Have I Got News For You (with link)
Friday, 26 October 2012
UPDATE: The episode is on BBC iPlayer here, and the extended version will be shown on Monday at 10.35pm.
So, last night I recorded another Have I Got News For You - quite an odd evening it was, too. Conrad Black (the disgraced ex-owner of the Daily Telegraph) was the other guest, which worried me quite a bit because he’s been pretty scary and gruff on the news programmes he’s done recently. Do google his appearances with Adam Boulton and Jeremy Paxman, if you didn’t see them, and you’ll understand my concern…
It’s also a pretty serious news environment at the moment, which seemed potentially dangerous with such a serious guest in the other spare seat. I wondered whether the producers, having netted the controversial Lord Black, might be rather sorry that they’d already booked me and wishing they had a comedian instead. Certainly, I felt the pressure to try and be a bit funny, which wasn’t very relaxing with the papers so dominated by the continuing story of Savile, Newsnight and the BBC.
For those who have seen the Paxman and Boulton interviews, Black’s approach to Have I Got News was unexpected. I won’t say more, as you might want to watch the programme and find out, but I think we were all a bit surprised by his manner. It was clever, I can certainly say that.
I had an exchange with Ian (on the subject of the Savile story) that I’m nervous about, because it’s a nuanced point, and (especially after the online row about my Sherlock Holmes column) I know how easy it is for nuanced points to be misunderstood and make people angry. I was very grateful that the studio audience was clearly smart, and listened quietly without jumping to the wrong conclusions, but I’m sure that some people will (accidentally or deliberately) think I’m somehow defending Jimmy Savile and give me a hard time for that. I can certainly say: that is most definitely not what I’m doing.
So, I’m nervous because of the sensitivity and danger of the subject, and the stick one can get when misunderstood, but proud to have said it anyway because it’s what I think and I haven’t heard anyone else express it.
At any rate, that was a very serious debate with Ian, and that’s one of the reasons why it was an odd evening - although HIGNFY is one of those special comedy shows which can take serious debate. The mood in the studio was tense, because of Conrad Black and because of the current news agenda, but as a viewer, I think I’d like it. A bit of tension and a spiky mixture of comic and serious can make really interesting viewing, and I very much hope that’s what this will be. And thank heavens for Ian and Paul, whom I’ve always found very kind and welcoming; Paul’s brilliant jokes and Ian’s combination of huge knowledge and strong moral line were godsends in this strange terrain, as was the blessed charm of Alexander Armstrong in the host’s chair. Although Ian and I disagreed, I respect his viewpoint completely, not least because he’s one of the most truly decent men you’ll ever see on television. Having said that, if they invite me on the show again next series, and I find myself in a light & jolly news week with a friendly comedian in the other guest chair, I can’t say I’ll be sorry.