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 21, Episode 5

David Mitchell is joined by Richard Osman, Holly Walsh, Susan Calman and David O'Doherty are the panellists obliged to talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as nuts, birds, urine and traditions.

Further details

The Truths

Richard Osman - Nuts

- The Dutch call peanut butter, "pindakaas", which literally translates as, "peanut cheese". Found by Susan.

- Some members of the Irish Church used to believe that geese were nuts that grew on trees. It was believed the geese developed inside nutshells on the side of trees along seashores, then the nuts fell into the sea and became shellfish, and finally the geese hatched from barnacles. This was believed until the end of the 18th century, and in County Kerry people believed you could eat geese on a Friday as they believed they were fish. Found by David.

- In the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, instead of using CGI director Tim Burton had a team of eight handlers train 40 squirrels over 10 months to crack nuts for the movie. Found by Susan.

- When you make butter out of nuts you call it, "nutter". Successfully smuggled.

- Leonardo da Vinci invented a horse-powered nutcracker. Successfully smuggled.

Holly Walsh - Birds

- A flock of starlings once slowed down the clock Big Ben is housed in by 4½ minutes by sitting on the minute hand. Found by David.

- There is a vampire finch that drinks the blood of the blue-footed booby of the Galapagos Islands. Found by Susan.

- Birds were originally called "brids", but people kept mispronouncing the word. Successfully smuggled.

- Early birds had four wings. Successfully smuggled.

- A bird once dropped a piece of baguette into the Large Hadron Collider. The LHC had to be turned off to remove it. Successfully smuggled.

Susan Calman - Urine

- The average public swimming pool contains enough urine to fill a dustbin. In 2017, Canadian scientists discovered that the average public swimming pool contains 75 litres of urine over a period of three weeks. Tests on hot tubs showed they had far higher levels of urine, in one case three times as much as the worst effected pool. Found by Richard.

- Urinators were Roman guildsmen who had permission to urinate into the River Tiber. That is because according to Dr. Johnson's dictionary, a "urinator" was: "A diver, or one who searches underwater". The word derives from the Latin word meaning, "to dive under the water". Ancient Roman urinators were a guild who dived into harbours to retrieve goods that had fallen overboard, or merchandise thrown into the sea to lighten a ship's load during storms. This guild had the right to dive or "urinate" in the Tiber. Found by Holly.

- Sauvignon blanc wine smells like Susan's cat Muppet's litter tray. The grape used to make the wine is complimented among wine lovers for having the aroma of cat urine and gooseberry. One New Zealand company launched a wine called: "Cat's Pee on a Gooseberry Bush". Successfully smuggled.

- Cigarettes are flavoured with urea to enhance their flavour. Successfully smuggled.

- Tomcat urine smells like cheddar cheese. Successfully smuggled.

David O'Doherty - Traditions

- In Norway, sandwiches are eaten with a knife and fork. Found by Richard.

- In Mexico, your face is pushed down into your birthday cake as you take your first bite. Mexican birthday cakes are particularly creamy. Found by Holly.

- In Guatemala, the tradition of firing guns into the air to celebrate Christmas has been clamped down upon due to 5-10 people every year being killed or injured every December by falling bullets. Found by Holly.

- In Greece, children throw their baby teeth onto the roofs of their houses for good luck and healthy replacement teeth. Found by Susan.

- In medieval England, kissing a cat was considered good luck. Successfully smuggled.


- Richard Osman: 1 point
- Susan Calman and David O'Doherty: -4 points
- Holly Walsh: -6 points

Broadcast details

Monday 21st January 2019
BBC Radio 4

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Susan Calman Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Richard Osman Guest
David O'Doherty Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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