Have I Got News For You (or HIGNFY for short) is a satirical Panel Show focusing on politics and general news that has been running since the end of the Margaret Thatcher era, with two series per year. 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, journalists 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 (usually) more trivial news story and have to guess the story. The way in which the picture is presented changes every week; the most common is the "Picture Spin Quiz", with variants 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.
- The Odd One Out round, where each team are shown a group of 4 things and have to guess the odd one out.
- 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).
A commemorative documentary entitled Have I Got 30 Years for You was released last Christmas Eve 2020, in celebration of the program's 30th anniversary and thriving in the midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic, as well as acknowledging contentious aspects of the program's history (such as the end of Deayton's tenure and the rise of Boris Johnson).
This show provides examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming:
- Sheila Hancock kept calling Angus "Andrew" on her appearance, which - inevitably - Paul took up as a Running Gag for the next few episodes.
- There was also this exchange between Janet Street-Porter and Ian in one episode:Janet: That's a bit nitpicky of you, Paul.
Ian: I'm Ian, just to be nitpicky.
- Actor Allusion: This has happened with numerous guest hosts and panellists to different extents:
- When Bruce Forsyth was a guest presenter for the first time, the show turned into a parody of Bruce Forsyth's Generation Game and Play Your Cards Right, the latter as "Play Your Iraqi Cards Right", a reference to the "deck of death" to the utter bewilderment of Hislop and utter delight of Merton. His second appearance featured incidental music from Strictly Come Dancing, and ended with the points revealed in the style of that show. Hislop later described "Iraqi Cards" as being quite possibly the most tasteless thing the show had ever done. (It could have been worse — the writers wanted to call it "Play Your Kurds Right".)
- Jerry Springer's episode featured descriptive captions for the panellists and his trademark 'final thought'. Also, Paul suggesting they have a lie detector test, and Ian suggesting a fight.
- Nicholas Parsons did a Just a Minute round.
- Joan Collins' episode featured a spoof of the Dynasty1981 opening sequence (using the shots of the team captains from the first ever episode)
- It also happened with guests, like the spoof Mastermind rounds.
- Dominic West had the "Squad Car of News", because of his role on The Wire.
- Benedict Cumberbatch had The Round of the Baskervilles.
- Anne Robinson's guest hosted episode ended with "exit interviews" of Merton and Hislop in the style of The Weakest Link.
- BRIAN BLESSED: "In the news the polls continue to slide for Gordon Brown, and some people think he's dead and buried. But I think the opposite, I say: GORDON'S ALIVE!!!" He does it again when he returns to host in a 2013 episode, this time managing to fit it into a conversation about Margaret Thatcher's death.
- Tom Baker appeared by being "transported" in via TV special effects, complete with TARDIS noise. He then proceeded to introduce the show thusly:Tom Baker: Good evening, and welcome to Have I Got News For You. I used to be Jon Pertwee.
- William Shatner opened the show with the background sliding open like automatic doors with a familiar ssshtk sound, and the host's chair had been modified to resemble the captain's chair on the Enterprise. Then there were lots of little phrases hidden throughout the show relating to Star Trek. He even did a song round, reference to his singing career. Also all the guests did their best to bring up Star Trek at every opportunity.
- When Sir Roger Moore hosted, the James Bond allusions started before the opening credits, with Ian stroking a toy Right-Hand Cat. Also, when Sir Roger comments that an Archbishop needs the patience of a saint, a halo appears above his head.
- At the end of the episode where Daniel Radcliffe hosted, a stinger showed him turning Paul Merton into a toad.
- This exchange in series 44, episode 5 (extended).Damian Lewis: What's Radio Four for?
Paul: Radio 4-4? Is there two of them? [...] Is there a Radio 2 too?
Harry Shearer: Radio 1-1 makes 11.
Damian: "Look it goes to eleven."
Harry: Ohh, yeah.
Damian: Spinal Tap joke!
Harry: I knew it would happen.
Damian: Got there early. I am so, SO happy I've got that in.
- Robert Lindsay signed off his Series 45 guest host appearance by saying, "Power to the people."
- Ian's editorship of Private Eye is brought up a lot.
- Victoria Coren Mitchell did an Only Connect-inspired round which she called "Simply Link" instead of the "Odd One Out" round on her appearance in Series 48.
- The Wheel of News is occasionally given a host-related revamp, such as Jeremy Clarkson presenting the Steering Wheel of News, and Mel Giedroyc presenting the Pithivier of News.
- In the episode hosted by Michael Sheen, who played Tony Blair in The Deal, The Queen and The Special Relationship, one of his linking bits involved asking if any of the panellists could do a good Blair impression.
- When Jeremy Paxman hosted, the Missing Words round became "Missing Wordsity Challenge", complete with the University Challenge catchphrases and the panellists being displayed in the famous stacked teams shot. Also, when he gets into a brief argument with Ian during the first round, Paul interjects "Are you threatening to overrule him?!"
- An episode where the guests included Pointless's Richard Osman and Only Connect's Victoria Coren Mitchell had a round titled "Pointlessly Connect".
- An episode hosted by Lee Mack had a round titled "Would He Lie to Us?" (it was about politicians, and the answer to every question was "yes").
- Actually Pretty Funny: In the first episode after the 2016 US presidential election, Charlie Brooker opens the show with the usual "In the news this week..." and then screams for twenty seconds. After he finishes, Paul is visibly laughing and Ian applauding.
- Alternate Company Equivalent: Not really alternate company, per se, but HIGNFY is to BBC One what Mock the Week is to BBC Two.
- Ambiguous Syntax: Paul likes to exploit this trope in the Missing Words round."BLANK flies off without warning"
Paul: "Spider scares"? ... "Clinton's?"
- Arch-Enemy: Piers Morgan to Ian Hislop.
- Armour-Piercing Question:Sue Perkins: Nick, I'm going to ask you a question. When was the last time you were excited by anything?
Nick Hewer: ...
- Author Appeal: Paul is an expert on The Beatles and silent films, which occasionally comes up.
- 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 (except Piers Morgan) 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."
- Background Halo: During Barack Obama's first term, he was depicted in the title sequence with a halo that the camera angle then shifted to reveal as a basketball hoop.
- Discussing an American plan to nuke the Moon:Jack Whitehall: [The bomb] was called a 'Fat Man'. Would you like to see a picture of a Fat Man?
Paul Merton: Yeah.
[the screen shows a picture of a nuclear bomb]
Jack Whitehall: See? This is the actual bomb. You thought we were gonna show you something like this.
[the screen shows a picture of Eric Pickles]
- Also this:Mel Geidroyc: Who wants to see a dick pic?
[panelists aren't sure]
Mel Geidroyc: Okay then.
[the screen shows a picture of a policewoman]
Mel Geidroyc: Newly appointed head of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick there, looking fabulous as always.
- Discussing an American plan to nuke the Moon:
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Angus Deayton introducing the teams in the first ever episode: "Two teams of witty and politically astute celebrities... couldn't make it, so we've got this lot here instead."
- 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 a performer who's made a career out of playing a balding grumpy 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 Health) 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.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- 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) as a symbol of Europeanisation"
"労基法改正きょう(成立)"note : "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".
- 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:
- The Board Game: Yes, really (although now sadly discontinued).
- 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 steel working.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?
Paul: Yeah, don't tell me about it!
- At one point Paul correctly guessed some missing headlines from the guest magazine about steel working.
- Brick Joke:
- A 2001 episode begins with Angus announcing that the show has been cancelled and replaced with a rerun of One Foot in the Grave. This is followed by the One Foot in the Grave opening titles and a shot of Victor Meldrew sitting down to watch TV, at which point it turns out he's watching Have I Got News For You and the episode continues as normal. At the very end of the episode, after most of the audience have probably forgotten how it started, there's another shot of Victor Meldrew turning off the TV in disgust.
- 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.
- In a 2018 episode, one of the trivial stories in the second round is about two Swedish robots which can assemble an Ikea chair, and Paul insists that the same story was covered the previous week until the floor manager comes on to say it wasn't. The story then features in the following week's show, but host Rhod Gilbert abruptly ends the round after saying it's actually from next week's show.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Paul is usually a Cloudcuckoolander, but ocassionally he will give an incredibly well fleshed out correct answer (and even the incorrect ones are sometimes logical). On a more trivial note, he displayed his knowledge of pop knowledge when correcting the show's claim that Bob Holness was the first actor to play James Bond by mentioning Barry Nelson, who had appeared in television adaptation of Casino Royale.
- Camp Straight: Ian's impression of the German ambassador.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.
- Captain Obvious:
- Paul likes to combine this with the Overly Long Gag occasionally. For example, in an episode just before the 2002 World Cup:Angus: Which match do they think might erupt into violence?
Paul: Yes, there's a history of conflict between the two countries. In fact they fought two major wars, one between 1914 and 1918, and the other between 1939 and 1945.
- During one caption competition when the picture was of a massive dog: "Massive dog." [Long pause] "We'll go for 'massive dog'."
- One Picture Round in series 48 saw Ian and his team-mate Roisin Conaty make a Running Gag of buzzing in and giving the most obvious, brief descriptions of the pictures as possible. They won the show by a large margin as a result of this.[a picture of a man looking puzzled outside Tesco appears]
Ian: [buzzing in] Tesco!
Paul: [after laughing and Face Palming] Well, we can't compete against knowledge like this!
[later, after this has been going on for a while and the next image is one of the Queen]
Ian: [buzzing in] It's the Queen.
Roisin: We are on fire!
Andy Hamilton: We - we can't compete with this! They're out of our league!
Paul: Somebody must have told them!
- Paul likes to combine this with the Overly Long Gag occasionally. For example, in an episode just before the 2002 World Cup:
- Catchphrase: 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).
- 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.
- There was also " ...allegedly."
- Angus also had a Mad Libs Catch Phrase "The words 'X' and 'Y' immediately spring to mind."
- Catchphrase Interruptus: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.
Bill Deedes: Harold MacMillan didn't resign, he was taken ill!
Angus: ...as Bill pointed out, the wrong answer.
- Celebrity Resemblance: Paul's resemblance to Democratic Unionist Party leader Arlene Foster was noted when Foster's party first came to prominence after the 2017 general election (due to the minority Conservative government requiring an arrangement with them to have a majority in the House of Commons). The following series went one better by placing a picture of Foster directly next to Merton on the set's backdrop.
- Censored for Comedy: In Series 50, Episode 5, while reporting on the story of a 15-year-old boy from Northern Ireland who hacked into broadband provider TalkTalk's servers and published personal information of their four million customers, guest host David Tennant gave us this gem:David Tennant: We're not allowed to reveal his name - he's yet to be convicted of any crime, and he is a minor. Fortunately, The Sun don't care about that, and they've named him, as five foot tall (beep beep)!
Paul Merton: With a name like that, he shouldn't be hard to trace! Just go round all the schools, and when the register's called, wait 'til you hear that noise, and you've got him!
- 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 occurred 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.
- In one episode, Paul swears on several occasions during a clip, prompting the other panelists to do the same, except for Gemma Armstrong, the only sane woman.
- Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Used as a Running Gag in one episode where Paul announced he'd quit smoking.
- The Comically Serious: Nick Hewer and Jacob Rees-Mogg stand out, though several guests fit the bill.
- Companion Cube:
- The Rt. Hon. Tub of Lard MP in 1993, replacing Roy Hattersley.
- A leather handbag in 2016, replacing Nicky Morgan, who had cancelled an appearance after being caught up in a row about a pair of trousers owned by Theresa May. This was a more Downplayed example than the Tub of Lard, possibly because all the possible jokes about having an inanimate object as a teammate had been done the first time round.
- 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..."
- Comically Missing the Point: As a Running Gag, Paul likes to respond to questions with different variations of this:
- Literal-Minded, such as being asked what person did this thing, suggesting a British celebrity, the host hints "more American" and Paul repeats the same celebrity's name but in an American accent;
- Answering a question that was obviously aimed at his teammate, such as when Lorraine Kelly was his teammate and had recently been in the news for talking about Going Commando:Angus: Are you wearing pants right now?
Paul: [interrupting] Yes. But not where you might expect me to be wearing them.
- Continuity Editing: Parodied by Paul in one episode, where he was interviewed on Clive Anderson Talks Back (on Channel 4), broadcast directly after Have I Got News For You (on BBC2). Paul took care to wear the same outfit to both recordings, and asked if he could leave HIGNFY promptly in order to get to Channel 4 in time.
- Cool Old Lady: The oldest person to ever appear on the show, Baroness Trumpington. She worked at Bletchley Park during World War II, and was one of Margaret Thatcher's ministers. She also mentioned that she'd had to fill in a form confirming that she wasn't pregnant for insurance purposes.
- Country Matters:Stuart Maconie: [discussing Richard Graham's blog] He called some Labour guy in his constituency...I can't say this word...the C word.
Ian: A Conservative?
- Crazy-Prepared: At the end of a 2014 episode, Paul Merton pulls out a copy of his recently-released autobiography to do a plug. It's promptly confiscated by a stagehand, so he pulls out a second copy. When this is also confiscated, he unbuttons his shirt to reveal a T-shirt with the book's cover printed on it.
- 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).
- An earlier Comic Relief had Have I Got A Question of Sport For You.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right:
- On occasion.[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...
- On occasion.
- Cringe Comedy: The 6th episode of Season 54 hosted by Victoria Coren-Mitchell (normally a fast wit and host herself) has a remarkable amount of Incredibly Lame Pun-themed punchlines (ex. using U2 song titles to refer to Bono's tax evasion allegations) within the host's teleprompter dialogue, to the point that she herself was struggling to keep a straight face saying it—eventually joining in with some of her own. Even Paul Merton was incredulous at how the quality of dialogue went down by the end of the episode:Paul: We're not finishing on that note are we?! That's done forever, that is!
- Da Chief: Discussed Trope when Paul questioned why all TV detectives have the same kind of boss, and the only qualification for being one seems to be "the ability to get really angry".
- Deadpan Snarker: Paul as well as Angus. Ian is more British Stuffiness, Knight in Sour Armor, and Grumpy Bear.
- 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-Monkey of the Week Lembit Opik, who had just lost his seat.Ian: Brutal, isn't it, democracy?
Lembit: No, but you are. You were horrible to me last time I was on this show.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Jeffrey Archer's tribute to Margaret Thatcher upon her death, saying the late prime minister "was a giant and she will remain a giant, and in history she will remain a giant," was utterly destroyed by no less than BRIAN BLESSED: "Jeffrey Archer—not only a terrible writer but also a terrible writer."
- 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.)
- Don't Explain the Joke:
- One example from the 2010 election special: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]
- One example from the 2010 election special:
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Invoked by guest host David Mitchell in Series 42, Episode 5:[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.
- Dream Sequence: Once, in a bizarre fantasy of Merton's, featuring Merton and Hislop skipping through a field. The footage was later reused in a Dynasty1981 parody when Joan Collins was the guest host.
- 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".
- Dude, Not Funny!:
- One episode featured an Odd One Out round in which Mother Theresa was surrounded by various dictators. Angus Deayton mockingly referred to Mother Theresa as winner of "the all-Calcutta shrivelled-walnut-lookalike competition". Ian Hislop called him out on this.Ian: Obviously the best target. Milton Friedman, Saddam Hussein... yeah, let's get Mother Theresa! Shrivelled old walnut — what's she ever done?
- A series 40 episode had the panel (led by Jimmy Carr) decline to do a round called "Spot the Chinaman."
- Paul has a minor Running Gag of calling the audience out whenever they react to a Black Comedy joke by starting out with a groan but then laughing and applauding.
- As a rule, the commentary for the first DVD shows Ian and Paul both reacting in disgust to a child being hit in the face by an acrobat's kick (which was accidental).
- The first episode of Series 44 had an entire round about Jimmy Savile (which centred on the sex assault charges) and very few jokes were made, due to the general awkwardness of the situation. The next round was about Abu Hamza, a preacher of fundamentalism and terrorism. When Graham Linehan said he didn't really enjoy making jokes about the man due to who he is, Ian Hislop said that compared to the last round he was comedy gold.
- One episode featured an Odd One Out round in which Mother Theresa was surrounded by various dictators. Angus Deayton mockingly referred to Mother Theresa as winner of "the all-Calcutta shrivelled-walnut-lookalike competition". Ian Hislop called him out on this.
- Early-Bird Cameo: In a 2015 episode, during a story about a cat with eyebrows that make him look permanently confused, Ian mentions in passing he has a cat called Colin. Five years later, Colin appeared on the show (as it was the series filmed via video conferencing due to the Coronavirus pandemic and Colin wandered into his owner's room mid-recording).
- Early Installment Weirdness: The opening theme has remained unchanged since the second series in 1991. The first series, however, used this as its opening theme.
- 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 appearance the 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!"
- Similarly, Ian has tended to laugh in despair whenever he ends a show having only scored 2 points (the absolute minimum possible, from getting the answer right in the first round).
- 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.
- Evolving Credits: The title sequence has changed many times over the years to reflect recent news events.note 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.
- The Series 49 intro had a sequence depicting a squabble between the various opposition party members, referencing the upcoming general election (which took place while Episode 5 was being filmed). In the wake of the election, Nick Clegg, Nigel Farage, and Ed Miliband note all resigned, and their faces in the intro were promptly pixellated out. note
- The Series 50 intro depicted David Cameron using a selfie stick to take a picture of himself and a few other MPs in the House of Commons. After Cameron resigned as Prime Minister and was replaced by Theresa May, the Series 51 intro used the same clip but with May now photobombing Cameron and obscuring him from sight.
- During Barack Obama's first term, he was depicted in the title sequence shooting a basketball hoop. Following Obama's downturn in popularity and loss of the Senate and House in the 2010 midterm elections, it was changed so the basketball bounced off the rim, but in the episodes immediately after the death of Osama bin Laden and Obama's re-election in 2012 it was changed back to the original.
- 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 was sometimes referenced.
- Fascinating Eyebrow: Angus Deayton.
- 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. While Angus is gesturing, he mainly talks about how what he's saying will go through a fast-forward effect.
- 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 (is?) remotely funny.
- F--: Paul has a CSE ungraded in metalwork!
- Freudian Slip:
- 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 panelists 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 panelists)
Rev. Richard Coles: Thank goodness it wasn't Jeremy Hunt!note
- In Series 42, Episode 6, guest presenter Dan Stevens was discussing a story about Larry the Downing Street cat, leading to the following:
- 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.
- "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
- Invoked by Ian Hislop after Jeffrey Archer was accused of perjury and the panel could finally speak openly about him.Paul: Somebody said he's on the verge of committing 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...
- In fact, this goes even further back- to an episode in the fourth season in 1992, where Angus Jokes "his interest in kids has always been entirely above board"...
- A potential example depending upon the outcome of the 2020 US Presidential Election, when, in a 1990 episode, Angus jokes about Joe Biden's then-failed Presidential bid "and what happened next was his [Biden's] career came to nothing, nobody voted for him and he never achieved high office".
- Invoked by Ian Hislop after Jeffrey Archer was accused of perjury and the panel could finally speak openly about him.
- Genre Blind: Conservative MP Teddy Taylor infamously seemed to not realise that the programme was a comedy and attempted to use it as a forum for serious political debate.Angus: [rounding off a discussion about a rebellion John Major was facing] ...Although if John Major did try and blow his own brains out, he'd have to be a bloody good shot.
Taylor: That's not kind at all.
- Gesundheit: In the Missing Words round from the Tub of Lard episode, the missing word from the German headline "Die Bank von England gibt große ____ zu"note is revealed by Angus to be "Besorgnis".note Ian laughs and says, "Bless you!"
- Godwin's Law: When Janet Street-Porter and Eddie Izzard are taking issue with the rules of the Missing Words Round:
- Good Shepherd: The Reverend Richard Coles, who looks exactly like the archetypal vicar, but who was a musician when younger.
- Gretzky Has the Ball: Ian talking about football.
- Guest Host: After Angus Deayton's scandal, he left the show and they have been doing it ever since.
- Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: A Running Gag about Jason Donovan, due to his being overly defensive when accused of being otherwise by the tabloid media.
- Here There Be Dragons: Referenced after it turned out the beaching of the HMS Astute was caused by outdated charts.
- Hidden Depths: In one episode, a gag about the latest elimination from Strictly Come Dancing leads to Paul Merton holding forth knowledgeably on the prospects of the remaining contestants, inspiring Victoria Coren Mitchell to remark that even after all these years he's still full of surprises. (He responds that he's heard that a lot, only "surprises" isn't the word people usually use.)
- Humiliation Conga:
- Angus, on the show after the aforementioned prostitute/honey trap/cocaine scandal broke.Angus: Welcome to Have I Got News For You, where this week's loser... is presenting it.
- 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.
- Angus, on the show after the aforementioned prostitute/honey trap/cocaine scandal broke.
- Hurricane of Puns: The Pot Noodle conversation. (S31E08)
- 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.
- Incoming Ham: On both his appearances as guest host, BRIAN BLESSED is already audible during the first wide shot of the set, before he even begins the opening monologue.
- 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!"
- Something of a hypocritical example in S19E3:
- 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 proceeds to discuss how it makes no sense either]
- Inherently Funny Words:
- Paul Merton likes to use "Wolverhampton" as a Punchline for this reason:Paul Merton: ...and the lost submarine turned up in an airing cupboard in Wolverhampton.
- Ian obviously likes the sound of "Fatboy Slim", and flings it around when the name of a musician or other celebrity is needed, even though he doesn't really know who Fatboy Slim is.
- Paul Merton likes to use "Wolverhampton" as a Punchline for this reason:
- Insistent Terminology: In S43S09:Victoria Coren: ''It's NOT a psychic pig!''
- Insult to Rocks: An example from the extended version of Series 42, Episode 4:Greg Davies: [on Silvio Berlusconi] A man with the morals of a horny Jack Russell.
Ian: I think that's quite unfair to Jack Russells.
- It Is Pronounced Tropay: When the Dutch comedian Raoul Heertje was on the show, he pointed out that the name of the politician Angus was talking about should be pronounced 'Naples' rather than 'Nipples'.Angus: I'm sorry?
Raoul Heertje: "Naples". It's not funny, but it is accurate.
Angus: Yes, ruins the next nine jokes.
- I Want My Jetpack: Paul Merton, who believes that the Queen Mother is hoarding all the jetpacks for herself.
- 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.
- Knight of Cerebus:
- A weird posthumous example: as soon as the now infamous Jimmy Savile case came up in the opening episode of Series 44, the joke level plummeted horrifyingly quickly. Ian lampshaded the darkness and seriousness with "Anyway, that's comic gold."
- Also happened with Max Clifford after he was outed as a rapist. Jokes made about him were awkward, fewer and further between. Lampshaded by Jack Dee, who commented "that's rapists for you".
- Lame Pun Reaction:
- A common reaction to some of the worst puns, especially in the host's autocue jokes. Usually this will just be the audience groaning, but sometimes...[wrapping up an Odd One Out where the connection was that they had all been attacked by rabbits]Damian Lewis: Of course, it's not the first time a rabbit's been involved in an attack on a president - let's not forget Lee 'Harvey' Oswald![beat, during which a few audience members groan]Paul: What?!Ian: That's really terrible...Paul: That film came out in 1952!
- Guest host Jeremy Paxman facepalmed after being obliged to read a linking bit describing a beehive theft as a "sting operation".
- A common reaction to some of the worst puns, especially in the host's autocue jokes. Usually this will just be the audience groaning, but sometimes...
- Large Ham: BRIAN BLESSED has been the Guest Host on two occasions.
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Often done with the Odd One Out and Tabloid Headlines rounds.
- Late to the Punchline: In one episode, a news item about the intelligence of sheep prompted Paul to make a joke about sheep gambolling/gambling in the meadows, which fell flat with the audience and set off a running gag of Paul coming back to the joke repeatedly in an attempt to get a laugh from it. At the very end of the episode, fellow panelist Sara Pascoe admitted that she'd only just got the joke.
- Left It In: Frequently used. Double Subverted on one occasion: a panelist asked if a line he worried might be libelous could be edited out. When told, "No", he sincerely apologised. Paul Merton instantly said "Now that bit, we'll edit out."
- Literal-Minded: A favorite joke format of Paul's. Here's an example.
- The Magazine Rule: The "Missing Words" round's guest publications make you wonder whether any topic doesn't have a magazine dedicated to it.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name: Invoked by Ian during a segment on Bernie Madoff:Hislop: He's Madoff with your money!
- 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".
- When the show moved from BBC2 to the more mainstream BBC1, Angus opened the show by reassuring viewers that this wouldn't change anything about the show's presentation. At which point, a line of can-can dancers suddenly dance past the panel in full costume, then leave, and nobody says a word or mentions them again.
- 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 libeled 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 panelists, 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 panelists 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, panelists and especially the host will lampshade the fact that the viewers are watching a topical news show that is very out of date.
- 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. Panelists 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.)
- 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:
- 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 youre 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 panelists 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.
- My God, What Have I Done?: It has been noted that Boris Johnson's appearances on the show burgeoned his public profile and popularity, resulting in his unlikely rise to power as Mayor of London in 2008, then Foreign Secretary in 2016 and Prime Minister in 2019. Hislop and Merton feel somewhat responsible.
- Never Heard That One Before: In one episode, while they were discussing a German man who'd tried to row across the English Channel:Stephen Mangan: You couldn't manage it in 1941, Fritz, you're not gonna manage it now!
Henning Wehn: Boring.
- 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.
- Ominous Multiple Screens: One version of the intro finishes with the various scenes making it up all viewed at once by some villains, only for them all to go to static and show the Have I Got News For You title.
- 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.
Paul: Yeah, We'll thank the lawyer for that gag!
- 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.
- Guest host Jeremy Paxman begins one round with a mangled version of his University Challenge catchphrase, claiming that the show couldn't use the proper wording "for copyright reasons".
- Paul almost invokes this trope by name at one point:
- Overly Narrow Superlative
- Brian Blessed got this famous line against then PM Gordon Brown.BRIAN BLESSED: I mean, this is Gordon Brown's worst week in politics, since last week.
- And from S45E02:
- Brian Blessed got this famous line against then PM Gordon Brown.
- 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.
- A four-minute segment about a research project that had developed a way to levitate tiny amounts of food with sound waves, repeatedly punctuated by panelists remarking that this hardly qualified as news, ended with this:Host: I can't see the idea of floating food ever catching on. It's pie-in-the-sky stuff. [winks conspiratorially]
Paul: We've built up to that joke, you realise that, don't you.
Ian: That's the reason they put that question in.
- When Adrian Chiles hosted, a rambling conversation about his supposed resemblance to survival expert Ray Mears eventually led to the exchange:
- Pixellation: Following the resignations of Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg, the animated credits pixellated their faces.
- 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).
- 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.
- Precision F-Strike: The punchline of Paul's story about a badger.
- 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.
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: Their Running Gag clip of farming minister Liz Truss:Liz Truss: We import more than two thirds of our cheese. That. Is. A. DISGRACE!
- Reading the Stage Directions Out Loud: In the episode after Angus left, Paul's scripted introduction included the pretend stage direction "Raise quizzical eyebrow".
- 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...
- Retool: The Spring 2020 series was this out of necessity, due to the COVID-19 pandemic - apart from all the panellists taking part in the show from their homes via video conferencing, the show also tended to give more prominence to smaller, more light-hearted stories, due to the biggest news story of the day being something nobody really wanted to talk about, especially not on a comedy show, and at the top of the show there would be a few minutes' chat about how the panellists were coping with the lockdown.
- 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.
- The show is usually recorded on Thursday evenings, for broadcast the following night. Election specials are recorded on Friday morning, to be broadcast later that same day, to ensure the show is as up-to-date as possible.
- A random episode in the Spring 2015 series also had to be recorded on the Friday, as strike action meant that the studio was not available on Thursday. By sheer chance, a major and unexpected news story (Chuka Umunna withdrawing his candidacy for the Labour leadership) broke that morning, so the change of schedule managed to avoid the show looking very out of date.
- 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.
- Rummage Sale Reject: Some of Paul Merton's more questionable outfits. Ian once accused him of wearing 'the top half of a gorilla costume'.
- Running Gag: Several.
- 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?!
- Iain Duncan Smith's full name turns out to be George Iain Duncan Smith.
- 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.
- Ian also occasionally did this with "Sooty".
- The Brown Suit.
- The long-running joke about Angus and Paul's wife, after her first appearance on the show. Ironically, bantering about this topic seems like on of the few times when Paul and Angus get on.
- The December 2009 series had the running gag of showing a clip of Lord Sugar muttering "Oh, shit" (in response to an interviewer asking him how the UK could end the economic recession) in every episode. It appeared once more in the Spring 2010 series, and again later when his aide from The Apprentice, Nick Hewer, appeared as a guest.
- Other clips that briefly became Running Gags include a clip of Tony Blair sweating profusely, a clip of Robert Kilroy-Silk from his game show Shafted saying "Their fate is in each others' hands as they decide whether to share...or to shaft", and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon singing a mangled version of "Santa Claus is Coming To Town" about himself. The latter was shown one last time after Ban's term expired in October 2016.
- Whenever the EU flag is shown, Ian (a eurosceptic) quickly leaps in with "[It's the] British flag!" This one will likely get retired now that Britain are leaving the EU.
- 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 misinterpreting 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.
- Whenever the show lacks footage of an incident, or can't show it for some reason, they'll instead use an "artist's impression", which will always be extremely crudely drawn for comic effect.
- The fact that Paul almost always wins and Ian losesnote . This was more prevalent in the early series, but if Ian is leading the series or even manages to win it, it will always be mentioned.Hugh Dennis: [opening the show] Once again, we're reminded of the strange and troubling times in which we live. Who would have thought just a month ago, that Ian would be leading the series 41?
- Whenever BRIAN BLESSED is on, he will find some way to mention Prime Minister Gordon Brown just so he can say.... "GORDON'S ALIVE!"
- In the Spring 2020 series, which was recorded via video-conferencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, any buzzer round featuring the panellists having to improvise a buzzer from whatever objects were in their house.
- 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".
- Serial Escalation: 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.
- Shaped Like Itself: "He's an online shopper... so he does a lot of shopping online..."Paul: It's like watching Sherlock Holmes at his finest, isn't it? Teasing out the truth from just a slender strand of clue.
- Paul gleefully slipped in a nod to Round the Horne when mentioning the switch from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar.Paul: [imitating Kenneth Williams] Hello I'm Gregorian and this is my calendar, Julian.
- One version of the intro, referencing the trouble over the Maastrict Treaty, had a modernised version of the Dad's Army intro with Nazi arrows over Europe aimed at the UK, only with the swastika replaced with The European Union logo... on all the arrows except one.
- In the Benedict Cumberbatch episode he goes through the names of notable North Korean dictators. When he got to Kim Jong Il, he started singing that he looks "So Ronery".
- In the fourth episode of Series 50, Paul sports a "Happy 30th Birthday" lapel button to mark the anniversary of the founding of the Comedy Store Players.
- Paul gleefully slipped in a nod to Round the Horne when mentioning the switch from the Gregorian to the Julian calendar.
- The Show Must Go On: The show still managed to go out as usual during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic... by having all of the panellists filmed from their homes over video conferencing, composited into a virtual version of the set.
- Small Name, Big Ego: Piers Morgan's appearances.
- Sophisticated as Hell:
- 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.
- Occasionally Hislop will subvert this for laughs by displaying surprise knowledge of popular culture, to which Deayton would reply with "That sounds dangerously modern, Ian."[sentence with a blank: "____ would have been surprisingly avant-garde for rural Highbury"]
Ian Hislop: Signing Thierry Henry.
Paul Merton: [into the ensuing silence] I think he's been taken over by a robot. [to Ian] You murderer! What have you done with him? You've made a fatal mistake there, Ian Hislop would know nothing about football!
- Speak of the Devil: Stephen Fry knows plenty about Harry Potter since he narrated the audio books.
- Spinoff: In the lead-in to the 2012 Summer Olympics, a one-off spin-off entitled Have I Got Sport for You aired on BBC Radio 5 Live, presented by former They Think It's All Over chairman Nick Hancock and with teams featuring Paul Merton and Mark Steel on one side, and Andy Hamilton and badminton player Gail Emms on the other. The rounds followed a similar pattern to Have I Got News for You, starting with "the bigger stories" (including, as well as the then-impending Olympics, the 2012 UEFA European Championships in football and the 2012 Wimbledon championships in tennis) and moving on to "Odd One Out" and "Missing Words".
- Squick: The panel's reaction to footage from an Oxford Union debate, in which Michael Gove revealed what he was wearing under his kilt.
- The Stinger: The extended cuts would usually have a 10-second or so segment after the credits.
- 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.
- Sudden Death: In the early series, if the scores were tied at the end of the show there would be some sort of tiebreaker, which included using the caption competition (with the panellist who got the biggest laugh getting the point), the team captains playing RockPaperScissors, and an arbitrary general knowledge question being made up on the spot. The Angus scandal episode ended in a tie, but perhaps due to Deayton having other things on his mind no tiebreaker was played and it was the first ever episode to end in a draw. Only one episode since then has had a tiebreaker round: earlier in the show the Louis Tussaud wax museum in Great Yarmouth had featured as a news item as it was facing closure. Since the museum is infamous for the very poor quality of its waxworks, a quickfire buzzer round was played where the panellists had to guess who the waxworks were meant to be of.
- Suspect Is Hatless: In the Odd One Out round, Angus' occasional catchphrase "the connection is someone who's not in the pictures".
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: 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'."
- Totem Pole Trench: Paul's impression of forty-four dwarves on a blind date with an elephant.
- Trailer Spoof: Most of the show's trailers are parodies of other shows. Particularly well-known ones include one that reimagined the show as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, another as Big Brother, and one in the style of "I Love..." Talking Heads shows that predicted the year's coming events.
- 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!
- Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: Most commonly in the Missing Words Round.["Long term readers of Windsock Magazine will already be familiar with BLANK"]
Neil Kinnock: The correct answer is "Leon Gimple's photographs".
Paul: How the hell are we supposed to get that?!
- Unmoving Plaid: In the credits for the 2015 election series, Nicola Sturgeon (the leader of the Scottish National Party) is wearing this.
- Viewers Are Morons: Victoria Coren claimed the BBC's coverage of the Diamond Jubilee Pageant was this, with it being aimed at "some imaginary idiot".
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Merton and Hislop. Also Hislop and Angus, although the scandal put a strain on things between them.
- Waxing Lyrical: A news item about U2 frontman Bono's tax avoidance gave the host an opportunity to remark that his money was kept in places where the streets have no name and that she'd been to the shopping centre he bought as part of a tax dodge, but after several hours of shopping she still hadn't found what she was looking for.
- Wearing a Flag on Your Head: The opening credits' depiction of the 2015 general election has Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood wearing a blazer with a Welsh flag on the back.
- We Interrupt This Program:
- In S37E07, a crew member walked up to Ian and whispered in his ear. Ian then announced that cabinet minister James Purnell had just resigned, just as the panel were discussing the various cabinet resignations that had occurred during that week.
- In S49E05, being the 2015 post-election special, it happened twice, with the resignations of both Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband as leaders of the Liberal Democrats and Labour, respectively.
- It happened again the following week in S49E06. As the panel were discussing Chuka Umunna's bid to become the new Labour party leader (in one case, comparing him to "That candidate in The Apprentice who goes out in the third week") a crew member entered with the news that he had withdrawn from the contest.Paul: This must be the most powerful show on television. We haven't even gone out yet!
- Who Shot JFK?: Merton once recounted a joke of his that didn't travel well: "I always wanted to ask Lee Harvey Oswald 'can you remember what you were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated?'"
- Who's on First?: A staple of Merton's humour and it's worked in wherever possible. Which is quite frequently.
- In a 2005 episode, regarding then Chinese premier Hu Jintao:Ian McMillan: The thing with the Chinese bloke 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: Was it Christopher Eccleston... as Doctor Who... has come along and has barracked President Hu?... What am I talking about!?
Alexander: Who was barracking Hu?
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...
- Ten years later, on the occasion of a state visit by Hu's successor Xi Jinping:Michael Sheen: This is the first Chinese state visit since who?
Paul: Oh, when was he president?
Michael: Indeed, President Hu.
Michael: Hu Jintao.
Paul: Right, yes.
Michael: Now it's Xi's [pronounced "She's"] turn.
Jon Richardson: This is going to be a long round, isn't it?
- 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.
- In a 2005 episode, regarding then Chinese premier Hu Jintao:
- Working-Class People Are Morons: Averted in that of over 400 episodes, Paul has won nearly twice as many as Ian, and Ian has won only five out of forty-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 occasional "one of these headlines is not like the others" 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!
- Younger Than They Look: Believe it or not, Ian was only 29 when the pilot was made. (Paul was 32.)
- Inverted in recent years, as Paul has aged much more noticeably than Ian. Paul is finally looking his age, and Ian is finally the age he's always looked.