Ian Hislop, He who has an eye for the world

AN ELGIN EXCLUSIVE FEATURE By Surabhi Sunil

India was put on the roadmap of this British journalist and satirist by the means of a television program. Travelling from Calcutta to Jaipur for the fourth season of Great Railway Journeys, Ian Hislop showed us India from East to West along with Gerry Troyna.

Ian Hislop was born 13 July 1960, in Swansea. His family began to travel around the world when he was only five months old, because of his father’s job as a civil engineer. During his infant years, Hislop lived in Nigeria, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and British Hong Kong.

Image by Unknown, RadioTimes
Private Eye, founded in 1961, is enjoying its highest-ever sales figures (287,334). “More people buy Private Eye than attended Trump’s inauguration. Fact. Possibly,” is how Hislop puts it.

On his return to Britain, he was educated at Ardingly College, an independent boarding school where he began his satirical career directing and appearing in revues alongside Nick Newman. This association continued as they attended Oxford University together and later working together at Private Eye and on a number of comedy scriptwriting jobs.

Involved in student journalism at Oxford, he revived and edited Passing Wind, a satirical magazine which is what led him to meet the then editor of Private Eye, Richard Ingrams. Hislop joined the publication immediately after leaving Oxford and became editor in 1986 following Ingrams’s departure. The editor title came with another title as well. Hislop is reputedly the most sued man in English legal history, although he is not involved in as many libel actions as he once was.

In Britain we have a free press. It’s not a pretty press, but it’s free. The people who can’t bear the Daily Mail, they say: ‘you should ban it’. No, no, no, no, you don’t ban it… you don’t buy it. – Ian Hislop

Hislop’s television debut was one he himself hated on the short-lived talk show Loose Talk in 1983. ‘Have I got news for you’ started airing in 1990 and Hislop has been there since then being the only person to have appeared in every single episode.
He 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 ancestry and much more.

Speaking out on various topics and presenting his opinions fearlessly, Hislop has been a part of a variety of projects dealing with numerous topics. In an episode of Question Time, he made an open attack on Jeffrey Archer, who had been imprisoned for perjury, when his wife, Mary Archer, was a fellow panellist and also criticised the premise of capital punishment in another episode.

Image by Unknown, BBC

“This job certainly doesn’t win you a huge amount of friends, I accept that, but it is very enjoyable, and deep down I think it’s probably quite a worthwhile job.”

As he celebrates 60 years in this world, Hislop talked about how he was the focus of the jokes now. “Making jokes about getting old is still just about allowed. My contemporaries certainly seem to think so. One of my oldest cartoonist friends sent a card featuring the trope of someone jumping out of a cake. Only this cake was marked “Happy 60th Ian” and the figure jumping out was the Grim Reaper. Bad taste? Funny? Both, I think.”

Hislop began his relationship with Private Eye in 1986 and has now spent one-third of a century at the helm of the satirical magazine. He notes that satire has become harder now that the real world is trying to compete but remains as enthusiastic about the future as he was all those years ago.