18 things you didn’t know about Have I Got News For You with Ian Hislop and Paul Merton

Have I Got News For You returns for a 66th series from Friday 6 October on BBC One and BBC iPlayer

(Image: Matt Crockett)



In numerology, ‘66’ symbolises love, peace, understanding, harmony.

Happily, there’s none of that in store as Britain’s sharpest, antagonistic satire returns for a 66th series on Friday 6 October at 9pm on BBC One and BBC iPlayer – of course, with the beloved duo of Paul Merton and Ian Hislop in tow.

Watch Have I Got News for You on BBC iPlayer below.

Here are a few pearls of wisdom to keep you sated until the pair return to marshal the country’s political madness…

1. After 66 series, they’re still as enthused by fans’ love for the show

Ian: Yesterday morning, I was wandering along and there was a young bloke filling up his van with ice. He turned around, stopped working, ran up to me and said, ‘your show is brilliant, don’t stop doing it’. And I thought, do you know? That seems to me reasonable advice!

Paul: What I do now is I think to myself, OK, my only chance of doing this show is tonight. It's this recording, I’ve got to do the best I can do, without being overbearing. When we both walk on at the top of the show, it’s all about the enthusiasm and the big round of applause from the audience. As Ian says, it’s about the people who come up to you and say it's great.

Ian: Well, I'm out and about a bit more than Paul, who's a recluse who lives on his own...

Paul: I am still wearing an electronic tag... I can't stray beyond 500 yards of Bow Street station...

2. There's nothing they don't know about the other - or indeed, want to know..

Paul: He doesn't want to know anything about me – he has a nosebleed when he talks to somebody of my social status!

Ian: No! I'm FASCINATED by people like Paul! How do they live? What do they eat for breakfast? I mean, the whole thing is absolutely charming!

Paul: Ha ha ha!

3. The show has lots of celebrity fans, including Paul McCartney (who told The Adam Buxton Podcast)

Paul: Oh really? That's nice to know. That's great. I mean, Paul McCartney has given me a great deal of personal pleasure over the years… and I like his music as well! I've met him five times and it was only on the fifth time I met him that I was able to talk like a normal person… For Ian it would be like meeting William Deedes... who was on the show!

Ian: And I was incredibly excited.

Paul: He didn't take a selfie, he had a brass rubbing done.

4. Alexander Armstrong holds the record for the most stints as guest host – his next appearance (13 October) will be his 40th time in the host’s chair!

Ian: I think the main quality of a great guest host is just to say, ‘Ian, what do you think?’ And then be quiet for about 45 minutes! Maybe till the end of the long first round… I think that’s important!

Paul: You find that generally actors are great at doing it because they are used to sharing the stage with other people. David Tennant for example, is superb, because he's used to being in situations where he's not the only one talking. So he won't interrupt until it feels like you've run out of steam or you've come to a natural conclusion.

Ian: I'll tell you who's also been really good, Mel Giedroyc. She was absolutely fabulous. She wanted everyone to be part of a gang. She kept saying ‘hello, gang’. Which was great because Paul and I really don't like gangs!

Paul: Can you imagine the one gang that would feature the two of us? It would have to be a broad church!

5. Ken Livingstone is the guest booked closest to the start of a recording

Ian: That was to replace the wonderful Baroness Trumpington. She had appeared on the programme once before, she was absolutely fantastic. I was personally very, very overexcited, you know, former Land Girl... it's my equivalent of Paul McCartney.

Paul: I think it probably is! That's the sad thing.

Ian: She was terrific. But she was booked on the show during the week that Margaret Thatcher died. She came on in makeup and she said ‘well, I obviously won't be answering questions on Mrs Thatcher.’

Paul: She didn't even want it to be mentioned.

Ian: What was rather glorious is that she was of that generation that just doesn't care very much about television. The producers were saying ‘This is terrible, what are we going to do?’ and she says, ‘Oh, well, I'll just go home.' Which she then did!

Paul: We could have done it with one person less. Sometimes we've had to, even when there's somebody there.

Ian: What was funny is that the show’s producers and the BBC had been keen to have a Conservative guest on in the week Mrs Thatcher died. So we had booked a Tory Baroness and that was going to be great. But the person they could book at short notice as her replacement was Ken Livingstone, ‘Red Ken’! Former Mayor of London and personal enemy of Mrs Thatcher!

6. The cardboard panels at the back of the set revolve using a contraption made with a bike chain

Paul: We’ve never had a go at turning them ourselves. Does Ian look like he's ever done manual labour in his life? The closest he's ever got to manual labour is saying ‘I don’t think that wall's straight, can you do it again?'

Ian: [Laughing] It seems to me to be taking away perfectly good jobs from the people who need them. I don't know what sort of Britain you want to live in!

Paul: He wants to live in a Britain where somebody else is turning the handles!

Source BBC One

September 26, 2023 4:00am ET by BBC One  


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