Could You Survive Going on “Have I Got News for You?”

By: Zoe Samuel

Could You Survive Going on “Have I Got News for You?”
Image: BBC One

About This Quiz

This flagship BBC political comedy panel show is consistently one of the most hilarious half hours of any political junkie's week. However, it's often funny at the expense of the hosts and guests, who endure challenging questions and intense mockery from series regulars, Ian Hislop and Paul Merton. As the editor of muckraking rag "Private Eye," Hislop knows all the dirt on the guests and isn't afraid to make new enemies (or provoke existing ones). Meanwhile, Merton, as a Cockney lad done good with almost no formal education, owes nothing to the Establishment, and will happily savage any posh twit foolish enough to think they can outwit him. Thus, any guest the wrong side of the regulars or writers and producers — either due to acting arrogantly during the taping or by being embroiled in hypocrisy and scandal — is going to have a rough night.

Indeed, the rotating show host model is an example of this. Former regular host Angus Deayton quit the show in shame after hitting the front pages for a drug-fuelled dalliance. Deayton gained credit for showing up to work that Friday, where he opened, "Welcome to 'Have I Got News For You,' where this week's loser ... is presenting it." His colleagues blithely raked him over the coals, and since then, there has been space each week for two guests plus a guest-host to brave the "HIGNFY" fires.

Some come away having held their own, playing along and gaining universal applause. Some come across as not themselves hilarious, but charming enough to earn respect. Some look like, frankly, pompous nitwits. Guests face more of a challenge than hosts, but all are ready to risk their reputation for a shot at the laurel of surviving in style. Which of these would you be? Let's find out!

Question 1 Can you avoid a question with the best of them?
I wouldn't bother.
Sure!
Nope
I think I can, but people say I can't.

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Question 2 What other job do you have, besides going on comedy panel shows?
Stand up comedian and improviser
Journalist and talking head
Anchor or editor
Politician or large business owner

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Question 3 HIGNFY star Paul Merton is incredibly clever but didn't finish secondary school. What's your highest level of formal education?
Same as Merton
Bachelors
Masters
Law school

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Question 4 What is the least formal outfit you would be willing to wear on TV?
T-shirt and hoodie
Blazer and a nice blouse
Regular suit
Three-piece suit

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Question 5 Have you ever been caught in a scandal that ended up as front-page news?
LOL, no
I've reported on one.
Only peripherally
Yes, more than one

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Question 6 How fast are you with a witty comeback?
Like lightning
Every so often I nail one, but it's rare.
That's not my style.
I find just saying something mean usually does the job.

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Question 7 What would you hope to see as the guest publication?
Something really weird, like a newsletter about telegraph poles
Something about fashion
I'm agnostic.
Something about gardening

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Question 8 How many members of the Cabinet can you recognize?
All of them, though I've never met them.
Half, maybe
Most of them, as I have met them in a professional setting.
I shoot with all of them.

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Question 9 What sort of public image are you going for?
Funny guy or gal
Ubiquitous talking head
Respected national treasure
Future Prime Minister

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Question 10 Which newspaper do you read most frequently?
A bit of everything
Independent
Guardian
Telegraph

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Question 11 If Hislop and Merton were to try to needle you, would you take the bait?
No, nothing bothers me.
I'd try a zinger but if nothing came to mind, I'd just laugh along.
I'd just smile and take it.
They wouldn't dare with me.

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Question 12 Do you mind being the one the audience loves to hate?
I'm OK with that.
I would not like that.
I would mind, yes.
Let them hate me as long as they fear me.

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Question 13 Could you survive "Newsnight" or "Question Time"?
I might surprise you with how serious I can be, actually.
No, that's way too intense for me.
Yes, I've done both.
I have gone on both, and I thought I was great; it's just those dastardly papers that disagreed.

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Question 14 Which HIGNFY host do you think did the best job?
Brian Blessed was just hilarious.
It's still Angus Deayton for me.
Fiona Bruce struck the perfect note.
Boris Johnson, obviously

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Question 15 Would you be willing to make fun of someone who doesn't really deserve it?
I'd find a way to make the powers that be the butt of the joke.
I wouldn't join in but I wouldn't stop it.
No, that's mean.
Everyone deserves it a little bit, except me.

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Question 16 What sort of relationship do you have with the tabloid press?
Love/hate. I hate them, they love me.
They're awful. A chance to punch back is a dream come true!
They are beneath my notice.
I hate those blighters, except the ones my friends own, which are respectful about me.

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Question 17 How do you feel about the BBC?
People assume someone like me will hate it, but I actually think it's great for the country.
I can't defend how it is funded, but I'm really grateful for the opportunities I've had through it.
It's a treasured institution for a reason.
It is full of commies and I hate it. It was only a good idea in theory.

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Question 18 If you couldn't be famous, would you settle for being infamous?
Sure!
Probably not, though I would consider it.
No, thanks
People say I'm already that. I disagree.

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Question 19 What would be your leading motivation for going on the show?
It's a dream comedy gig, in and of itself.
Raise my price as a columnist/presenter/talking head
Raise my profile and show a slightly lighter side
To put them in their place

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Question 20 Which of the regulars do you fear most, Hislop or Merton?
I don't fear them, I admire them.
Both equally, honestly!
Merton. That bloke can be mean.
Hislop. He knows things.

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Question 21 If your appearance was a total disaster, how long would it take you to emerge from under your duvet?
A few days. Everyone bombs sometimes.
Months, honestly
A week
It never occurred to me that failure was possible.

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Question 22 How long have you been a fan of the show?
Since birth
Since childhood
Since it started
I am not a fan.

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Question 23 Which newspaper do you fear coming after you if you were to make fun of them on the show?
I really don't. Any publicity is good publicity.
The Daily Mail
The Daily Times
The Independent. Most of the other big ones are owned by my friends.

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Question 24 The highest-paid guest in HIGNFY history is Alex Salmond, at £1,800. What would it take to get you on the show?
I'd do it for taxi money and snacks.
Anything over £500
Anything over £1,000
I'm worth at least as much as Salmond.

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Question 25 What would you say to get the audience on side?
Something at the expense of the richest, poshest bloke on the panel that night
I'd try to say something funny about a politician everyone hates.
Just whatever the writers give me to say
I'd say a witty put-down to Hislop or Merton, to make them shut up.

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Question 26 How would you get in the right frame of mind before taping?
I'd rehearse a couple of zingers then chill out.
I'd pray.
Sit quietly with my script and practice
Look in the mirror and practice my first speech as future Prime Minister

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Question 27 In what role did you first get famous enough to be considered for the show?
Edinburgh Festival breakout comedian
Columnist in major paper
Reporter of note
Daddy was a Cabinet member and so am I, or I will be one day.

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Question 28 Do you represent a company or media group who might take issue with what you say on the show?
Nope
Occasionally, so I'd be a little careful, but not too much.
Yes, and I'm high-profile, so I have to watch it.
No, and my friends own most of them anyway.

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Question 29 Can you make a rehearsed quip sound like it was a spontaneous comeback?
Of course
I wouldn't try.
Sort of
No, that's beneath me.

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Question 30 What technique would you use on Ian Hislop and Paul Merton in the hope that they will help you look good?
I'd use the improv technique called "yes, and" to bat jokes back to them so we can riff together.
I'd be sweet and charming and not arrogant.
I'd stay professional and unrattled while they do their thing.
I'd show them how superior I am.

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