Have I Got News For You
Friday, 24 October 2014
Tonight at 9pm on BBC One, I’m hosting Have I Got News For You, which is not something I’ve done before. The guests are Katherine Ryan (on Ian’s team) and Janet Street-Porter (with Paul).
It’s a first for me as host, but also a first for the show to have three women on screen; a majority, noch. I wasn’t sure whether to remark on that at all (we certainly didn’t mention it on the programme) because this episode shouldn’t be “representative” of anything, or mean anything beyond itself. It’s either funny or it isn’t, entertaining or it isn’t, and that has no bearing on whether having three women on a panel show is a “good or bad idea”.
But, having recently written an Observer column in which I said what a shame it was that “at least one woman per show” was so often interpreted by producers as “one woman per show”, and mentioned my personal experience that audiences seem more relaxed when there are two female guests rather than one, I obviously felt a very particular hope that THREE AT ONCE would find themselves in a good show. Let’s not be naive: if it was a disaster, of course some people would say “Too many women” or Positive discrimination too far.”
It’s hard for me to judge from the inside of the programme, but I feel the recording went well last night. Paul and Janet make for a really good team; there’s a great chemistry there, with Janet’s strong and opinionated approach providing balance and ballast without interrupting the flow of Paul’s more sublime moments of pure comedy. Ian was sharp, smart and witty as ever and Katherine Ryan had some really terrific, confident jokes; I think the audience was shy of her at first (as they usually are with newer, especially female, performers) but were totally won round and roaring with laughter from a few minutes in. The show dealt with some very edgy stories, including Oscar Pistorius’s sentence and the questions over Ched Evans’ career, but I hope these were handled with intelligence and nuance. Obviously, Paul and Ian have been doing that job brilliantly for 24 years (!!!) with all manner of guests from huge stars to tubs of lard, but it’s possible that even they at some level felt more confident discussing those sensitive stories in such mixed company.
Plus, in that chair in the middle, I managed to read the autocue without stammering and sum up the points correctly. It was a really good fun evening, and something I was proud to be part of. I hope you enjoy it if you watch.