Have I Got News For You. Image shows from L to R: Ian Hislop, Paul Merton.

Have I Got News For You

BBC One and BBC Two panel show about the news. 515 episodes (58 series), 1990 - 2019. Stars Angus Deayton, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

Next new episode is today at 9pm. Series 58, Episode 2
Catch-up on Episode 1 on BBC iPlayer   Series 53, Episode 1 is repeated on Dave today at 8pm.
Recording at Elstree Film Studios. Tickets

Have I Got News For You. Image shows from L to R: Ian Hislop, Paul Merton.

Ian Hislop and Paul Merton interview

Ahead of the 58th series of Have I Got News For You, team captains Ian Hislop and Paul Merton talk politics, improv and more.

Martin Clunes is hosting Episode 1 of the new series this Friday - what are some of your most memorable moments of him on previous series?

Ian: It's a great first booking. It means the public actually get to see a doctor. Even if it's only a fictional one.

No, he's done it so often, so he's an incredibly good host and he was very good as a guest. I remember one of the first times he came on as a guest I thought how effortless he was. Recently, he was very funny about the Duke of Edinburgh trying to be polite to the Chinese leader on a state visit and the Queen having to tape over his mouth; and also, when he hosted recently, he complained about The Post Office - he said that he'd bought a necklace for his niece which had disappeared in the post and he'd assumed it'd been nicked. Then, purely by accident, there was a picture of Cherie Blair in a necklace she had been given, and there was an unfortunate suggestion that that's where the necklace had ended up!

He doesn't mind a bit of trouble. He told Grayson Perry that his make-up was no good, which takes a certain amount of bravery.

Have I Got News For You. Martin Clunes.

Following the recent changes in Parliament since HIGNFY was last on air, who would be your dream MP guest for this series?

Ian: Boris sacked 21 MPs, so surely some of them must be short of work. And Labour are busy deselecting MPs so that should free up some more. I would be happy to have almost anyone really, and you never know who is going to be in a job as the news changes so fast.

One of the problems we've had over the last couple of series is that the studio manager has to keep coming on to tell us what's happening, because the news quite literally happens whilst we're filming the show. Someone resigns, a party changes its name or the leadership changes altogether. It is unbelievably fast, so I'm really looking forward to trying to keep up with what's going on.

By the time we come on, I don't know what's going to happen or who's going to be prime minster! But then neither does anyone else, including the prime minister.

I think it would be quite funny to get Jacob Rees-Mogg to come on and see if he wants to lie across 2 chairs. And then we could have Boris on, and he could just lie.

Lady Hale, now that's my ideal guest. You know, Spiderwoman. I think she'd be very good in the chair. Once you've done the hosting job in the Supreme Court, I think there's nowhere else to go... and she'll be very impartial, I'm sure. As I am.

Have I Got News For You. Image shows from L to R: Paul Merton, Ian Hislop.

If an alien landed in the UK and asked you what Brexit was, what would you tell them?

Paul: Well, it wouldn't even need to be an alien! If the person next door asked me, I wouldn't be able to tell them. It's really confusing and I think it has sapped a lot of people's will to live. If an alien does land on this planet, I'd ask 'What's life like on your planet, do you have Brexit? If you don't, I'll come and live with you!'.

Given what's been happening in UK politics this summer, would you have liked for HIGNFY to have been on air?

Ian: It would have been great to have been on air, we've never had so much news. Since we were last on, the unthinkable has happened, Boris Johnson is the prime minister and we've had a prime minister being told he's acted unlawfully by the Supreme Courts. None of this has ever happened before, it's been absolutely extraordinary, but with the speed of news accelerating at the speed it does, I'm expecting even more to come.

Have I Got News For You. Boris Johnson.

Did you ever think Boris Johnson would end up as prime minister? What are your predictions for his tenure?

Ian: I'm amazed he's prime minister and I think he's probably amazed he's prime minister. Of all our guests over the years I thought it was more likely that the tub of lard would become prime minister - and so he has you might argue - but I am not going to say that because that sort of unpleasant language is best left to MPs.

It's extraordinary. I mean, he's only just prime minister. I never thought it would happen, but since it has happened, nothing that's happened since has surprised me. He's been slapped down by the Supreme Court for acting unconstitutionally and unlawfully and giving unlawful advice to the queen, for which he had to apologise. Although, the Queen isn't the first angry woman he has had to apologise to.

He does tend to have to apologise throughout his career and, as I said in the last series - when the producers cut it out and put a black box over my mouth on the broadcast - Boris Johnson has built a career on telling porky pies. He was even caught out telling porky pies about pork pies. It's a surprise he's there, but just how shambolic, extraordinary, reckless and chaotic the situation is, doesn't surprise me.

I have no idea whether he'll survive this next series as prime minister... given in the last week, there's been two sex scandals and a historic constitutional ruling against him, even his greatest fans wouldn't say it's going well!

Michael Gove said that the prime minister was 'a winner' but he has lost all of his first seven votes in the House of Commons! What does a loser look like?

Have I Got News For You. Image shows from L to R: Ian Hislop, Paul Merton.

Paul, you've been touring the country with your Impro Chums show over the summer. Do you think the ability to improvise is a key skill required for guests who appear on HIGNFY?

Paul: We say 'improvisation', which is just a fancy word really for having a conversation. We all improvise in our own way when we're speaking to other people, that is improvisation in that we're not following a set script. What we do with Impro Chums is make sure it's entertaining and amusing. Everyone can improvise but it's whether you can make it funny or not, that's the key difference.

A lot of stand-ups will come on Have I Got News For You having a rough idea of what's going on in the news and they'll have pre-prepared stuff on those topics, which doesn't usually work that well because you can tell it's being shoehorned in.

If you had to choose a famous sitcom character to host an episode of HIGNFY, who would it be and why?

Paul: I'd go for Arthur Lowe's Captain Mainwaring. He sees himself as a born leader but often gets muddled and confused, there's a sense of authority he can't always back up and I think to see him staring at the autocue and not being able to work it out would be quite amusing!

Ian, you're often spotted during an episode scribbling notes down in a note pad - what are you normally noting down? Are you keeping score?

Ian: That would be a waste of time... I know what the score will be! No, I am obviously making a simultaneous transcript of what I'm saying to give to my lawyers after the show, so I can use it in future... you never know, I might be sued by the Duchess of Sussex.


Have I Got News For You, Series 58, returns to BBC One on Friday 11th October at 9pm.

More Have I Got News For You interviews

Published: Wednesday 9th October 2019