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Trivia / Have I Got News for You

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  • Career Resurrection: Bruce Forsyth's first episode as guest presenter has been credited with boosting his career after several years out of the limelight and getting him the presenting job on Strictly Come Dancing.
  • The Cast Showoff: Lembit Opik randomly gets out his harmonica during the 2010 election special.
    Lembit Opik: I don't mean nothing governor, I've got me harmonica, I can play that for you, if you want. And I have. No, I have. I have.
    Paul: Are we witnessing a mental breakdown?
    • A similar moment occurred with Alastair Campbell and his bagpipes.
  • Channel Hop: For its first ten years, the programme was shown on BBC Two. In 2000, the BBC moved the Nine O'Clock News, from nine o'clock to ten o'clock (now known as the BBC News at Ten) after ITV moved News at Ten, to eleven o'clock. This left a gap in the schedules, and the series was moved as a result to 9pm on Friday nights on BBC One.
  • Colbert Bump:
    • Boris Johnson is perhaps the most successful example of a politician enjoying a Colbert bump — he became famous enough to become Mayor of London because of this show, when before he was merely infamous in journalistic circles. He then rose through the ranks of the Tories, eventually becoming Foreign Minister, and then Prime Minister - probably the most extreme example of a Colbert Bump ever. Lampshaded by Paul Merton frequently, remarking "His plan worked, so he won't be coming back". This seems a source of regret for the show, considering Ian Hislop's very clear dislike for Boris Johnson, who ironically was first on the show to mock him for a scandal.
    • As Dara Ó Briain puts it: "If I knew that's what you get from hosting Have I Got News For You, I wouldn't have settled for Mock the Week."
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    • Many people have appeared as a panellist before being upgraded to the host's chair.
    • For a non-person example, one episode featured a signed photograph of Ian Hislop on eBay that had attracted six hits and no bids. One week later, it had attracted a maximum bid of over £110.
    • Politicians sometimes take a gamble to try and get the same success Boris has. Unlike him, however, they are often not that successful. Among the more successful would be William Hague, former Conservative Party leader, who ended up doing a few years as a rather successful after-dinner speaker before eventually becoming Foreign Secretary in 2010.
    • Some writers have tried using the show to springboard their books being launched. Also unlike Boris, it tends not to work for varying reasons, although particularly self-mocking hosts always get a good laugh by making an ironic plug.
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    • Charles Kennedy, the late Liberal Democrat leader, had similar success to Boris Johnson (he became leader at all in part because of the profile the show afforded him, and took his party to its best election result in over 80 years). The opportunities on the show to exhibit his famous wit boosted his popularity with the general public, to the extent that HIGNFY was often mentioned in his obituaries. To recognise this, on the first episode after his early death HIGNFY featured a short montage of his appearances, and avoided discussing his death as a point of news as a sign of respect.
    • 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.
  • Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: Ian sometimes refers to modern or popular things in a way that suggests he's not familiar with them, although it's likely he's just making fun of his own reputation as a culturally elitist person. See below:
    • Ian tried to bluff his way through talking about the musician Fatboy Slim, prompting Paul to press for more details until he slipped up. Apparently, Fatboy Slim is one of the world's top rave DJs and is responsible for the "Ibiza Sound".
    • When asked about which team a famous footballer plays for, Ian replied: "He plays FOR FOOTBALL!"
    • Strangely averted, however, when Ian went on a rant about Pokémon, correctly naming several of them (but getting their evolutions wrong, which he had no real reasons to learn). He has kids who were in the 5-10 age when the TV series and first movie came out in the UK.
    • And he was outdone on this front by Miles Jupp, whose improvised song "Let's All Go Sex Up That Bitch" is hilarious all in its own right. To the tune of a hymn, no less.
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Paul took a break from the show in series 11, viewing the show as suffering from Seasonal Rot (he cited failed gimmicks such as the series 10 episode where one of his teammates was a parrot intended to squawk heckles at Angus); he was replaced by guest captains for that series. He rejoined in series 12, however, and said that the show had improved significantly in his absence.
    • Stephen Fry announced he would not appear on the show again following Angus Deayton's dismissal, describing his sacking as "greasy, miserable, British and pathetic".
    • Anne Widdecombe's second experience hosting the show went so poorly that she later said she would not host again and almost stormed out of the recording, citing her displeasure with the Black Comedy and Vulgar Humour of Jimmy Carr, one of the panellists that week.
    • Nine-time guest Will Self (at the time, the most frequent panellist in the show's history) announced in 2007 that he was getting tired of the show, and that he was no longer going to appear again, since he viewed the show as having "lost its edge" and become victim to Executive Meddling.
  • Creator's Favorite: Ian is on record as saying William Shatner was his favourite guest host. Paul also mentions him under his favourite guest hosts in his autobiography, and singles out his claim that Ilfracombe was "laced with prostitution" as the one thing that always makes him laugh whenever he remembers it.
  • Direct to Video: Two special episodes in The '90s, Have I Got Unbroadcastable News for You and The Official Pirate Video.
  • Fan Nickname: Episode six of series twenty-three is known as, by everybody, the "Angus Deayton Scandal Episode" (a CD release of highlights from the show referred to it as "The Angus Show"). Episode two of series twenty-four is known as, by a lot of the core fandom, "Angus' goodbye", or some variation.
  • Hostility on the Set: Paul Merton revealed that he didn't get on with Angus Deayton, finding him aloof and arrogant.
  • In Memoriam:
    • When HIGNFY creator and original producer Harry Thompson died in 2005, the first episode to air after his death was dedicated to his memory.
    • A 2011 episode was dedicated to the recently deceased George Webley AKA "Big George", who composed the theme tune.
    • Following the sudden death of former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy in 2015, the final episode of Series 49 ended with a montage of his first appearance on HIGNFY in 1992 and an appearance from 2008 in which he verbally sparred with guest host Jeremy Clarkson.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes:
    • As it is a topical programme, no full releases of series have been made. Many episodes from across the series were available on YouTube until a spate of copyright claims put an end to that. Other copies do exist.
    • The episodes featuring Jimmy Savile, Max Clifford and Rolf Harris as guests are unlikely to ever be broadcast on television again after Savile was posthumously outed as one Britain's most prolific sex offenders and the latter two were convicted of indecent assault against children as part of the ensuing police investigation.
  • Old Shame:
    • Peter Hitchens, who appeared in an episode in series 17, afterwards described HIGNFY as being a "repellent programme".
    • The appearances of Jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Max Clifford are this for the staff and panel.
    • In his autobiography, Paul Merton said that the worst guest presenters were Neil Kinnock, Charles Kennedy and Ann Widdecombe. The former two for their slow delivery and trouble with the autocue, while Widdecombe for being difficult to work with on her second appearance.
  • Permanent Placeholder: The guest host format was never intended to be permanent, but a temporary necessity because Angus Deayton was dropped mid-series — the day before the next recording, no less — and there was no time to book a seasoned replacement. There were several times during the first two series with guest hosts where they were reportedly very close to formally offering someone the job on a permanent basis, but they decided to stick with the guest hosts because the ratings had gone up as a result. Around 2007 they almost offered Alexander Armstrong the job as full-time host, but again decided not to.
  • Playing Against Type: Intentionally done with several of the guest hosts, as people such as Boris Johnson are placed in a position where they are expected to keep order and move the show along smoothly.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Bruce Forsyth wrote to Paul Merton asking if he could host one of the shows, saying he really enjoyed them. Sure enough...
  • Role-Ending Misdemeanor: Angus Deayton was presenter until lurid tales of drugs and disguised prostitutes came to light. He was mocked relentlessly on the show and had his salary slashed, and was then booted out later that year after more stories came to light (having promised the show's producers that there wasn't anything else that could come out). Paul Merton later claimed that it wasn't Deayton's behaviour itself that led to his dismissal, but rather that it would make it near-impossible for him to fulfill his role of skewering politicians and other public figures for the exact same behaviour; the few episodes he filmed after the story broke suffer for that very reason.
  • Screwed by the Network: The 39th series, shown in Spring 2010, was moved out of the Friday slot the show had occupied for nineteen years to a Thursday slot. The reason given for this was so they could show an Election special on May the 6th, the day Britain went to the polls. However, it then turned out that if the Thursday broadcast went ahead, the show would not be allowed to discuss the election at all in case they influenced the way people voted (as it would be broadcast before polls had closed). The episode was hence hastily rescheduled... for the day after, which was of course a Friday. Quite why the BBC thought they could put a satirical news programme on before the polls had closed on election day under broadcasting regulations is beyond anyone.
  • Streisand Effect: After an executive order that said Peter Mandelson's private life was not to be discussed, the show went out of its way to basically imply all it could without outright violating the ban for some time. Eventually, Paul essentially said "fuck it":
    Ian: We're not allowed to say on The BBC that Peter Mandelson is a hom...eowner.
    Paul: What's wrong with gay people owning homes?note 
  • Undermined by Reality: Why Angus was sacked, effectively; he couldn't credibly continue to satirise people in the headlines after he ended up in them himself.
  • What Could Have Been: Sandi Toksvig auditioned to be the original host; the producers told her they preferred her to Deayton, but "couldn't have a woman in charge".
  • The Wiki Rule: Here.
  • Writer Revolt:
    • When Merton was teamed with disgraced ex-MI 5 agent David Shayler displayed on a television satellite feed with a two-second delay, he refused to play along for the first half of the show (due to Merton's strong belief that timing is the most important part of comedy, which a two-second delay greatly interfered with) and even turned the television off at one point. Stephen Fry treated said ex-agent quite viciously as well, beginning by referring to him as "David Traitor" and going from there.
    • The same thing happened when the BBC were instructed to shut up about Peter Mandelson's sexuality, as the panel and audience basically followed the orders to the letter.
    • After an episode in the buildup to the 2019 EU Elections got blocked because one of the guests was Change UK party leader Heidi Allen, the mood of the next episode could be pretty much be summed up as "we dare you to try and censor this one"

General Trivia

  • Ian is the only person to appear in every episode, as Paul took a sabbatical during Series 11 (saying he felt the show had become stuck in a rut, and his absence — during which he was replaced by a series of guest captains — gave it the shot in the arm it needed.) He also missed one episode in Series 36 due to illness.
  • There are three people who have played every possible role in the show's format: host, team captain and guest. One of those is Paul Merton himself, who appeared as Ian's guest on the first episode of Series 11 and hosted the first post-Deayton episode. The other two are Clive Anderson and Frank Skinner, both of whom have stood in for Paul as team captain (Anderson was captain for two episodes in Series 11, and Skinner on the Series 36 episode Paul mised due to illness).


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