Jest a Minute
Team captains: Alun Cochrane and Tom Wrigglesworth (2006)
Chris Corcoran and Lloyd Langford (2008-9)
BBC Radio Wales, 25 August 2006 to 11 January 2009 (12 episodes in 2 series)
"The serious quiz about the business of comedy" is how the Radio Wales press unit described their programme. We don't agree; it's an entirely funny quiz about the business of comedy, and all the better for it.
Rhod Gilbert is the show's host, a gravelly-voiced man with a big loud shout. And, just to distinguish him from Brian Blessed, a Welsh lilt. His regular sidekicks are joined by two different guests each week.
In round one, each team is asked 30 seconds of rapid-fire questions on the history of comedy. For instance, "how many people were in The Goons after Michael Bentine left?" The teams are allowed to guess at the question until they get it right, or give up and move on. After the slow pace of the introductions, it's a fast and furious start to the show.
Any laughter missing from the opening round appears in the next segment. Teams are given the start of a classic comedy line, and asked to complete it. For instance, "A pint? That's very nearly..." Points are awarded for the correct answer, or for responses that make the audience laugh.
Round three is for the captains: they're given a list of comedy shows that their teammate must guess. Captains aren't allowed to name the show, the actors or characters. If the chairman's feeling particularly grumpy, he'll stop them from singing the sig, or reeling off the blatantly obvious catchphrases. A valid clue: "Hip-hip; hip-hip; hip-hip". One minute of this per team.
The Audience Participation Round comes next, with the chairman feigning horror of this segment. The teams will each pick a volunteer from the audience, and that person will tell a joke. It could be one they brought along, or one the producers supplied. For instance, "What tin of shoe polish is the bravest?" The rest of the audience then votes on whether Rhys from Rhos or Megan from Machynlleth was the funnier, with points to their team. The jokes themselves are not necessarily funny, but the banter between the teams and their victims is sometimes the best part of the show.
Radio Wales's budget did actually run to buzzers on the teams' desks, and to make use of this largesse, the final round is a buzzer round. Rhod Gilbert reads out the start of a joke, such as "What's brown and sticky?" and the teams buzz in to complete it with anything other than the obvious punchline.
Scores have been kept throughout, and one side will be declared the winner, but (in the words of Just a Minute) it's not the winning but the contributions that really count.
The programme may not be entirely original - the various rounds owe a debt to A Question of Sport, Whose Line is it Anyway?, the table game What's In the Bag?, and QI - but the sum is greater than the parts. Everyone is clearly having great fun, and this enthusiasm is infectious through the radio waves. Nor is the show overtly Welsh in content or execution - a good joke is a good joke, and we expect the show would pop up on BBC7 in due course. [Well, nearly - it finally reached the digital station on the very day it rebranded as Radio 4 Extra. - Ed.]
The answers to the questions included in the review are, in alphabetical order: an armful, Cheers, the dark tan one, a stick, three.