Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Happy Birthday Ian Hislop


In many ways the editor of the satirical magazine Private Eye would not seem to be the ideal candidate for television presenter; an elfin short, prematurely balding, Oxford-educated journalist who frequently seems too smart for his own good and who is cute as a button but far from a pretty boy by all rights ought to be the object of considerable apathy from the British public.

Yet in 1990 Ian Hislop undertook a job as a panelist and team captain on the BBC's current affairs news quiz Have I Got News For You, embarking upon a second career in the public eye; eighteen years and thirty-six series later, Hislop has seen hosts come and go (including Angus Deayton*) and has long since settled into an uproariously adversarial relationship with his fellow team captain Paul Merton.

Hislop is British society's David, taking much-deserved pot-shots at various Goliaths such as the utterly loathsome Robert Maxwell, who once sued Hislop and Private Eye for characterizing him as a villain. Once the true extent of Maxwell's villainy was revealed, though, Hislop's High Court loss - to the tune of £60,000 - became one of his greatest moral victories, and ever since then the so-called 'most sued man in British history' has become increasingly impregnable to Britain's draconian anti-libel laws.

In addition to Have I Got News For You, Hislop has presented an episode of the genealogy programme Who Do You Think You Are?, twice guested on Room 101, and hosted a special on the life of Lord Robert Baden-Powell, the hero of the Siege of Mafeking whose book Scouting for Boys inspired the founding of the Boy Scout movement.

*Who it turns out had to go because he came.

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