With over four decades' worth of episodes, Just a Minute has plenty of moments from which to choose, but here are some noteworthy ones.
- In a 1971 episode, Kenneth Williams was given the subject of "Heinrich Schwarzburg" and spoke quite convincingly of the man's life story before losing the subject to Clement Freud with three seconds to go. After Clement used up the last few seconds, Nicholas revealed that, as far as Ian Messiter knew, there was no such person as Heinrich Schwarzburg, and they were just playing a prank on Kenneth.
- In a 1973 episode, one of the subjects Ian Messiter saw fit to include was "My oldest possession". However, Nicholas, by his own admission, was too vain to wear his glasses during recordings, and accidentally read the subject as "My oldest profession", to the amused disbelief of Messiter and the panellists.
- Barry Took's debut episode in 1973 included an example of the value of timing in comedy. Suffering from the usual first-timer nerves, he randomly challenged Peter Jones just for an excuse to say something, said something being "Good evening." The audience laughed and applauded, so Nicholas awarded him a bonus point (while noting how odd it was to award someone a point just for saying "Good evening"), but left the subject with Peter. Barry was then given the next subject, "My preference", and near the end of the round, Derek Nimmo and Clement Freud both buzzed him simply to say, "Good evening," to further laughter from the audience.
- In the 1974-75 series opener, Clement Freud had the subject "The first of a new series" with three seconds to go, and before he said anything Peter Jones challenged for hesitation. Nicholas ruled that there hadn't been a hesitation and gave Clement back the subject... with two seconds left. The idea that not speaking for a second didn't qualify as hesitation led Peter to an epic rant that Kenneth Williams would have been proud of. This rant was intertwined with Derek Nimmo complaining that his buzzer wasn't working, then followed by a brief rant from Kenneth when Nicholas accidentally said his name instead of Clement's and he assumed Nicholas was about to chastise him, making for a chaotic yet hilarious start to the new series.
- On several occasions, Peter Jones talked for quite a while under the impression that he had the subject when he didn't. For example, in Barry Cryer's debut in 1974, he was speaking on the apt subject "what it's like the first time", and told a joke about misunderstanding the direction "stand in boiling water" the first time he tried to cook a tin of soup. Derek Nimmo challenged him, but was told by Nicholas that his challenge was wrong. However, as soon as Nicholas said "starting now", Peter Jones tried to clarify Barry's joke, and after Ian Messiter stopped and re-started the watch, Peter went on talking over Barry until the whistle went.
- In the 21 October 1974 episode, Peter Jones was given the subject "faulty equipment", and, after opening by noting that he very seldom got through a full minute without being challenged, spoke at great length about the travails of working in radio with countless wires and other electronics and the problems that result if the equipment is faulty. Eventually, he gasped, "Is it about an hour and a half!?", at which point Kenneth Williams challenged him for deviation, leading to a revelation from Nicholas and a hilarious rejoinder from Peter:Nicholas: Kenneth Williams buzzed then to let you off the hook as he had been going for exactly ninety seconds!
Peter: There! Even the clock's wrong!
- In the 28 October 1974 episode, Kenneth Williams was given the subject "Immanuel Kant", and initially spoke for 39 seconds about Kant's life and The Critique of Pure Reason until Barry Cryer buzzed him for perceived deviation. Nicholas overruled the challenge, but Kenneth was apparently more than usually thrown by the interruption, leading to the following:Kenneth: Of course, the other th- oh, dear! [buzz]
Nicholas: Kenneth Williams will start again, you have 21 seconds on Immanuel Kant starting now...
Kenneth: [overlapping with Nicholas] Well I can't now because it's just ruined me! [buzz] I mean it's just ruined me!
Nicholas: Clement Freud has challenged.
Clement Freud: Deviation, he wasn't talking about Immanuel Kant. He was talking about his personal ruination.
Nicholas: [overlapping with Clement] Right, Kenneth Williams, you continue with Immanuel Kant, you have 18 seconds starting now.
Kenneth: But it'd be impossible for me to collect my thoughts, and all the thoughts that need collecting- [buzz]
Nicholas: And, er, Clement Freud has challenged again.
Clement: Repetition of "thoughts".
Nicholas: Yes, you repeated "thoughts", but don't worry Kenneth, carry on on Immanuel Kant, and you have 14 seconds starting now.
Kenneth: Well you see, he- [buzz]
Nicholas: And, er, Derek Nimmo's challenged.
Derek Nimmo: What's happening!?
Nicholas: Kenneth Williams must continue on Immanuel Kant because he was thrown by all three of you, he has 13 seconds starting now.
Kenneth: He makes a definite- [buzz]
Nicholas: Er, Derek Nimmo's challenged.
Derek: D'you mind if I go home? There doesn't seem to be a point, does there really!
- This then opened the floodgates for first Clement, then Derek, and finally Barry to buzz in with non-challenges simply because they wanted Kenneth to have extra points... then, when Kenneth was finally able to get going again, Derek finally successfully challenged him for repetition. The massive number of points he accumulated during the round was enough to hand Kenneth a rare win for the game.
- In the 30 December 1974 episode, Peter Jones won the subject of "what I read on a wall" and brought the house down by saying, "Well the door of this toilet was about nine inches off the floor, and it said on the wall, 'Beware of the limbo dancers!'"
- Two episodes in the 1974-75 series featured a likely unintentional Brick Joke between Nicholas and Derek Nimmo involving glasses of water.note
- On the 30 December 1974 episode, Derek was given the subject of "old Nick", and inevitably took the bait to launch into an energetic diatribe against Nicholas (as if portending the chaos ahead, when Nicholas announced the subject, a passing emergency siren could be heard in the background):Derek: That great fat slob who sits up there on this podium! Week after same seven days! And adjudicates about this programme! Great big gross ugly man! [buzz, which Derek ignores] I loathe him! "Old Nick", I shout every week when I come to the studio! How can I look at old Nick getting more and more elderly... [buzz, which Derek ignores again] every time I see him the great eyes sagging, the dreary ears like a frog, ears like a frog... [huge audience laughter] with an 84-year-old mother!
Nicholas: The round of applause was for the glass of water that I threw over Derek Nimmo!
- Derek got his own back on the 3 March 1975 episode when he won the subject "matters of little consequence":Derek: It is a matter of little consequence to me that we have a great oaf for the chairman of this programme! Who sits up there week after day on this programme - [loud laughter from the audience and Clement Freud] throwing - water over everybody, and therefore sometimes you have to get more ammunition, and to throw - more - water... [whistle blows, and then again; audience applauds and cheers]
Kenneth Williams: I've never been present- I have never been present at a radio show like this in my life!
Nicholas: No no!
Kenneth: Absolutely disgraceful!
Derek: Do I get a bonus point?
Nicholas: I must very quickly [buzzer] explain to our listeners that when Derek Nimmo was so rude to me, I went across to threaten him, but before my threat had any effect at all, he picked up his glass of water and threw it all over me!
Sheila Hancock: Most of it went over me anyway!
- On the 30 December 1974 episode, Derek was given the subject of "old Nick", and inevitably took the bait to launch into an energetic diatribe against Nicholas (as if portending the chaos ahead, when Nicholas announced the subject, a passing emergency siren could be heard in the background):
- When Tim Brooke-Taylor made his debut in the 28 February 1979 episode, he repeatedly challenged Clement Freud mostly because he didn't want him to win, leading to a hilarious denunciation when Clement got the subject of "how others see me" with one second to go and Tim buzzed him before he could take over the subject:(buzz, whistle)
Clement Freud: Five foot ten...
Nicholas: And, er, Tim Brooke-Taylor challenged.
Tim Brooke-Taylor: I still don't want him to win, I'm sorry. Nothing - nothing - nothing has changed! He lets us, you know, do all...
Kenneth Williams: Do all the slogging, yes!
Tim: Do all the slogging until the last second!
Kenneth: Do all the work!
Tim: I've heard you! I've heard you on the radio as I drive home, I hear Kenneth going on and on and on and that sly beggar over there, just at the last minute, he's got a stopwatch there, everybody, he's got a stopwatch, and just 59 seconds has gone and he goes (buzz; imitating Clement) "Repetition of (mutters)!"
Kenneth: I quite agree! And that's the first time anyone's had the guts to air those views on this programme! It's the first time that justice has been done! You're quite right, Tim! Welcome, welcome!
- As it turned out, Clement didn't win the episode - Tim won, becoming one of the few panellists to win on his first appearance on Just a Minute.
- Peter Cook only made a handful of appearances, but his first episode on 6 March 1979 was one of the most memorable debuts by any panellist, as he derailed the episode in hilariously surreal fashion after only a few seconds when Kenneth Williams was given the opening subject of "my other self":Kenneth Williams: My other self or ought...
Nicholas: And, er, Peter Cook has challenged right away. Peter?
Peter Cook: I thought I'd, I'd better get in early, er, because, er, otherwise I might not be noticed and I have to bring up the possibility of deviation here. Ah...
Nicholas: You mean...
Peter: ... the other self which is being talked about, which self is he talking about and has he deviated from himself while he's talking about himself?
Nicholas: Well, the only deviation's that occurred is that the feller never even started!
- In the 18 April 1981 episode, Clement Freud was apparently feeling more than usually unkindly disposed toward Nicholas and seemed to be taking every opportunity to criticise his abilities as chairman, and the other panellists were only too happy to join in:
- Upon winning the subject of "cheek", Clement said that this was exhibited by Nicholas in taking on the job of taking control of people "whose multi-syllabic words he doesn't understand, whose meaning he is unable to comprehend, and whose hours and time he is unable to keep", then acknowledged the numerous repetitions of "unable" and wondered why he hadn't been challenged. Peter Jones buzzed to say that he hadn't challenged because he'd been enjoying the speech, prompting loud and delighted laughter from Kenneth Williams as well as the audience.
- Later in the programme, Clement was given the subject of "making an effort", and declared that he would like to dissociate Nicholas from such a concept. Derek Nimmo buzzed to say he endorsed Clement's statement.
- Between these two denunciations, Peter was given the subject of "stink bombs", and while he was speaking, Derek (who sat next to him when they appeared together) produced a trick safety pin bought from a joke shop and put it through his nose. Peter was so surprised that he completely dried up and Derek promptly buzzed him for hesitation. Nicholas gave him the subject, and as he spoke of having set off a stink bomb in the studio, Derek produced a bag of plastic snow which he emptied over his head, to gales of laughter from the audience and other panellists. (Peter rather wisely pointed out that the performance was somewhat lost on the radio audience.) As the laughter died down, Clement nonsensically challenged Derek for saying "Tunbridge Wells". Nicholas overruled the challenge, but Clement continued to debate the point over Nicholas saying "starting now", leading Nicholas to point out that since Derek wasn't speaking, anyone could challenge him for hesitation! (No-one took the bait, however.)
- The 28 July 1984 episode with Gyles Brandreth, Martin Jarvis, Kenneth Williams and Derek Nimmo sees Nicholas feeling particularly confident — putting on a Northern accent to chew out Martin, answering a challenge in fluent French, and making Kenneth Williams momentarily speechless!Nicholas: Well that must be a new Williams ploy, not only drag the words out, but make them incomprehensible at the same time!
Kenneth: You taking the rise?!
Kenneth: (brief hesitation) ... I don't have to sit here and be insulted!
- In the 2 January 1993 episode, Clement gets the subject "Records" at the very end of a round that's beginning to drag on a little: "The great thing about Virgin Records is that they have no" — [whistle] — "holes in them."
- In one 1993 episode, Peter Jones challenged Clement Freud for hesitation while he was speaking on the subject of "ginger", and Paul Merton pointed out "There was a repetition of 'restaurant'."Nicholas: I know there was, but he didn't challenge for that.
Paul: No, but I've just done.
Nicholas: Yes, but Peter got in first. I disagree with the challenge, actually, Peter, so Clement has to keep the subject, even though Paul's challenge was correct — mind you, that doesn't mean to say you can't challenge later — twelve seconds left, starting now.
Clement: Candied, caramelised— (buzz)
Nicholas: Paul Merton, you've challenged?
Paul: Repetition of 'restaurant'.
Nicholas: Yes, that's right. Ten seconds—
Paul: ...That was one of the most bizarre rulings I've ever come across!
Nicholas: Well, you challenged him for repetition of 'restaurant'.
Paul: Yes, I did.
Nicholas: And he did repeat 'restaurant'.
Paul: He did.
Nicholas: That's right.
Paul: But you wouldn't give it to me before.
Nicholas: But he — you — let's get this — let's — I mean, there are simple rules, which we follow — he did have 'restaurant'...
Paul: Nicholas, in an earlier programme, you accused me of 'living in a world of my own'.
Nicholas: I try to live in the world of Just a Minute, which is particularly difficult, making these obstuse — er decisions on...
Nicholas: And obtruse! I tactfully suggested that you could challenge later, you did challenge later, you got in there with another repetition of (devolves into gibberish) and Clement Freud is right, so actually I'm entitled now to say to you, yes, that is right, 'cause Clement Freud did repeat 'restaurant' before and so you get a point for a correct challenge to take away from Clement Freud and—(devolves into gibberish again)
Derek Nimmo: ...He's finally flipped!
Nicholas: Ten seconds on ginger, starting now!
Paul: Could I have that last ruling in writing?
- Paul Merton was given the subject of "telepathy" in the 31 December 1994 episode. The ensuing long silence (12 seconds!) was as funny as it was predictable, as was Tony Hawks claiming that he had repeated "...".
- In Linda Smith's first appearance in 1999, everyone gave her joke challenges, culminating with "I just thought she should have another point." Her response was "Can I just say I don't find this at all patronising?"
- Given the subject of "Body language" in the 17 January 2000 episode, Stephen Fry opened thus:Stephen Fry: My bottom speaks fluent German...
- This was as far as he was able to get before riotous laughter from Nicholas, the other panellists, and the audience cut him off. Eventually Paul Merton pressed his buzzer and balanced a smaller crown atop Stephen's.Paul Merton: You don't have to tell me, I heard it clearing its throat earlier!
- The 10 July 2000 episode saw Linda Smith on the panel with Stephen Fry, who, upon winning the subject of "ludo", inevitably started talking about the Latin root of the subject. Linda buzzed to say that she was feeling "educationally insecure" and to try to sell him a bunch of violets.
- The 24 July 2000 episode gave the subject of "socks" to Graham Norton, resulting in one of the best double entendres ever heard on the show: "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." Cue 20 seconds of non-stop laughter from the audience.
- Two classic moments from the 2002 Edinburgh Fringe episode:
- With the subject "The Chairman's Darkest Secret," Clement appears to be weighing several options and decides on an allegation about a goat Nicholas keeps tied up somewhere. Paul buzzes: "That's no secret, we all know about that!"
- Upon winning the subject of "my accent", Ross Noble claims for the benefit of foreign listeners that his Geordie accent is "the poshest in all the land.""Why aye, Your Majesty!" will be heard ringing across the place. "I'd very much like to enjoy one of your champion Ferrero Rochers!"
- In the 6 January 2003 episode, when the subject was "one minute"...Paul Merton: One minute can be fast, slow, medium paced... (buzz)
Nicholas: Ross challenged.
Ross Noble: No, it's a minute.
- The 25 August 2003 episode was full of funny moments.
- Paul said he'd been to see Clement's "one-man tribute to Robbie Williams," with a Brief Accent Imitation of Clement saying, "Let Me Entertain You." (A little later, when Clement got a subject away from him, Paul retaliated with, "Your Robbie Williams show was rubbish.")
- Paul says something about Nicholas's abilities as a host that causes the audience to oooh, to which he says, "It's no good booing him, he's doing his best!"
- Ross Noble stumbles on a great pun with the subject "chipmunks": they're holy men that worship fried food, in chippies... or friaries.
- Nicholas says he's going to clear his throat and asks them to cut it out.Ross: Cut your throat out?
Paul: Let's have a show of hands! All those who want Nicholas to cut his throat, put your hands up!... That's a forest, I call that a forest!
- And:Clement: "Gnomes" is spelt with a G...
Paul: Well, not just a G. There's an N, there's an O... I could go on!
- At one point, the watch started running backwards.
- In Dara O Briain's first episode from September 2003, he gets the subject "Stiff upper lip" with fifty seconds left and immediately gets challenged for hesitation. Nicholas agrees with the challenge but decides to let him keep the subject because he's new. He starts again: "Being Irish..." Clement challenges him for deviation, for starting too quickly this time. Dara starts again: "Being Irish..." Paul challenges for repetition, but Dara says it's not his fault he didn't get to finish the sentence, prompting an argument ("So with the two words "being Irish," you've got me for hesitation, repetition and deviation"). Nicholas lets him keep the subject. Dara: "As a Paddy..." Paul then challenges for deviation for not saying "being Irish." Dara finally gets the thing off the ground with, "Not hailing from these shores..." and ends up losing the subject after a sentence and a half anyway.
- The 7 February 2005 episode features several classic moments:
- Given the opening subject of "pulling someone's leg", Paul Merton pretends his microphone is dying so he could get away with several seconds of silence followed by an Orphaned Punchline. Everyone lets him get away with it until he does it again a moment later and Clement Freud challenges not for hesitation, but for repetition.
- During a round on "green fingers", Clement Freud ends up with the subject and begins talking about how he has herbaceous borders that would outwit, outplay, outperform... at which point Paul Merton challenges for deviation:Paul: I don't know that a herbaceous border can outwit anybody! If I saw a herbaceous border offering me a cheap villa in Spain, I don't think I'd go for it. I don't think I'd find myself sitting in Madrid 3 years later going, "Well, I rue the day I took a business deal with that herbaceous border!" It's deviation, a herbaceous border can't outwit anybody. A tulip, now there's another thing!
Nicholas: Paul you're on great form and we absolutely love it. But, the thing is...
Paul: Nicholas, no, you're not going to say it! You're not going to tell me you've been outwitted by a herbaceous border!
- Nicholas ultimately decides it's an incorrect challenge, and Paul is so mock-outraged by this that he promptly turns it into a Running Gag for the rest of the show:Paul: [buzzing in immediately after Clement has gotten started again] I'm sorry, I can't let this go! I want the challenge again!Nicholas: Yes, on what?Paul: I don't think you can be outwitted by a herbaceous border! Go on, go on, give me the benefit of the doubt!Nicholas: If I had an herbaceous border and you had an herbaceous border, and I came and saw yours, you'd say "my herbaceous border's outwitted yours!"Paul: ...You're right, I'm wrong! Security!Linda Smith: So is this a sort of crime-fighting herbaceous border?Paul: You hear about it on Gardener's Question Time. "Dear Gardener's Question Time, my herbaceous border has recently bought a Volvo car without my knowledge!"
Linda: Yes! "Dear Gardener's Question Time, my herbaceous border has recently beaten me at chess!"
Paul: Am I the only person here whose herbaceous border has made it to the final of Brain of Britain?
- Later on, after Paul brings it up again, Nicholas slips up:Clement: [on a very picky challenge of repetition] I'm lucky I brought my solicitor!Paul: And we're bringing an herbaceous border as an expert witness!Nicholas: You won't let this one lie, will you?Paul: No!Nicholas: The next time we record Just a Minute, it'll come up again! Right, so the subject is herbaceous borders— no it isn't...
- All this finally culminates in Paul getting the subject of "how to treat the chairman" with half a second to go and shouting "Herbaceous borders!" before the whistle goes.
- Sir Clement Freud was given the opening subject of "Answering back" in the 14 March 2005 episode. When Nicholas finished his opening spiel about having sixty seconds to speak without hesitation, repetition, or deviation, "starting now", Clement simply replied:Clement Freud: Shan't!
- Upon winning the subject of "how to be irresistible to the opposite sex" in the 23 January 2006 episode, Tim Rice said that the way to be irresistible to women was to be "strong and silent," and gave an example. This caused a lengthy argument about whether the silence in question counted as hesitation or not.
- In the 31 July 2006 episode, the subject was "The London Marathon". Clement Freud managed to get the subject with 30 seconds left and quipped that he could run the London Marathon as he had the body of an 18-year-old boy... in his refrigerator. Paul Merton buzzed in but withdrew his challenge, saying that Clement really did have an 18-year-old boy named Simon in his fridge. He was given the subject anyway and began talking about his own relationship with Simon, at which point Julian Clary buzzed him for deviation - and during the ensuing banter, Clement claimed that Simon was in fact dead, to the dismay of Paul and Pauline McLynn. The round quickly collapsed into chaos, to the point that when Nicholas tried to return the subject to Julian, he slipped up and said Julian had four seconds to talk about Simon... and decided he might as well officially change the subject of the round.
- David Mitchell, on his first appearance in 2009, started with the first subject and was buzzed by Clement Freud before he'd said a word.note Clement: You know, people think, because someone hasn't played the game before, that you should be kind to them. But he hesitated! It was a most obvious hesitation!
(later, after Nicholas overrules Clement's challenge and awards David a point)
David: That's actually a rate of point scoring of infinity per word! I'll never keep it up!
- Sue Perkins, upon gaining the subject of "Chick Lit" in the 21 September 2009 episode, gave a hilarious parody/deconstruction of the "chick lit" genre.Sue Perkins: Alex is a doctor, slack jawed and ready to roll. She doesn't have a job but wants babies. Oh my ovaries are drying, must find a man, where can I go? The supermarket, I don't care. I'll travel miles because a baby will take my mind off the lack of personality that the writer has ascribed to me. He looks hot, what does he do? Is that a stethoscope? Touch me but maybe don't, because let's face it, I want to widen the audience that buys these books and pornography will simply detract from the overall theme. The... (whistle blows as the sixty seconds are up)
- The episode from 9 August 2010 where, in the final round, the other panellists constantly buzz in on John Sergeant knowing their challenge is wrong.
- Ross Noble and Tony Hawks' argument in the 16 August 2010 episode as to whether or not moles can have jobs. Eventually Nicholas gives Ross the benefit of the doubt, and when the clock starts again he is so taken aback to still have the subject that he is immediately buzzed for hesitation. (It's also the same episode where Nicholas gets a bit lost during a challenge and ends up awarding himself points.)
- The live episode from the Edinburgh Fringe 2011 where Gyles Brandreth managed to drag absolutely every subject around to the Royal Family within a couple of sentences, to much bewilderment from Paul Merton.
- In one 2012 episode, Sue Perkins gets the subject of Dadaism, and gives a lengthy speech on what it entails and where it originated, getting more and more melodramatic, finally saying "And it's gone way, way, way—" (buzz) Cue the buzzer from Paul Merton, after which Nicholas reveals to her that she had been speaking for fifty-nine seconds.
- From the 5 March 2012 episode, Charles Collingwood gets the subject "The Contents of Nicholas' Wallet". He claims that Nicholas has the body of a small labrador in his wallet, squashed up tight. Julian Clary challenges with the statement "Let's just...stop this now". Nicholas says, incredulously, "Exactly! I've got the body of a labrador in my wallet...?" Cue Paul Merton: "So you admit it!"
- In the 12 March 2012 episode, Liza Tarbuck has the subject of "Camels". She says "There is nothing more delightful than a camel." Kit Hesketh-Harvey buzzes in — "How can you say that in front of Nicholas Parsons?" Nicholas says "I've never been compared to a camel before..." and Paul Merton comes in with "Not favorably, no!"
- Two great moments from the 28 March 2012 television episode:
- Nicholas — rather worriedly — announces that the next subject is "Nicholas Parsons". Sue Perkins opens with the sublime "Nicholas Parsons was born before records began..."
- Upon winning the subject of "night school", Sue picks up a joke started by Marcus Brigstocke that the subject was actually "knight school" until Paul Merton buzzes her for deviation. When Nicholas tries to explain why he is upholding Paul's challenge, Sue replies with an overly-melodramatic "Don't be strict with me, Nicholas! Keep the love alive!". Paul gives an utterly shocked expression, and then "Another one, Nicholas!?"
- In the 4 April 2012 TV episode, Nicholas announces the next subject as "The Owl and the Pussycat", and starts reciting the entire poem (which he doesn't remember very well, at that). The whole panel looks increasingly concerned, culminating in all four walking off set with Marcus Brigstocke holding up a piece of paper with "GET HELP!" written on it.
- In a 2014 episode, Gyles Brandreth gets the subject of "My favourite view", and starts with "You know that wonderful line of Maureen Lipman's, 'What's the worst thing about oral sex? The view.'" He continues speaking over the loud (and surprised) audience laughter about his favourite view being from the cell in Ford Prison which he served time for a bank robbery (a Call-Back to an earlier round about "The best way to spend a bank holiday") as all three of the other panellists (Paul Sinha, Shappi Khorsandi, and Patrick Kielty) buzz him repeatedly.