Just a Classic Minute
Volume 4

Starring: Nicholas Parsons, Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Peter Jones
BBC Audio

RRP: 12.99
ISBN-13: 978 1 8460 7050 1
ISBN-10: 1 84607 050 3
Available 04 June 2007

Nicholas Parsons presents four more specially-selected archive episodes of the ever-popular comedy panel game from its early days. Just as uproariously funny - and terrifically popular - today as when it first began on BBC Radio 4 in 1968, Just a Minute challenges contestants to speak for one minute on a given subject without repetition, hesitation or deviation. Its mix of irreverent fun and ferocious competition has always attracted stellar names from the world of comedy and theatre, and in this case Sheila Hancock, Lance Percival, Wendy Richard, Tommy Trinder, Stephen Fry and Jan Ravens pit their wits - and their wit - against regular players Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud, Peter Jones and Paul Merton...

Just a Minute was devised by the late Ian Messiter who came up with the idea on the top of a number 13 bus. He suddenly remembered being given the horrible task of speaking for one minute without hesitation or deviation by one of his school masters.

Producer David Hatch put the pilot show before a BBC development board who were sceptical that the series would run for more than six programmes. Nearly 40 years later, chairman Nicholas Parsons continues to attempt - and mostly succeed - in keeping control over a roll-call of celebrity contenders attempting to talk on a subject for sixty seconds without hesitation, repetition or deviation.

This is the fourth volume in the Just a Classic Minute series of comedy CD releases from the BBC. How they choose the episodes to be included is anyone's guess - although I suppose to be fair I've never heard a bad episode of the show in all the years I've been listening to Radio 4. You could probably pick four episodes at random from the '70s, '80s and '90s and it would still be as entertaining as this collection.

The first episode, from 1969, stars Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Clement Freud and Sheila Hancock. Highlights of this episode include Sheila Hancock revealing that she pretended to be twins with her first crush (although sadly we never get to hear the whole story), as well as the slip that Hancock makes - where she says "flat" instead of "flab" - but comes back with a witty reply.

Next up is an episode from 1978 that sees Tommy Trinder joining regulars Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud and Peter Jones. Trinder is very funny, especially when he's pretending he hasn't got a clue what is going on and Williams's hysterical reaction when he realises he is in the lead is almost worth the price of the CD alone.

The third instalment dates from 1989 and features Clement Freud, Richard Murdoch, Lance Percival and Wendy Richards. There are plenty of comedy moments including Wendy Richards snapping whenever anyone interrupts her flow, and Richard Murdoch is very funny as he stumbles through his talk on "tea time".

And finally we have an episode from 1994 that stars Peter Jones, Paul Merton, Stephen Fry and Jan Ravens. Paul Merton and Stephen Fry's insistence that their Achilles heel is the fact that they find Nicholas Parson's so attractive is made even more hilarious by Jan Raven's insistence that she is not of the same view.

As with the previous volumes in this series, Nicholas Parson gives an interesting introduction to each episode, giving us a little background information on how familiar the guests were with the format of the show as well as a few behind the scene secrets - like the fact that some of the topics were deliberately chosen as the producer knew that Kenneth Williams knew a lot on that subject, and would make for a more enjoyable show for the listeners.

The only real complaint I had is that two episodes per disc is a bit of a cheat really when three episodes would easily fit on each CD - and I could certainly listened to an extra two shows without any difficulty. A classic release that should be in everyone's collection.

Darren Rea

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