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

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2021
  • 159 episodes (26 series)

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

Episode menu

Series 12, Episode 1

Recorded from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, David Mitchell is joined by Arthur Smith, Henning Wehn, Bridget Christie and Ed Byrne as they lie on the subjects of poison, etiquette, jelly and... David Mitchell.

Further details

The Truths

Arthur Smith - Poison

- Part-time snake charmer Khum Chaibuddee of Thailand holds the world record for kissing the most poisonous snakes, kissing 19 king cobras in 2006. Found by Ed.

- One 64-year-old man nearly died of alcohol poisoning at a Nuremberg airport security checkpoint in 2007 after drinking a litre of vodka rather than hand it over to the officials before exchanging flights to Dresden after coming back from a holiday in Eygpt. Found by Henning.

- When physically assaulted a bombardier beetle fires a hot mixture of gas and liquid from the tip of its abdomen. Successfully smuggled.

- Adolf Hitler was prescribed belladonna and strychnine in order to cure his flatulence problems. This was taken in the form of a product called Dr. Costa's Anti-Gas Pills. Hitler also took belladonna products to ward off the first signs of Parkinson's disease. Successfully smuggled.

- James Parkinson, the man after whom Parkinson's disease is named, was suspected of plotting to kill King George III with a poison dart. Successfully smuggled.

Henning Wehn - Etiquette

- The Romans thought it was polite to eat in a recumbent position. Wealthy Romans ate lying down, resting on their left elbow, on three coaches drawn up in a horseshoe shape around a table. Romans would also eat sitting or standing up for less formal meals. Found by Arthur.

- In 1530 Erasmus wrote that it was perfectly acceptable to vomit, writing that it is not vomiting, but the act of holding the vomit in your throat which is foul. He also wrote that if you cannot swallow a piece of food, turn around discretely and throat it away somewhere, and when blowing your nose do not peer into the handkerchief, "as if pearls and rubies might have fallen out of your head." Found by Arthur.

- In Japan there have been a recorded 24 fatal or otherwise serious skull fractures caused by people bowing to each other. Found by Arthur.

- In early 1900s Germany and Russia it was tradition to give champagne to anyone who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This however was usually only exchanged between fellow medics. In 1904 Anton Chekhov was given this privilege as he was qualified in medicine 20 years beforehand. According to his wife his last words were: "It's a long time since I've drunk champagne." Successfully smuggled.

Bridget Christie - Jelly

- In America the term for "jelly" is "nervous pudding" or "jello". The Americans use the term "jelly" to mean "jam". Found by Henning.

- The sound of E.T. walking in the film E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was made by someone squishing their hands in a jelly-filled shirt. Found by Ed.

- Jelly can be made from Irish moss. It is a kind of purple-ish seaweed that when boiled yields a jelly used in food and medicine. Found by Arthur.

- Jelly should be eaten with a fork, as mentioned in various 19th century etiquette books. Successfully smuggled.

- In the 1960s San Francisco State University student Charles Hall, inventor of the modern waterbed, attempted to create a super-soft item of furniture which was a vinyl bag filled with jelly. It did not work. Successfully smuggled.

Ed Byrne - David Mitchell

- David did not own a double-bed until he was 33. Found by Bridget.

- One of David's early jobs was proof-reading dictionaries for Oxford University Press during his gap year. Other jobs he has had include being an usher at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith and a cloakroom attendant at T.F.I. Friday. Found by Arthur.

- David has a "travel dressing gown" he takes with him when he is away from home. Found by Arthur.

- David wrote much his autobiography perched on a yoga ball which he got to ease back pain. Successfully smuggled.

- At the age of five David wrote a letter to Playschool suggesting ways the BBC could solve its union problems. There was a period of time when the clock at the bottom of the playschool stopped going around and David's parents told him it was because of a union dispute at the BBC. He thinks that at their encouragement David wrote a letter to the BBC, to which he got a reply along with a BBC balloon, which he was very proud of. Successfully smuggled.


- Arthur Smith and Ed Byrne: 3 points
- Bridget Christie: 0 points
- Henning Wehn: -4 points

Broadcast details

Monday 30th December 2013
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 5th January 2014 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 6th January 2014 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 6th January 2014 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Friday 6th July 2018 9:00am Radio 4 Extra
Friday 6th July 2018 4:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Saturday 7th July 2018 4:00am Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Ed Byrne Guest
Arthur Smith Guest
Henning Wehn Guest
Bridget Christie Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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