Why you should care
Because England’s got that whole humor thing locked up.
“Despite a mix-up at the printers, the press launch of the government’s new ‘Say No to Drugs’ campaign goes ahead,” the host says, before panning to a video of children in “Say Yes” T-shirts.
Brits pride themselves on their wit, using it like a razor-sharp sword to cut celebrities and politicians down to size, or to simply poke fun at normalcy for a bit of a laugh. Add a handsome budget, top comedians and star-studded roster of guests, and you get the hit satirical BBC quiz show Have I Got News for You. Think The Onion with less fiction, or a less clumsy blooper show with smart commentary, and you’ll get a glimpse of the brilliance behind this 25-year-old 30-minute show that pokes fun at everyone and everything. The program features regular comedians Ian Hislop and Paul Merton captaining two-person panels that comprise politicians, celebrities, journalists and comedians in a bid to hilariously tackle questions about the news of the week and gain points to win.
The news tends to be British-centric, but universal headlines get covered too, and sarcasm and satire make the laughs infectious.
First helmed by Angus Deayton, the show has been hosted since 2002 by courageous guest presenters, including everyone from politicians like London Mayor Boris Johnson to boy wizard Harry Potter, aka Daniel Radcliffe. Brave is no understatement, as the captains pounce on any slip-ups, whether by panelists, themselves or the hosts. Deayton himself learned this more than a decade ago, when news broke of him having sex with a prostitute. Hislop and Merton made mincemeat of him on air before he was sacked, making way for countless new victims to sit in the hot seat. That was a colleague — so just imagine how they treat the politicians, many of whom have made appearances, including the likes of U.K. Independence Party candidate Nigel Farage. This past year, he and former Labour Party leader Ed Miliband were favorite punching bags.
The show starts with the host’s off-the-wall monologue set to funny video clips before the quiz begins. Teams then compete in rounds featuring silent videos or picture scrambles in which they have to pinpoint the news and discuss it. The “odd one out” round features photos of four public figures who are related in some obscure way, with contestants needing to figure out which one doesn’t fit. And the toughest one, the “missing words” round, features headlines from obscure publications — like Goat World — or from news events, where players have to guess at the missing blanks in the headlines.
The news tends to be British-centric, but plenty of universal headlines get covered too, and the use of sarcasm and satire make the laughs infectious, even — and sometimes especially — when some of it flies overhead. This year’s first episode hits British screens on October 2 and will be helmed by none other than recently sacked Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson.
Go on, we dare you to not laugh out loud at some of the show’s best bits:
Have I Got News for You – Highlights