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 16, Episode 6

Elis James, Reginald D Hunter, Maeve Higgins and David O'Doherty talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as gifts, women, fashion and songs.

Further details

The Truths

Elis James - Gifts

- In North-East Scotland a common gift at a wedding is a chamber pot full of salt. Found by David.

- An Indian maharaja gave Edward VII a golf bag made from an elephant's penis. He was impressed by the king's sexual exploits. Found by David.

- In The Twelve Days of Christmas a total of 364 gifts are sent. Found by David.

- The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library has lost more than 80,000 of its 100,000 artefacts, most of which were gifts to Reagan. Successfully smuggled.

- Richard Wagner circulated a rumour that Antonin Dvorak gave Johannes Brahms a sparrow-slaying bow, which he used to harpoon passing cats from his windows. Wagner was notoriously bitchy and commented on one of Brahms's works that: "The evil only starts when one attempts to compose better than one can." Successfully smuggled.

Maeve Higgins - Fashion

- In the 18th century scissor glasses were fashionable. They were a pair of scissors with lenses in the finger holes. Found by Elis.

- Before 1850, shoes were designed to fit on either foot. Found by David.

- In 1930s Liverpool there was a fashion craze for monocles among women. It was particularly popular among lesbians, to the point where a lesbian club in Paris was opened named: "Le Monocle". Successfully smuggled.

- Vivien Leigh often wore gloves because she thought her hands were too large. Successfully smuggled.

- In the 18th century there was a fashion for women to wear fake eyebrows made from mouse skin. Successfully smuggled.

Reginald D. Hunter - Women

- There are fewer women chief executives of FTSE 100 companies than there are chief executives called David. There are only 4 women in charge in comparison to 6 Davids. Found by Elis.

- Women's football was more popular than men's football in the UK, until the women's game was banned in 1921 by the British Football Association. Women's games attracted crowds of up to 53,000 even after the end of World War One. The FA's ban was not lifted until 1971, and only now are women getting the same level of attendance as they did before WWI. Found by Elis.

- Early striptease acts featured women pretending to find a bee in their clothing. Victorian colonists were the first to witness the "Dance of the Bee". It was later performed in Paris and flourished at the Moulin Rouge and the Folie Bergere. Found by Maeve.

- The revolving door was patented by a man who hated holding doors for women. Theophilus Van Kannel was granted the patent in 1888. He hated chivalry, and most of all holding doors for women. Successfully smuggled.

- In Norton, Virginia, it is unlawful to tickle a woman. Unwanted tickling is considered assault. Successfully smuggled.

David O'Doherty - Songs

- "Mah Nà Mah Nà", famously performed by The Muppets, originally came from the soundtrack of an Italian softcore porn film called Sweden: Heaven and Hell. Found by Maeve.

- The tune of "God Save the Queen" has also used as the tune for the national anthems of Germany, Russia, France, Sweden, the USA, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Found by Maeve.

- "The Star-Spangled Banner" was originally an old English drinking song. It was originally called "The Anacreontic Song" and was sung on both sides of the Atlantic at the end of the 18th century. Found by Reginald.

- David O'Doherty gets by with a little help from his friends. Found by Reginald. Accidentally included by David.

- George Harrison's "Tax Man" was inspired by the theme from the 1960s TV version of Batman. Found by Reginald.

- In Japan there are musical road services that play tunes when you drive over them. "Melody Roads" play a tune when the car is driving at a set speed, around 45mph. Successfully smuggled.


- Reginald D. Hunter: 3 points
- Elis James and David O'Doherty: 2 points
- Maeve Higgins: 1 point

Broadcast details

Monday 9th May 2016
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Reginald D Hunter Guest
David O'Doherty Guest
Elis James Guest
Maeve Higgins Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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