During his sixty minutes at China Exchange, Nicholas Parsons shared his memories from his childhood, stories from his early work as a comic at a theatre, and his successful broadcasting career. He said that he loves comedy and is “analytical” about it. He joked that his wife catches him listening to Just a Minute, and says “why are you listening to the show? You’re on it!”, but he is always looking for ways they can develop and improve.
Nicholas attributed some of his success to his ability to create a rapport with people, a skill he built on when he initially trained to be an engineer. He had always wanted to be an actor, but he was “brought up at a time when you didn’t do what you wanted, you did what you were told”. Nicholas launched his comedy career as an in house comic at the Windmill Theatre, doing did six performances a day, six days a week – the theatre itself, he said, was “rather naughty and risqué”.
Nicholas talked about his passion for clocks; his favourite clock in his collection is a lantern clock given to him by his father which has “the most beautiful chime”. He joked that his wife calls it “going on clock patrol” when he goes round at night to wind them up.
When discussing his time presenting The Sale of the Century, which was the most successful quiz show on television, Nicholas noted that getting drama into the show was his idea. He said that despite its success, afterwards he had some trouble finding work, because although he was an actor, to some he had been type cast as a quiz show host. Nicholas went on to discuss his current position hosting BBC Radio Four’s Just a Minute, which he described as a “fiendishly difficult game”. He said that ultimately, the key to the show’s success has been that it is fun, and that if a contestant is just focused on winning, it makes it “utterly humorless and boring”.
Nicholas said that he is very fortunate to have a job where he is always having to use his brain. For him, working on Just a Minute is “an incredible experience” and that he is fortunate to work with “wonderful talented people”. As well as juggling his hosting role on one of radio’s most popular programmes, Nicholas tours his one-man show, and is always getting contacted about new projects – the latest phone call he had asking him to do something was “yesterday”.
Watch the video to hear more from Nicholas about his diverse career, the inspirational people he has worked with, and how he made a speech that broke a world record.