Ian Hislop (born 13 July 1960) is the editor of British satirical magazine Private Eye, a team captain on the popular satirical current affairs quiz Have I Got News for You and a comedy scriptwriter.
Hislop was born in Mumbles near Swansea, to a Scottish father and an English mother. However, just five months after his birth, the family began to travel around the world in accordance with his father's job. During his infant years, Hislop lived in Nigeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong. On his return to the United Kingdom, Hislop was educated at Ardingly College, where he started his satirical career, directing and appearing in revues, and also became Head Prefect. He then attended Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated with a degree in English literature in 1981.
At Oxford he founded and edited the magazine Passing Wind, in which he interviewed Richard Ingrams, who was then editor of Private Eye. He joined the latter immediately after leaving Oxford, and became editor in 1986 upon Ingrams' departure. It was revealed in an interview with The Independent that this was despite opposition from Eye hacks Peter McKay and Nigel Dempster, with the former taking the magazine's majority shareholder, Peter Cook, out for lunch in an attempt to dissuade him from appointing Hislop. However, Cook pressed on, and his new editor sacked both McKay and Dempster from the magazine without hesitation.
In his role as editor, Ian Hislop became the most sued man in English legal history, a distinction that appears to belong to various celebrities who now, according to Hislop, "sue for privacy". The most famous libel case involving Hislop and Private Eye was brought by the publishing magnate Robert Maxwell. After the case he quipped: "I've just given a fat cheque to a fat Czech". Ordered to pay £600,000 in damages after being sued for libel by Sonia Sutcliffe, wife of the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe, Hislop told reporters waiting outside the High Court, "If that was justice then I'm a banana." However, the award was dropped to £60,000 on appeal, and the magazine's attacks on Maxwell were fully vindicated by the revelations of massive fraud that followed his death. Interestingly, from his many court cases, Hislop has won only once (despite being right more than once).
Have I Got News for You
Hislop is the only person to have appeared in every episode of Have I Got News for You's 16-year history, despite suffering from appendicitis during one episode and having to go to hospital immediately afterwards. His satirical views and broad knowledge of politics complements the wry surrealism of fellow panellist Paul Merton, and most viewers acknowledge this interaction as the main reason for the unrivalled success of the show. Ever wary of defamation laws, on the show Hislop often suffixes potentially slanderous statements with "allegedly".
He is the only person to have ever sat in the far left seat. He has sat nowhere else.
Other television and radio work
Hislop has also presented serious TV programmes. These include School Rules, a three-part Channel 4 study on the history of British education; an edition of the BBC's Who Do You Think You Are?, in which he attempted to trace his genealogy and Not Forgotten, a four-part series on Channel 4 detailing the lives of numerous individuals lost in the First World War. A further programme 'Not Forgotten: Shot at Dawn' offering an insight into British First World War soldiers executed for offences such as cowardice and desertion aired in January 2007. He also presented one episode of the BBC's Great Railway Journeys, in which he travelled across India.
Hislop was also a key scriptwriter on the 1980s political satire series Spitting Image, in which puppets were used to depict well-known figures, mostly politicians. He even had a puppet of himself which appeared as a background character in certain sketches.
Hislop, along with Nick Newman, wrote the BBC Radio 4 series Gush, a satire based on the first Gulf War, in the style of Jeffrey Archer. With Newman, he also wrote the family-friendly satirical sitcom My Dad's the Prime Minister.
Recently, he has also written and presented factual programmes for Radio 4 about such subjects as tax rebellions, female hymn composers and patron saints of the British Isles.
He has also been a comedy scriptwriter for Harry Enfield (providing the Tim Nice-but-Dim character).
In 2003, he was listed in The Observer as one of the 50 funniest acts in British comedy.
He has also appeared in (at least) two episodes of Question Time. In one he made an open attack on Jeffrey Archer, who had been imprisoned for perjury, when his wife, Mary Archer, was a fellow panellist. She was noticeably angry that the issue had been raised and criticised Hislop after the recording had finished.
Ian is married to bestselling novelist Victoria Hislop, author of The Island. The couple have been married since 16 April 1988, and have two teenage children. They live in Kent.