Paul Merton overtakes Kenneth Williams in Just A Minute appearances
Published 17/02/2016 | 15:36
Paul Merton has now clocked up more appearances on Radio 4's Just A Minute than veteran player Kenneth Williams.
Merton takes Williams's place as the second most featured panellist on the show - but he will have to record 197 more episodes before he catches up with Clement Freud.
In the first episode of the new series, to be broadcast on Monday February 22, TV and radio comedian Merton makes his 347th appearance.
Merton said: "Having overtaken Kenneth Williams's total number of appearances on Just A Minute I would like to say without hesitation, deviation or repetition that I am amazed, astonished, thrilled, seasick and severely gobsmacked."
Williams, who was part of the original line-up for the show alongside Freud, Derek Nimmo and long-standing host Nicholas Parsons, recorded 346 episodes between 1968 and his death in 1988.
Freud appeared regularly from the first episode in 1967 until his death in 2009. Over a total of 32 series, he gained 544 episodes to his name - which means it will take around a decade for Merton to catch up.
The rules of the radio show are simple: c ontestants are challenged to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition on any subject that comes up on the cards.
If another contestant spots that the speaker has broken the rules, they can interrupt - and have a go at speaking on the subject themselves .
Parsons, 92, has now hosted the show for 48 years and 864 episodes.
He said: "Paul Merton is one of the outstanding players of Just A Minute. Since his first appearance in 1989, he has been consistently amusing, clever and witty at playing this amazingly difficult game ... His occasional verbal excursions when he takes a subject into the realms of fantasy are delightfully surreal moments in the show.
"His contribution over the years has been consistent and amazing and it is always a pleasure when he is part of the team. He deserves the record he has achieved and long may he be around to improve on it and give more pleasure to the thousands who tune in regularly to hear him playing Just A Minute."
New comedians have stepped in to fill the boots of Williams, Freud and Nimmo since their deaths.
Frequent players include Julian Clary, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton, Jenny Eclair, Sue Perkins, Ross Noble and Merton.