board game manufactured by Chad Valley in the
Freud, as one of the original Just A Minute panellists, has taken
part in the greatest number of shows 443 so far.
first TV version of the game was sold to Dumont TV in America in
Jones was a pioneer in radio improvisation being the first comedian
to be allowed on the airwaves without a BBC approved script.
have included Aimi MacDonald, Alfred Marks, Liz Frazer, Willie Rushton,
Warren Michell, Barbara Castle, Prunella Scales, Fenella Fielding
and Beryl Reid, Magnus Pyke, Thora Hird, Pam Ayres, Elaine Stritch,
Bernard Cribbins and Patrick Moore.
chairman, I endeavor to keep the show moving, while at the same
time generating as much fun as possible, and it is this fun and
enjoyment in what we are doing which is communicated to the listener
and helps keep the show successful.
have been lucky enough to span the changing face of Just A Minute.
First the likes of Kenneth Williams, Peter Jones and Derek Nimmo.
Then the new generation of Paul Merton, Graham Norton and thank
heavens, more women such as Jenny Éclair and Linda Smith.
I always enjoy myself inordinately. In fact I have been known to
spend most of the recording laughing at the others, forgetting I
am being paid to contribute. It was because of one such feeble performance
that Kenneth coined the phrase 'they shouldnt have women on
think the next 35 years will be harder for me
remember every time I got into trouble you know, with a hesitation
or digression or whatever and Nicholas Parsons would ask
me what I was doing, I would always reply 'I'm just offering Kenny
Just A Minute makes my brain hurt a little bit; it's the deviation,
I just can't help myself.
one of the programmes I always listen to and want to be on. I even
enjoy listening to it when I'm not on it.
the only time I've ever done this, I wrote a letter to the producer
suggesting myself... so he phoned me up and he wanted to know what
I was going to be wearing... I don't know what he thought... I was
going to come in the nude or something...
A Minute is the best panel game ever devised and it will run forever.
like spinning plates, playing chess and giving directions to a place
you've never been to all at the same time while someone melts your
brain with a blowtorch.
always been an honour to be on the show.
comedy institution! May it run as long as the Archers!