Just a Minute - the Radio Programme Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Just a Minute - the Radio Programme

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And as the minuet waltz fades into the background welcome to another game of 'Just A Minute'

These words have been spoken for over 30 years by Nicholas Parsons at the beginning of that ever popular BBC Radio 4 game show Just a Minute.

The Rules

The rules are simple, their interpretation is not. 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. For each correct challenge the challenger is given one point, an incorrect challenge and the person being challenged receives the point. There is also a point for speaking when the whistle blows, and a bonus of one for the incredibly difficult task of speaking for the whole minute.

The Classic Quartet

The late Sir Clement Freud, former liberal politician, with a gastronomic speciality, a panache for multi-syllabic words and a trick of listing examples - sometimes challenged and sometimes given. Also the Grandson of Sigmund and the father of Emma.

The late Derek Nimmo who every week seemed to have a totally different family set-up to what he had before, and his close friends would often challenge him on these 'deviations' from the truth.

The late Peter Jones, probably better known to most Researchers as the voice of the book in the radio and television dramatisation of Douglas Adams's opus The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. Peter was often the dithery character on Just a Minute but despite being the butt of many jokes, he was none the less a great exponent of the art.

Last but not least the late Kenneth Williams. Kenneth had a knack of turning one syllable into a three act play, and when things were going against him he would go into a strop1 about how he had come all the way from Great Portman Street - around the corner in London - to be here and it wasn't fair that everyone was picking on him

Of course Nicholas himself contributes greatly to the fun and entertainment.

The New Batch

With 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 alternative comedians stepped in to continue the show's great oral traditions. Famous English comedian Paul Merton wrote to the BBC to ask to be on the show. He was a hit and so too Wendy Richards, Stephen Fry, Julian Clary and all the others who have followed suit. None of the guests find it easy all the time, and the show is loved all the more for it. Just a Minute is truly great radio entertainment and long may it continue in a 'televisual' age, to keep the art of conversation without 'hesitation, repetition or deviation' alive.

1To 'go into a strop' is a British phrase deriving from the adjective 'stroppy' which means to be in a bad mood, foul-tempered etc.

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