Just A Minute’s Nicholas Parsons: “If I was on autopilot that show would be dead by now”

The 90-year-old entertainer isn't about to throw in the towel just yet – and don't you dare ask him about his "successor"

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Nicholas Parsons says that Just a Minute would have died long ago if he didn’t keep “fresh as a daisy”.

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The 90-year-old radio broadcaster said at the Cheltenham Literature Festival that the show would not have survived if he hadn’t treated every show as if it was his first.

Just a Minute has been running on BBC Radio 4 for 47 years and has clocked up 900 episodes, but host Parsons said that he had found a way to keep the show fresh.

“Every time is as fresh as a daisy,” he said. “Some idiot spoke to me – he’s a friend actually – he said, ‘Nicholas I suppose after 47 years you’re a little bit on autopilot?’ I said, ‘Dear boy if I was on autopilot that show would be dead by now.’

“Every time you do any show, you have to walk out as if it’s the first time you’ve ever done it, so the adrenaline pumps, you give it your best and something happens. I’ve found a way to make it work for me, and for the show,” he added.

As for who might succeed him as host of the show, Parsons was in no mood to consider the idea: “I won’t be here, I’ll be gone!” he answered. “I’ve no doubt the BBC have thought, ‘Well he can’t live forever, who have we got up our sleeve?’ I don’t want to think about it.”

Parsons also revealed during the session, held to promote the show’s book Welcome to Just a Minute!, how he had fallen out with former panellist Sir Clement Freud over how to keep the show up to date.

“Clement was a good friend for many years, but he actually didn’t enjoy the way I ran the show. He criticised me in his autobiography, because he wanted to keep it old and old fashioned as it was when it first started, four interesting erudite young people just talking generally,” Parsons said.

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“It got a bit tedious and boring, and that’s what he wanted. I think it would have died a natural death if we had gone that way, and I have slowly adjusted the rules to keep it more sharp and interesting, and bring in lovely women as well, because we were getting a bit male-orientated.”