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 16, Episode 2

Joe Lycett, Sam Simmons, Richard Osman and Aisling Bea talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as kitchens, pigeons, the Vatican and breakfast cereal.

Further details

The Truths

Joe Lycett - Kitchens

- Kitchen staff in Henry VIII's kitchens usually worked naked, because the kitchens were so hot. Found by Richard.

- Simon Cowell once won £20 worth of kitchen utensils on Sale of the Century. They included two spatulas, a masher and a strainer. Found by Richard.

- Brenda Eccles of Manchester put her dead husband Malcolm's ashes into an foot-high egg-timer. Found by Sam.

- After his penis was cut off by his wife with a kitchen knife, John Wayne Bobbitt went on to found a band called Severed Parts. After the incident, a radio show paid for Bobbitt to undergo penis enlargement surgery, and he later starred in several adult films including one called Frankenpenis. Found by Richard.

- Kitchens used to employ turnspit dogs in the 16th and 17th century. The dogs were trained to run fast by putting a glowing coal into the wheel. Successfully smuggled.

Sam Simmons - Pigeons

- Both male and female pigeons produce milk, which is vomited out at mealtimes. Found by Richard.

- Before he was famous, Orlando Bloom was a clay pigeon trapper. It was first job, aged 13. Found by Joe.

- George I declared all pigeon droppings to be property of the crown, as it was used for making gunpowder. Successfully smuggled.

- There is a pigeon breast milk pump. It is not for pigeons, but is made by a baby-product company named Pigeon, based in Singapore. Successfully smuggled.

- In medieval times the cure for meningitis was to split a pigeon in half and lay the two parts upside-down on top of the patient's head. This did not work, mainly because humans can actually catch meningitis from pigeons. Successfully smuggled.

Aisling Bea - Breakfast cereal

- Almost all breakfast cereal is made from grass, as oats and wheat are botanically forms of grass. Found by Sam.

- "Kellogg" is an English named from the middle ages meaning "killer of hogs". It was the name given to medieval butchers. Found by Joe.

- Cornflakes were originally invented for mental patients as a way of curbing their sex drive. John Harvey Kellogg was a life-long celibate, never consummated his marriage, had a separate bedroom for his wife, and adopted his children in order to avoid engaging in sex. He believed that meat and rich foods increased sexual desire, while plainer foods purified the body and mind. Cornflakes were designed to prevent masturbation. Found by Richard.

- In German, Rice Krispies go: "Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!" Found by Richard.

- All Bran is only 87% bran. Successfully smuggled.

Richard Osman - The Vatican

- The Vatican has cash machines that provide services in Latin. Found by Aisling.

- The full title of the pope is: "Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God." Until 2006 he was also "Patriarch of the West", but this was dropped. Found by Aisling.

- You can reduce the time you spend in purgatory by following the pope on Twitter. Successfully smuggled.

- Pope John XXIII installed a bowling alley in the Vatican. He was made pope on the assumption that he would not rock the boat, but instead he relaxed the church's strict anti-communist stance and called the nuclear arms race, "utterly ridiculous". Successfully smuggled.

- Pope Paul II and Pope Clement VII both died overdosing on melons. Successfully smuggled.


- Richard Osman: 1 point
- Sam Simmons: -1 point
- Aisling Bea: -3 points
- Joe Lycett: -6 points

Broadcast details

Monday 11th April 2016
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Richard Osman Guest
Aisling Bea Guest
Sam Simmons Guest
Joe Lycett Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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