Paul Merton reaches Just a Minute milestone

The comedian has overtaken Kenneth Williams to become the second most featured panellist on the Radio 4 comedy programme

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After 27 years of quick-thinking speeches on classic Radio 4 panel game Just a Minute, comedian Paul Merton is set to enter its history books as the second longest-serving panellist of all time when the new series begins next Monday. 

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Merton is set to overtake Kenneth Williams, who racked up 346 appearances from 1968 until his death in 1988. Merton’s 347th appearance is set to air on Monday 22 February.

However, Merton still has a long way to go until he picks up the top spot: the late Clement Freud holds the record for most appearances with a whopping 544 episodes to his name between the programme’s founding in 1967 and his death in 2009.

To put that in context, it’ll take Merton a decade to catch up with Freud, assuming he manages to appear in every episode of the three series Just a Minute puts out every year. A minute never felt so long.

“Having over taken Kenneth William’s total number of appearances on Just A Minute I would like to say without hesitation, deviation or repetition that I am amazed, astonished, thrilled, seasick and severely gobsmacked,” Merton said in a release.

“Paul Merton is one of the outstanding players of Just A Minute,” host Nicholas Parsons added.

“Since his first appearance in 1989, he has been consistently amusing, clever and witty at playing this amazingly difficult game. He is also a very generous player. He is more concerned with contributing and making sure we have a good show than striving to win and impose his personality on the programme – though he does frequently finish up with the most points! His occasional verbal excursions when he takes a subject into the realms of fantasy are delightfully surreal moments in the show.

“His contribution over the years has been consistent and amazing and it is always a pleasure when he is part of the team. He deserves the record he has achieved and long may he be around to improve on it and give more pleasure to the thousands who tune in regularly to hear him playing Just A Minute”.

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Just a Minute returns to BBC Radio 4 on Monday 22nd February at 6.30pm