The Unbelievable Truth. David Mitchell. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment
The Unbelievable Truth

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2022
  • 165 episodes (27 series)

David Mitchell hosts this Radio 4 panel game built on truth and lies. Contestants must try and smuggle truths into lie-filled speeches.

About The Unbelievable Truth

The Unbelievable Truth. David Mitchell. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment

The Unbelievable Truth is a panel game hosted by David Mitchell. The concept was created by Graeme Garden and Jon Naismith, both of whom also work on the long-running radio panel game I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue.

The rules are a mixture of "pure simplicity and unnecessary complication". Each edition of the show consists of a panel of four people, normally comedians. Past guests have included Alan Davies, Tony Hawks, Henning Wehn, Lucy Porter, Arthur Smith and co-creator Garden. Each member of the panel gives a short lecture on a particular subject. However, the lecture they give is complete and utter fabrication... except for (normally) five seemingly weird and unbelievable truths which they must mix in. The lecturer has to try and smuggle these truths into their lecture in such a way that the listening panel don't spot them.

The Unbelievable Truth. Image shows from L to R: Lucy Porter, Clive Anderson, David Mitchell, Chris Addison, Graeme Garden. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment

The other members of the panel can challenge the lecturer at any time if they think they have spotted something that is in fact the truth. If the challenger is right, they score a point, if they are wrong they lose a point. Either way, the lecturer continues from where they left off once the challenge has been dealt with.

Over the years, extra rules have been created. For example, bonus points can be scored if a panellist spots a truth which the lecturer has accidentally said and was not one of the original five truths that they were meant to smuggle. Another rule is the panellists can guess in advance that the next thing the lecturer will say will be true. Most of the time, the panellist is wrong, but if it works the panellist can score a point before the others get a chance to. Also, if you think something is true, you must buzz in immediately. You cannot buzz in later into the lecture to claim something said much earlier was a fact.

When finished, the lecturer receives one point for each truth they managed to smuggle past the panel. After all four panellists have given their lectures, the one with the most points wins.

Regular Panellists

Although there are no permanent panellists on The Unbelievable Truth, there are several who appear on it very frequently. Here is a quick run down on some of the more regular players.

- Graeme Garden: The co-creator of the game, Graeme has had the most appearances over the series. He also has the highest score ever in the history of the show, scoring 11 in the pilot. He also has the joint-second highest score of 9 (tying with Lloyd Langford). Not surprisingly the fact that he made the show and part owns the production company that makes it result in many jokes being targeted at him.

- Tony Hawks: The second most common competitor. Although one of the most amusing, he is not the most successful. However, he was also the first contestant to correctly predict a truth in advance.

- Lucy Porter: The most regular woman to appear on the show. Although she has appeared less than Graeme and Tony, she is arguably the show's most successful contestant having won a higher percentage of her games that either of them.

- Henning Wehn: The German comedy ambassador to the United Kingdom probably got his big break on this show, with it being one of his first radio appearances. Henning almost always starts his lecture by claiming that whatever the subject of his lecture is was invented by Jesus (or a relation like God). Sadly, he also holds the record for the lowest score on the show, once getting -11 points.

- Alan Davies: The QI regular is one of the most skilful players of The Unbelievable Truth. Not only is he one of the few players to get all five of his truths past the rest of the panel, he is so far the only person to have done it twice.

- Arthur Smith: The "semi-professional" comedian often adopts the strategy of claiming that he has first hand experience of what he claims is true, and twisting true facts into lies to trap the other players.

- Marcus Brigstocke: The Now Show regular often uses satirical "lies" in his lectures.

- John Finnemore: Finnemore, who worked alongside Mitchell as a sketch writer for his radio shows, originally wrote the host's scripts before taking part in the show himself.

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