Arts and Entertainment On the cutting edge: Johnny Vegas, from the Face of Satire exhibition at the BFI

On 26 February, Spitting Image will celebrate its 30 birthday. BBC Four will mark the occasion with a special episode of Arena which promises to tell the “vexed and frequently hilarious story” of the sketch show which ran for 21 series between 1984 and 1996 and marked a high point in British satire.

Football: Big following for the game's Little Leagues

IF EVER I had a bad day at the office at the Football Association, which was surprisingly infrequently given the clanging egos that sometimes resounded around Lancaster Gate, I would go home and watch the wonderful clip of Mr Sugden's games lesson from the Sixties film Kes.

Going Out: Comedy: Paul Merton

In And This Is Me, his first solo live venture for several years, Paul Merton (left) impressed audiences at the Edinburgh Festival last summer with the revelatory nature of his material. In the show, everyone's favourite curmudgeon from Have I Got News For You, discusses among other things "his critically acclaimed near-death experience and the truth about his short but instructive spell in the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital". The show was apparently sparked by the realisation that "comedy is truth and truth is comedy". A brave choice of material. He now brings And This Is Me to London's West End for one night only.

Tried & tested: Live And Kicking?

Fancy a bit of audience participation? Want to wave to your mum? Our panel learns to smile on cue

Satire: Arrows in search of a target

A fortnight ago at the National Television Awards, the producer of Have I Got News For You collected the trophy for Most Popular Quiz Show and, in among the usual thank-yous, paid tribute to Ron Davies for making his job so much easier. Yes, I know, I know, he was only joking, but it does get you thinking. Isn't the job of Have I Got News For You to satirise people in the news? And, with the deepest respect for the expertise of Paul Merton's delivery, it's not exactly satirical to say, "Clapham Common ... it's a bit of a mouthful, isn't it?"

Have I got news about the editors at the BBC...

IF ANY programme was going to take on BBC censorship and win, it was bound to be last night's Have I Got News For You. The instant the BBC issued an edict banning any mention of the private life of Peter Mandelson, the programme makers sat down to devise a show to make the BBC look silly.

The unkindest cut of all is coming to a screen near you

Miles Kington trembles with excitement at the BBC autumn schedules - what a feast of treats in store for you!

Poetic Licence: Trouble at Mensa

Mrs Julie Baxter, the sacked head of Mensa, claims that there are "dark forces at work" within the organisation. She plans to invite people like Richard Branson and Paul Merton to form a rival society, whose members will have to prove emotional maturity as well as a high IQ

Comedy: Paul Merton

Once again this week, the pick of the comedy circuit is to be found in Edinburgh. From tomorrow, the stand-up ranks will be swelled for the first time in 10 years by Paul Merton (above) who has turned his attention from Have I Got News For You and his frequent improvisational outings as a Comedy Store Player to present his new one-man show, And This Is Me. Billed as "confessional, revealing and occasionally pissed- off", it claims to be an honest look at the real Merton, turning the comic spotlight on his near-death experience and "his short but instructive spell in Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital". Catch it at the Festival before he takes it off on a national tour.

Comics sharpen up, audience dumbs down

COMEDY STORE PLAYERS THE GLOBE LONDON

First Night: Players keep their wits about them

Comedy Store Players The Globe London

Rhyme with no reason - an American visitor's guide to that quaint British slang

THE THING that really separates the British from the Americans is our use of rhyming slang. As all Americans know, the streets of our great cities are full of Cockney people speaking to each other in rhyming slang, and maybe the lanes of our great villages as well, come to that. Just as the English suspect that when they go into a Welsh pub, everyone in there switches immediately from English to Welsh, so Americans have a vague suspicion that when they wander into a group of Britons, they will immediately start conversing in rhyming slang, not so much to avoid being understood by the Americans as to seem a bit more colourful and add a bit of zest to their humdrum tourist existence.

Health: TV laughter is the best medicine

"WHO'S the other guest?"

How to get ahead in broadcasting: look at the questions in advance

I WAS a bit surprised at the weekend while watching the most recent edition of Have I Got News For You?, when Paul Merton roused himself from his usual sleepy-eyed attitude of watchful torpor and waxed indignant over something that Norman Tebbit had said in the Daily Mail.

Interview: Caroline Quentin - Keeping her own counsel

Kate's dullard secretary is droning on about new ways of improving efficiency in the office. Kate, unable to take any more, butts in: "Let me stop you right there." "Yes?" says the secretary. "Nothing. Just let me stop you right there."
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

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Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

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Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

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Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

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