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 today at 9am.

Series 20, Episode 5

Richard Osman, Elis James, Sindhu Vee and Alan Davies are the panellists obliged to talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as buses, dancing, monkeys and statues.

Further details

The Truths

Richard Osman - Buses

- The first bus service left Manchester on 1st January 1824, and ran between Market Street and Pendleton in Salford. Found by Sindhu.

- The world's longest bus is in Beijing. It is 83ft long, divided into three sections, has five doors, holds 300 passengers, and can go up to 51mph, but only operates on routes with very few corners. Found by Sindhu.

- Before the use of bells to tell the driver to stop, people pulled straps attached to the driver to alter them. In the 1840s, passengers in London pulled on either a left or right strap, depending on what side of the rode they wanted to stop on. Found by Sindhu.

- In Bristol, there is a bus powered by human faeces, and it is the No. 2. Successfully smuggled.

- In 1969, Brazilian bus drivers were arrested for training beetles to crawl inside fair boxes and carry out the coins. The beetles were also arrested. Successfully smuggled.

Elis James - Dancing

- Until 2017, dancing spontaneously was illegal in Sweden. Today dancing is heavily licensed, and punishments for breaking the laws include fines or even prison. Found by Richard.

- In Massachusetts, it is illegal to dance to "The Star-Spangled Banner". Breaking the law results in a $100 fine. Found by Sindhu.

- Fred Astaire's final on-screen dance was on Battlestar Galactica, in season one, episode fifteen. Astaire, who agreed to appear on the show because his grandchildren watched it, guest-starred as an alien prince. Found by Richard.

- In 2008, police chiefs in Timisoara, Romania, provided a month's ballet lessons for their traffic officers, to help move more elegantly when directing traffic. Found by Alan.

- Tupac Shakur studied ballet and dance at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Successfully smuggled.

Sindhu Vee - Monkeys

- In Brazil there are bald, red-faced uakari monkeys nicknamed "Englishman". Found by Elis.

- Monkeys use money to pay prostitutes. A 2005 study by Yale successfully taught seven capuchin monkeys how to understand money resulted in the first recorded incident of monkey prostitution. One monkey was observed exchanging their money for sex. Found by Richard.

- Monkeys now refuse to accept unequal pay. One study of capuchin monkeys involved filming them performing the same task. One a pair had completed the task, one monkey was given a piece of cucumber and another a grape, with grapes being the capuchin's favourite food. When the monkey given the cucumber discovered the other had been given a grape, he threw his cucumber at the scientist studying them, and refused to do any more tasks. Later on, when the monkeys were both paid in cucumber, both monkeys were happy to continue working. Successfully smuggled.

- There are regular drinking monkeys, social drinking monkeys, and steadfastly teetotal monkeys. A study of a thousand vervet monkeys from St. Kitt's found that 65% of monkeys were social drinkers and only drank in the presence of other drinkers and not before lunch; 15% were regular drinkers; 15% were teetotallers; and 5% were binge-drinkers, drinking quickly, likely to get into fights and capable of drinking themselves to death in 2-3 months if they had unrestricted access to alcohol. Successfully smuggled.

- Monkeys use human hair as dental floss. Successfully smuggled.

Alan Davies - Statues

- A statue of Hercules in Arcachon, France, has had its penis stolen so many times it is now fitted with a detachable penis that is only attached on special occasions. Found by Richard.

- The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square is electrified to stop pigeons from sitting on it. It also stops snow from settling on Churchill's head. Found by Richard.

- While at Clifton College, Bristol, John Cleese painted a trail of footprints to suggest that the school's statue of Field Marshal Haig had left his plinth in the middle of the night to walk to the lavatory. For this, Cleese was expelled. Found by Elis.

- In Mexico, there is a festival where nativity scenes are sculpted out of 12 tonnes radishes. The Night of the Radishes (Noche de Los Rabaons) occurs in Oaxaca on 23rd December, and the maker of the best statue wins a 12,000 peso prize. Found by Elis.

- A church in the town of Zillah, Washington, has a statue of a prehistoric monster outside, because it is it the Church of God Zillah. Successfully smuggled.


- Richard Osman: 6 points
- Sindhu Vee: 1 point
- Alan Davies: 0 points
- Elis James: -2 points

Broadcast details

Monday 30th April 2018
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Alan Davies Guest
Richard Osman Guest
Elis James Guest
Sindhu Vee Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Richard Turner Producer

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