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 6 is repeated on Radio 4 Extra on Monday at 9am.

Series 11, Episode 3

David Mitchell is joined by Ed Byrne, Mark Watson, Tony Hawks and Lucy Porter as they lie on the subjects of monkeys, fingers, windows and horns.

Further details

The Truths

Tony Hawks - Monkeys

- During World War One a monkey was made a corporal. Corporal Jackie of the First South African Infantry was a regimental mascot, given rations and had a form of pay-book. He was injured by a shell in Belgium in 1918 resulting in his right leg being amputated and a medal for bravery. He survived the war. Found by Lucy.

- Romans who killed a relative were punished by being tied in a sack with a live monkey, dog, cockerel and snake, and then they were thrown into a river. Found by Mark.

- According to QI the French philosopher Rene Descartes believed that monkeys could talk, but refused to do so in front of humans in case they asked them to do any work. However, The Unbelievable Truth claims this fact is wrong. Descartes said in a letter in 1646 that savages are said to believe this fact. However, his 18th century follower, the philosopher Julien Offray de la Mettrie did believe that apes and monkeys were retarded people and given the right teacher they could speak. Found by Lucy.

- Monkeys can only count up to nine. Found by Ed.

- The monkey wrench was named after its inventor, Charles Moncky, a 17th century London blacksmith of German extraction. Successfully smuggled. Correction: It was later revealed on an episode of QI that this fact is wrong. The articles claiming that the moneky wrench was named after Charles Moncky were written in the 1880s, but the term "monkey wrench" can be dates as far back as 1807 in Britain.

Lucy Porter - Fingers

- Keith Richards has had his middle finger of his left hand insured for £1million. Found by Mark.

- The only character in The Simpsons to be shown with five fingers if God. Found by Tony.

- When Postman Pat was exported to Japan, he was given an extra finger on each hand, because in Japan having your little finger cut off is a show of loyalty to the yakuza. Found by Ed.

- There are no muscles in your fingers. The fingers operate by a system of tendons in your hands. Successfully smuggled.

- The sensitivity of a woman's middle finger is reduced during menstruation. Empirical evidence shows this to be true but doctors have yet to come up with a medical explanation. Successfully smuggled.

Mark Watson - Windows

- Patients with windows in the hospital rooms tend to recover quicker. Found by Lucy.

- Dermot O'Leary kisses a window every night out of superstition. He does not know why but never forgets, even when he is drunk. Found by Ed.

- Leonardo da Vinci once scared his father half-to-death by hanging a very realistic painting of a monster outside a window. Successfully smuggled.

- In America each day over 2 million birds die from flying into window panes. Successfully smuggled.

- In 1994 Los Angeles police arrested a man for dressing up as the grim reaper and standing outside windows in old people's homes. Successfully smuggled.

Ed Byrne - Horns

- The difference between horns and antlers is that antlers fall off every year whereas horns remain all year round. Found by Mark.

- It is said that unicorns have the beard of a goat. They are also said to have goat hooves, the tail of a lion and an antelope's hind legs. Julius Caesar said they also had elephant's feet and one Ancient Greek physician claimed they also had a burgundy head and stripped horn. Successfully smuggled.

- The Hebrew word for "horn" is spelt exactly the same the words for "rays of light". Michelangelo once portrayed Moses with horns in a statue due to a mistranslation. Successfully smuggled.

- Adolph Sax, inventor of the saxophone, also invented the family of saxhorns. Successfully smuggled.

- In 1948 four men tried to take a cow to the top of the Matterhorn, but they all died in the attempt. Successfully smuggled.


- Lucy Porter and Mark Watson: 2 points
- Ed Byrne: 0 points
- Tony Hawks: -4 points


For the QI episode about the monkey wrench correction see here.

Broadcast details

Monday 22nd April 2013
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Tony Hawks Guest
Lucy Porter Guest
Ed Byrne Guest
Mark Watson Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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