Entertainment & Arts

Merton breaks Kenneth Williams's Just a Minute record

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Media captionNicholas Parsons celebrates a momentous moment in Paul Merton's Just a Minute career.

Paul Merton has clocked up more appearances on Just a Minute than veteran player Kenneth Williams.

He will overtake Williams's record when the first episode of the new series is broadcast on Monday.

The episode will mark Merton's 347th appearance on the BBC Radio 4 panel game show.

He's now second only to Clement Freud, who appeared regularly on the programme from the first episode in 1967.

Freud, who died in 2009, appeared 544 times. Given the number of episodes per series, it will take Merton around 10 years to beat Freud's record.

Image caption Monday's episode will mark Merton's 347th appearance

Speaking about overtaking Kenneth Williams, Merton said: "I would like to say without hesitation, deviation or repetition that I am amazed, astonished, thrilled, seasick and severely gobsmacked."

The 58-year-old, who is also a panellist on the BBC One show Have I Got News For You, has been appearing on Just a Minute for 27 years.

However, no contestant has featured in as many episodes as the programme's host - Nicholas Parsons.

Parsons, aged 92, has presented the show since its first episode.

Speaking about Merton's ascent up the show's rankings, Parsons described him as "one of the outstanding players of Just a Minute".

"Since his first appearance in 1989, he has been consistently amusing, clever and witty at playing this amazingly difficult game. He is also a very generous player.

"He is more concerned with contributing and making sure we have a good show than striving to win and impose his personality on the programme - though he does frequently finish up with the most points."

The 74th series of Just a Minute begins on Monday, with the programme's 865th episode.

Contestants are challenged to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition on any given subject.

Regular panellists in recent years have included Susan Calman, Julian Clary, Jenny Eclair, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and Sue Perkins.

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