Search

Just A Minute host and NW3-stalwart Nicholas Parsons dies aged 96

PUBLISHED: 12:24 28 January 2020 | UPDATED: 12:28 28 January 2020

Nicholas Parsons with his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medal. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Nicholas Parsons with his Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) medal. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Longstanding NW3 resident and BBC broadcaster Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96.

Nicholas Parsons and Ann Parsons attending the premiere of Cirque du Soleil's Totem, in support of the Sentebale charity, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Picture: Ian West/PA WireNicholas Parsons and Ann Parsons attending the premiere of Cirque du Soleil's Totem, in support of the Sentebale charity, held at the Royal Albert Hall, London. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Most famous for presenting the Radio Four gameshow Just A Minute for more than half a century, he spent large parts of his life living first in Hampstead and then keeping a Belsize Park flat.

The broadcaster was with his family when he died on Tuesday morning.

His agent Jean Diamond issued a statement on behalf of his family, saying: "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."

Just a Minute host Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 after a short illness. Picture: Ian West/PA WireJust a Minute host Nicholas Parsons has died aged 96 after a short illness. Picture: Ian West/PA Wire

Mr Parsons 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.

Mr Parsons was a true veteran of the stage, screen and airwaves with a career which spanned more than half a century.

He clocked up numerous acting and comedy parts, but he was best known for his years as question master of TV quiz Sale Of The Century and for his role as host of BBC Radio 4's Just A Minute, which he was still presenting well into his 90s.

Despite his glittering CV, he once said he believed he would have got more work if he had been "more rugged-looking".

In 2012, he celebrated the 45th anniversary of Just a Minute - in which celebrity guests strive to talk about a subject for 60 seconds "without hesitation, repetition or deviation" with a TV version broadcast by BBC2.

In 2016, Prince Charles, a fan of the show, performed a cameo on the programme's Christmas special.

Parsons was born on October 10 1923, in Grantham, Lincolnshire, where his father was GP to the family of Baroness Thatcher.

You may also want to watch:

After studying at St Paul's School in London, he headed to Clydebank as an apprentice engineer, despite his own hopes of becoming an actor.

But his impressions were featured in a radio show and, following performances with amateur concert parties after the Second World War, he moved into acting - working in rep at Bromley in Kent.

Comic roles proved to be a speciality and he became resident comedian at the Windmill Theatre in London after working on the cabaret circuit in the 1950s.

He found TV fame appearing with comic Arthur Haynes in his ITV show in the early 1960s, and he was also a regular on The Benny Hill Show.

At the tail end of 1967, he introduced Just A Minute for the first time - and the show is still going strong today.

Within a few years, he had also become known for hosting ITV's Sale Of The Century, with its notable opening line "And now from Norwich, it's the quiz of the week..." which launched as a regional show in 1971, and was broadcast nationally by 1975.

Parsons had guest roles in Doctor Who, children's series Bodger And Badger, as well as taking a cross-dressing role in a touring production of The Rocky Horror Show in his 70s, and performing a number of seasons with his one-man shows at the Edinburgh Festival.

In 1990, he starred in London's West End in Stephen Sondheim's musical Into The Woods, and his autobiography The Straight Man - My Life in Comedy was published in 1994.

He was a regular guest on television and radio comedy shows, and in 1999 he took his comedy chat show The Nicholas Parsons Happy Hour to the Edinburgh Festival, returning to the event in years that followed.

Notable projects include The Arthur Haynes Show, Carry On Regardless, and Cluedo, and he starred in West End comedies Boeing Boeing, Say Who You Are, as well as musicals and revues.

His first major success on television was as the straight man to Haynes in the famous partnership that flourished in the 1960s, and included Swing Along, a season in 1963 at the London Palladium.

Among his many charitable commitments, he had a long association with the Grand Order of Water Rats and the Lord's Taverners, for which he has served as president.

In 2019 Parsons was give a Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG) award for his outstanding contribution to broadcasting.

BPG chairman Jake Kanter said of Parsons: "His warmth, sharp wit and clear-headed determinations in rooms full of fast-talking show offs have kept him at the top of his game."

Parsons married his second wife Ann Reynolds in 1995, and had two children from his first marriage to Denise Bryer.

Most Read

Most Read

Latest from the Hampstead Highgate Express