Have I Got News for You



John Lloyd (unaired pilot)

Angus Deayton (1990-2002)

Guest hosts (in order, but not including repeat performances): Paul Merton, Anne Robinson, John Sergeant, Boris Johnson, Liza Tarbuck, Charles Kennedy, Jeremy Clarkson, Martin Clunes, William Hague, Charlotte Church, Alexander Armstrong, Hugh Dennis, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Bruce Forsyth, Jack Dee, John Humphrys, Jimmy Carr, Kirsty Young, Dara O'Briain, Gyles Brandreth, Greg Dyke, Des Lynam, Andrew Marr, Robin Cook, Jane Leeves, Marcus Brigstocke, Neil Kinnock, Ronnie Corbett, Nicholas Parsons, Michael Aspel, Chris Langham, Anna Ford, Lorraine Kelly, Joan Collins, Trevor MacDonald, Sean Lock, Julian Clary, Michael Buerk, Carol Vorderman, Gordon Ramsay, Alistair McGowan, Jeremy Bowen, Damian Lewis, Ronni Ancona, Ann Widdecombe, Rob Brydon, Adrian Chiles, Fern Britton, Bill Bailey, Chris Tarrant, Moira Stuart, Omid Djalili, Jo Brand, Clive Anderson, Richard Madeley, Brian Blessed, Lee Mack, Tom Baker, Al Murray, David Mitchell, Jerry Springer, Frank Skinner, Rolf Harris, Ruth Jones, Miranda Hart, Dominic West, Robert Webb, Eamonn Holmes, John Prescott, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Bishop, Chris Addison, Stephen Mangan, Rhod Gilbert, John Torode and Gregg Wallace, Alan Johnson, Sharon Horgan, Dan Stevens, Sue Perkins, William Shatner, Alistair Campbell, Clare Balding, Warwick Davis, Ray Winstone, Mel Giedroyc, Richard Osman, Stephen Merchant, Jack Whitehall, Kathy Burke

Patrick Kielty (2011 special)

Nick Hancock (Have I Got Sport for You)


Team captains: Ian Hislop (all series) and Paul Merton (series 1-10, series 12 to present), Frank Skinner (stand-in for Paul Merton, episode 5, series 36)

David Walliams and Clive Anderson (2011 special)


Hat Trick Productions for BBC2, 28 September 1990 to 2 June 2000 (168 episodes in 19 series)

Hat Trick Productions for BBC One, 20 October 2000 to present (some later series also credited to Ingenious Broadcasting 2 LLP)

bbc.co.uk webcast, 5 to 6 March 2011 (24 Hour Panel People)

as Have I Got Sport for You, Hat Trick for BBC Radio 5 Live, 15 July 2012


The original and best satirical panel show. Originally, supercilious host and actor Angus Deayton was joined by regular team captains.

File:Hignfy old crew.jpgAngus Deayton, joined by regular team captains. Told you so.

The first is the Oxford-educated editor of satirical magazine Private Eye Ian Hislop, and the other is the very much less posh and slightly more surreal Paul Merton.

Ian Hislop: Oxford-educated
Paul Merton: surreal

It's this combination that worked so brilliantly, as they regularly bounced off, mocked and plain insulted each other, even if the main point was Angus failing to read his autocue properly, or in fact reading his autocue at all! The two captains are joined by two celebs, usually a comedian and a politician.

File:Hignfy merton team.jpgPaul Merton with Dr Phil Hammond

This merry threesome continued until Autumn 2002, when Angus was sacked from the programme due to encounters with drugs and prostitutes- something that Ian and Paul were all too happy to mention on the programme over the last few weeks. Since then the show has been hosted by numerous guest presenters in Angus's place, one of the best being Bruce Forsyth. It's boosted the ratings too, allegedly.

File:Hignfy charlotte church.jpgCharlotte Church was the youngest guest host

Round and round

The round line up has changed from series to series but currently, the first round involves working out which news story the piece of film refers to. Very simple, really.

Then there's the headlines round, which is essentially the radio version of round 1.

After this, sometimes there's a special round relating to something that's happened in the news or to one of the celebs that has joined them that episode. For example, when they had Richard Whiteley on in 1999 they played a variant of the numbers game from Countdown except each number had a picture associated with it and bonus points were given if they could work out the link between the number and the picture. After all six were chosen they had to try and match the number on the "hi-tech random number machine" (in reality a piece of paper with the number on it), but not before Angus hilariously botches up and knocks all the cards off, but we're guessing you had to be there for that.

File:Hignfy hislop team.jpgIan Hislop and Rebecca Front

Something called the "Picture-spin Quiz" makes a semi-regular appearance in this slot in many of the recent shows. A topical picture is shown in extreme close-up, and slowly spun out into full view (akin to the classic Ask the Family game, but topical and, er, spinnier) and the panellists are invited to buzz in and name the story.

Captain Ian Hislop, with guest comedian Meera Syal

The Odd One Out round comes next where the players are shown four people and they have to work which one is the Odd One Out. That's it really.

Finally there's the Missing Words round, teams are shown a headline with a word blanked out and they have to fill in the blanks here. It's a good time for quick and cheap laughs. For example, in one episode "------- ON SODOMY CHARGES" is the headline and Ian very quickly came up with "VAT", rather hilariously.

At the end, Paul's team would inevitably win only for Angus or whoever's hosting this week to deal out the prizes, something like "so, a copy of David Mellor's autobiography for the winners, a copy of David Mellor for the losers..."

Sometimes there would also be a caption competition as well, although this was used as a time-filler in case they needed a few extra laughs.

Art critic Brian Sewell with captain Paul Merton

It's a fix?

It has been revealed that the players are shown the clips and the questions (but not the answers) before the show, which although it ruins some of the spontaneity doesn't really matter too much because the questions act as a catalyst for the humour.

File:Hignfy set.jpgA wide shot of the studio. William Hague MP hosts, and the guests are Claudia Winkleman and Stanley Johnson (Boris' dad).

Indeed, the releasing of excerpts of the "scripts" for HIGNFY by Punch magazine (the main rival of Private Eye, which should sound familiar) makes one appreciate the intense level of detail that goes into the planning - nearly every factual point about each question has an optional gag the host can throw in. Furthermore, on a past Christmas video the programme sent itself up re: the level of scripting, so it was old news by the time this "revelation" came about.

File:Hignfy typical panel.jpgAnother panel with Ian McCaskill and Michael Mansfield QC

It is perhaps interesting to note that although many shows have tried to emulate the success of this show, it still remains the best.

Key moments

There are far too many to mention, but three of the most memorable are:

Roy Hattersley's guest non-appearance. He was booked to be on a show but didn't turn up. This was not the first time he had cancelled on the producers. So, rather than book a replacement, Paul's team-mate was... a tub of lard. The show's makers were quick to point out that there was no connection between the tub of lard and Roy Hattersley. Co-incidentally, in that episode things were made really difficult for Paul because they gave him foreign headlines for the Missing Words round (yes, actually in foreign). He still won!

After the airing of this edition, The Tub of Lard has gone from Rt. Hon. to Sr.

Ian Hislop's fated meeting with Paula Yates. Perhaps one of the funniest episodes ever where they continually bitch about each other. Ian won the battle (but not before being labelled the "Sperm of the Devil") and Angus, Paul and comedian Gordon Kennedy get caught in the crossfire.

Deayton's undoing. Revelations by a Sunday tabloid in May 2002 about Angus's private life led to lashings of ribbing from Merton, Hislop and guests Dave Gorman & Ken Livingstone



"In what way?"

"...is the wrong answer."

Theme music

The current theme is provided by Big George (George Webley). Writing in Sound on Sound magazine, he recalled how the theme had to be 32 seconds long, "manic, with a big kick at the end, and have a few demented twists and turns in the middle." Written overnight after a prior effort had been rejected, the tune we know and love was recorded in one take. The rejected theme was once aired on a Radio 2 documentary about TV themes some time in the mid-90s. George had a theory that you should be able to fit a show's title to its theme tune, so it was built around a six-note staccato motif. DAH DAH DAH DAH da-DAH! Like that.

Despite the awful opening theme used for the first series (and research of UKTV People repeats seems to suggest it was gone by the final episode of the first run), the closing credits still used a version of the theme tune we all know and love today.


HIGNFY came fourth in a 2005 poll by PruHealth to find the TV programme that "lifts people's spirits" the most, behind The Good Life, Only Fools And Horses and Friends. [1]

Long-serving comedy producer John Lloyd presented the original pilot, which was called John Lloyd's Newsround.

When Hat Trick was first approached by the BBC to make a satirical end-of-week comedy show, it turned the commission down because Jimmy Mulville wanted the company to generate its own programme ideas, not be hired to develop someone else's. Fortunately co-founder Denise O'Donohue managed to talk him round.

Deayton again

Infamously, Alexander Armstrong was nearly offered the host's job on a permanent basis after the departure of Deayton, before someone had a last-minute change of mind and decided the show should continue with guest presenters instead. What's less well-known is that Armstrong was on a shortlist of two who did screen tests for the show. The other was the former host of The RDA on BBC Choice, John Gordillo.

A special episode entitled Have I Got Election News for You was recorded at 9:30am on the day following the 2010 General Election. This morning recording was meant to allow the programme to mention and of course ridicule the result. However the plan fell apart to a certain extent when the election resulted in a hung parliament, and a five day wait before the new government was formed.

The fifth episode of the 41st series in 2011 saw, for the first time, two people hosting the programme, as Masterchef judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace both took the helm.

After 22 years on the telly, HIGNFY took over the wireless in July 2012. Nick Hancock was the host (and producer) of the cunningly-titled Have I Got Sport for You.


Have I Got News For You - Vol. 1 (VHS)

Have I Got News For You - Classic Battles And Bust-Ups (VHS) - including the Paula Yates and Tub of Lard episodes

Have I Got 1997 News for You (Book)

Web links

Official BBC website (featuring exciting video-podcast highlights thing!)

Wikipedia entry

British Comedy Guide entry

Hat Trick Productions

The Definitive Guide to HIGNFY (fan page)

Off the Telly review

Off the Telly review

Off The Telly's history of HIGNFY (part 1)

Off The Telly's history of HIGNFY (part 2)

Off The Telly's history of HIGNFY (part 3)

The show publicised the hashtags #hignfy and #bbchignfy, and the attag @haveigotnews.


Original host Angus Deayton
The HIGNFY team - Paul Merton, Ian Hislop, Angus Deayton
Ian Hislop

See also

Weaver's Week review (2012)


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