Ian David Hislop (born 13 July 1960) is an British comedian, scriptwriter and editor of satirical magazine Private Eye. He has also appeared on many radio and television programmes, most notably as a team captain on the BBC current affairs quiz Have I Got News for You.
Hislop's paternal grandfather, David Murdock Hislop, died just before Hislop was born. He was Scottish and became a deacon at a Presbyterian church and a school headteacher at Newton Academy in Ayr. In the First World War, he fought in Northern France with the 9th Highland Infantry.
Hislop's maternal grandfather, William Bellows, was originally from Lancashire. He joined the army in 1895 and fought in the Second Boer War with the Royal Lancashire Regiment in major campaigns including the Battle of Spion Kop. He moved to Jersey to serve as a sergeant having signed up in 1906 for another ten years in the army.
As editor of Private Eye, Ian Hislop is the most sued man in English legal history, although he is not involved in as many libel actions as he once was. 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". However, the magazine's attacks on Maxwell were fully vindicated by the revelations of massive fraud that followed his death. On another occasion, when 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. The award was, however, dropped to £60,000 on appeal. In his many court cases, Hislop has won only once.
Hislop continues to be applauded for his wit and satire. In an interview with Third Way Magazine he said, "Satire is the bringing to ridicule of vice, folly and humbug. All the negatives imply a set of positives. Certainly in this country, you only go round saying, ‘That’s wrong, that’s corrupt’ if you have some feeling that it should be better than that. People say, ‘You satirists attack everything.’ Well, we don’t, actually. That’s the whole point.
Apart from one episode, where Hislop and Merton swapped places (and dress styles), he has only ever sat in the far right seat (far left from the audience's point of view).
Along with Nick Newman, Hislop 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. However, when it failed to pull in the ratings, some critics employed the Private Eye catchphrase "piss-poor" to describe the floundering series and accused Hislop of hypocrisy.
Hislop has also presented serious television 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, which offered an insight into British First World War soldiers executed for offences such as cowardice and desertion, was broadcast in January 2007, and a sixth episode, Not Forgotten: The Men Who Wouldn't Fight, challenging the stigma attached to conscientious objectors, is to air in November 2008. He also presented one episode of the BBC's Great Railway Journeys, in which he travelled across India. In May 2007 he presented a programme on BBC Four, Ian Hislop's Scouting for Boys, celebrating Robert Baden-Powell's book that inspired the Scout movement. Another BBC Four programme, Ian Hislop Goes Off the Rails, about the Beeching Report and its impact on the British railway network, was first aired on 2 October 2008, and achieved the second highest audience to date for any BBC Four programme (and the highest for a documentary) with 1.3 million viewers.
He has also written and presented factual programmes for Radio 4 about such subjects as tax rebellions, female hymn composers, scouting and patron saints of Britain and Ireland. In 2007 he became the only person to make a second guest appearance on Room 101. 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 a number of Question Time editions (11 as of September 2008). 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.
Hislop has also expressed tentative support for David Cameron's leadership of the Conservative Party on Have I Got News for You. He has been highly critical of New Labour and Tony Blair in particular.