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

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2022
  • 171 episodes (28 series)

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

  • Due to return for Series 29

Episode menu

Series 14, Episode 3

David Mitchell is joined by Arthur Smith, Sarah Millican, Sandi Toksvig and Graeme Garden as they lie on the subjects of death, balloons, farming and Jane Austen.

The Truths

Arthur Smith - Death

- The most popular song requested at funerals is "My Way" by Frank Sinatra. Other popular songs include "You Raise Me Up" by Westlife, "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" by Monty Python, and the theme from One Foot in the Grave. Found by Sandi.

- It is illegal to die in Longyearbyen, Norway, because the cold temperatures mean it takes longer for bodies to decompose. People on the verge of dying are therefore moved out of town before they pass away. Found by Sandi.

- Under Henry III it was illegal to kill or wound pixies. Successfully smuggled.

- Cleopatra made it a capital offense to take worms out of Egypt. Successfully smuggled.

Sarah Millican - Balloons

- In 1999 John Cassidy broke the world record for sculpting balloon animals, creating 747 in an hour. Found by Arthur.

- The British Medical Journal has recorded at least one case of a man inflating himself while attempting to inflate party balloons. Found by Arthur.

- To prevent their hot air balloon falling into the sea during his notorious cross-channel balloon trip in 1785, Frenchman and non-swimmer Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his American financier Dr. John Jefferies had to throw all the contents of their balloon into the channel after they lost height two-thirds of the way. In the end, they were only wearing their underpants and lifejackets. Found by Arthur.

- Hedgehogs can below up like a balloon if there is air in trapped in them. Found by Sandi.

- In 1982 American truck driver Larry Walters attached 45 helium balloons to his lawnchair so he could float upwards at a height of 30 feet and get more sunlight. He actually went to a height of three miles, into air traffic control space at Los Angeles Airport. He had taken a gun with him too shoot the balloons, but he had drunk too much beer and could not get the gun to work. He was so teased by the media that he ended up committing suicide. Found by Sandi.

Sandi Toksvig - Farming

- The term "broadcast" is used by farmers to describe how they have scattered their seeds. Found by Graeme.

- An advert in the East African Standard newspaper once read: "Nanyuki farmer seeks lady owning tractor with view to companionship and possible tractor. Send picture of tractor." Found by Graeme.

- Happy Farm is the world's biggest online game, in which people buy and sell virtual produce, as well as sometimes steal produce from other gamers. It is so popular in China that the hosting company has to limit new subscribers to 2 million people a day. Found by Sarah.

- Calves are fed magnets so that if they accidentally eat any metal the magnets attract it and help protect the calf. Found by Graeme.

- Indian farmers speak of a chicken-eating cow. It would eat as much as 48 chickens a month. Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Jane Autsen

- Austen's school headmistress wore a peg-leg made out of cork and spoke cod-French. Found by Sarah.

- Nobody actually witnessed Austen write anything because she was so secretive. It was said that she refused to have a squeaky door mended because the door acted as a warning device to people approaching. Found by Sandi.

- Mark Twain said that after Austen died that he wanted to dig her up and beat her over her skull with her own shin-bone. Successfully smuggled.

- When she was young Austen could often be found riding Squirrel, her brother's pony. Successfully smuggled.

- Catherine Morland, the teenage heroine of Northanger Abbey, is a keen baseball player. This is the first ever mention of the sport, 40 years before it was officially announced in the USA. Successfully smuggled.


- Graeme Garden: 4 points
- Arthur Smith: 2 points
- Sandi Toksvig: 0 points
- Sarah Millican: -3 points

Broadcast details

Monday 12th January 2015
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 18th January 2015 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 19th January 2015 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 19th January 2015 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Sandi Toksvig Guest
Arthur Smith Guest
Sarah Millican Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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