Is a panel which consists only of stand-up comedians a varied enough mix to succeed in this type of format?
In the old days, Just A Minute didn’t use a single stand-up. Kenneth Williams, Derek Nimmo, Peter Jones and Clement Freud were all actors or raconteurs. Not even Kenneth was a stand-up comic; he was an actor, who was funny with a script, and blindingly good as a raconteur.
Newer shows are different. The Unbelieveable Truth, for example, which is derived from 1970s favourite Call My Bluff, has a panel solely comprised of stand-ups. Thus it’s similar to the tv game show Jokers Wild, if your memory of tv goes back that far: all of them good in their own right as comedians, but they didn’t gell as a group. In the case of Just A Minute, part of the secret to its longevity is the fact that the regulars did gell as a group.
One reason why Jokers Wild didn’t gell was the lack of interaction between the panellists. They merely did their own “party pieces”, and that was all; whereas in Just A Minute the panellists interacted with each other, with challenges and objections. The Unbelieveable Truth has at least a degree of interaction, with players issuing challenges, which Jokers Wild entirely lacked.
However, the panel on The Unbelieveable Truth are just too young!
This is heresy, of course, in an age which prays at the altar of the cult of youth. But panellists with the experience of the likes of Kenneth Williams or Derek Nimmo or Clement Freud are what are needed to recreate the success of Just A Minute. On The Unbelieveable Truth, in my opinion only Jack Dee is really experienced enough, in show business terms, to fill the shoes of someone like Peter Jones or Derek Nimmo.
A successful show that lasts forty years can only do so by building on a solid foundation of experience, such as Kenneth Williams had, who came to the show with twenty years experience as an actor and entertainer behind him.