BBC’s under-rated and these days hidden gem of comedy radio is the show Just a Minute. The original host Nicholas Parsons had plenty of minutes in his lifetime. He ran the longevity of the show from 1962 to 2019, well into his 90s. The witty Lincolnshire-born presenter came from a town called Grantham, known for its infamous daughter Baroness Margaret Thatcher and Sir Isaac Newton. One famous for apples falling off a tree, and the former, a Darth Vader-impressionist for stealing milk from developing children.
Nicholas Parsons reportedly only missed around four episodes of the radio show, Just a Minute, between 2018 and 2020. Parsons was clearly caught slacking at the young age of 94. His good friend Gyles Brandreth, a regular show panelist stepped in for those occasions. Even into his 95th year, Parsons was active at a charity event, with the Grand Order of Water Rats.
The aim of the gameshow Just a Minute, is to speak unbrokenly on a subject for sixty seconds. Regular panelist (for 33 years) and comedian Paul Merton has mastered this skill. Evidence can be found on the BBC website, although you can’t say BBC because that’s repetition. No repetition. I repeat, no repetition. The rules of Just a Minute involve:
When the leader or chair person says start talking, or ends their introduction the competitor must speak immediately.
Try not to speak too swiftly. You may trip over your own words.
Don’t hesitate. Don’t speak slowly because… No hesitation. Nor should you acknowledge others speaking and that you’re going to go down another avenue.
A wide vocabulary is useful.
Deviation: changing the topic is ill-advised. That’s a rule broken. No deviation. Keep it on topic.
Don’t ask questions to the chair person or fellow panelists. That’s deviation.
To say, “um”, “er”, “ee”, “oo”, “ah”, “walla walla”, “bing bang” or “ahhhh” is to break the rules. See hesitation.
The listening competitors can challenge any broken rules.
Repeat only the words on the subject card, although it being a radio show. No repetition of other words. Even acronyms such as BBC, CCTV etc count as repetition.
Short words don’t count as repetition. e.g. I, our, we, the…
Let the opposition listen and challenge you. The chair person’s say is final but the panel may debate challenges in a friendly way. Rules are rules.
The game show can be adapted to be a fun end of year game. It would certainly encourage fluency and accuracy in thought to speech. The show created by the late Ian Messiter was caught day-dreaming and faced the cane, but could avoid doing so by speaking for two minutes on the class subject (he should have been listening to). So, in a sense, repeating the game in the classroom, at the end of the school year, is returning it to its origins. Without a cane. Thanks Mr Messiter! Interestingly, the creator’s son, Malcom, even presented the show on a televised version in 2012. Now, actress and comedian Sue Perkins hosts the regular radio panel show. In my humble this is essential listening to improve your skills of English and spoken ability. There’s no harm in trying. Sharpening the tongue is a skill of its own.
As part of our language and literature class at Tungwah Wenzel International School, students have been assigned a piece of holiday homework. Students are investigating and exploring the question: What makes a life worth writing about?
The task is to interview someone who is accessible. The students have prepared for their interview in advance, and did so by brainstorming possible question ideas. Their mind map was created on software called Padlet, owing to the fact that 15 days of online teaching has made gathering face-to-face near impossible. The students must select a good subject (person) to interview. In this case, I suggested my Mum. As such, I volunteered to do the task myself. Great questions have potential to make good biographies, so many open-ended questions will be needed. On top of the answers, we’ll need to probe further to squeeze out the information. This first-hand information will help us all to understand the purpose of biography and bring a real-world taste to the subject content. Students have also explored biographies to generate their own questions.
This isn’t the interview. These are the possible questions. I won’t be asking about how many children my Mum has, how many siblings, or any other question to which I already know the answer. That’d be a waste of time. I can write about that in my own introduction.
When and where were you born?
Do you recall any stories about your birth?
What is your earliest memory?
Do you remember your first pet(s)?
Who was your inspiration in your childhood?
Did you have any nicknames?
What were you afraid of as a child?
Who were your first close friends?
What games did you like to play?
How did you spend your summer holidays?
Do you recall your grandparents?
Is there anything you’d like to share about your childhood?
How did your parents influence you?
What does the word family mean to you?
Do you wish you had been raised differently? If so, how so?