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

The Unbelievable Truth

BBC Radio 4 panel show built on truth and lies. 147 episodes (pilot + 24 series), 2006 - 2020. Stars David Mitchell.

New series to air in late 2020..
Series 17, Episode 5 is repeated on Radio 4 Extra on Monday at 9am.

Series 10, Episode 5

Coming from the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe, Lloyd Langford, Celia Pacquola, Phill Jupitus and Marcus Brigstocke are the panellists obliged to talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as Tomatoes, Koalas, Boats and Cheese.

Further details

The Truth

Lloyd Langford - Tomatoes

* Tomatoes contain nicotine, but the levels decrease as the tomato ripens. Other foodstuffs containing nicotine include aubergines, cauliflowers and potatoes. It would take 10kg of aubergines to have the same content as single cigarette. Found by Marcus.

* The four main types of tomato sold are ripe, unripe, tiny and massively overpriced with the stalk still on. Found by Marcus (on the "grounds" that David considers the fact that tomatoes are fruit to be wrong, and therefore just about anything about tomatoes is true). Accidentally included by Lloyd.

* The world's biggest tomato plant grew to a height of 65ft. Found by Phill.

* Heinz Tomato Ketchup has a speed limit. If in the manufacturing process it is seen to move at over 0.028mph it is rejected. Found by Phill.

* Shakespeare does not mention tomatoes in any of this work. The first written English work concerning tomatoes in 1597 stated tomatoes were poisonous. Successfully smuggled.

* In America, prisoners use ketchup to make an illicit wine. It is mixed with other fruit, sugar cubes and water, then is left in a bin bag and festers for a week. The drink, known as "pruno" and causes so many problems that some prisons have banned all fruit. It tastes so putrid that even hardened prisons hold their noses while they drink it. Successfully smuggled.

Celia Pacquola - Koalas

* Koala fingerprints are almost identical to those of humans, although due to their size they are only comparable to the size of a small child's. Found by Phill.

* Koala bears are not bears but marsupials. Found by Lloyd.

* Koalas feed poo to their young, as it contains a bacterium which is needed to digest eucalyptus leaves. Rabbits, elephants and pandas also eat their own droppings. Successfully smuggled.

* Koalas, like many other marsupials, have two vaginas. Successfully smuggled.

* Koalas are even more slothful than sloths. Koalas sleep between 18-22 hours a day, sloths only 10 hours. Successfully smuggled.

Phill Jupitus - Boats

* Uruguayan sailors once killed Argentinians with stale cheese. During a war in the 1840s, the Uruguayans ran out of cannonballs and used garrotxa cheese, which is similar to Edam, as a substitute. Found by Marcus.

* Canvas is derived from cannabis as they were originally made from hemp. Found by Marcus.

* Sailors had to make their own cat-o-nine-tails before being flogged with them. They would make it over a period of 24 hours while in leg irons. This was during the Napoleonic Wars. Found by Lloyd.

* It was traditional for sailors to tattoo a pig on one foot and a chicken on the other. This was because they were often the only survivors of shipwrecks. This was because they were kept in crates that floated. Successfully smuggled.

* Sailors thought barnacles were goose eggs, because no-one ever witnessed a migratory goose lay eggs. It was thus believed that geese hatched from their eggs the same time as they arrived from the Arctic, perhaps because the barnacles' feathery stalks looks like goose down. There are species called "barnacle geese" and "goose barnacles". Successfully smuggled.

Marcus Brigstocke - Cheese

* In Medieval England it was custom to push a new-born baby through cheese rind. "Groaning cheese" was made when the woman became pregnant, it was eaten after the birth, and baby was sent through the leftover rind on its Christening day to ensure a long and happy life. Found by Lloyd.

* A Parisian grocer once stabbed his wife with a wedge of frozen parmesan in 1976. Found by Lloyd.

* Chihuahua cheese is popular in Mexico. It is named after the state of Chihuahua, not the dog. Successfully smuggled.

* Between June 1935 and March 1937, it was a legal requirement in Wisconsin that all meals in a restaurant had to be served with cheese and butter, no matter what the meal was. Successfully smuggled.

* The Danes have been known to use cheese as currency. It was used to pay church taxes as far back as 1232. Successfully smuggled.


- Marcus Brigstocke: 4 points
- Phill Jupitus: 0 points
- Lloyd Langford: -2 points
- Celia Pacquola: -4 points

Broadcast details

Monday 28th January 2013
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Marcus Brigstocke Guest
Phill Jupitus Guest
Lloyd Langford Guest
Celia Pacquola Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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