Graham Norton and Neil Gaiman lead tributes to late broadcaster Nicholas Parsons

George Fenwick
Nicholas Parsons: The host, 94, has appeared on the show for more than 50 years: Getty Images

Graham Norton and Neil Gaiman are among those who have paid tribute to broadcaster Nicholas Parsons, who has died at the age of 96.

Parsons, host of BBC Radio 4's Just a Minute, was surrounded by his family when he died in the early hours of Tuesday, his agent confirmed in a statement.

TV host Graham Norton tweeted: “The sound of the final whistle. Nicholas Parsons was truly the kindest and most generous person I’ve ever worked with. His continued delight at being a part of show business should be an inspiration to us all! Huge love to his wife Annie and his whole family.”

Good Omens writer Neil Gaiman tweeted: “Heartbroken. I was thrilled to have been able to work with Nicholas Parsons on Good Omens.

“I sort of directed him, but the direction was basically ‘You’re Nicholas Parsons so do that’.

“Kind and professional and a pleasure to work with. So sad.”

Parsons played Dagon, Lord of the Files in the 2019 TV mini-series adaptation of Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book.

Gaiman also shared a picture of himself with Parsons, tweeting: “I’m so proud to be in this photo working with someone I’d respected and admired through Just A Minute for most of a lifetime.

“(Favourite acting role was his evil quizshow host in Time Bandits.)

“RIP Nicholas Parsons. You were an inspiration. Thank you for being part of #GoodOmens.”

Dame Esther Rantzen also paid tribute to Parsons, telling the PA news agency: “Nicholas was a miracle of broadcasting talent at an age when many people would have gratefully retired. His mental and verbal agility kept the iconic radio 4 programme Just A Minute going from the time he chaired the pilot, through to today.

“He overcame a stammer, he was extraordinarily versatile, being the perfect straight man for famous comics to appearing in black suspenders in the Rocky Horror Show to delighting full houses at the Edinburgh Festival to his most recent role as King Rat of the Water Rats charity.

“His huge contribution to Childline and The Silver Line has made a huge difference transforming the lives of children and older people, and he has been a valued supporter for the Lord’s Taverners and many other charities.

“The only mystery is why he was never knighted but friends and admirers like me always thought of him as Sir Nicholas Parsons. As a friend of his for many years I will miss him desperately and I know his millions of fans will feel the same.”

Actor Stephen Fry tweeted: “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. Unrivalled continuity, professionalism & commitment. Farewell x.”

Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan tweeted: “RIP Nicholas Parsons, 96. A wonderful man who brought so much fun, charm, wit & pleasure to so many millions of people over so many decades. What a life.”

Comedian Rachel Parris tweeted an anecdote about Parsons from the Chortle comedy awards in 2016.

“The room was cacophonous, everyone was talking over the winners as usual, all night, until Nicholas Parsons won an award, and a reverent hush fell over the whole room followed by a thunderous standing ovation. Even drunk comics know true quality.”

Others who shared tributes included actor Richard E. Grant, comedian Chris Addison, and writer/broadcaster Gyles Brandreth.

Parsons first fronted Just a Minute, where panellists have to speak for one minute without hesitation, from its inception in 1967.

BBC Director-General Tony Hall said: “Very few people have done so much to entertain audiences over the decades, and no one deserves to be called a broadcasting legend more than Nicholas Parsons. His charm, inventive intellect and ability to create laughs were unsurpassed. Our thoughts are with his family and all who knew him.”

Mohit Bakaya, controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “Nicholas Parsons was one of the greats, a first class broadcaster and an icon in the world of British comedy.

“Nicholas always brought his sharp wit, brilliant poise and warmth to everything he did – but particularly as host of Just a Minute where his excellence shone in each episode without hesitation, deviation or repetition.

“He was that rare beast – a presenter whose appeal spread right across the generations – and he was a unique member of the Radio 4 family. He will be greatly missed by us all, as well as the many, many listeners who he entertained so brilliantly.”

  • Additional reporting by Press Association

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