The deadly rivalry between Ian Hislop and Paul Merton has achieved such legendary proportions that Homer could probably have written an epic poem about it. Or at least a tasty limerick. What he lacks in height Ian makes up for in satirical clout, and he's always been more than a match for quick-witted Paul.
It was Ernie Wise who famously had "short fat hairy legs." And, while we wouldn't presume to comment on the relative girth of Ian Hislop's lower limbs, it's fair to say he is one of Britain's greatest ever extremely short comedians - right down there with Ronnie Corbett, Dudley Moore, and, umm, Jimmy Krankie.
Of course, some might say he's not strictly a comedian at all. More of a baby-faced news junkie with an irresistible drive to rip the mick out of Paul Merton. Although, to be fair, it's usually Mr Merton who gets the last laugh, or smirk. But however you want to put it, there's no denying Hislop's place as a king among satirists. And not just because of a certain well-known panel show. He's also the big cheese at Private Eye magazine, the fearless satirical rag where Hislop once shared an office with the god-like Peter Cook.
Swansea born Ian's not just a funny little so and so, he's a brainy one to boot. Educated at Oxford, impish Mr Hislop was soon making waves at Cook's highly regarded publication, becoming editor in 1986 despite being a mere pup at the time (well, compared to the other hacks at least) and continuing its success to date. He’s also pretty well travelled, having lived in Nigeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong in his earliest years of life. He’s from military stock, with his grandparents fighting in the Second World War and one of them even fighting in the Boer War – which explains how he deals with his guests we reckon.
Ian's time at Private Eye hasn't just honed his satirical muscles and kept his pulse firmly on everything even vaguely political; it's also attracted some rather more unwanted attention. In fact, it's made him the most sued man in England. See, he's always got to be top at everything. Out of all the cases, he has managed to win two, so the magazine isn’t all rumour and gossip y’know?
He’s also quite the fan of presenting serious documentaries, having been spotted on countless high-brow thinky shows, including Ian Hislop Goes off the Rails, which had 1.3 million viewers – the highest of any BBC4 documentary so far. He’s also been on Who Do You Think You Are?), hosted four World War I documentaries in the Not Forgotten series and is the only person to have gone on Room 101 twice. That’s a lot of time on our tellies.
Having pitted his wits against Merton since Have I Got News For You began in 1990, Ian's become a very familiar face on the small screen, winning a reputation for his refreshing mix of moral indignation and razor-sharp comments. He’s the only person to star in every single episode of Have I Got News for You, and even continued to film the show when he had appendicitis – discharging himself early so that he could continue shooting. Always one to rail against sleaze, Ian's run-in with Piers Morgan, among others, has passed into the stuff of legend. Moral champion, railway enthusiast and all-round wit - good things really do come in small packages.