"Good evening, and welcome to the show that's so important that The Independent last week asked 'Is Have We Got News for You or Casualty or Brookside really a worse alternative than cannabis and recreational buggery?' Answers on a postcard."
— Intro to Series 14, Episode 4.
Satirical Panel Show focusing on politics that has been running since the end of the Margaret Thatcher era, with two series per year. Debuted in 1990. The two team captains are Ian Hislop (editor of satirical magazine Private Eye) and comedian Paul Merton; each team has a single guest contestant. As well as comedians and TV personalities, even politicians have appeared on the show as guests.The show began with Angus Deayton as host, but he was fired after being caught taking cocaine. Twice. With a lady who was definitely not his partner at the time. Who later turned out to be a prostitute in disguise. Who was working for the papers. And That's Terrible. On the episode after this came to light, Hislop brought out the paper and liberally quoted from the article; Merton went one better and wore a T-shirt with the front page of the newspaper printed on it. Beginning with the third episode of the following series, the show began using guest presenters.The show's basic rounds are:
The Film Round, where the teams are shown mute footage relating to the week's major stories.
The Picture Round. Originally this was the Tabloid Headlines Round, where the players were shown a punny tabloid headline and had to guess what story it related to, but now they are shown a picture concerning a news story and have to guess the story. The way in which the picture is presented changes every week, including the Wheel of News, Jigsaw of News and One-Armed Bandit of News, as well as some versions unique to that week's guest host (see Actor Allusion below).
The Missing Words round, where the teams are shown a selection of newspaper headlines with some part blanked out and have to guess what it is, usually coming up with surreal or jokey answers and only on occasion guessing correctly. Some of the headlines are taken from that week's suitably obscure guest publication, which have included Llama Link, Doorknob Collector and The Barbed Wire Collector (which Paul insisted couldn't possibly be a real magazine).
For a fuller list of Paul's interests, see the last episode of Room 101, with Paul as the host and Ian as the guest, where Ian hilariously trolled Paul by making all his disliked items things he knew Paul loves.
A Winner Is You: "So, congratulations to Ian for winning his first series ever. And as a special prize, he gets to appear in the next series."
Bait-and-Switch Comparison: A staple of the autocue jokes. Guest presenters often fail to stealthily approach these, so the audience groans pre-emptively.
One example is from series 34, episode 8. Guest host Jack Dee introduces Ian Hislop and his teammate: "On my right, a shameless, womanizing drug addict and wildly flamboyant dresser, and his guest tonight, Russell Brand."
Another: "On Ian's team this week is someone who spends every week playing a balding old man baffled by the modern world, and next to him is Richard Wilson".
One more: On news that a section of the Arctic would be renamed 'Queen Elizabeth Land'; "Cold, remote and shrinking rapidly - the Queen is 86."
Berserk Button: Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport) appears to be one for Nick Hewer.
Big Eater: Constant jokes about both John Prescott and Eric Pickles being one. Paul noted that the jokes about Prescott are slowly shifting over to Pickles now that Prescott has stepped down.
The famous "Missing Words" round in the Tub of Lard episode provides bilingual bonuses to anyone fluent in French, German, Russian, or Japanese: most of the headlines are about either British or American news rather than news in their countries of origin. Very rough translations of Paul and the Tub of Lard's first four headlines (missing words in parentheses) are:
"M. Clinton s'apprêterait à changer de (directeur de la communication)": "Mr. Clinton is preparing to change his (communications director)" "Die Bank von England gibt große (Besorgnis) zu": "The Bank of England expresses great (concern)" "(Лорд Оуен) как символ европеизации"note "(Lord Owen) kak simvol yevropyezatsii": "(Lord Owen) as a symbol of Europeanisation" "労基法改正きょう(成立)"note "Rōkihō kaisei kyō (seiritsu)": "Labour Standards Act amendment today (met)"
The Pirate Video includes a reverse bilingual bonus in an autocue joke about Tony Blair giving an interview to French television in French, in which, "using his extensive knowledge of the language, he told the interviewer that Monsieur Dupont was in the garden, the pen of his aunt was in his pocket, and on the bridge at Avignon, they dance there, they dance there." The first two are transliterations of phrases used in introductory French classes in British schools (notably, "the pen of my aunt" = "la plume de ma tante", synonymous with French phrases that no-one ever uses in actual conversation), while the third is a transliteration of the chorus of the French folk song "Sur le pont d'Avignon".
Book Dumb: Paul likes to bring up that his only qualification is a CSE ungraded in metalwork. "If anyone's interested, I can make a trowel." (He points out on the DVD commentary that he cannot in fact make a trowel. He sucks at metalwork, that's why he got ungraded.)
At one point Paul correctly guessed some missing headlines from the guest magazine about steelworking.
Paul: New Bessemer converter?
Angus: You seem to know a lot about this.
Paul: I did metalwork! I know the theory, I just wasn't any good at the practice.
Ian: You didn't have a Bessemer converter in your home...
Paul: I had to make one for homework!
Ian: But they're about as big as this studio, aren't they?
Brick Joke: In a 2012 episode, one of the questions is about a competition to find a national anthem for cheddar cheese, sung to the tune of the existing British national anthem. Guest host Alexander Armstrong challenges Paul to come up with such an anthem, to which he replies he can't do it at such short notice. Halfway through the next question, he suddenly bursts into his improvised anthem.
British Accents: Aside from the obvious use, there is also the accent Merton uses while twisting an imaginary monocle in order to portray and mock posh people as well as other used in parody. Including the Queen as a London cab driver. With her own cut glass accent.
Paul: Frankenstein wouldn't be much of a film if the assistant at the beginning actually got the right brain and not the insane one, would it? (works monocle, sips imaginary cup of tea) "I'm Frankenstein's monster, donchaknow?!"
Ian: Where in Germany did Dr. Frankenstein get the brain of an English toff who says "donchaknow"?
And the opposite, the exaggerated-working-class-London Gangster accent. The funniest was probably when he used it to imitate the Queen.
Paul went on a hilarious rant when Ian used the phrase "I've been down the collider" after hearing a story about a physicist speculating that the Large Hadron Collider was sabotaging itself from the future.
British Newspapers: Often mocked. Headlines from these are used for the "Tabloid Headline Round", where panellists attempt to guess which news story a horribly punny tabloid headline is referring to.
Ian: "Oh you English, vhy must you alvays talk about the var, why can you not move on like everyone else?"
Cannot Tell a Joke: Neil Kinnock had actually been one of the more reliably funny politicians to have as a guest; then he presented an episode in 2004 and made it a complete trainwreck. It didn't help that the show was recorded not long after it had been announced that he was going to accept a peerage after years of criticizing the House of Lords (Will Self in particular gave him a hard time about that).
Paul [Referring to the Kinnock-hosted episode four years later]: In a parallel universe, that show's still being recorded.
Canon Discontinuity: The "Best of the Guest Presenters" DVDs have forgotten the episode hosted by Liza Tarbuck (not showing any clips of it or mentioning it on special features), even though all the other episodes were represented. Supposedly at the time people said it was so badly hosted they were talking about bringing Angus back, which may explain it.
Catch Phrase: Paul usually has one for each series. Angus had "No change there" and "In what way?". There are also catchphrases spoken by anyone, such as 'Topical news quiz?' (when a story about something historical comes up).
Angus also said in deadpan tones "...is the Wrong Answer" during the Odd One Out round (especially after the player had spoken for a long time and outlined an elaborate theory).
Will Self: My suspicion is that, bizarrely enough, Mussolini actually resigned before he was hung up with his lover... Harold MacMillan resigned... I think that Jon Pertwee resigned from his role as Doctor Who... and that I am the odd one out, for being sacked. Angus: Is... Bill Deedes: Harold MacMillan didn't resign, he was taken ill! Angus: ...as Bill pointed out, the wrong answer.
Also from "Odd One Out", Angus had the less often use catchphrase that "It/the connection is someone who's not in the pictures" as a singularly unhelpful piece of advice.
Paul also went through phases of interrupting or pre-empting Angus's stock lines.
Colbert Bump: Lampshaded In-Universe. Everybody is aware that the show is capable of a strong bump (see the YMMV page for examples). Series 44 episode 6, had Rachel Johnson on to promote her new book (it sort of didn't work as the panel ignored her) and Roger Moore admitted that was the "only reason" he was there and showed his new book to the screen. Later on in the episode, it was shown that Ian had taken part in a Greek adaptation of on of his wife's novels and stated that a new one was coming out soon - Moore then showed off his book again to the camera.
Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch: Invoked In-Universe when Birmingham MP Khalid Mahmood once sent a letter to Hislop asking HIGNFY for an apology over some controversial jokes made in the previous week's show. The first line of the letter (which Hislop read to the audience) was "Although I did not see the programme in question..."
Cluster F-Bomb: Occasionally, notably the discussion of "fuck-me shoes" in one of Germaine Greer's appearances, which Ian brought up because she'd mentioned them in a column as a sign of low self-esteem. She claimed she herself was wearing "don't-fuck-me shoes." Eventually Paul in joined by wondering "why shoes would want to be fucked anyway" and whether there was such a thing as "fuck-me socks" ("You open them at Christmas and go, 'Fuck me — socks!'") The last "fuck" was bleeped or cut from broadcasts because they were only allotted a certain number by the BBC and exceeded it by one. A further example occured during Robert Kilroy-Silk's infamous appearance, as Paul's guest. By the end of the show, Paul was so frustrated at Kilroy-Silk trying to interrupt him that he repeatedly told him to shut the fuck up - five or six times in a row. The guest presenters DVD showed the uncensored clip, the broadcast show omitted the profanity.
[Missing words headline: Prison offers WHAT as raffle prize]
Jo Brand: That's correct!
Paul [taken aback]: Is it?!
In a Picture-Spin Quiz round of a series 45 episode:
[The picture is of a receptionist handing a man a goldfish in a bowl]
Joe Wilkinson: Uh... is this where a hotel is hiring out a fish for the evening? [audience laughter] I might still be dreaming... I believe you can hire a goldfish if you're — I might have made this up... [more audience laughter]
Ian: What, if you're lonely?
Joe Wilkinson: Yeah, I think so.
Warwick Davis: This is the news that lonely guests in a hotel in Cheshire can now hire out a goldfish named Happy...
For Comic Relief in both 1999 and 2001, Have I Got News for You crossed over with Never Mind the Buzzcocks and They Think It's All Over. The product was titled Have I Got Buzzcocks All Over. Both specials were presented by Angus Deayton and included an "Odd One Out" round, while the 1999 special also included a "Missing Words" round (with headlines referencing politics, sport, and pop music).
Democracy Is Flawed: Most of the 2010 election special episodes poked fun at the voting system and the fact that they don't have a government. Also, this jab at Butt Monkeyof the Week Lembit Opik, who had just lost his seat.
Determinator: Ian has appeared in every 'proper' episode of HIGNFY, and is the only person to have done so, to the point of checking himself out of hospital temporarily just to make sure he didn't miss one. (He had to return to hospital the moment the recording was done for surgery.)
Paul, on Jacqui Smith losing her seat: Her husband was probably still up to console her. (audience laughter) Late-night telly, you know.
Also Jack Dee in the first episode he hosted, when Clement Freud asked if Dunkin' Donuts don't taste like toilet bags. "I don't know, because I've never eaten a Dunkin' Donut." [laughter] "Which implies I've eaten a toilet bag."
From the outtakes in the "Official Pirate Video," on a picture of Paul in drag for a panto:
Angus: On which self-publicizing note... Paul: Well, I didn't pick the picture! Nothing self-publicizing at all! You asked me what I was doing; I said, "Jackanory." I didn't walk into the studio and say, "By the way, I'm on Jackanory in two weeks' time dressed as a woman, between Wednesday the second of January and Thursday the nineteenth..." Angus: So, no self-publicity there at all. Paul: Well, no, I was giving you the gag. You picked up on it really well. Turned into a sort of flat moment. It's a bit like your career, really... [and it goes downhill from there]
[the Missing Words headline is "(Lack of item price) surprises many customers about bar codes"]
David: [reading autocue] To be honest, it doesn't bother me that prices aren't included in bar codes, because, over the years, I've come to know the prices of every single Ready Meal for One.
Audience: Awww. [David looks mortified]
Paul: Shall we start a collection?
Andy Hamilton: Yeah!
David: [waving his hands] The pity's worse!
Double Standard: When Alexander Armstrong called an MP a "bit of a shagger" and a Femme Fatale Russian spy "a bit of a slag", everyone pointed out that the language used showed more than a little misogyny.
Driver of a Black Cab: When they discussed Guy Goma, the guy who showed up at a BBC news studio looking for an IT job but was mistaken for the tech writer Guy Kewney and Pushed in Front of the Audience, Andy Hamilton said that it had been initially reported that Goma was a taxi driver by trade, but he knew that was false because "a taxi driver would have talked much more authoritatively about something he knew nothing about."
Another time it came up was when the Caption Competition at the end of the episode pictured the queen sitting in the driver's side of some kind of black vehicle, which Paul interpreted as the city having to take on more part-time drivers during the Christmas season: [posh accent] "I'm not going south of the river this time of night. You must be jokin'."
Another example was when it was revealed that Prince Philip owned a black cab, which was a particularly good fit as he is known for making gaffes about other countries' peoples.
Ian (as Prince Philip): "Bloody Chinese, guv? Slit-eyed bastards! Where you going, Buckingham Palace? That'll be ten quid".
Epic Fail: Piers Morgan's appearance. He spends the entire episode being spectacularly obnoxious and thin-skinned, threatening to send photographers round to Ian Hislop and Clive Anderson's homes, and at one point tries to bully the audience into laughing at a joke he reused from Eddie Izzard's appearancethe previous week. The audience are laughing at him (not with him) throughout all this. Then towards the end he asks the audience "Does anyone like him (Ian)?" The audience proceed to cheer loudly in favour of Ian.
Rupert Allason sued the show and the BBC for suggesting that he could be described as a "conniving little shit"... and lost the case. Some time later his name came up in the show and the presenters mentioned this as often as possible.
Specifically, they stated that he was the only person to be recognised by law as a "conniving little shit".
"It is getting rather sad that I can't win against Paul when he's accompanied by a tub of lard and his questions are in a foreign language!"
Evolving Credits: The title sequence has changed many times over the years to reflect recent news events.note The original sequence referenced such things as the arrival of fast food in the Soviet Union and the tensions leading to the first Gulf War; the current sequence references such events as the horsemeat-in-hamburger scandal and threats of nuclear attacks by North Korea. The one common part to all the sequences is that they begin by focusing in on the Elizabeth Tower (the one that houses Big Ben) to accompany the "BONG!" at the start of the theme tune.
Excuse Question: Paul Merton likes to recount that he was once watching one of those breakfast shows and the question was, "Which comedy double act consisted of Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker? A) The Two Ronnies, B)..."
The Exit Is That Way: Paul's impression of an entry in David Blunkett's diary: "Tried to leave the house, walked into the cupboard by mistake. Stayed there for eight hours, too proud to admit my error."
Face Palm: Both Ian and Paul are fond of doing this. Ian also sometimes does the 'slapping your forehead at stupidity' variant.
Fake Band: Angus Deayton was formerly in the HeeBeeGeeBees, a parody of The Bee Gees, which is sometimes referenced.
Fast-Forward Gag: In a round on The Official Pirate Video, Angus mentions that since the show is on video you can fast forward through the boring bits. He goes on to explain the next game the panel will be playing and the film is sped up and his voice is made to sound like he is on helium and is unintelligible. He makes several odd hand gestures and eventually produces a fire extinguisher before the show returns to normal speed.
Flame War: Any discussions of Russell Brand's appearance on the show on any chat board inevitably descend into an argument between HIGNFY fans and Brand fans (who only watched that episode because he was in it) over whether Brand was remotely funny.
In Series 42, Episode 6, guest presenter Dan Stevens was discussing a story about Larry the Downing Street cat, leading to the following:
Dan Stevens: Larry the cat has been falling asleep during the day at Downton Street when he should be catching rats. [audience and other panellists laugh as the mistake registers; Dan looks embarrassed] Ian: There's a serious category confusion there! I know it's important, Dan, but not- it's not actually the centre of government.
In Series 45, Episode 5 the opening news story about the 2013 local elections featured footage of Conservative Minister Without Portfolio Kenneth Clarke, who that week had referred to the UK Independence Party as "clowns", leading to the following Private Eye-worthy rename from Ian:
Ian: But that's the- the problem, Kenneth Clarke... the Tories are incredibly scared that UKIP would take all their seats, so Kenneth Clown- (realises his mistake and joins in the laughter of the audience and other panellists) Rev. Richard Coles: Thank goodness it wasn't Jeremy Hunt!note A reference to a 2010 incident in which BBC Radio 4 newsreader James Naughtie accidentally formed a spoonerism out of Hunt's name and his job title of Culture Secretary.
Frivolous Lawsuit: MP Rupert Allason pursued a libel action against the show for referring to him as a "conniving little shit" in a book based on the series. He lost, and it was pointed out on the next show that he was now the only man in Britain recognised by law as a conniving little shit.
Fun T-Shirt: Many of Paul's, most notably the "I Drink Cooper's Creosote" shirt from the Tub of Lard episode and obviously the one of the front page of the News of the World with the Angus-and-a-hooker headline, but he's also worn a couple promoting his other shows. Otherwise, he's been known to wear impossibly tacky shirts.
Paul: Somebody said he's on the verge of commiting suicide, somebody else said the public are being very supportive. Combine the two: he should commit suicide in public! He could be his own hangman! [Round of applause] Angus: A sympathetic response. Ian: You'll feel bad on the repeat, when he has. Paul: And you didn't bother going to see it!
A straight example from 2007: sometime DJ, TV presenter, well known charity fundraiser, and extremely creepy old man Jimmy Savile was mentioned. Jokes were made. Jokes that insinuated things about him, for laughs. Oh, how we laughed. Then in 2012, Savile died, and abuse victims started coming forward...
When Lembit Opik appeared on an election special just hours after losing his seat in Parliament, the panellists attempted this but his self-deprecation (such as asking if the recording could be hurried up so he can get to an appointment at the Job Centre) meant he ended up coming off very well.
Identical Stranger: When Elton John cancelled on the show at the last minute, they replaced him with a professional lookalike called Ray. Ray will never let you down. Unlike Elton. Bastard.
In Memoriam: A 2011 episode was dedicated to the recently deceased Big George, who composed the theme tune.
Incredibly Lame Pun: Beloved of both Ian and Paul. Frequently, the studio audience doesn't know whether to laugh or groan. For example:
In a discussion on a breed of Nazi-created cattle being introduced to the UK in 2009, Paul Merton stated he was looking for a cow pun and Cowstapo wouldn't do the trick. He eventually came with: "Watch out for the bull, he's Goering!"
When Obama visited the UK in May 2011 he took part in a staged BBQ with the Prime Minister, the host asked the panelists to come up with the worst pun possible to explain the scene. The best/worst they got was "Obamaque".
"When the President of the United Steaks met the prime mincester..." [audience loudly boos]
Paul: "But... But that's just dreadful..." [the host procedes to discuss how it makes no sense either]
Kick the Dog: The initial ribbing of Angus after his scandal came to light was seen as hilarious. The vicious attacks in the following episodes that may have played a role in Deayton being sacked, along with Paul Merton subsequently describing him as "a dull man" and his firing as "not a big deal", were so nasty that Stephen Fry has boycotted HIGNFY ever since.
Left It In: Frequently used. Double Subverted on one occasion: a panelist asked if a line he worried might be libellous could be edited out. When told, "No", he sincerely apologised. Paul Merton instantly said "Now that bit, we'll edit out."
Man of a Thousand Voices: Parodied with a Running Gag in the latest series, with all of Ian's impressions of people in the news (from Pakistani villagers witnessing the death of Osama bin Laden to Cheryl Cole) sounding exactly like Yorkshire playwright Alan Bennett.
Paul genuinely does do different voices, but generally just a few stock ones: the main ones are his 'posh rich idiot' voice (donchaknow!), his throaty London Gangster voice, and a disreputable American gold prospector voice.
Medium Awareness: Several jokes have revolved around the way in which the show is edited or broadcast.
Environmental activist Swampy, who seemed to be high during the show, got quite confused in a conversation with Angus, giving a series of incoherent and nonsensical responses. Angus promptly reassured him "don't worry, that'll edit together perfectly".
Sion Simon once answered a question about a news story by mistakenly suggesting the subject was one of those "militant farmer" types. In fact, the farmer was innocent, and Simon worried that he had accidentally libelled the man. Angus agreed and suggested that Simon might soon be hearing from the farmer's lawyers, so Simon gave an on-air apology, to which Angus said "No, it's too late. Because we'll edit out the apology."
Paul Merton occasionally suggests that they just drop the whole quiz format and just make amusing jokes for half an hour, especially when the quiz itself degenerates into a joke fest (such as them making a barrage of jokes about President Hu's name sounding like "who", or spending several minutes making Pot Noodle puns). He has on a few occasions experimentally tried to challenge the show's format, such as deliberately not watching or reading any news for a week, or teaming up with the like-minded Ross Noble in an effort to score zero points for the entire episode. (They succeeded.)
Jokes are also sometimes made about the fact that the show is filmed on Thursday, shown on Friday, and repeated on Sunday. This allows the panellists, mostly Merton, to get a huge amount of humour out of causing confusion over which day it's supposed to be when the viewer is watching it.
This also means that if there's an event which happens in the day between filming and airing, such as an election, the panellists won't be able to say anything about its outcome, since they won't know about it; however, they normally find ways to make fun of this as well, such as deliberately giving every possible outcome on the grounds that one of them will have to be correct, or giving the outcome that everyone knows will happen, while making it obvious it hasn't played out yet.
Since the launch of the channel "Dave", and its showing of old (sometimes 3 years plus) shows, panellists and especially the host will lampshade the fact that the viewers are watching a topical news show that is very out to date (there are some examples below.)
Humour is also often made about the host's use of the autocue, since while it's common knowledge that one is being used, it's not often acknowledged. Panellists will sometimes mock the host for fluffing his lines, and Boris Johnson refused on a few occasions to read the autocue because he felt the jokes were too risky.
In an out-take shown after the credits, the floor manager tells Boris he'll have to re-do some of his lines. Paul tells him this is perfectly normal for the host, it just depends how far back they have to go:
Boris Johnson: Oh, alright then. (reads autocue) On Ian's team... (audience cracks up)
In one episode, the then Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy got out of answering an embarrassing question by reading Angus' autocue.
In another, Paul managed to get the answer to a question by reading the autocue, as it had come up on the screen early.
Gordon Ramsay told the audience that he would give them a free meal in one of his restaurants if he flubbed his lines three times. He then proceed to do this in the opening monologue. The audience cheered. (He didn't make good on his promise, though.)
One 'repeated on Dave' joke finally appeared in a 2011 episode to do with the war in Libya. Until then the show had avoided , unlike other BBC comedy programs, making any reference to it.
Another 'repeated on Dave' joke appeared in a 2012 episode on Jeremy Hunt's job: "if you’re watching on Dave in a year's time, the executive director of B Sky B".
2012 has also had Paul saying, "It's one hundred days until the Olympics, or if you're watching on Dave, three years since. And what an Olympics it was."
And a couple of weeks later, there was a story about a plan to bury nuclear waste under the Lake District. Experts had said that it would be almost harmless in two million years, to which host Kathy Burke said, "So if you're watching on Dave, all clear!"
Damien Lewis made a quip about an elderly Italian scientist "...or if you're watching this on Dave, dead."; When this episode was repeated on Dave, Dave's continuity announcer proceed to state that she was alive and well.
For whatever reason, the show has been plagued by accusations of scripting/rigging, which has been the subject of a lot of faux-Lampshade Hanging. The "unbroadcastable" episode contains an intro segment explaining how "every episode is painstakingly directed and rehearsed almost a year before transmission," with a script reading where they go over every single hesitation and inflection, with Ian eventually storming out prima donna-like because Angus won't listen to a suggestion about when to turn his head. When Norman Tebbit claimed that the panellists would never be able to improvise all those jokes, Paul (whose comedic background is in improv and stand-up) responded on the show by saying "When Norman Tebbit said I couldn't improvise, I..." and trailed off as if unable to think of anything. Boris Johnson also reacted to his first uncomfortable appearance as a guest by claiming in his magazine that the entire show had been rehearsed (which, as Paul and Ian point out on the DVD, makes no sense, as then he would have been prepared for the line of questioning that made him look Too Dumb to Live). On his second appearance, when Paul brought it up, he apologized and said it wasn't true, which Ian immediately followed up with "Well said, Bor-is. (peeks at paper) Thank you."
Merton: "The visual effects on this programme are so stunning, we're almost doing radio."
Mundane Made Awesome: Invoked with the latest variant on the Picture Round, the "Large Hadron Collider of News". Guest host Lee Mack describes it as an 'exciting new technical innovation', prompting "oohs" and gasps from the audience. He then reaches under the desk and produces a large plastic red button.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Paul Merton feigns stupidity, but possesses a razor-sharp wit that regularly trounces Ardingly-educated Hislop, and just about every other panelist who's appeared on the program.
Odd Couple: Paul and Ian, who have visibly mellowed toward each other over the years. In early episodes much was made (well, by Paul anyway) of the difference in their education and backgrounds, and they were much more competitive.
Off the Rails: Paul's rambling surreal tangents that rapidly move away from the story in question. A good example is when he went from a story about an escaped polar bear to a discussion of how tomato plants are the natural enemy of polar bears, while Ian, joining in, insisted it was in fact potatoes.
Our Lawyers Advised This Trope: Not unjustified, since the show did get fined once for contempt of court. However, due to the threat of libel action, it is sometimes taken to what seem like ridiculous extremes, and Paul gets a lot of comedic mileage out of making ridiculous accusations, such as that Prince Philip burned down the Cutty Sark and had Princess Diana murdered, or that a random professor mentioned in a news story shouldn't be listened to because he's "always drunk", or that The Pope has "the eyes of a killer", and claiming that "if I say it enough times they'll have to leave it in".
Paul almost invokes this trope by name at one point:
Alexander Armstrong: Of course, David Beckham has said the allegations against him (that he had a mistress) are 'ludicrous', and that he dearly loves his wife and children.
A spoof "Making Of" section in the book describes how the host's script has to go through the BBC lawyer, Tina Blind, who will censor questionable points like referring to Ken Livingstone as a socialist, or suggesting Pol Pot was a mass murderer ("What will Mrs Pot say?")
In a series 41 episode's Odd One Out round, the four choices were four silhouettes labelled A, B, C and D, referring to four people who'd taken out super-injunctions. Guest host Rhod Gilbert then said that whilst there was a correct answer, they couldn't say who the odd one out was or why, as doing so would break the super-injunction.
Overly Prepared Gag: When Adrian Chiles hosted, a rambling conversation about his supposed resemblance to survival expert Ray Mears eventually led to the exchange:
Adrian Chiles: What's your favourite reptile? Ian Hislop:Miliband.
Chiles then asked if he'd been deliberately led through the entire conversation just to get to that gag.
The Points Mean Nothing: The points are actually awarded on a fairly-straightforward basis, although they're subject to tampering in special cases, like when Anne Robinson awarded Paul's team a point every time Ian annoyed her, or the time the final score was changed to 45-1 against Dr. Phil Hammond, who'd been promised he could host if he won. In early episodes, it wasn't uncommon for Ian to get indignant over perceived unfairness in the scoring.
Ian (when Paul's story in the first round is the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull, which had caused mass disruption to air travel across Europe): Is Paul going to get points for knowing that a volcano's erupted?
Inverted at least once, following an Odd One Out round that included a question involving Private Eye and a story about a guy in drag whom it turned out Ian had run into:
Paul: So Ian wins based on questions about his magazine and people he's met on the train!
On one occasion when the show had ended in a draw, Ian complained about leaving it at a tie and guest host Jack Dee instantly awarded an extra point to Paul's team.
On another occasion when the show ended in a draw, there seemed to be no provision for what to do and Angus had to quickly make up a random tiebreak question: "...what is the capital of Albania?"
One episode lampshaded this; Angus read out a letter from a viewer complaining about the seemingly random allocation of the points, whereafter he apologised to the viewer and awarded a point to Ian's team... and he still lost.
Invoked when William Shatner messed up the reading of the final scores at the end of his show, causing Ian to say "it's not important!", whereupon Shatner read out incorrect scores.
In the episode hosted by Alistair Campbell, Paul's team won 55-2... because Campbell awarded Paul points every time Ian made a dig at the Blair Ministry.
One episode in November 2000, the team with fewer points was declared the winners, "as a tribute to our American guest" (said guest being Rich Hall, who promptly called for a recount).
There was an amusing moment once when Paul was talking about a TV drama about the discovery of Tutankhanman's tomb that depicted Howard Carter swearing upon seeing the treasure for the first time. Paul just mimed it, and then Ian excitedly jumped in with, "'What do you see?' 'Fucking beautiful things!'"
When Alastair Campbell finally got annoyed, he told Ross Noble to "shut the fuck up".
Ian, during the episode hosted by Ray Winstone, said something so foul that even his mouth got censored. Everyone reacts with shock horror.
Re Cut: Have I Got a Bit More News for You, aired the next day (or two days later for series 39-40) on BBC2, featuring 15 minutes of new material. Series 42 promoted the extended versions to Sunday nights on BBC1.
The first 'Best of the Guest Presenters' DVD features a one-hour version of the first Boris Johnson-hosted episode.
Red Shirt: The Liberal Democrats in the coalition agreement, according to Paul, after a long metaphor about a Lib Dem/Klingon coalition.
Paul: The Lib Dem party in this arrangement is the equivalent of the guy you see in Star Trek walking around the planet you've never seen before who's always the first one to get killed...
Ripped from the Headlines: Understandably averted in a 2012 episode where nearly every reference to the Duchess of Cambridge's pregnancy - one of the biggest news stories of the week - had to be edited out hours before the programme went to air due to the suicide of a nurse at the hospital she was staying at.
Rummage Sale Reject: Some of Paul Merton's more questionable outfits. Ian once accused him of wearing 'the top half of a gorilla costume'.
Rule of Three: By sheer chance, Alexander Armstrong hosted the show the weeks Saddam Hussein was captured, Osama bin Laden was shot, and Muammar Gaddafi was killed.
Paul Merton's academic achievements consisting of a CSE ungraded qualification in metalwork; his attempt to fit the word "jetpack" into every episode of one season; and his insistence that then-leader of the Conservative Party, Iain Duncan Smith, was actually two people, "Iain and Duncan Smith, the first pair of identical twins to hold joint leadership of a major political party".
Boris Johnson: I see. It's a conceit.
Iain Duncan Smith's full name turns out to be George Iain Duncan Smith.
Paul Merton: There's THREE of them?!
The exceedingly large number of libel suits against Ian Hislop and Private Eye, and its use of the word "allegedly" to cover legally-contentious statements.
Also the small readership of Private Eye, such as during the postal strikes:
David Mitchell: Ian, what are you going to do about your subscriber?
Ian: I'm going to take round his copy personally.
Paul: Thank you!
The attempt to fit a word into every episode of a season has itself become a running gag. From series 1 until series 31 (a running gag that spanned 15 years!), the word was the name of the 1960s British singer Lulu, which he used to answer a question on several occasions — until it actually turned out to be the correct answer and he had to find another word. He attempted to use "Eamonn Holmes" as a substitute for a while, but it didn't catch on.
The long-running joke about Angus and Paul's wife, after her first appearance on the show.
The December 2009 series had the running gag of showing a clip of Baron Sugar muttering "Oh, shit" in every episode. It appears once more in the Spring 2010 series (and appeared later when his aide from The Apprentice, Nick Hewer, appeared as a guest).
In previous series they similarly tried to get the same clip into every show — one was a clip of Tony Blair sweating profusely, another was Robert Kilroy-Silk on his game show saying "Their fate is in each others' hands as they decide whether to share...or to shaft."
The Kilroy-Silk game show clip got a Continuity Nod in the first episode of Series 39.
Whenever the EU flag is shown, Ian (a eurosceptic) quickly leaps in with "[It's the] British flag!"
Ian's resemblance to Jimmy Somerville.
John Prescott's weight.
Paul claiming that an adjective-noun phrase (such as "muddy fields") is the name of a country-and-Western singer.
For a few series, it was a gag that despite Ian and Paul's disparate backgrounds and competitiveness, they shared an appreciation for the songs of Val Doonican, much to Angus' bewilderment.
Jokes about Angus being The Scrooge and about his mainstream celebrity. (Ian, after a question had described Private Eye cartoonist Bill Tidy as a "celebrity": "You're a celebrity, Bill Tidy's got a job.")
Some episodes create running gags that only last for the length of that episode, such as Stephen Mangan pretending Gordon Brown was hiding under the desk.
Eric Pickles' weight.
In 2005 there was a Running Gag by Paul that Ian was going to be the next Doctor from Doctor Who after it was announced that Christopher Eccleston would leave after one series. This culminated in the final episode, which ended on a shot of the Doctor and Rose Tyler 'regenerating' into Ian and Anne Widdecombe.
Paul deliberately misintepreting a comment on the wrongness of his answer as a stage direction. E.g. when asked how much something had cost he stated a too-low sum, was told, "Higher," and repeated the same sum in a falsetto voice. Or this.
Eamonn Holmes' weight.
Ian demonstrating unexpected knowledge about a piece of popular culture, usually to Paul's bewilderment. This joke has been used so often that the whole notion of Ian being out-of-touch is almost a show-specific Dead Unicorn Trope.
Serial Escalation and Rule of Funny: The Tub of Lard episode almost literally ended this way in the final missing words round. Not only was Paul's partner an inanimate object, but the questions posed to his team were given in French, German, Russian, Japanese, and in the last case the entire sentence was missing... and he still won.
Have I Got News for You: The Shameless Cash-In Book presented a list of guests and their average score based on how many questions they got correct. The Tub of Lard had scored more points than Roy Hattersley and a string of other MPs, as well as Stephen Fry.
Ian Hislop claims complete ignorance of popular culture, making questions about — or occasional appearances by — pop stars more entertaining.
When Angus Deayton was host, he would sometimes explain who a modern pop group was to Hislop by describing them as a "popular beat combo", a reference to a possibly-apocryphal but well-known story about a judge in the 1960s who was informed about the Beatles in this manner.
Straight Man: Nick Hewer when he is on the show. His usual comedic specialty is simply blandly answering the questions, but in such a way that he still gets big laughs. He's one of the best guests, actually.
The Stinger: The extended cuts would usually have a 10-second or so segment after the credits.
Suspect Is Hatless: In the Odd One Out round, Angus' occasional catchphrase "the connection is someone who's not in the pictures".
[With regards to Piers Morgan's appearance at the Leveson inquiry]
Martin Clunes: Do you know what Piers Morgan admitted to?
Ian: No, I didn't watch it. It's of no interest to me, him being sliced up by a QC in front of millions of people. The fact that he made a fool of himself, I'm not going to watch that. All of it. On a loop, throughout.
Take a Third Option: Whilst reading from the autocue, Jeremy Clarkson read out "An Iranian clerk", whereupon Ian Hislop said that it said "cleric". Clare Balding then insisted it said "clerk", and a brief argument ensued about whether it was "clerk" or "cleric". When Clarkson started reading again, he said "an Iranian chap..."
Take That: Against every politician, celebrity, and public figure, ever. In particular, Ian treated the episode hosted by Alastair Campbell as one long Take That against the Blair administration, and Campbell in particular. Regardless of your political alignment, it was spectacular.
Take That, Audience!: Especially in early series, fans of the show are treated as demented lunatics when they're mentioned, and a tie-in book even suggested the typical HIGNFY fan was a psychopath who kept parts of the bodies around his flat as his "friends":
Angus Deayton (introducing the 100th show): And if you've seen all 100 episodes...the nurse will be along to sedate you again soon.
Team Dad: More than one contestant has jokingly called Ian 'Dad'.
He claims that he told Charlotte Church to go to her room, but it was cut out.
Token Minority: Parodied in the first episode of Series 47. Following a 2014 BBC edict that all Panel Shows were required to have at least one female panellist (with HIGNFY being one of the main objects of criticism that led to this decision), Jennifer Saunders, the episode's guest host, introduced herself with "Good evening and welcome to Have I Got News for You, I'm 'The Woman'."
The Tyson Zone: "I played my [Richard] Branson card and it turned out to be true."
Also invoked by Ian when Tony Parsons (jokingly) claimed Andrew Lloyd Webber had written a musical about the House of Lords called Lords! and everyone believed him.
Uncanny Family Resemblance: Boris Johnson's father Stanley when he appeared on the show. He resembled him fairly well in appearance, but the trope really came into play when he opened his mouth and started talking in exactly the same manner.
Paul: ...You really are Boris's dad, aren't you? I always thought he'd been knitted!
Ian McMillan: The thing with the Chinese bloke [Hu Jintao] is his name something like "Who's In Town", isn't it? So it's like: "Who's In Town." "Yes, I know." It's like that Abbott and Costello routine. "Who's In Town?" "Yes, he is." "Who's In town?" "Yes, I know."
Paul Merton: "Hu's the President." "Yes, that's right."
Ian Hislop: The one they don't do is HUman rights. Doesn't come up.
Alexander Armstrong: Well, now we know who Hu is. The big question is: who's Wen? And when's Wen here and why?
Ian McMillan: What?
Alexander: Who's Wen?
Paul: Is Wen his wife? Short for Wendy? Wendy Hu? Wen and Hu?
Ian McMillan: Hu here?
Paul: And they've gone to visit Where.
Alexander: Wen Jiabao is the Chinese Prime Minister and he's coming over here in December.
Ian McMillan: Who?
Paul: So, who's the bloke we just had over here then?
Alexander: Hu's the bloke.
Paul: Hu's the bloke we had over here!
Alexander: Exactly. [audience laughs and pause] Yes, meanwhile, erm, who's been barracking Hu as he drove... [gives up]
Paul: Yes. That's what I just said. When? She was getting her hair done. Where? That's to-morrow. Was it Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey from the rock band The Who? It was! They were there with Christopher Eccleston...
In another episode, Alexander Armstrong asked Paul which US State Sarah Palin was Governor of. He answered "Alaska" and was then asked when he was going to see her.
Working Class People Are Morons: Averted in that of over 300 episodes, Paul has won nearly twice as many as Ian, and Ian has won only three out of thirty-nine series — and one of those was Series 11, when Paul wasn't there.
A tie-in book presented statistics showing that Ian does answer more questions correctly than Paul, suggesting Ian just gets lumped with all the stupider guests.
Worst. Episode. Ever: Paul claims either the one with Neil Kinnock presenting or the "Margaret Thatcher special" with Edwina Currie and Derek Hatton have this dubious honour.
Worst News Judgment Ever: Played for laughs a few times; the most triumphant example would be a programme where a story on the rules of Scrabble changing to allow real names was covered as "the story everyone's been talking about" before the story about the 2010 UK general election being called.
Also often the source of humour in the "one of these headlines is not like the others" occasional gag. Sometimes there's a good reason for this, like the papers owned by Rupert Murdoch pointedly not covering a story that involves another part of his media empire being embarrassed.
Several episodes have coincided with a week of very slow news, with the result being that normally insignificant stories get higher promenience; one example was series 36 episode 6, where the stories in the second round consisted of a haunted sofa, a drawing of a spider somebody had sent as payment for a gas bill, a woman who'd been training for a mission to the South Pole by sitting in a refrigerator and a man who'd converted a double-decker bus into an "all mod cons base for holidays". Ian and Paul spent the entire round in sheer disbelief of the worthlessness of the "stories".
Writers Cannot Do Math: When one guest referred to Gordon Brown as "the 52nd worst Prime Minister" another pointed out that would make him the best Prime Minister. In the same episode, guest host Martin Clunes read out a quote from The Mirror that asked how long David Cameron would be the 53rd Prime Minister.
Martin: Forever, dickhead, the next one'll be the 54th!
[on a story about a footballer named Paul Merson being caught up in a cocaine scandal, and being confused in the tabloids with "TV's own Paul Merton"] Paul: There was a story going around that it was me for a while. My wife got phoned up last week in the middle of the night... Ian: I'm sorry. I am so sorry. Angus: No, no, don't apologize, it wasn't a problem.