Just a Minute



Nicholas Parsons (1967-2019)

Guest chairman (see Trivia for dates): Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud, Geraldine Jones, Ian Messiter, Gyles Brandreth

Guest hosts (2021): Paul Merton, Sue Perkins, Nish Kumar, Jenny Eclair, Gyles Brandreth, Lucy Porter, Stephen Fry, Julian Clary, Tom Allen, Jo Brand

Sue Perkins (2021-)


Regular panellists (Radio):
Clement Freud (1967-2009)
Derek Nimmo (1967-99)
Kenneth Williams (1968-88)
Peter Jones (1971-2000)
Paul Merton (1989-)

Regular panellists/Team captains (TV):
Tony Slattery (1994-5)
Dale Winton (1995)
Paul Merton (2012)

Resident captains (Junior Just a Minute):
Jenny Eclair
Josie Lawrence


BBC Radio 4, 22 December 1967 to present

BBC (unaired TV pilots) 1969, 1981

Mike Mansfield Television Productions for Carlton (regional), 6 January 1994 to 1 September 1995 (28 episodes in 2 series)

BBC Birmingham for BBC One, 19 April to 14 May 1999 (20 episodes in 1 series)

bbc.co.uk webcast, 5 to 6 March 2011 (24 Hour Panel People)

BBC Two, 26 March to 6 April 2012 (10 episodes in 1 series)

as Junior Just a Minute: BBC Radio 4 Extra, 11 November 2013 to 20 February 2015 (10 episodes in 2 series, as part of The Four O'Clock Show)


Simple but skilful panel game where celebrities have to talk on a given topic without hesitation, repetition or deviation. It is heavily based on the 1951 BBC radio format One Minute Please.

File:Justaminute_ianmessiter_nicholasparsons_team.jpgClockwise from bottom left: devisor Ian Messiter, Clement Freud, Derek Nimmo, Kenneth Williams and host Nicholas Parsons

Breaking any one of these rules allows one of your three opponents to challenge and, if a correct challenge is made, you get the topic for the remainder of the minute. You pick up one point for each correct challenge, and a bonus point if you're the person still speaking when the whistle blows at the end of the minute.

Regular panellists Paul Merton and Clement Freud

Parsons was not the first choice of host. Originally, the moustached wonder Jimmy Edwards was lined up, but as the show was recorded on a Sunday he refused to give up his game of polo! Parsons had originally been down to be one of the panellists, and was looking forward to getting after various link man/straight man roles on other radio and TV comedies. However, BBC producer David Hatch was insistent that Parsons should have the job.

Publicity photo for the Carlton version with Nicholas Parsons, Tony Slattery and Dale Winton

The first series was not much of a success, and Hatch had to make a stand and threatened to resign unless it got another go. Series two had an experimental feel to it, with three of shows involving a musical chairs kind of format with Parsons playing the game and letting the other contestants chair one show each. This series also saw the introduction of Kenneth Williams, who became a popular guest on the show. The "repetition" rule regarded repeating ones ideas and thoughts, rather than individual words. Also "penalty rounds" where a common word such as "I" or "they" were banned were in force. It's only until series three that the four contestant format finally beds down.

File:Justaminute_nicholasparsons_card.jpgNicholas Parsons publicity photo for the BBC One version

Most of the fun comes from the clever challenges made by the celebrities. The television version works, but whether it's as good or better than the original radio version is rather doubtful.

File:Parsons nicholas stopwatch.jpgParsons and his minute stopwaltz. I mean WATCH!!!

Key moments

Graham Norton grinding the show to a complete halt when being asked to talk on the subject of socks: "Socks is famously the name of Bill Clinton's cat, and I'm reliably informed it's the only pussy in the White House that Hillary doesn't mind Bill stroking."


The programme was based on One Minute Please which in turn was devised by Ian Messiter, reputedly while he was riding on the top deck of a number 13 London bus.

Theme music

The introductory music is The Minute Waltz by Chopin.


In the first series, the "time up" noise was a cuckoo. In series two, this changed to a bell or hooter, but this was too similar to the buzzer used by the contestants to challenge. From the third series onwards, a whistle has been used.

Kenneth Williams often did his best to put off Clement Freud while he was speaking, by flashing his leg or snuggling under his beard.

Early programmes were introduced thus: "Here to tell you about it is the Man of the Minute, Nicholas Parsons", later adapted to: "As the Minute Waltz fades away, here to tell you about it is our Chairman, Nicholas Parsons". Now no voiceover is used, Nicholas Parsons now says "Welcome to Just a Minute! (cheer) Hello, my name is Nicholas Parsons and, as the Minute Waltz fades away, it is my huge pleasure to welcome..." (etc.)

Until about 1980, the show's billing in Radio Times usually said that it was "A panel game controlled (!) by Nicholas Parsons, featuring" that week's contestants.

Guest chairmen:
7 October 1968: Clement Freud
14 October 1968: Geraldine Jones
21 October 1968: Kenneth Williams
16 February 1970: Clement Freud
23 February 1970: Kenneth Williams
12 January 1977: Ian Messiter (Clement Freud was delayed by the weather, Parsons took his place and so Messiter was asked to chair)
9 May 1983: Clement Freud
15 October 1983: Kenneth Williams
4 and 11 June 2018: Gyles Brandreth
19 and 26 August 2019: Gyles Brandreth

After Nicholas Parsons' death in early 2020, Just a Minute took a break, both to recover from this loss and to ride out the pandemic. When the show returned in early 2021, it was with guest hosts drawn from the regular players.

Just a Minute has usually been transmitted in the winter months, with series of up to 26 episodes. As the years ran, the series became shorter, settling at about ten programmes by the early '80s. The current pattern - with one series running at the start of the year and more new episodes over the summer - was established in 1997. From 2012, the 20 episodes were split into three series across the year.

The 2012 TV version, with Nicholas Parsons surrounded by Paul Merton, Shappi Khorsandi, Julian Clary and Stephen Fry.

Two special episodes aired in July 1992, and anniversary specials went out on New Year's Day 2003 (35th anniversary), and New Year's Eve 2007 (40th). A number of specials were made on the 45th anniversary (Series 62) - a special 'best of' edition called "Without Hesitation", a short series of TV editions, and two radio shows recorded in Mumbai.

A version in which children pair up with JaM regulars went out on Radio 4 Extra's The Four O'Clock Show during November 2013, and a second run aired in February 2015.

All of the competitive editions (radio and television and the children's show, including a couple of compilations) added up to a celebration of 900 episodes on 8 September 2014. This was enough of an excuse for an official history, written by Nicholas Parsons and some regular panelists.

Just a Minute marked its golden anniversary over Christmas 2017. A special episode mashed up contributions from the archives with contemporary players, so we heard Josie Lawrence stopped by Kenneth Williams. The landmark was also celebrated by a conversation between Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton.

After fifty years, Nicholas Parsons had to miss an episode eventually, and it happened in June 2018. Gyles Brandreth won the race to chair the show.


Just a Minute (volume 2) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Just a Minute (volume 3) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Just a Minute (volume 4) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Just a Minute (volume 5) Audio cassette from the Radio 4 version

Web links

BBC programme page

Wikipedia entry

Just-a-Minute.info - remarkably comprehensive fan site

British Comedy Guide entry (Radio version)

British Comedy Guide entry (2012 TV version)

See also

Weaver's Week review of 2012 television series.


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