Radio - Nicholas Parsons

Nicholas Parsons and Paul Merton in front of a blackboard

BBC Radio 4 will pay tribute to the late broadcasting legend, Nicholas Parsons CBE, with an evening of programmes on what would have been his 97th birthday, Saturday 10th October...

Press Release

Actor and comedian Paul Merton - who appeared alongside Nicholas on panel show Just A Minute for over 30 years - joins Clive Anderson on Loose Ends (6.15pm-7pm) to introduce the evening ahead.

TV director and producer Paul Jackson celebrates the showbiz lives of the irrepressible late, great man in Nicholas Parsons: A Man Of Many Parts (7pm-7.30pm). He hears from an array of friends, colleagues and collaborators including Paul Merton, Jean Diamond, John Antrobus, Laura Beaumont, Gyles Brandreth, Jill Sinclair and Adrian Edmondson.

The Radio 4 comedy panel show Just A Minute launched in 1967 and was chaired by Nicholas throughout; a frequent feature of the line-up, Paul Merton selects one of his favourite episodes (7.30pm-8pm). This edition from 13 December 2010 is the 800th episode of the show and features Paul, Sheila Hancock, Gyles Brandreth and Ian MacMillan – as ever, attempting to talk for 60 seconds with no hesitation, repetition or deviation.

The Straight Man (8pm-8.30pm) transports listeners to an earlier part of Nicholas’ career and presents a potted history of the "straight man" in comedy double-acts. In the 1950s and 60s, Nicholas played the stooge to Arthur Haynes's funny man, here he shares memories of those years and explores the role with the help of Syd Little, Peter Reeves and Ian "Krankie" Tough, among others. Presented by Nicholas himself, this documentary was originally broadcast on Radio 4 in 2005.

Going further back still, Doon The Watta (8.30pm-9pm) originally broadcast in 2010, sees Nicholas return to the Clyde, where he worked as an apprentice in the 1940s, to rekindle memories of his life in Glasgow and journey down the river he loves.

Luxury item: portable radio, with an endless supply of batteries - surely the true sign of a devotee to the medium, this was selected by Nicholas when he appeared as a guest on Desert Island Discs (9pm). In the interview with Kirsty Young from 2007, Nicholas speaks of his perhaps unlikely beginnings in the entertainment industry: "The joy of performing is that you overcome the insecurity of your nature and are reassured by the reaction of the audience".

A new documentary and specially chosen highlights from the archive covering Nicholas’ outstanding career will give listeners a chance to delight again in his humour as well as to learn more about his life.

The programming continues on Radio 4 Extra with Just A Minute Does Panto! (10pm-10.45pm), part scripted pantomime alongside the usual off-the-cuff Just A Minute Game. Originally broadcast in 2017 to mark the programme’s 50th year, regulars Paul Merton, Sheila Hancock and Gyles Brandreth, journey through Panto-land in search of the missing Just A Minute Golden Whistle. Their companions on their quest include, Tom Allen, Pippa Evans, Tony Hawks, Rufus Hound and Julian Clary.

Ahead of the evening Nicholas’ widow Annie Parsons, speaking on behalf of his family, said “Nicholas loved the BBC and he would consider this evening an unbelievable honour and be immensely flattered."

Radio 4’s Commissioning Editor for Comedy, Sioned Wiliam added “There is so much love and respect amongst us all at Radio 4 and our listeners for Nicholas, we miss him so much. He leaves behind one of the finest comedy and broadcasting legacies spanning over 50 years. We’re delighted to be able to remember him through a selection of that brilliance on this evening.”

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