Richard Osman: I didn’t bully Jeremy Clarkson on Have I Got News for You. Nothing touches him

"I do think if you've been fired for bullying somebody there’s some penance," said the Pointless host. "You come on the show, you’ve got to face a little bit of something"

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Jeremy Clarkson returned to the BBC last week to host Have I Got News for You, seven months on from the infamous “fracas” that led to his firing. Since then he’s signed on the dotted line for Amazon with Richard Hammond and James May, while the Beeb have recruited Chris Evans to front their revamped Top Gear format.

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So with plenty of water under the bridge, it was high time for some gentle ribbing – and who better to deliver than Pointless host Richard Osman who served as a panelist on last week’s episode of HIGNIFY, a commission he took very seriously.

“I do think if you’ve been fired for bullying somebody there’s some penance. You come on the show, you’ve got to face a little bit of something,” he told an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival.

“I think he thought Ian [Hislop] was going to have a go at him and he was quite surprised that I did. Ian said to me afterwards, ‘thank you so much for leading the charge because people were expecting me to and it meant I could just sit back and laugh.'”

Osman did admit that although he had enjoyed a largely positive response to his appearance, “a few people said ‘I thought you bullied Jeremy Clarkson.’ I thought, ‘I’m not bullying Jeremy Clarkson’. Nothing touches him, he’s become enormously wealthy through what he’s done. I’ve met him a number of times, he’s a perfectly pleasant man.” 

The Pointless host revealed he joined Clarkson for a “placatory cigarette” after filming – “even though I don’t smoke” – before heading out for a drink together. Although he did admit the pair had played table tennis on a previous occasion and things got rather more heated. “I beat him 21-19, he was effing and jeffing after that. He was furious, flinging his bat at the wall,” he joked. 

Osman was appearing at Cheltenham with his Pointless co-presenter Alexander Armstrong and revealed the BBC1 quiz show had been commissioned for a further “155 or something” instalments, taking them past the 1,000 episode milestone – a landmark both presenters suggested they acknowledge by finally playing the game. 

But, if they did – in the words of Armstrong – “A) who’d fill our shoes? And B) how could we be certain they wouldn’t then be given the role?”

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Luckily Osman had the solution: “We need to get people so famous they’re not really available. We talked a while ago about Stephen Fry being me and Victoria Wood being you because you know they’d be brilliant but they wouldn’t be able to commit the sort of time we commit to it.”