Nicholas Parsons, the veteran host of the TV and radio panel show Just a Minute, 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 28 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.”
Parsons hosted Just a Minute, the Radio 4 quiz show, from its inception in 1967. Born in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and educated in London, he initially began his career as an actor, appearing in West End shows including Boeing-Boeing and films, and later becoming the straight man to comedian Arthur Haynes in the late 1960s. He was also a regular on the Benny Hill Show, and following Haynes’s death helmed the ITV quiz Sale of the Century between 1971 and 1983. In 2018, Parsons made headlines when he missed an episode of Just a Minute – in which contestants must avoid hesitation, repetition or deviation – his first absence in 50 years. Panellist Gyles Brandreth filled in, noting that “after 50 years at the helm [Parsons] quite rightly thinks he should be allowed a day off”.
Nick Robinson, host of Radio 4’s Today program, paid tribute to Parsons on Twitter, commenting that: “Without hesitation, deviation or repetition I’d like to say that Nicholas Parsons was a broadcasting giant who proved that the straight man could be the real star of comedy. Will be hugely missed by all who work at & love BBC Radio 4.”
Just a Minute regular Stephen Fry added: “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. Unrivaled continuity, professionalism & commitment. Farewell x.” Graham Norton described him as “truly the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever worked with”.
In an interview with the Guardian in 2017, he explained why Just a Minute hadn’t made it into the Guinness Book of records: “When the fan club phoned them up saying they should put it in, they said that other shows have run longer. And the fans said: ‘Yes, other shows have run longer, such as Desert Island Discs, but not with the same person presenting it from the word go.’ But they hadn’t got a category for that”. He added it that it would be “a nice little accolade, but I’m not concerned about it.”
Parsons was also dubbed ‘Past King Rat’ by “The Grand Order of Water Rats’ a charitable fund composed of those in the entertainment business. The chosen members, amongst other things, give to those less fortunate, providing a stream of support for nationally recognized charities.
The Grand Order of Water Rats Facebook page wrote: “Morning at the grand age of 96. A wonderful man, a true professional and a much-loved member of The Grand Order of Water Rats! Thank you for all the memories, Nicholas, you will be greatly missed”
‘Musical Rat’ Steve Etherington (The Rubettes ft. John, Mick, and Steve, Symphonic Ibiza, Modern Romance) stated: “I am deeply saddened to learn that ‘Past King Rat’ Nicholas Parsons has passed away. He was 96 and still as sharp as a tack. It was a privilege to hold the office of ‘Musical Rat’ under his reign. They don’t make them like that anymore. Rest In Peace Nicholas.”
Parsons is survived by wife Ann, and two children from his first marriage.
The Guardian: Nicholas Parsons, host of Just a Minute, dies aged 96
Grand Order Of Water Rats – NICOLAS PARSONS CBE
BBC News: Obituary: Nicholas Parsons
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