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 21, Episode 3

David Mitchell is joined by Sandi Toksvig, Jon Richardson, Lucy Porter and Graeme Garden as they talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as drunkenness, passports, orange and the weather.

The Truths

Sandi Toksvig - Drunkenness

- According to popular legend (i.e. it's unlikely to be accurate) the name for Manhattan comes from Lenape language and translates as, "the place where we got drunk". Found by Graeme.

- Sandi Toksvig was once so drunk on an episode of Food and Drink that she was filmed trying to reattach the heads of peeled crayfish in a Swedish barbeque. Found by Lucy.

- In 2005, a group of drunken elks in Malmo, Sweden, were arrested for loitering outside an old people's home. Elks often eat rotting apples which ferment as cider. Found by Lucy.

- In Scotland, it is illegal to be drunk while in possession of a cow. It is also illegal to be drunk in possession of a loaded firearm. Successfully smuggled.

- Nick Clegg once had to do community service after he set a cactus on fire while drunk. It happened when he was a school trip to Germany. Successfully smuggled.

Jon Richardson - Passports

- The Finnish passport depicts a walking moose. Found by Lucy.

- Tongan passports used to cost less than a new Volvo V4. In the early 1980s Tonga sold thousands of passports for up to $20,000 each, and a Volvo V4 is just over £20,000. An audit of the country's immigration divisions revealed that a Chinese couple had been issued with seven diplomatic passports and 15 ordinary passports since 2003. Found by Sandi.

- Horses are obliged to have passports before they can fly. Successfully smuggled.

- Since 2017, the Home Office has accepted passport photos taken on phones and tablets. Successfully smuggled.

- Swiss passport applications can be rejected if your neighbours consider you to be irritating. Successfully smuggled.

Lucy Porter - Orange

- According to the OED, the colour orange was named after the fruit. The name for fruit first dates to around 1400, and the name for the colour dates back to 1557. Found by Graeme.

- New York was once known as "New Orange". In 1673, the Dutch recaptured New York from the British and changed the name to New Orange. The following year the city was relinquished to the British and renamed New York. Found by Jon.

- In Denmark, instead of saying "cheese" when having a photo taken, the locals say the word for "orange", which is "applesin". Successfully smuggled.

- Second-hand orange cars retain their value better than any other colour of car. The average depreciation of cars over three years is 30%, but orange and yellow cars only depreciate by 22% over the same period. Successfully smuggled.

- Red squirrels are actually orange. They are called "red" because the name dates back for the word "orange" was used for the colour. Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - The Weather

- Hurricanes with female names are more dangerous than ones with male names. One apparent reason is that people consider the ones with female names to be a lower perceived risk and thus people prepare less. Found by Lucy.

- The superstition "red sky at night, shepherd's delight" appears to be true most of the time. Found by Lucy.

- Statistically speaking, the UK is more likely to see a white Easter than a white Christmas. It is more likely to snow in March than in December. However, David doesn't agree with this fact. Found by Lucy.

- Britain is the windiest country in Europe. In 2011, Scottish ice cream makers Mackie's claimed that their factory was powered by wind turbines and that they were based in the windiest spot in Europe. When the Advertising Standards Authority challenged the later part of their claim, Mackie's collected the relevant data from British scientists to back their statement, and won. Successfully smuggled.

- American weather forecasters were forbidden to report tornadoes between 1887-1950, for fear of causing panic among the local population. The word "tornado" was replaced by euphemisms such as "severe local storms". Successfully smuggled.


- Lucy Porter: 8 points
- Graeme Garden: 2 points
- Jon Richardson: 1 point
- Sandi Toksvig: -3 points

Broadcast details

Monday 7th January 2019
BBC Radio 4


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 13th January 2019 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 14th January 2019 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 14th January 2019 5:30pm Radio 4 Extra
Monday 14th January 2019 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Tuesday 15th January 2019 5:30am Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Sandi Toksvig Guest
Lucy Porter Guest
Jon Richardson Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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