Watching Have I Got News For You

Watching Have I Got News For You

Have I Got News For You studioThe studio. NO PHOTOS!
On Thursday I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon skiving in London, watching a recording of Have I Got News For You. As a testament to my fine planning skills, the whole thing was a bit of a rush because you no-one will tell you how early you need to get there to actually get a (decent) seat. It's still not clear, it's a bit chaotic and random.

Whatever happened, it must have worked as we were in the front row at the far end, right next to Ian Hislop. It was interesting to see not just things from their view but also what doesn't make it into the show.

How To Get Free Audience Tickets

Getting tickets for this show and any popular TV show is physically easy, but it requires a great deal of luck and luck is rarely on your side. With Have I Got News For You it's quite simple - there are two ticket release dates a year, usually in March and in September. Nearer the time need to head to the Hat Trick website to find out the exact date and time tickets will be released, and then head to the website just before that time. Make sure you're already registered. When they are released, you refresh. The website will go slow and time out a few times. Tickets go within two minutes. If you're committed you can do it, but if you miss a beat you'll miss out.

Even if you don't make it, you will usually stay on a reserve list. You shouldn't get to hopeful about it. Usually if you've had the tickets, you'll get the news within two weeks. Even that doesn't guarantee you entry. As the tickets are free, guests are unreliable (who wouldn't order more than they needed?) and the show needs a full house, many more tickets are issued than sold. I believe the studio capacity is about 400. You need to be there at least two hours before doors open. Then you're in.

A similar policy can be applied to any TV show. To get tickets to be in the audience, you need to subscribe to as many production company mailing lists as possible, and respond quickly to any invitations. Other shows I've had free tickets to include Question Time, Cutting Edge and Claire Byrne Live. More often than not it won't go well; there's an art to not getting your hopes up. I've been unsuccessful for 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown, Time Warp, Saturday Night Takeaway, Would I Lie To You and QI.

Deleted Scenes

The first thing that took me by was how long it was - they started much later than advertised (around 7:30 I recall), but it went on until 10:30, even though there were very few re-takes or extras to film. The broadcast episode was fairly average, but as someone who's never seen it filmed before, the full version was excellent, even if it was fairly straight - there weren't many mistakes, and the panellists seemed to know all the answers.

Watching the show is quite surreal, as it feels like it's the usual TV show, but it's happening in front of you. The big difference is things are a bit more prompted - the host will raise subjects or ask questions to keep things moving whereas it appears to happen spontaneously in the show. This tidiness happens to the extent that even stutters are cut out the show to save time, as are awkward pauses before each video clip is displayed.

The best bits are, of course, the bits that don't make it in and probably weren't even filmed. Paul Merton in particular would keep the audience entertained between takes by making his almost-trademark overreactions and by making jokes at the director's expense. He probably does the same stuff every week, but again it's great to see it at least once. These included:
- His opening joke, about a "recent" encounter with two men digging a hole, which I was even warned to expect! (To be fair he continued it to say "I see them every week").
- Mocking Jack throughout one of the re-takes, meaning the audience were laughing all the way through, even though there weren't any jokes.
- Suggesting Jack hires a member of the audience who has "a very sincere laugh" for his DVDs.
- Making music with his cups and buzzer.
- Comparing the director to a minicab operator.
- After the compere suggested any of us could "touch a celebrity" by pretending to be a sound engineer, Paul said that's how he got on the show.
- Every time the director came on, Paul asked why they hadn't discussed the subject of Prince Andrew and the paedophile. At one point the director, speaking about something else to his colleagues, said "it's not very clear", and Paul shouted out "it's very clear to me!".

Anyway, for anyone who cares enough to have Googled it and come across this, here are the edits I still remember:

Start of show:
- There were, I think, five clips played at the start, though I've got no chance of remembering them.

Round 1:
- The clips are the wrong way round (notice the score starts at 0-2, then changes to 0-0)
- Jon Richardson believes that all Americans say "aw, shit", and he went on to complain about having fun: "if you've never had fun then you're never not having fun". Jack Dee told him to "cheer up".
- Ian Hislop asked if the lawyers were happy with what he was saying.
- Paul Merton made a joke involving a word we didn't know. He said it was a good joke, and that we should look it up when we get home, but I can't remember it. He then kept bringing it up throughout the show.
- Caroline Wyatt explained why she said what she did about the desert being sandy.
- Clips were played of newsreaders tripping up live.
- The subject of "who has Twitter" came up.
- Comments were made about Thursday being "yesterday".
- A cartoon was put up showing the leaders with blanked out speech bubbles. They went to show you what they were really saying, but they couldn't find it.
- More of the rap about the NHS was shown and discussed.
- There was a discussion about whether they could make a 'Gaddaffi Duck' joke, and a bit of Daffy Duck nostalgia, with audience shout-outs.
- Libya were said to be defending themselves with "40 armed virgins", to which Paul Merton did an impression of a 40-armed virgin (well I thought it was clever!)
- There was more discussion of the turd sandwich.
- Ian's quip "somebody is defending the Lib Dems" was aimed at Jon Richardson, but his line was cut-off. Jon then balanced it out by criticising them.
- The round ended with Jack announcing the scores.

"The Strengthometer of News":
- A whole bit on the boats on the Thames was never used (though it was so good I can't remember what it was about).
- The fourth picture was never used, but during the show they said "that's enough".
- The badger was said to look like he's advertising a sex line.
- A list of the crimes blamed on the badgers was given.
- The Michael Jackson statue was compared to Ted Bates of Southampton.
- The badgers were compared to Fulham supporters.
- The round ended with Jack announcing the scores (they even filmed this twice, and we were in it once)

Odd-one-Out Round:
- There was a whole mini-quiz on houses that look like celebrities.
- There were two more cats that look like Hitler. Ian asked which "quality newspaper" these were taken from.
- Paul continued his song "Hitler has only got one hall", although even he admitted it was weak.
- Jack Dee tried three times to read out a joke about Wayne Rooney, by which time no-one laughed but there were a few cheers.
- The round ended with Jack announcing the scores, but getting them wrong (his display was broken), with Paul giving a puzzled look.

Missing Words:
There were loads of these - about 10 for each side, but you can't expect me to remember them.

End of show:
- The clip of Jack reading out the scores was added in at the end - the first time he did it, he got the score wrong again. Once you know this, you can tell by the way Jack says it and Paul's reaction that they are both taking the mick a bit.
- Ian went on to compare the scoring system to the Alternative Vote.
- Two caption competitions were edited out, though they weren't exceptionally funny.
- When Jack thanked the panellists, only a few people clapped, so Paul told us to "remember we got in for free".
- Again, there were a few more finishing picture gags.

Now then... 10 points if you spot me:
Have I Got News For You end credit
Tedious about the author bit

I write about media, exploring, heavy machinery and lists. I produce radio with an attitude accurately described as "amusingly surly".

I don't pretend to be anything close to a big player in the media industry. I'd like to think that's an advantage. Instead I try to remain well-read and approach things from a considered viewpoint, even if I absolutely hate the way the industry is going.

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