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Friday, 24 May, 2002, 08:51 GMT 09:51 UK
Deayton in the lion's den
Angus Deayton
Deayton: Took it on the chin

Viewers get their chance on Friday to see Angus Deayton's mauling at the recording of Have I Got News For You. But what was the view from the back row of the studio audience?

For once, he was the man everybody had come to see.

Angus Deayton, the celebrity who has spun a handsome living out of mocking other, more hapless, celebrities with his pithy putdowns, arrived at a television studio in London to eat one humungous serving of humble pie.

Deayton may not have wanted to be here, at the Thursday night filming of Have I Got News For You, but wild horses could not have persuaded the studio audience to be anywhere else.

Paul Merton
"I am surprised you had the nerve to turn up"
The queue outside had started early - not all ticket-holders are guaranteed a place - and there was a palpable sense of excitement as we shuffled in to take our seats.

With tabloid papers advertising to snap up spare tickets - the going rate was said to be £500 - many of the ordinary members of the public couldn't believe their luck at the thought of witnessing this prized edition of the show.

And we were not to be disappointed.

With the sort of characteristic understatement he normally reserves for sniping at others, Deayton started by turning the guns on himself.


The loser of tonight's show is the presenter

Guess who

"It's been a bit of a difficult week for me," he said, as he warmed us up for this week's edition of the topical quiz show which has become something of a TV institution over the past 12 years.

The audience chuckled heartily before Deayton added: "Very stressful. England only drew 1-1 with South Korea."

The tone had been set. This show is about the week's news, and unless you've been perched on a planet somewhere south-west of Pluto, you'll know the only story this week has been Deayton's "sex romps" with a leggy blonde prostitute.

Caroline Martin, the call-girl in question, spilled her heart to the News of the World at the weekend, claiming she didn't know Deayton was in a long-term relationship. That he is only added to the spice.

Cocaine

Martin, 29, had met Deayton, 45, at a bar in Manchester. They had gone back to his hotel and had sex. There followed another "romantic tryst" shortly afterwards, in a central London hotel, and on that occasion Deayton had augmented events with cocaine.

Dave Gorman
Comedian Dave Gorman added to the humiliation
All week it had been speculated, mainly by Deayton's publicist Matthew Freud, that the presenter would be in for a mauling by his two co-stars on Have I Got News For You - Ian Hislop and Paul Merton.

The fact that the BBC show - filmed on Thursday evening - is due to go out head to head on Friday night against the first programme in the new series of Channel 4's Big Brother, has not gone unnoticed.

A cynic might speculate that what Deayton may lose in credibility, he will win back in audience share.

Having finished his warm-up, the beleaguered host took his seat in between Hislop, Merton and the week's guests, comedian Dave Gorman and London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

In at deep end

The opening titles scrolled and Deayton, his trademark smirk looking just a little more mischievous (or was it desperate?) than normal, threw himself in at the deep end.

Ian Hislop
Hislop; "What is gangsta rap?"
"In case you haven't already realised," he said, "the loser of tonight's show is the presenter. The words pot, kettle, smug, git, good and kicking all come to mind."

Merton and Hislop bit their tongues. Into round one: a few video clips and Hislop was asked to identify the story. No sooner had he made a stab at it, than Merton butted in.

"Well that's one story that's been in the news this week. The story I'm interested in... you and this prostitute - how did you get away without paying her?"

Hislop whipped out a copy of the News of the World from under his desk and began reciting some of the more salacious details.

Mercy cry

"That man made me groan for mercy," read Hislop.

"What were you doing? You weren't reading the autocue all night," Merton chipped in.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone: "A good day for Byers to bury news"
"He'd have gone on until breakfast but I couldn't take any more," Hislop continued to quote. "You weren't talking about football were you?"

"I am surprised you had the nerve to turn up. You knew what it would be like," continued Merton.

Deayton faced his tormentors, his grin locked in place, his eyes full of benign complicity: "I did, because of you two."

And so it went on. Each time Deayton tried to steer the show back to the script, Hislop, Merton and their accomplices took it off piste.

"For those watching at home, don't adjust your sets, my face really is this red," said Deayton, who kept a running scoreboard of jibes against him - "Four-nil... five-nil... eight-nil..."

At one point Livingstone suggested "this is a day that Stephen Byers could have leaked more bad news".

Bum wrap

By now Hislop and Merton were in full flow. Referring to the Martin's claim that Deayton had seduced her to the backdrop of gangsta rap, Hislop asked: "What is gangsta rap?"

Deayton simply mumbled: "I don't know."

Merton, who unveiled a T-shirt with the News of the World's "Deayton's sex romp with vice girl" front page emblazoned across it, pestered Deayton to confirm or deny the juicy details.

Deayton mumbled contritely: "Some elements are true, some elements are not true."

Never had that time-honoured Have I Got News riposte "allegedly" seemed more appropriate.

The programme will be screened on BBC One at 2100 BST on Friday.

See also:

20 May 02 | TV and Radio
17 Aug 01 | Showbiz
22 May 01 | TV and Radio
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