15 fascinating facts about Have I Got News for You

It’s 15 years since the BBC panel show first used a guest host – so what better way to celebrate than a compilation of the best (and weirdest) HIGNFY factoids

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1. Of 109 guest HIGNFY presenters to date, Alexander Armstrong has hosted the most shows. The Pointless presenter has led the show 29 times, and was a strong contender to fill Angus Deayton’s boots after his sacking in 2002. But the guest host solution was so popular with viewers the BBC has kept the position rotating.

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2. After describing Deayton’s sacking as “greasy, miserable, British and pathetic”, three-time panellist Stephen Fry vowed never to appear on the show again. So far, he’s kept to his word.

3. With 18 appearances, Jo Brand is the woman to host the show the most number of times. She is also the second most frequent host, after Alexander Armstrong.

4. Paul Merton, Clive Anderson and Frank Skinner have occupied all three roles on the show — guest presenter, team captain, and panellist. But Ian Hislop is the only person to have appeared in every single episode, even during a bout of appendicitis in 1994.

5. At the age of just 17, Charlotte Church became the youngest-ever guest presenter when she hosted in 2003.

6. Sir Roger Moore is the oldest host of HIGNFY: he was 85 when he was host in 2012.

7. Only three Knights of the Realm have presented the show: Sir Roger Moore, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Trevor McDonald. Bruce Forsyth was not yet a Knight when he appeared in 2003.

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8. Gordon Ramsay once promised he’d take the studio audience for dinner at his restaurant at Claridge’s if he made more than six mistakes reading the autocue. However, he was forced to retract this after he reached the quota by the end of the first round in 2006.

9. Only 11 politicians (or former politicians) have presented the show. From the Conservatives: Boris Johnson, William Hague, Gyles Brandreth, Ann Widdecombe. Labour: Neil Kinnock, Robin Cook, John Prescott, Alan Johnson, Ed Balls. Liberal Democrat: Charles Kennedy, Nick Clegg.

10. In 2007, Jimmy Carr prompted host Ann Widdecombe to say, “His idea of wit is a barrage of filth” and swear never to go on the show again. Merton later named Widdecombe and Neil Kinnock as the worst guest hosts the show has ever had.

11. Jeremy Clarkson is the only guest presenter to have drawn blood on the show. In 2008, the programme was forced to stop recording after Clarkson (who has hosted 12 times to date) threw a pen at Ian Hislop, leaving blood running down his cheek.

12. Boris Johnson was nominated for a Bafta in 2004. His blustering performance (one of four so far) was, according to some, partly responsible for his later success in the London Mayoral elections.

13. Bruce Forsyth credited his appearance on HIGNFY with reinvigorating his career. He said that his memorable turn in 2003 — and the game of “Play Your Iraqi Cards Right” — was what landed him the gig presenting Strictly Come Dancing the next year.

14. Gregg Wallace and John Torode are the only double act to have shared the hosting job. The two appeared together in 2011.

15. One word almost ruined John Prescott’s performance in 2010: vasectomy.

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Have I Got News for You is on Friday 9.00pm BBC1