Thursday, April 5, 2012

Aren't Cultural Differences Weird?

Apparently colleges in India have Just A Minute clubs the way a college in America might have a chess club. Well, that’s the thesis of Just A Minute’s Indian Adventure on BBC Radio 4 anyway.

In the half-hour radio documentary, your friend and mine Nicholas Parsons reports from Bangalore, where he examines the phenomenon (for want of a better word) of JAM, a parlor game that appears to be…loosely inspired…by Just A Minute. When I say loosely inspired, I mean it. Most of the JAM sessions we hear are just barely recognizable as what someone outside India would think of as Just A Minute, and many bear much more resemblance to I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue’s Mornington Crescent. It says a lot that, at one point in the documentary, Nicholas leads the Bangalore JAM Club in a straightforward game of Just A Minute as played on British radio – and the players appear not to have a very clear idea of what they’re supposed to do.

The documentary culminates with the final of a large JAM tournament, of which the winner will receive 20,000 rupees, and which begins with the moderator (“host” somehow seems like the wrong word here) reading out a set of rules that pretty much sounds like it came out of Mornington Crescent (“rule X is in play, rule Y is not, rounds last # seconds, you may not do ______ before someone _______...”). Subjects used include bizarre word strings such as “My parents are in the iron and steel industry – my mother irons and my father steals” (and that’s one of the ones that wasn’t a terrible sexual double entendre). In short, I can’t say Just A Minute as played in India would make a great weekly radio show - but as a one-off the documentary was great, and all the players seem to be having a lot of fun, which of course is what really matters. To quote one of Nicholas’s trademark phrases on Just A Minute, I will give them the benefit of the doubt.

Well there you go – I can finally stop writing about Just A Minute for a while. This doesn’t mean I can go back to news, however – I’m going to a live taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on Thursday, April 12 at the Wang Theater in Boston. I’ll type up my report when I get back that night.


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