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Audio Book Review


Nicholas Parsons
My Life in Comedy - With Just a Touch of Hesitation, Repetition and Deviation


Author: Nicholas Parsons
Read by: Nicholas Parsons
RRP: £15.00
ISBN: 978 1 408 46958 3
Available 01 August 2011

Nicholas Parsons has enjoyed a long and varied career encompassing theatre, television, film and radio. He is perhaps best known as the straight man to Arthur Haynes in the '60s, as the presenter of Sale of the Century in the '70s and today as the chairman of the long-running Radio 4 panel game Just a Minute. Along the way, he has performed impersonations in the lavatories of a Clydebank engineering yard during the war, been the voice of a Gerry Anderson Texan sheriff, roller-skated in Charlie Girl at the Victoria Palace and appeared in a series of Doctor Who. His comedy chat show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is now in its tenth consecutive year. Here he recalls an extraordinary career that has led him to star on the West End stage, work with some of Britain's finest comedians, including Kenneth Williams, Tony Hancock, Benny Hill and Paul Merton, and appear in stockings and suspenders in The Rocky Horror Show...

Nicholas Parsons: My Life in Comedy is not only an interesting look at the career of Parsons, it is also a celebration of a British national treasure. There are few other performers who have managed to survive the passing of the years without falling by the wayside. In fact I can only think of Bruce Forsyth, Terry Wogan and of course Nicholas Parsons who are versatile enough to have managed to remain household names for several decades. This 12 CD collection lasts for approximately 13 hours and 15 mins.

Parsons's, ever the gentleman, very rarely engages in gossip or puts down people he has worked with. He does, however, report when the occasional person hasn't acting professionally, but he never moans about them - just appears baffled by their actions. For example, talking about Just a Minute, he explains why Wendy Richards was dropped from the show and why Paul Merton made sure he wasn't booked on the same shows as her. Parsons's believes that Richards's seemed to slowly turn into her Eastenders character Pauline Fowler over the years. Also Clement Freud and Parsons, who were childhood friends, became distant after a journalist wrote something negative about Just a Minute. In addition he reveals that he never really got along with Terry Scott.

He has a lot of praise for Merton who, we discover, is always generous on the show and regularly makes sure that the other contestants are allowed a fair chance. Parsons and Merton have become good friends over the years, and Parsons's spends quite a lot of time singing his praises. In fact, there is a segment where he quickly runs through his thoughts (always kind) on the current regular contestants on the show.

Some interesting things we learn about Parsons include the fact that he was at school with Margaret Roberts (who would later become Margaret Thatcher); his career in the merchant navy only lasted a few days as he caught pleurisy and almost died; as a young boy he was both dyslexic and suffered from a bad stutter (something he admits he still has to control to this day); he was attacked on stage for impersonating Winston Churchill; The News Quiz was originally Parsons's idea; he still lives in hope that an honest stranger who drove his car to the theatre for him will come forward so that he can thank him; he dated Geraldine McEwan (who is famous now for playing Miss Marple) for one night; explains why he only starred in one Carry On movie; talks about his Hello magazine wedding; and goes on a little too long about his Saga cruises (sound too much like a plug).

The only aspect I was a little dubious about was some of Parsons's creative claims. Was he really responsible for the introduction of improvisational comedy, The News Quiz and a few other things that sound like an older man remembering the past a little differently than it actually happened.

If you're a fan of Just a Minute, or any of Parsons's projects, then this is an entertaining and well priced collection.


Darren Rea

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