About Have I Got News For You

Have I Got News For You, also referred to as HIGNFY by journalists and people fond of unpronounceable acronyms, has been on TV such a long time that just about everyone has been on it - from Bruce Forsythe to Eddie Izzard to Salman Rushdie.

James May and Paul Merton

Have I Got News For You, also referred to as HIGNFY by journalists and people fond of unpronounceable acronyms, has been on TV such a long time that just about everyone has been on it - from Bruce Forsythe to Eddie Izzard to Salman Rushdie. You, the very person reading these words, have probably been on it. In fact, it's such a mainstay of telly that it's easy to forget how sharp and subversive it can still be.

It's seen Paul Merton repeatedly describe the new Pope as having the "eyes of a killer", Will Self accuse guest host Neil Kinnock of political hypocrisy, and Robert Kilroy-Silk relentlessly challenged on his views on Muslims.

But perhaps the greatest guest of all was a tub of lard (by which we literally mean a container filled with animal fat) which bravely stood in for Roy Hattersley. Apparently, the tub of lard was "imbued with much the same qualities and liable to give a similar performance" as the former deputy leader of the Labour Party.

Of course, the show itself made the news back in 2002, when Angus Deayton – despite being seemingly as impeccable as a well-folded restaurant napkin – was embroiled in a big, hanky panky-infused tabloid scandal. Of course, he came in prepared, kicking the show off with "Good evening and welcome to Have I Got News For You, where this week's loser is presenting it." Alas, poor Angus! Still, the vacated host's chair has at least been filled by... well, by just about anyone who's anyone, from Bruce Forsythe to Brian Blessed (who was in full, barking mad "Thank you Flash!" winged barbarian mode, much to the whole universe's delight).

Given the literally epic run of this show, a list of stand-out moments would result in a tome even thicker and more liable to be used as a weapon than the last Harry Potter novel. Peeking into the mists of time, we can see MP Gerald Kaufman playfully declaring the studio to be full of a "rigged Tory audience, just like it was a rigged Tory electorate". There was also a lovely appearance by Spike Milligan (we have Merton to thank for his appearance), as well as the notorious bust up between Ian Hislop and Paula Yates – a confrontation that seemed to run on almost as long as the series itself, resulting in Yates declaring Hislop to be the "sperm of the devil" – still perhaps the most famous single insult yet thrown on the show.

And of course, there was Boris Johnson. Let's face the ugly facts: nobody knew him before he was on Have I Got News For You. Well, some people did, but they were the sort of people who tend to be concealed from the world behind the rustling pages of a broadsheet. But then he came on HIGNFY, all baffled and grinning and mock-insulted, and the nation fell in love with his Victorian-style buffoonery. "I'm way out of my depth here," he blustered, winningly. "I want it on the record that I've walked into a massive elephant trap." Is it too much to say that, without HIGNFY, Boris would never have become Mayor of London? No, no it isn't. And who knows, perhaps one day we'll be saying that HIGNFY directly led to the ascension of a British Prime Minister (not that Boris would EVER own up to such aspirations – he'd probably be denying it even as he blundered into 10 Downing Street...).

Friends of Dave