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It's the opposing captains, on the same team.

"Good evening, and welcome to the show that's so important that The Independent last week asked 'Is Have We Got News for You or Casualty or Brookside really a worse alternative than cannabis and recreational buggery?' Answers on a postcard."
—Intro to Series 14, Episode 4.

Satirical Panel Show focusing on politics that has been running since the end of the Margaret Thatcher era, with two series per year. Debuted in 1990. The two team captains are Ian Hislop (editor of satirical magazine Private Eye) and comedian Paul Merton.

The show began with Angus Deayton as host, but he was fired after being caught taking cocaine. Twice. With a lady who was definitely not his partner at the time. Who later turned out to be a prostitute in disguise. Who was working for the papers. And That's Terrible. On the episode after this came to light, Hislop brought out the paper and liberally quoted from the article; Merton went one better and wore a T-shirt with the front page of the newspaper printed on it. Beginning with the third episode of the following series, the show began using guest presenters.

The show's basic rounds are:

  • The Film Round, where the teams are shown mute footage relating to the week's major stories.
  • The Picture Round. Originally this was the Tabloid Headlines Round, where the players were shown a punny tabloid headline and had to guess what story it related to, but now they are shown a picture concerning a news story and have to guess the story. The way in which the picture is presented changes every week, including the Wheel of News, Jigsaw of News and One-Armed Bandit of News, as well as some versions unique to that week's guest host (see Actor Allusion below).
  • The 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).
Tropes used in Have I Got News for You include:
  • Accidental Pun
  • Actor Allusion: When Bruce Forsyth was a guest presenter, 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".
    • This has happened with several guest hosts to different extents:
      • 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 Dynasty 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!!!"
      • Tom Baker appeared by being "transported" in via TV special effects, complete with TARDIS noise. He then proceeded to introduce the show thusly:

  "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.
  • Anyone Can Die: As Angus Deayton found. Well, kind of.
  • Arch Enemy: Piers Morgan to Ian Hislop.
    • And before that, Robert Maxwell to Ian Hislop. Ian gets in a lot of trouble with the libel laws.
      • Hislop is the most sued man in British legal history. "A lot of trouble" is putting it mildly.
    • And everyone against Jeffrey Archer.
  • 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 things he knew Paul loves.
  • A Winner Is You: "So, congratulations to Ian for winning his first series ever. And as a special prize, he gets to appear in the next series."
  • Bait and Switch Comparison: A staple of the autocue jokes. Guest presenters often fail to stealthily approach these, so the audience groans pre-emptively.
    • One example is from series 34, episode 8. Guest host Jack Dee introduces Ian Hislop and his teammate: "On my right, a shameless, womanizing drug addict and wildly flamboyant dresser, and his guest tonight, Russell Brand."
    • Another: "On Ian's team this week is someone who spends every week playing a balding old man baffled by the modern world, and next to him is Richard Wilson".
  • Berserk Button: Jeremy Hunt (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport) appears to be one for Nick Hewer.
  • Big Eater: Constant jokes about both John Prescott and Eric Pickles being one. Paul noted that the jokes about Prescott are slowly shifting over to Pickles now that Prescott has stepped down.
  • The 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 steelworking.

 Paul: New Bessemer converter?

Angus: You seem to know a lot about this.

Paul: I did metalwork! I know the theory, I just wasn't any good at the practice.

Ian: You didn't have a Bessemer converter in your home...

Paul: I had to make one for homework!

Ian: But they're about as big as this studio, aren't they?

Paul: Yeah, don't tell me about it!

  • Brian Blessed: Guest presenter. You can't tell if Paul was amused or in pain in that show.

  "Brian, have you always been shy?"

  • Brick Joke: In a 2012 episode, one of the questions is about a competition to find a national anthem for cheddar cheese, sung to the tune of the existing British national anthem. Guest host Alexander Armstrong challenges Paul to come up with such an anthem, to which he replies he can't do it at such short notice. Halfway through the next question, he suddenly bursts into his improvised anthem.
  • British Accents: Aside from the obvious use, there is also the accent Merton uses while twisting an imaginary monocle in order to portray and mock posh people as well as other used in parody. Including the Queen as a London cab driver. With her own cut glass accent.

 Paul: Frankenstein wouldn't be much of a film if the assistant at the beginning actually got the right brain and not the insane one, would it? (works monocle, sips imaginary cup of tea) "I'm Frankenstein's monster, donchaknow?!"

Ian: Where in Germany did Dr. Frankenstein get the brain of an English toff who says "donchaknow"?

    • And the opposite, the exaggerated-working-class-London Gangster accent. The funniest was probably when he used it to imitate the Queen.
    • Paul went on a hilarious rant when Ian used the phrase "I've been down the collider" after hearing a story about a physicist speculating that the Large Hadron Collider was sabotaging itself from the future.
  • British Newspapers: Often mocked. Headlines from these are used for the "Tabloid Headline Round", where panellists attempt to guess which news story a horribly punny tabloid headline is referring to.

 "...and the Daily Express went with 'DID DIANA'S DRIVER HAVE BIRD FLU?'."


  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 Dis Continuity: 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?

Ian: England-Germany.

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: "Massive dog." [Beat] "We'll go for massive dog."
  • Catch Phrase: Paul usually has one for each series. Angus had "No change there" and "In what way?". There are also catchphrases spoken by anyone, such as 'Topical news quiz?' (when a story about something historical comes up).
    • Angus also said in deadpan tones " the Wrong Answer" during the Odd One Out round (especially after the player had spoken for a long time and outlined an elaborate theory).

 Will Self: My suspicion is that, bizarrely enough, Mussolini actually resigned before he was hung up with his lover... Harold MacMillan resigned... I think that Jon Pertwee resigned from his role as Doctor Who... and that I am the odd one out, for being sacked.

Angus: Is...

Bill Deedes: Harold MacMillan didn't resign, he was taken ill!

Angus: Bill pointed out, the wrong answer.

    • Also from "Odd One Out", Angus had the less often use catchphrase that "It/the connection is someone who's not in the pictures" as a singularly unhelpful piece of advice.
      • Paul also went through phases of interrupting or pre-empting Angus's stock lines.
    • There was also " ...allegedly."
    • Angus also had a Mad Libs Catchphrase "The words 'X' and 'Y' immediately spring to mind."
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Used as a Running Gag in one episode where Paul announced he'd quit smoking.
  • Companion Cube The Rt. Hon. Tub of Lard MP.
  • 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?

  • Cloudcuckoolander: MP Boris Johnson, made slightly terrifying by the fact that he was a Conservative spokesman and is now the Mayor of London.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Occasionally, notably the discussion of "fuck-me shoes" in one of Germaine Greer's appearances, which Ian brought up because she'd mentioned them in a column as a sign of low self-esteem. She claimed she herself was wearing "don't-fuck-me shoes." Eventually Paul in joined by wondering "why shoes would want to be fucked anyway" and whether there was such a thing as "fuck-me socks" ("You open them at Christmas and go, 'Fuck me — socks!'") The last "fuck" was bleeped or cut from broadcasts because they were only allotted a certain number by the BBC and exceeded it by one. A further example occured during Robert Kilroy-Silk's infamous appearance, as Paul's guest. By the end of the show, Paul was so frustrated at Kilroy-Silk trying to interrupt him that he repeatedly told him to shut the fuck up - five or six times in a row. The guest presenters DVD showed the uncensored clip, the broadcast show omitted the profanity.
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: On occasion.

 [Missing words headline: Prison offers WHAT as raffle prize]

Paul: Freedom?

Jo Brand: That's correct!

Paul [taken aback]: Is it?!

  • Completely Missing the Point: Conservative MP Teddy Taylor once appeared as a guest and seemed to have no idea that it was either a quiz or a comedy rather than a serious discussion programme and just rambled nonstop about Europe to the point where Paul, sitting next to him, mimed hanging himself.
  • 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.
    • 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.
      • 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.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Paul as well as Angus. Ian is more British Stuffiness, Knight in Sour Armor, and Grumpy Bear.
  • 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.)
  • Direct to Video: Two special episodes in the 90s, Have I Got Unbroadcastable News for You and The Official Pirate Video.
  • 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]


 [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!

  • Dream Sequence: Once, in a Big Lipped Alligator Moment-esque fantasy of Merton, featuring Merton and Hislop skipping through a field. The footage was later re-used in a Dynasty parody when Joan Collins was the guest host.
  • 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 Allison sued the show and the BBC for suggesting that he could be described as a "conniving little shit"... and lost the case. Some time later his name came up in the show and the presenters mentioned this as often as possible.
      • Specifically, they stated that he was the only person to be recognised by law as a "conniving little shit".
    • "It is getting rather sad that I can't win against Paul when he's accompanied by a tub of lard and his questions are in a foreign language!"
  • Evolving Credits: The title sequence has changed many times over the years to reflect recent news events. In recent years it has changed a little bit at a time rather than a whole new one being instituted - the most recent has Barack Obama not succeeding with his shot at a basketball hoop and hitting the rim to reflect his recent political stresses, whereas before it went through easily despite the president doing it one handed while seated a desk (and as of Osama Bin Laden's death, has changed again to the ball narrowly bouncing in off the rim). The one common part to all the sequences is that they begin by focusing in on the Palace of Westminster Clock Tower (the one that houses Big Ben) to accompany the "BONG!" at the start of the theme tune.
  • Excuse Question: Paul Merton likes to recount that he was once watching one of those breakfast shows and the question was, "Which comedy double act consisted of Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker? A) The Two Ronnies, B)..."
  • The Exit Is That Way: Paul's impression of an entry in David Blunkett's diary: Tried to leave the house, walked into the cupboard by mistake. Stayed there for eight hours, too proud to admit my error.
  • Face Palm: Both Ian and Paul are fond of doing this. Ian also sometimes does the 'slapping your forehead at stupidity' variant.
  • Fake Band: Angus Deayton was formerly in the HeeBeeGeeBees, a parody of The Bee Gees, which is sometimes referenced.
  • 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.
  • Flame War: Any discussions of Russell Brand's appearance on the show on any chat board inevitably descend into an argument between HIGNFY fans and Brand fans (who only watched that episode because he was in it) over whether Brand was remotely funny.
  • F Minus Minus: 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 panellists laugh as the mistake registers; Dan looks embarrassed]

Ian: There's a serious category confusion there! I know it's important, Dan, but not- it's not actually the centre of government.

  • 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 commiting suicide, somebody else said the public are being very supportive. Combine the two: he should commit suicide in public! He could be his own hangman!

[Round of applause]

Angus: A sympathetic response.

Ian: You'll feel bad on the repeat, when he has.

Paul: And you didn't bother going to see it!


 Eddie Izzard: The Nazis would have done that!

Ian: You have an interesting view of that period of history.

Eddie Izzard: I'm talking about modern Nazis.

Angus: And they run gameshows, do they?


 "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.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The Pot Noodle conversation.
  • Identical Stranger: When Elton John cancelled on the show at the last minute, they replaced him with a professional lookalike called Ray. Ray will never let you down. Unlike Elton. Bastard.
  • In Memoriam: A 2011 episode was dedicated to the recently deceased Big George, who composed the theme tune.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Beloved of both Ian and Paul. Frequently, the studio audience doesn't know whether to laugh or groan. For example:
    • In a discussion on a breed of Nazi-created cattle being introduced to the UK in 2009, Paul Merton stated he was looking for a cow pun and Cowstapo wouldn't do the trick. He eventually came with: "Watch out for the bull, he's Goering!"
    • Something of a hypocritical example in S19E3:

 Angus: What was Dobson's slogan this week?

Ian: "I'm going to lose"?

Angus: "Beware the cost of Livingston."

Ian: Ah, very good."

Angus: Vote Dobson for crap puns.


 Paul Merton: ...and the lost submarine turned up in an airing cupboard in Wolverhampton.


 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.

  • Internet Counterattack: There was a time when "conniving little shit" was a redirect to "Rupert Allason" on The Other Wiki. The redirect is gone, but he's still the top search result.
  • I Want My Jetpack: Paul Merton, who believes that the Queen Mother is hoarding all the jetpacks for herself.
  • 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 recent spate of copyright claims put an end to that.
  • 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.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Often done with the Odd One Out and Tabloid Headlines rounds.
  • Left It In: Frequently used. Double Subverted on one occasion: a panelist asked if a line he worried might be libellous could be edited out. When told, "No", he sincerely apologised. Paul Merton instantly said "Now that bit, we'll edit out."
  • Literal Minded: A favorite joke format of Paul's. Here's an example.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Parodied with a Running Gag in the latest series, with all of Ian's impressions of people in the news (from Pakistani villagers witnessing the death of Osama Bin Laden to Cheryl Cole) sounding exactly like Yorkshire playwright Alan Bennett.
    • Paul genuinely does do different voices, but generally just a few stock ones: the main ones are his 'posh rich idiot' voice (donchaknow!), his throaty London Gangster voice, and a disreputable American gold prospector voice.
  • Medium Awareness: Several jokes have revolved around the way in which the show is edited or broadcast.
    • Environmental activist Swampy, who seemed to be high during the show, got quite confused in a conversation with Angus, giving a series of incoherent and nonsensical responses. Angus promptly reassured him "don't worry, that'll edit together perfectly".
    • When the show moved from BBC 2 to the more mainstream BBC 1, 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 libelled the man. Angus agreed and suggested that Simon might soon be hearing from the farmer's lawyers, so Simon gave an on-air apology, to which Angus said "No, it's too late. Because we'll edit out the apology."
    • Paul Merton occasionally suggests that they just drop the whole quiz format and just make amusing jokes for half an hour, especially when the quiz itself degenerates into a joke fest (such as them making a barrage of jokes about President Hu's name sounding like "who", or spending several minutes making Pot Noodle puns). He has on a few occasions experimentally tried to challenge the show's format, such as deliberately not watching or reading any news for a week, or teaming up with the like-minded Ross Noble in an effort to score zero points for the entire episode. (They succeeded.)
    • Jokes are also sometimes made about the fact that the show is filmed on Thursday, shown on Friday, and repeated on Sunday. This allows the panellists, mostly Merton, to get a huge amount of humour out of causing confusion over which day it's supposed to be when the viewer is watching it.
      • This also means that if there's an event which happens in the day between filming and airing, such as an election, the panellists won't be able to say anything about its outcome, since they won't know about it; however, they normally find ways to make fun of this as well, such as deliberately giving every possible outcome on the grounds that one of them will have to be correct, or giving the outcome that everyone knows will happen, while making it obvious it hasn't played out yet.
    • Humour is also often made about the host's use of the autocue, since while it's common knowledge that one is being used, it's not often acknowledged. Panellists will sometimes mock the host for fluffing his lines, and Boris Johnson refused on a few occasions to read the autocue because he felt the jokes were too risky.
      • In an out-take shown after the credits, the floor manager tells Boris he'll have to re-do some of his lines. Paul tells him this is perfectly normal for the host, it just depends how far back they have to go:

 Boris Johnson: Oh, alright then. (reads autocue) On Ian's team... (audience cracks up)

      • In one episode, the then Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy got out of answering an embarrassing question by reading Angus' autocue.
      • In another, Paul managed to get the answer to a question by reading the autocue, as it had come up on the screen early.
      • Gordon Ramsay told the audience that he would give them a free meal in one of his restaurants if he flubbed his lines three times. He then proceed to do this in the opening monologue. The audience cheered. (He didn't make good on his promise, though.)
    • Averted slightly in that it is the only one of The BBC's suite of Panel Games that hasn't made a million jokes about being endlessly repeated on Dave. One 'repeated on Dave' joke finally appeared in a 2011 episode to do with the war in Libya.
      • Another 'repeated on Dave' joke appeared in a 2012 episode on Jeremy Hunt's job: "if you’re watching on Dave in a year's time, the executive director of B Sky B".
      • 2012 has also had Paul saying, "It's one hundred days until the Olympics, or if you're watching on Dave, three years since. And what an Olympics it was."
      • And a couple of weeks later, there was a story about a plan to bury nuclear waste under the Lake District. Experts had said that it would be almost harmless in two million years, to which host Kathy Burke said, "So if you're watching on Dave, all clear!"
    • For whatever reason, the show has been plagued by accusations of scripting/rigging, which has been the subject of a lot of faux-Lampshade Hanging. The "unbroadcastable" episode contains an intro segment explaining how "every episode is painstakingly directed and rehearsed almost a year before transmission," with a script reading where they go over every single hesitation and inflection, with Ian eventually storming out prima donna-like because Angus won't listen to a suggestion about when to turn his head. When Norman Tebbit claimed that the panellists would never be able to improvise all those jokes, Paul (whose comedic background is in improv and stand-up) responded on the show by saying "When Norman Tebbit said I couldn't improvise, I..." and trailed off as if unable to think of anything. Boris Johnson also reacted to his first uncomfortable appearance as a guest by claiming in his magazine that the entire show had been rehearsed (which, as Paul and Ian point out on the DVD, makes no sense, as then he would have been prepared for the line of questioning that made him look Too Dumb to Live). On his second appearance, when Paul brought it up, he apologized and said it wasn't true, which Ian immediately followed up with "Well said, Bor-is. (peeks at paper) Thank you."
    • Merton: "The visual effects on this programme are so stunning, we're almost doing radio."
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: 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.

  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Paul Merton feigns stupidity, but possesses a razor-sharp wit that regularly trounces Ardingly-educated Hislop.
    • To be fair, Paul Merton trounces pretty much everyone who's ever been on the show, whether classically educated or not - Ian's one of the ones who can actually handle it better than most.
  • 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.
  • Old Shame: Peter Hitchens, who appeared in an episode in series 17, afterwards described HIGNFY as being a "repellent programme".
  • 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.
  • One of Us: Paul wore a The Prisoner jacket in one early episode that aired when Channel4 were beginning to repeat the series.
  • 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.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative

  Brian Blessed: I mean, this is Gordon's worst week in politics, since last week.

  • 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.
  • 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 administration.
  • 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".
  • Re Cut: Have I Got a Bit More News for You, aired the next day (or two days later for series 39-40) on BBC 2, featuring 15 minutes of new material. Series 42 promoted the extended versions to Sunday nights on BBC 1.
    • 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...

  • 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?!

    • 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.
    • "Allegedly."
    • The long-running joke about Angus and Paul's wife, after her first appearance on the show.
    • The December 2009 series had the running gag of showing a clip of Baron Sugar muttering "Oh, shit" in every episode. It appears once more in the Spring 2010 series (and appeared later when his aide from The Apprentice, Nick Hewer, appeared as a guest).
    • In previous series they similarly tried to get the same clip into every show — one was a clip of Tony Blair sweating profusely, another was Robert Kilroy-Silk on his game show saying "Their fate is in each others' hands as they decide whether to share...or to shaft."
      • The Kilroy-Silk game show clip got a Continuity Nod in the first episode of Series 39.
    • Whenever the EU flag is shown, Ian (a eurosceptic) quickly leaps in with "[It's the] British flag!"
    • Ian's resemblance to Jimmy Somerville.
    • 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.")
    • John Prescott's weight.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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 the only available slot for the episode on May 6th was before the polls had closed - which meant that the show would not be allowed to discuss the election at all in case they influenced the way people voted. 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.
  • Serial Escalation and Rule of Funny: The Tub of Lard episode almost literally ended this way in the final missing words round. Not only was Paul's partner an inanimate object, but the questions posed to his team were given in French, German, Russian, Japanese, and in the last case the entire sentence was missing... and he still won.
    • Have I Got News for You: The Shameless Cash-In Book presented a list of guests and their average score based on how many questions they got correct. The Tub of Lard had scored more points than Roy Hattersley and a string of other MPs, as well as Stephen Fry.
  • 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.

  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.

  • Small Name, Big Ego: Piers Morgan's appearances, see above.
  • 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!


 Stephen Fry: ...Harry Potter...the Dark Lord Who Must Not Be Named...

Ian: Voldemort.

Stephen Fry: SHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!


 [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.
  • Too Soon: Especially the show which aired immediately after the BBC issued strict instructions that no programme was to raise the matter of Peter Mandelson's private life in any way...
    • "We're not allowed to say on The BBC that Peter Mandelson is a hom...eowner."
      • Immediately followed by Merton — "What's wrong with gay people owning homes?"
    • The News Quiz, a radio programme from which Have I Got News for You was originally adapted, did a similar gag stating that "We are unable to say that (classical music fragment) is (another classical music fragment). As the BBC were very much locking the stable door after the horse had bolted (and possibly mounted another horse along the way), everyone knew exactly what was being said.
    • Hislop also managed to call Mandelson a "friend of John Birt" (the BBC boss who made the decision) in a way that suggested it was an Unusual Euphemism.
  • Totem Pole Trench: Paul's impression of forty-four dwarves on a blind date with an elephant.
  • 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!


 [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?!

  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Merton and Hislop.
  • 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 has occurred during that week.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not 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.
  • 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.
  • The Wonka: Paul's attention to more peculiar stories, a razor sharp wit and a surreal turn of mind has given him the edge over Ian's more straightforward thinking.
  • Working Class People Are Morons: Averted in that of over 300 episodes, Paul has won nearly twice as many as Ian, and Ian has won only three out of thirty-nine series — and one of those was Series 11, when Paul wasn't there.
    • A tie-in book presented statistics showing that Ian does answer more questions correctly than Paul, suggesting Ian just gets lumped with all the stupider guests.
  • Worst. Episode. Ever: Paul claims either the one with Neil Kinnock presenting or the "Margaret Thatcher special" with Edwina Currie and Derek Hatton have this dubious honour.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Played for laughs a few times; the most triumphant example would be a programme where a story on the rules of Scrabble changing to allow real names was covered as "the story everyone's been talking about" before the story about the 2010 UK general election being called.
    • Also often the source of humour in the "one of these headlines is not like the others" occasional gag. Sometimes there's a good reason for this, like the papers owned by Rupert Murdoch pointedly not covering a story that involves another part of his media empire being embarrassed.
    • Several episodes have coincided with a week of very slow news, with the result being that normally insignificant stories get higher promenience; one example was series 36 episode 6, where the stories in the second round consisted of a haunted sofa, a drawing of a spider somebody had sent as payment for a gas bill, a woman who'd been training for a mission to the South Pole by sitting in a refrigerator and a man who'd converted a double-decker bus into an "all mod cons base for holidays". Ian and Paul spent the entire round in sheer disbelief of the worthlessness of the "stories".
  • 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.
  • Younger Than They Look: Believe it or not, Ian was only 29 when the pilot was made. (Paul was 32.)
  • Your Cheating Heart: Years before Angus's scandal, it was a Running Gag that he was sleeping with Paul's then-wife, Caroline Quentin. Paul seemed to veer between playing along and finding it Dude, Not Funny.

 [on a story about a footballer named Paul Merson being caught up in a cocaine scandal, and being confused in the tabloids with "TV's own Paul Merton"]

Paul: There was a story going around that it was me for a while. My wife got phoned up last week in the middle of the night...

Ian: I'm sorry. I am so sorry.

Angus: No, no, don't apologize, it wasn't a problem.