Main content

Nicholas Parsons

Kirsty Young's castaway is broadcaster Nicholas Parsons.

Kirsty Young's castaway this week is Nicholas Parsons. Actor, quizmaster, cabaret performer, straight man, panel show host and fully-qualified marine mechanical engineer to boot; spanning more than 60 years his professional credits defy classification and flout convention. Yet it's not just the duration of his showbiz career that's exceptional but the fact that he made it on stage at all. From well-to-do parents, his family had a "neurotic dread of the dissolute thespian life" and did their utmost to thwart his budding ambition.

Sickly, dyslexic and with an intermittent stutter he wasn't an obvious star in the making, but as he himself puts it - "The joy of performing is that you overcome the insecurity of your nature and are reassured by the reaction of the audience". Nicholas Parsons reflects on his role as the comic straight man over the years, firstly for Arthur Haynes in the 1950s and 1960s, and then as the consummate host of the long-running radio quiz Just a Minute.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: Children Will Listen by Barbra Streisand
Book: Oxford Anthology of English Poetry by John Wain
Luxury: Portable radio with an endless supply of batteries.

Available now

45 minutes

Last on

Fri 9 Nov 2007 09:00

Music Played

Add music you love and enjoy it with My Tracks
  • Louis Armstrong

    What A Wonderful World

    • Happy Songs.
    • Virgin.
  • The Oscar Peterson Trio

    Night Train

    • Night Train.
    • Verve.
  • Nat King Cole


    • Unforgettable-18 classic Songs of Love.
    • EMI.
  • Ella Fitzgerald

    Just One of Those Things

    • Cole Porter Songbook.
    • Verve.
  • Fifth Dimension

    Age of Aquarius from the musical Hair

    • The 5th Dimension: Greatest Hits on Earth.
    • Arista.
  • Frédéric Chopin

    Waltz in D flat major, Op. 64/1 'Minute Waltz'

    Soloist: Artur Rubinstein

    • Selections from the Chopin Collection.
    • RCA.
  • Castaway's Favourite

    • Barbra Streisand

      Children Will Listen (from Sondheim's Into the Woods)

      • Back to Broadway.
      • Columbia.
  • Dmitri Shostakovich

    Piano Concerto No.1 in C minor (Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings)

    Soloist: Yefim Bronfman Orchestra: The Los Angeles Philharmonic Conductor: Esa-Pekka Salonen

    • Shostakovich: Concertos Nos 1 & 2.
    • Sony Classical.
  • Book Choice

    • Oxford Anthology of English Poetry - John Wain

  • Luxury Choice

    • Portable radio with an endless supply of batteries


Role Contributor
Presenter Kirsty Young
Interviewed Guest Nicholas Parsons


Featured in...

The Desert Island Discs podcast

The Desert Island Discs podcast

Subscribe or download individual episodes.

Listen to over 2,000 programmes



Read the surprising things we've learned about some stand-out castaways.

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

The 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs

Featuring David Beckham, the funniest and most moving moments, animations and quizzes.

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

The Lark Ascending – The People’s Desert Island Disc

Why does Vaughan Williams’s masterpiece appeal to so many castaways?