Jeremy Paxman, one of Britain’s most feared television interviewers notorious for once asking a minister the same question 12 times, has presented his final edition of the BBC’s flagship current affairs show.
Paxman signed off on Wednesday by threatening to follow in the footsteps of the famously deranged news anchor from 1976 film “Network”, who told viewers to “go to your windows. Open them and stick your head out and yell – ‘I’m as mad as hell and I’m not gonna take this anymore!'”
But given he was in England, Paxman said it would be more appropriate simply to wish that Newsnight regulars continue to enjoy the show.
Paxman had earlier chaired a debate on violence in Iraq — a recurring theme during his time on the programme.
The broadcaster’s combative, accusatory style — he often greets poor answers with a disapproving raised eyebrow — has seen him clash with everyone from former prime minister Tony Blair to comedian Russell Brand.
He has now stepped down from the late night show after 25 years, saying he is looking forward to going to bed “at much the same time as most people”.
In one of Paxman’s most famous interviews he asked Blair whether he and former US president George W. Bush would “pray together” in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq war, drawing an irritated denial.
In 1997, he asked Michael Howard, then Conservative home secretary, the same question about a prison scandal 12 times over.
Paxman reportedly said afterwards that he had simply been filling time after being told that the interview slot had been extended.
A more jovial Howard appeared in the studio on Wednesday, popping up momentarily in-between features to once again bat off the infamous question.
Last year, his interview with Brand became a YouTube hit with over 10 million views after he reprimanded the comedian for saying he couldn’t “be arsed to vote”.
Paxman’s final interview was with London Mayor Boris Johnson — a rare politician whose verbal dexterity matches the Newsnight presenter’s.
Greeting the mayor with a familiar “Bozzer”, the presenter joined Johnson on a tandem bicycle ride around London.
Johnson paid tribute to his travel partner, saying he “had kept the nation entertained and been an adornment to broadcasting.”
Paxman’s acerbic turn of phrase was in evidence earlier in Wednesday’s show when he described embattled opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband as about as popular “as a flatulent dog in a lift” with British voters.
When Paxman announced his resignation in April, he said he had told the BBC he wanted to step down last July.
The BBC said then that Paxman had agreed to stay on to help the new Newsnight editor “following a difficult period” in which the show was criticised for pulling a planned investigation into late BBC presenter Jimmy Savile’s historic sex crimes.