Just a Minute host Nicholas Parsons dies aged 96

28 January 2020, 11:11

Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96
Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Just a Minute host Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 after a short illness, his agent said.

A statement issued by his agent Jean Diamond, on behalf of his family, said: "Nicholas passed away in the early hours of the 28th of January after a short illness at the age of 96. He was with his beloved family who will miss him enormously and who wish to thank the wonderful staff at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital."

He was best known for Just A Minute, where panellists have to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

He first fronted the show on its inception in 1967.

The broadcaster missed a recording of the BBC Radio 4 show for only the second time in more than 50 years last summer, due to a bad back.

He also famously held the Guinness World Record for the longest after-dinner speech at 11 hours, but he was later stripped of the accolade by Gyles Brandreth.

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan tweeted: "RIP Nicholas Parsons, 96. A wonderful man who brought so much fun, charm, wit & pleasure to so many millions of people over so many decades. What a life."

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: "Very few people have done so much to entertain audiences over the decades, and no one deserves to be called a broadcasting legend more than Nicholas Parsons. His charm, inventive intellect and ability to create laughs were unsurpassed. Our thoughts are with his family and all who knew him."

Mohit Bakaya, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: "Nicholas Parsons was one of the greats, a first class broadcaster and an icon in the world of British comedy.

"Nicholas always brought his sharp wit, brilliant poise and warmth to everything he did - but particularly as host of Just a Minute where his excellence shone in each episode without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

"He was that rare beast - a presenter whose appeal spread right across the generations - and he was a unique member of the Radio 4 family. He will be greatly missed by us all, as well as the many, many listeners who he entertained so brilliantly."

Stephen Fry posted on Twitter: "Oh no. Nicholas Parsons gone? He ruled Just a Minute for Just a Lifetime. A stunning achievement: never scripted, always immaculate. From comedian's sidekick to great institution, via Sale of the Century & much more. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism & commitment. Farewell x"

Comedian Ross Noble posted online: "RIP Nicholas Parsons.I was 21 when we first worked together and I will never forget how welcoming he was to me and others like me.He was a born performer who lived to be on stage and never lost his love of being infront of a crowd. A true gent.He will be greatly missed."

Remembering Nicholas Parsons' wit and warmth

"I believe I would have got more work if I had been more rugged-looking." (August 2015)

"The saddest thing about getting old is seeing my cricket bat in the corner and wondering if I will ever play again." (June 2015)

"I have a very weak stomach. I am not sure how it would handle kangaroos' testicles." (December 2014)

"I see a lot of the young comedians think it is clever to use foul language and they think it is funny. It isn't." (November 2014)

"The open-necked shirt is really rather ugly. I have seen people with beautifully-tailored jackets on with an open shirt with an awful Adam's apple there." (August 2014)

"Why do people use the word 'kids'? It makes children sound like small goats." (January 2014)

"I can take a grandfather clock to pieces and put it back together again." (September 2013)

"I get quite resentful when people ask if I am going to retire. I am in a profession that retires you. If you are no longer hacking it, you won't be asked back, or the public won't come and see you. They will let me know soon enough if I am not doing what I should: I'd be out on the rubbish dump." (August 2011)

"People ask how I've survived so long. Well, I was in the Blitz and there was stoicism in adversity. And humour. Humour has sustained me." (December 2010)

"I don't know if men go bonkers in middle age. I'm bonkers half the time anyway, so I didn't notice much." (August 2009)

"We are rogues and vagabonds waiting by the phone, there to hire for our talents. A bit like prostitutes." (March 2009)