Archives for May 2009

HIGNFY Guest interview: The Reverend Richard Coles

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David Thair | 16:00 UK time, Friday, 29 May 2009

Reverend Richard ColesTonight's Have I Got News For You is hosted by David Mitchell (soon to be seen in a new series of That Mitchell and Webb Look) who, as well as the regular team captains, will be joined by panellists Andrew Maxwell and The Reverend Richard Coles. He's been on the show before, but that was some time ago...

HIGNFY:
You last appeared as a HIGNFY guest in 1994 - how do you feel returning now 15 years later?

Richard Coles: Bitter and vengeful.

HIGNFY: What stories do you think will be covered this week and how have you been preparing?

Richard Coles: I'm afraid I only see the paper after my neighbour Mr Welsh has finished with it, so I may be a little behind; but this 'credit crunch' looks like it might turn into something.

HIGNFY: Are you looking forward to reforming The Communards with Ian?

Richard Coles: Cometh the hour...

HIGNFY: It's the stuff of legend, you met Jimmy Somerville by chance at a Kings Cross Café - tell me more.

Richard Coles: I'm afraid we told so many lies about how we'd met I can't remember now where and when we actually did meet. It was more likely to have been the café in King Cross than the brothel in Amsterdam, which I once saw in a magazine.

HIGNFY: Don't Leave Me This Way was the UK's biggest selling single of 1986 - how did that feel?

Richard Coles: Very bracing.

HIGNFY: Do you know what the Second highest selling single of 1986 was? It was Nick Berry Every Loser Wins.

Richard Coles: What a great year.

HIGNFY: How far from your life as a Rev are the pictures painted by comedies such as The Vicar of Dibley?

Richard Coles: You mean The Vicar of Dibley isn't a documentary?

Read more HIGNFY interviews in the archive.

Flying Pickets of the Conchords

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Jon Aird | 11:26 UK time, Friday, 29 May 2009

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Here's a great new song from next week's Flight of the Conchords. It's a helpful guide to what makes a good friend done in a decidedly Flying Pickets a capella.

If you've ever wondered what you should do if your friend is depressed, doing crack, or getting murdered, all the answers to those questions and more can be found in this jaunty little ditty.

See the whole programme on Tuesday, 22:30 on BBC Four.

[Mark's Brilliant Blog] So Long and Thanks for the All the Undelivered Indian Takeaways

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Mark Padley | 16:56 UK time, Thursday, 28 May 2009

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That's it. It's over. Mark Padley came into your lives like a brilliant shining star and now he's gone. I've shown you such things... an old lady falling over, some men chatting in the street, a tramp.

Regardless of what Dave says when I'm gone, it wasn't all bad was it? If nothing else we've grown. Well not Dave. But the rest of us have. I'd like to thank my mum and dad for dying and leaving me their house and Phillip for not following up on his countless threats of legal and non-legal action against me. Until next time.

Editor's note: I can absolutely promise you 150% there will not be a 'next time' Mark. I've put all your stuff in a box. If you don't collect it from reception by the end of the day it's getting chucked in the BBC incinerator. - David

Mark Padley does not exist. Mark's Brilliant Blog is brought to you by Hat Trick Productions. Missed a bit? Watch the whole lot here.

Michael McIntyre - The Invention of the Kilt

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Jon Aird | 10:53 UK time, Wednesday, 27 May 2009

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If you didn't already know, Michael McIntyre is touring Britain with his Comedy Roadshow, and luckily it's being filmed and broadcast on BBC One so you don't have to follow him around the country in order to watch it.

There's a huge list of stand ups joining Michael on his journey including Rhod Gilbert, Mark Watson, Stewart Francis, Kevin Bridges, Jason Manford, Shappi Khorsandi, Sean Lock, Patrick Kielty and Al Murray.

For a bit of what's in store from Michael himself, check out this clip from episode one in which Michael finally demystifies the origins of the kilt.

[Mark's Brilliant Blog] The Vital Importance of Not Eating Cakes You Find Lying Around in the Street

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Mark Padley | 15:00 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

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I'm back, and I'm sorry. I'm sorry to the fans and I'm sort of sorry to Dave. Please let's forget about it and enjoy this video. It's something everyone can enjoy. It's about the time Phillip nearly killed me with tainted baked goods. I'm really sorry Dave.

Editor's note: It seems pointless to bring it up again after all this time. But my name is David.

Mark Padley does not exist. Mark's Brilliant Blog is brought to you by Hat Trick Productions. Missed a bit? Watch the whole lot here.

HIGNFY Guest interview: Stuart Maconie

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David Thair | 10:00 UK time, Friday, 22 May 2009

Stuart MaconieRegular Guest Host Alexander Armstrong is hosting tonight's show, so we decided to interview Have I Got News For You first-timer Stuart Maconie instead.

HIGNFY: Stuart, this is your first time on HIGNFY, what on earth have you got yourself into? 

Stuart Maconie: Well, that is a question I have been asking myself ever since the liveried footman arrived bearing the scrolled invitation. I'm imagining it will be a bit like jury service but without having to examine any murder weapons and stuff.

HIGNFY: If Paul and Ian entered the HIGNFY studio to theme songs, like boxers, what tunes should they be?

Stuart Maconie:
Ian - The Final Countdown, Europe
Paul - Gertcha, Chas and Dave

HIGNFY: You're a Northern Soul, but do you think there are any real differences between North and South?

Stuart Maconie: No. We are all brothers and sisters under the skin. Ebony and Ivory. Together in perfect harmony. I believe that children are our future too.

HIGNFY: In your NME days you originated an urban myth about presenter Bob Holness. What was it?

Stuart Maconie: I said that Bob had played the saxophone solo on Gerry Rafferty's Baker St. It was the kind of madcap thing I did at the time, often for money. It was in a section of the paper called Believe It Or Not where I made stuff up and passed it off as amazing 'Did You Know?' style facts. I also said that David Bowie invented Connect Four which I've had people in pubs tell me is true.

HIGNFY: According to Wikipedia you coined the phrase 'Britpop'. Did you think it would catch on?

Stuart Maconie: Yes, that was me. It's not exactly TS Elliott's The Wasteland though is it? Nice of you to bring it up though. Like Erica Roe and Ken Tynan it's the one thing people will remember me for I guess. It lasted longer than the music it described I suppose - I'm very keen on Latvipop at the moment.

HIGNFY: As a professional music journalist did you sneer or smile upon the recent Eurovision song contest?

Stuart Maconie: I would never sneer. It would be like eviscerating a little harvest mouse with a scimitar. It's rubbish though, obviously, but fun if you're gay or drunk. Possibly both.

HIGNFY: You've been described as a national treasure, how does that make you feel?

Stuart Maconie: Like Thora Hird - but more 'bleeding edge'.

HIGNFY: Tell us more about the inspirations for your recent book: Adventures on the High Teas?

Stuart Maconie: I'd written a book about the North and I fancied doing another British travel book, but with more scones.

HIGNFY: You've been a teacher, DJ, authour and a TV presenter but whats your biggest career high to date?

Stuart Maconie: Dancing on a podium at the British Comedy Awards with Sophie Dahl and the Chuckle Brothers.

Stuart Maconie can currently be heard as one half of the Radcliffe and Maconie Show on Radio 2 and in the Freak Zone on 6 Music.

Wilson Dixon On... Life

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David Thair | 16:10 UK time, Thursday, 21 May 2009

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Life. What's that all about? Regrettably, Wilson Dixon probably isn't the man to ask. Don't forget to tune in to Radio 2 at 10pm tonight for more of his pearls of... well, they aren't so much 'pearls'. Portions? Portions of... 'wisdom' isn't quite the word either. Thought?

So, don't forget to tune in tonight for more of Wilson Dixon's thought-portions.

[Mark's Brilliant Blog] Mark Padley's World of Slightly Soiled Leather

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Mark Padley | 18:01 UK time, Wednesday, 20 May 2009

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Hello! This is Phillip. Mark can't write his blog today because he's in a sulk. I won't be long because I need to use the internet. For shopping and things. Nothing funny. What is this anyway? Who's Dave? Apparently Mark says I've got to describe what's in the video. I've not watched it so I'm going to have to guess. I'm guessing it's Darkman. You know the one where he cuts a blokes finger off? Brilliant, brilliant film. Enjoy.

Editor's note: Well, this is a new low Mark. Needless to say, the video isn't Darkman. Unfortunately. - David

Mark Padley does not exist. Mark's Brilliant Blog is brought to you by Hat Trick Productions. Missed a bit? Watch the whole lot here.

[Comedy Extra] Rock Profile: Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty - Part One

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David Thair | 17:42 UK time, Tuesday, 19 May 2009

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In partnership with Funny or Die UK, we're thrilled to announce the return of Matt Lucas and David Walliams' Rock Profile - a fondly-remembered show first seen a decade ago on digital comedy-and-music channel UK Play, not long before Lucas and Walliams' breakthrough series called... er... what was it now... Oh yeah! Little Britain.

This is brand new material however, including a look at what Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty have been working on together (above) and a revealing interview with Jordan and Peter Andre. Enjoy!



Psychoville: Joy and Freddie

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David Thair | 17:56 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

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In case you didn't spot it on the Psychoville website, here's a new clip from the forthcoming comedy thriller featuring Dawn French as Joy. It's fair to say she lacks a sense of humour when it comes to her little Freddie.

Hey! And have you been having fun with the Psychoville - Secrets Revealed personalised video? Do try it out on a friend if you haven't already, and let us know the best reactions you get below - we've been receiving a lot of responses in block capitals, which is always A GOOD SIGN.

[Mark's Brilliant Blog] Mark's Best Bits Gold

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Mark Padley | 17:02 UK time, Monday, 18 May 2009

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I've written to your boss Dave. That's right, Jonathan Ross. I don't think he'll be very happy at all when he finds out just what you've been up to. We could have sorted it out, you and me.

However it's long past that now. I just don' t think you get what I'm trying to do here. I'm trying to bring a little happiness into the world and if you can't share that happiness I pity you... here is a video about some stuff.

Editor's note: Jonathan Ross isn't my boss Mark. Nevertheless, I do think we should bury the hatchet - for the good of the Comedy Blog. - David

Mark Padley does not exist. Mark's Brilliant Blog is brought to you by Hat Trick Productions. Missed a bit? Watch the whole lot here.

HIGNFY Guest Host interview: Rolf Harris

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David Thair | 16:24 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

Rolf Harris hosting HIGNFYBet you didn't see this one coming. Rolf Harris is tonight's guest host on Have I Got News For You!

HIGNFY:
This is the first time you've presented HIGNFY, is it scarier than painting the Queen's portrait?

Rolf Harris: At first, before I got started on painting the Queen, that was much more scary. But then, as that painting session progressed and the Queen put me so at ease, the panic receded.

I am obviously nervous to be doing HIGNFY, bearing in mind that Ian Hislop and Paul Merton are so sharp with their reactions and their answers, but I've resolved not to try and bandy jokes and clever statements with them, as I know I'd come off third best.

HIGNFY: Do you have a favourite guest-host?

Rolf Harris: My favourite guest host, from the ones I've seen, was definitely Brucie. Mr Forsyth used the catch phrases he was known for as well as doing his own special HIGNFY short versions of the programmes he made famous. The show he hosted left you with a smile on your face. He was good.

HIGNFY: You used to host Cartoon Time. Which cartoon characters do Paul and Ian remind you of?

Rolf Harris: Paul has definitely got to be Wily Coyote with his sneaky eyes and cunning and clever plans to shoot down Road Runner. Ian would be perfect as Elmer Fudd, the mighty wabbit hunter forever pursuing the pestilential Bugs Bunny.

HIGNFY: Which is most important to you - music or art?

Rolf Harris: There's no way I could separate them and pick a favourite. I can't imagine life without one or the other.

HIGNFY: You're appearing at Glastonbury again this year. What's the secret of your longevity?

Rolf Harris: The secret for me is just to be myself and do what I love to do. I must say it's a great bonus to have so many strings to my various bows so I can keep ringing the changes, but the important thing is not to be afraid to try new things, and enjoy meeting and working with up and coming youngsters, because they keep you young. Try and spread a lot of love and affection around the world. The most important thing is not to 'con' the public. Be real.

HIGNFY: Which is your favourite instrument - wobble-board, didgeridoo, accordion or Stylophone?

Rolf Harris: Definitely the wobble board, because I discovered it, totally by accident, and was able to use it on my very first recording, Tie me kangaroo down sport.  I've used it on hundreds of different projects since, the latest being on the sound track of Baz Luhrman's film Australia.

HIGNFY: You've been on TV for over 50 years - which has been your favourite show to make?

Rolf Harris: This is a hard choice. For sheer creativity and totality of involvement, Rolf's Cartoon Club with HTV in Bristol was an amazing show to work on, but I think the Rolf on Art series, culminating in the painting of the Queen's portrait to celebrate her 80th birthday, just nudges into the favourite spot.

It was great to de-mystify art and to demonstrate painting to everyone and to get so many people to realise that they could have a go and express themselves in art. On top of that, it was good to get people to lose their fear of going into art galleries.

HIGNFY: What has made you stay in Britain for so long? Is it the weather?

Rolf Harris: I was lucky to get into television in the early 50's and to learn my trade here in this country. I got to find out the way people went about things in this country. I feel very at ease working over here. I love it. I sort of feel I know how things tick.

On top of that, and this is the most important thing, I married a lovely English lady, who is an artist and shares my attitude about most things. I regard myself as being enormously lucky to have been accepted by the British public in so many areas. The greatest thrill for me is to have someone come up to me and say, 'I loved to watch your programmes with your art work in the early days, and it's because of you that I now make my living in animation', (or in art or music or whatever). It's such an ongoing thrill.

HIGNFY: Hosting HIGNFY aside, what has been your proudest achievement in life so far?

Rolf Harris: Without a doubt, it would be painting the Queen's portrait, and having my art taken seriously, so much so that I was called upon to exhibit that portrait for a year in the National Portrait Gallery of Australia in Canberra, as well as being asked to deliver the annual lecture there in 2008 on my approach to portraiture. It gives me such a wonderful feeling.

Psychoville: I know what you did

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Jon Aird | 10:10 UK time, Friday, 15 May 2009

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More secrets have been revealed about Psychoville in a new video featuring both Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith.

The Black Gloved StrangerOn top of that, we're extremely excited to announce the launch of the Psychoville website, with an offer you can't refuse - the chance to blackmail your friends with a devious personalised video. We won't say more than that, you'll just have to see it for yourself.

I'm the Senior Producer of the site and we've worked really hard with the show's writers to create the online content for this scary, funny and bloody new thriller. This is just the beginning...

Jon Aird is Senior Producer, Multiplatform Comedy

Rare archive footage from behind the scenes at Eurovision '91

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David Thair | 13:06 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

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Adam Buxton has been trawling the BBC archives for us and found this gem from behind the scenes at Eurovision '91: listen to the live gallery feed as Vasis, the French 'stage guru', gives directions to his star Amina. This is definitely real archive footage and there's no way that could be Adam doing all the voices.

Additional fun

Wilson Dixon speaks to Johnnie Walker

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David Thair | 16:33 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

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Wilson Dixon's Radio 2 show The Wilson Dixon Line starts on Thursday. We've already seen examples of his wisdom and musical prowess on this blog. But just who is he? To find out more, watch his interview with Johnnie Walker above (I particularly like the bit about the clocks) and then read this exclusive communication from the man himself:

Howdy Folks,

My name's Wilson Dixon. I'm a country singer from Cripple Creek in Colorado. The folks here at the BBC have got me to write a little web log (or blog for those of you who are up with things... or maybe eblo or webl for those of you who get things like this wrong) for the purposes of introducing myself.

Firstly, let me say just how happy I am to be at the home of country music in British England, BBC Radio 2. Let me also say that I love the United Kingdoms and that it's probably my favorite of the developing nations. It's also a real honour that my old friend Johnnie Walker was able to lend his voice to the introductions for the show. Me and Johnnie have known each other for years, but I guess we became real close friends after I bailed him out of jail in Bella Vista, Arkansas, back in '94. (Incidentally, Bella Vista don't have a good view of anything). After we'd drunken a bottle of the local sour mash whiskey, Johnnie ran into the police station nude from the waist down shouting "the pant bandits have struck again!". The local police didn't believe him, and threw him in a cell with a guy who had also had his pants stolen, at least, that's what it looked like when I arrived with the bail money.

Unfortunately I won't be in England to hear the series; I'm at home in Cripple Creek. We don't get the BBC here usually, but it's a lucky thing 'cause since my Uncle Randy took the door off a microwave oven and set it going up in a pine tree near his house for the purposes of catching (and cooking) feral chickens, he can listen to every radio channel in the whole world on his transistor radio, the one that hangs on the door to the washroom. We'll all be gathered around it, eating chicken and listening in.

I would like to web log a little more, but I got a couple of sick pigs here on the farm that need my attention. Don't worry, it's not the swine flu, they're just a little unwell. I'll tell you what though, and this is for free, that swine flu don't surprise me. This may come as a shock to some, but pigs eat their own dung. What is a surprise is that this whole swine thing hasn't happened sooner. You eat some of your own leftovers and tell me how you feel in the morning.

So anyway, lets not bog this blog down with pig talk... I hope you enjoy listening in to the series. God bless yourselves and take care.

Wilson Dixon

Another glimpse into Psychoville

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David Thair | 17:32 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

PsychovillePsychoville. It's not far off. You've had a sneak preview of Maureen - now here are some more characters for you to ponder. And yes, it is as good as it looks.

More Talking, Less Action: a Wilson Dixon music video

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David Thair | 16:47 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

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As you'll have already seen, Wilson Dixon is a man of great words. But he is also a man of great musical sounds, as demonstrated above. He plays the song live, in session for his forthcoming BBC Radio 2 series The Wilson Dixon Line.

Please note that some potatoes may have been harmed in the making of this video.

HIGNFY Guest Host interview: Jack Dee

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David Thair | 15:46 UK time, Friday, 8 May 2009

Jack Dee on HIGNFYThe deceptively affable Jack Dee last appeared on this blog backstage at Comic Relief, and now here he is again - this time as he prepares to host tonight's Have I Got News For You at 9pm on BBC One.

HIGNFY:
You've presented HIGNFY several times. Who's been your favourite panellist and why?

Jack Dee: I loved it when Frank Skinner was on - he was fun and was good. He stepped in at the last minute because Ian was ill. I'm lucky - I've always had good panellists.

HIGNFY: Who would be in your fantasy line up of HIGNFY panellists?

Jack Dee: I might have the character of Marty from Lead Balloon and Homer Simpson. Homer would be good value.

HIGNFY: How does the experience of appearing on HIGNFY differ from being a panellist on other programmes?

Jack Dee:
Well I've only been a panellist once on the show, a long time ago, and since then I'm always hosting it.

The good thing about HIGNFY is it's a compact show but it still gives everyone space to breathe, and everyone always gets a chance to say something if they want to. It's a very difficult show to dominate, and guests who come on and dominate always fall foul.

HIGNFY: Do you think it's harder to appear on the show when you're not from a comedic background?

Jack Dee: No I don't. I think sometimes it can be an advantage because the expectation is not as great - sometimes the best guests on HIGNFY are journalists, TV presenters or politicians who then surprise everyone by being funny and witty. Clare [Balding] is good. I've hosted it when she's been on before and she's a good example of that. People don't really expect her to be funny but I'm sure she will be.

HIGNFY: Fred Macaulay started as a warm up act for HIGNFY. Does this give him an advantage on the show?

Jack Dee: Well maybe it does to some extent Fred is very seasoned; he's done so many things. I don't know if it would necessarily give you an advantage other than possibly breaking down the initial fear of the show. Sometimes it can strike you when you hear the theme music in the studio and you can think "oh my god its HIGNFY, and I'm on it!". It's quite a strange moment.

HIGNFY: What news stories are you looking forward to being tackled on this weeks show and why?

Jack Dee: I'll expect they'll do something about the bloke with the best job in the world, and I dare say they'll be something about flu. They did quite a lot about that last week and more of Gordon Brown's climb-downs over the week. I expect it'll be along those lines.

The [Gordon Brown] YouTube video extraordinary, I'm sure in the next one he'll be bounding through the gardens at number 10 with a golden Labrador trying to convince everyone that everything's going to be fine.

HIGNFY: You're a snappy dresser. Where do you get your suits, and are other comedians stealing your look?  

Jack Dee: I think there are a lot of comics that are much better dressed than me. I get my suits made at a tailor in Berwick Street and he can run a suit off for me in no time. I don't think anyone's particularly conscious of thinking suits are the thing, but when you see a comedian on stage in jeans and a t-shirt it doesn't matter how good they are - it always looks like amateur hour when they walk onto the stage. I think people are always quite visually aware of that now, and very visually in tune with it. It either looks like amateur hour or you're trying to be younger than you are.

HIGNFY: Your experiences provided the Lead Balloon script. Do disillusioned comics connect with you more?

Jack Dee: If I've inadvertently become some sort of role model for failed comedians, then it's really backfired very badly on me.  

HIGNFY: You've got a book due out in autumn 2009 - can you tell us more about it?

Jack Dee: The book is called Thanks for Nothing and it's really the story of how I got into comedy and traces back every strand in my life that is relevant to that story. It's kind of an autobiography but isn't, as it stops about 25 years ago. It goes right up to the first time I do stand up.

Read more guest host interviews from the current series of
HIGNFY in the blog archive.

Wilson Dixon On... His Hometown

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David Thair | 16:07 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

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This here is Wilson Dixon, legendary outlaw country singer. He's got a new series, The Wilson Dixon Line, starting 10pm Thursday 14th May on BBC Radio 2, where he'll be playing his songs and dispersing his wisdom about life and country music.

To celebrate, we'll be publishing a few bonus video interviews with the man - starting with this one where he discusses what it's like living in his hometown, Cripple Creek.

Ideal Series Five Trailer

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David Thair | 14:46 UK time, Wednesday, 6 May 2009

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Ideal - Moz in a suit?!It's hard not to get excited about Series Five of Ideal, starting Monday 11th May at 10.30pm on BBC Three.

Those who've seen any of the previous four will know that the show is full of more outlandish invention than its basic premise (the life of a smalltime dope dealer who rarely leaves his flat) might imply.

Just look at the trailer above. It's got everything: dancing, fighting, carrots, and was that... Yentob? Alan Yentob! What are you doing in Ideal?



If the trailer's got you in the mood for more, you can also watch a clip from the show over on the BBC YouTube Channel.

HIGNFY Guest Host interview: Damian Lewis

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David Thair | 17:35 UK time, Friday, 1 May 2009

Damian LewisIn case you hadn't spotted, Have I Got News For You is back. Guest host on tonight's episode is Band of Brothers star Damian Lewis (pictured above in a 2005 Shakespeare adaptation looking worryingly similar to Murray from Flight of the Conchords).

The Have I Got News For You Team asked him a few questions before he could escape the studio:

HIGNFY:
This is the second time you've hosted the show - what made you come back for more?

Damian Lewis: It's always been my favourite show on TV and I'm a sucker for punishment.

HIGNFY: You were brilliant in the iconic series Band of Brothers. If you were in a real combat situation who would you rather have in your unit - Ian or Paul?

Damian Lewis: Well I think Paul would be the decoy wouldn't he? Paul would probably stand and get his head blown off because he'd be too tall for the trenches but Ian would be perfect. He'd be scuttling along in the trenches. He'd be doing the hard work, probably delivering some message Mel Gibson style so I think I'd take both of them.

HIGNFY: How have you prepared this time for the quick fire wits of HIGNFY? Any actorly warm-up exercises? Trust games?

Damian Lewis: Paul and I have actually just been in the green room with his eyes closed falling on me, waiting for me to catch him. Ian didn't want to do that because it was a bit too physical. And a lot of coffee, just to speed me up a bit.

HIGNFY: As a viewer, who has been your favourite guest host and why?

Damian Lewis: My favourite guest host? Well I'd have to say I like what Alexander (Armstrong) does. I'm a bit of a purist when it comes to HIGNFY, I think I watched it most in the old days when Angus was doing it and I loved that mix. I suppose for people who are outlandish and perhaps a little bit different I've always enjoyed Boris Johnson doing it, he's amusing.

HIGNFY: You have performed in satirical dramas in the past, and your fellow guest Chris Addison is currently appearing in The Thick of It spin-off In the Loop. How important do you think the role of political satire is in the UK, both dramatic and otherwise?

Damian Lewis: It's very important to sit hidden somewhere in the undergrowth taking pot shots at people. So satirists are very important.

HIGNFY: Have you ever met Janet Street-Porter before, and do you think she'll give Ian and Paul a run for their money?

Damian Lewis: I've never met Janet. I'm delighted to be working with her this evening. I'm sure she'll give us all a run for our money. We'll all have to be on our best behaviour. She's terrifying, absolutely. I shall be toadying up to her from very, very early on, ingratiating myself to her in any way I can.

HIGNFY: You've been living in LA recently, how would you say American Television varies from British Television?

Damian Lewis: How does it vary? It really doesn't, there's the same pressures. There's more money out there but then they try and cram more into the short space of time they have because they have that more money. Really the dynamic is exactly the same.

The one thing they don't have out there is legislation about working hours so you pretty routinely end up working 70-75 hour weeks and no one comes along to try and stop it and you just bumble through as best you can.

HIGNFY: For you what has been the most interesting news story of the week and why?

Damian Lewis: Well I think Gordon Brown's demise has got to be high on the list but swine flu this week is obviously a massive story, notably for the hysteria generated by the media.

On the one hand we have people telling us that it could be the end of a generation, but then we have experts coming on and saying if you just cover your mouth when you cough and sneeze, we can contain the whole thing. So it seems pretty conflicted.

HIGNFY: How does an occasional host of a cynical, British panel show end up fronting a great big glossy American cop show?

Damian Lewis: Well, just by being a little bit of all those things: being occasionally cynical, insincere and shallow and occasionally being insincere and glossily shallow. That pretty much covers it. 

[Mark's Brilliant Blog] The Elderly are People Just Like You and Me. Only With a Strong Odour of Ammonia.

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Mark Padley | 15:03 UK time, Friday, 1 May 2009

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I'm sorry you felt so strongly Dave. I feel that in the weeks we've been working together we've become a proper team. Like Torvill and Dean. You're Torvill. Can we be friends?

By the way if there's any fanmail for me lying around can you open it, send me any cheques or postal orders and bin the rest. I'm a nice guy, just ask my good friend Mrs Hanford.

Editor's note: Let's be professional about this Mark. - David


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The Thick of It: Interview with Rebecca Front

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David Thair | 11:35 UK time, Friday, 1 May 2009

Rebecca Front in Absolute PowerRebecca Front's previous appearance as an MP, in Absolute Power

Earlier this week Armando Iannucci tweeted (hey, are you following us on Twitter?) that Rebecca Front would be the new Minister for Social Affairs in the next series of The Thick of It. We got terribly excited at the prospect of this and got in touch with Rebecca to find out more. 

Comedy Blog: How did you become involved in The Thick of It?

Rebecca Front: Armando - with whom I've worked a lot over the years - just rang me up and asked me. I was incredibly surprised and delighted.

Comedy Blog: The former ministers for social affairs have tended to be a bit...
flustered and bumbling. Should we expect your character, Nicola Murray MP, to break the mould?

Rebecca Front: I think anyone would bumble a bit when faced with Malcolm in full flow, but whether she'll get tough or get the hell out remains to be seen. I'm as keen to find out as anyone!

Comedy Blog: How do you feel about squaring up to Malcolm Tucker?

Rebecca Front: On my very first day, when I thought I was just coming in for a chat with the writers, Armando asked me to do some improvising with Peter Capaldi. It was the first time I'd met him, and he'd been utterly charming to me.

Then he turned into Malcolm, and it was completely terrifying! He's just brilliant in the part, and I can't wait to do some chunky scenes with him... but yes, I'm still scared.

Comedy Blog: How have you been preparing for being shouted at extensively?

Rebecca Front: I don't think you can prepare for it, really, as you'd lose the spontaneity - there's no substitute for genuine fear in the eyes...

Comedy Blog: Will Nicola be more sympathetic towards Terri and Robyn?

Rebecca Front: I know from my research that there's often a wary relationship between politicians and civil servants. Just because they're women doesn't mean they'll be allies.

Comedy Blog: Obviously you have a history of working with Armando Iannucci - but have you worked with any of the cast before?

Rebecca Front: Funnily enough I worked with James Smith (Glenn) on a BBC pilot the same day I started on Thick of It, and I know some of the other cast members - Roger Allam, Alex McQueen, Justin Edwards. Oh and I've read one of Chris Addison's books, but that was just to suck up to him, really. Good read though!

Rebecca Front in Knowing Me, Knowing YouComedy Blog: Are you looking forward to the unusual way the show is created -
improvising around the script? Was that similar to the technique used on
Knowing Me, Knowing You?

Rebecca Front: Very much. I've done a lot of semi-improvised stuff - quite often with Armando. Also, Julia Davis was very keen on loosening up the script after a couple of takes when we did Nighty Night. I really enjoy it. I think the key thing is to be confident, but if you haven't got anything interesting to add, just shut up.

Comedy Blog: You recently starred in a comedy pilot, Shush, with Morwenna Banks (who
also made an appearance in The Thick of It). Can you tell us anything about that?

Rebecca Front: Shush is a sitcom set in a library at a time when libraries are under threat. Unfortunately, this one deserves to be. Morwenna and I wrote it with Arthur Mathews, and Armando produced it. It needs a bit more work, but it'll appear one day, I hope. And Morwenna is probably my favourite comedy actress - I just love her, in a happily married woman kind of way.

Comedy Blog: We hear you were at the premiere of In The Loop - what did you make of
it?

Rebecca Front: I was immensely proud seeing Armando up there introducing his big, grown-up movie, and I thought it was fantastic. But knowing I was about to join this world made me feel a bit weird. Seriously. I had to go and lie in a darkened room afterwards! That doesn't bode well, does it?

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