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Ian Hislop

29 June 2021

The Have I Got News For You captain and Private Eye editor tells Sarah Shannon about his views on Number 10’s renovations, his TV star cat – and his sporting prowess.

Ian Hislop || Photo credit: Alan Davidson/Shutterstock

What’s your favourite Private Eye cover?

Maybe Trump swearing on the Bible four years ago and the guy saying, ‘Just keep your hands where we can see them, Sir’. Trump was very good fun for us. Biden shows every sign of competence, which is no good at all.

What was the best advice your parents ever gave you?

My dad died when I was young. My mother was fantastically blasé about everything I did, which was very funny in retrospect. The first time I was invited to do Just a Minute I was incredibly excited. As a family we’d sat around listening to Just a Minute our whole lives. I told my mother, ‘I’m on, I’ve been invited, the recording is next Tuesday.’ She said, ‘Oh dear, I’m playing bridge.’

The best advice from mums

What’s the best thing about getting older?

Having seen a few things happen before, you get less worried as you get older. It’s particularly true in journalism. When everyone says, ‘This is the most terrible thing that’s ever happened’, you think, ‘Well, except for that other thing that happened not long ago.’ Harry and Meghan are the worst royal crisis ever? Well, apart from Di.

What were you like as a teenager?

I spent my teenage years in a minor public school on the south coast. It wasn’t particularly teenage. I feel I was brought up 30 years before I actually was. People say, ‘Do you remember punk?’ and I say, ‘Yeah, because I did a sketch about punk in the sixth form.’

What would you like to change about the UK?

I’d like it to believe in its real history; drop the fantasy and accept the bad bits and take pride in the good bits and move towards a belief that we could have a future rather than always going back to the past. Which sounds odd from me because I love history, but I like it as a way of genuinely assessing what happened and seeing if that matters now.

What ambitions do you still have?

To keep going. I’ve got loads of things I’d still like to write and do. I’ve had a pretty good run. I’ve been offered a few other jobs over the years, but I can’t think of anything more fun than what I do.

A longer version of this interview appeared in the July 2021 issue of Saga Magazine. For more great interviews, subscribe today

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