QI - A Quite Interesting Guide

QI. Stephen Fry. Image credit: TalkbackThames.QI (short for "Quite Interesting") is arguably the hardest panel game in the world. It is built on the philosophy that everything in the world is quite interesting, provided that you look at in the right way. It is a 26-year-long project, with each series dedicated to a different letter of the alphabet. So far, QI has looked at some astonishing As, beautiful Bs, crazy Cs, delectable Ds, excitable Es and frightfully fabulous Fs, great Gs, heavenly Hs, intriguing Is, jubilant Js, knowledgeable Ks and in the current series some laudable Ls.

The rules are simple, but the questions are virtually impossible. Because no-one is expected to get any of the answers right, points are given purely on the basis of host Stephen Fry finding their answers interesting, regardless of whether the answer is even relevant to the question.

There are no wrong answers - only boring, predictable answers, many of which lurk in QI's final round, "General Ignorance" (although since Series J the round has come and gone, partly because the panel are getting wise to it). If such an answer is given, this triggers of a series of klaxons and a large penalty. Most of these penalties tend to go to Alan Davies, QI's only permanent panellist and resident loser. Despite appearing on every episode, Alan has so far won just 24 times.

QI is one of the BBC's biggest successes in recent years. First broadcast on BBC Two, from the second series the episodes were premiered a week beforehand on BBC Four, where it once enjoyed the highest viewing figures of any programme on the channel. QI eventually moved to BBC One with extended repeats on BBC Two called QI XL. Older episodes are broadcast on Dave. However, the series has since moved back to BBC Two as of 2011 (Series I).

Stephen Fry won the Rose d'Or for "Best Game Show Host" in 2006. The show also won the Royal Television Society Award in the field of "Entertainment" in 2007, the British Comedy Award for "Best Panel Show" in 2008, the Televisual Bulldog Award for "Best Panel, Quiz or Chat Show" for both 2008 and 2009, a National Television Award in 2013, and has won the Comedy.co.uk Award for "Best British TV Panel Show / Satire" of 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012.

Creation and Production

QI was created by John Lloyd, producer of Blackadder, Spitting Image, Not The Nine O'Clock News and The News Quiz. Originally the idea was to create an annotated Encyclopaedia Britannica - "The world's first non-boring encyclopaedia". This later mutated to become an idea for a radio show, and then as a television show.

First proposed for radio with Lloyd as host, production company TalkbackThames preferred to pitch the format for television. It was proposed that Michael Palin would host with Fry as head of the "Clever" team and Davies as the head of the "Stupid" team. However, Palin did not want to do it. Fry first resisted the idea of being the host, but after presenting an unbroadcast pilot, it was discovered that he was ideal for the post, and the notion of teams was scrapped.

The programme was originally pitched to BBC One with the help of Peter Fincham and Alan Yentob. However, then controller of BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, turned it down, favouring to a similar programme called Class War - which was never made. Later, Heggessey became Lloyd's boss at TalkbackThames. Lloyd then pitched the idea to the next controller, who happened to be Fincham. For reasons long forgotten, he did not commission it either.

Lloyd then took the series to BBC Two and to Jane Root. After watching the pilot, Root commissioned a series of 16 episodes. However, there was only enough money to make 12. The series moved to BBC One as of Christmas 2008, and the channel's head Jay Hunt commissioned a series of 18 episodes (Series G). Series H was the first series of QI to be shown in HD.

QI has spawned several books and DVDs, most notably The Book of General Ignorance, which reached No. 1 on the Amazon.co.uk bestseller list and is the 4th bestselling book on Amazon ever. Most of the research for questions and answers is performed by the show's researchers - 'The QI Elves' - who have since gone on to make their own podcast called No Such Thing As A Fish. However, the producers welcome information from anyone with anything 'quite interesting' to add. Viewers are encouraged to share and even correct information at qi.com.

Lloyd has since continued his love of all things quite interesting with his radio series The Museum Of Curiosity. There was also an attempt to create a spin-off called The QI Test featuring members of the public instead of celebrities, in what would have been the first TV spin-off series of a TV panel game. Although it appears to have failed to be commissioned, a QI board game is also available to the public.

The QI Manifesto

Here follows QI's guiding principles, as published in special QI-edited edition of The Idler. See our shop page for more on the publication.

1. Everything is interesting: Provided that you look at it in the right way.

2. Ask more questions: Everyone asks lots of questions at a young age, then you are told it is best to let people teach you things, which are often wrong.

3. We all know less than we think we know: This is what General Ignorance is. We still do not know how or why the universe began, what consciousness is, what light is, or even the best way to bring up children.

4. Look for new connections: Write down the things you do not know already. Interestingness cannot be defined or taught. It is a spark that arcs between two previously unconnected things.

5. If it's worth writing down, it's worth writing down clearly: Jargon, technical terms other confusing pieces of language are the enemies of truth.

6. What you leave out is as important as what you leave in: It is better to be interesting than to be comprehensive.

7. Digressions are the point: QI is about making connections, not lists of trivial facts. One piece of interesting information leads to others just as interesting.

8. Take your time: It may take a long time of reading boring information before you finally find a gem that will change your life.

9: Walk towards the sound of gunfire: Do what is right and say what is right, without fear of what other people will think of you.

10: You already have everything you need: Instincts, curiosity and your own ignorance. The paradox is that you have to stop talking about how much you know.

QI in America Petition

QI is currently broadcast internationally. In 2008, the Dutch made their own version, in 2009 the Australians began to broadcast the show on ABC1, and in 2010 the New Zealanders also began showing it on Prime.

However, QI is currently holding a petition to try and get the show broadcast in the USA. This petition, currently with over 10,000 signatures, is following on from the success of a former petition, which was organised in order to release the first series on DVD. To learn more, read the petition page on the QI website