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 tomorrow at 9am.

Series 22, Episode 2

David Mitchell is joined by Sindhu Vee, Susan Calman, Graeme Garden and Tony Hawks as they lie on the subjects of swimming, mothers, magazines and clowns.

Further details

The Truths

Tony Hawks - Swimming

- The male mosquito fish has a penis so large it slows it down when swimming. The penis can extend to 70% the length of its body. Found by Susan.

- Solo synchronised swimming was introduced in as an Olympic event in 1984. It appeared in 1988 and 1992 as well. One commentator said: "It's surprising that it took the organisers three Olympics to realise that a person swimming alone could not be synchronised with anyone else." [note[Found by Susan.[/note]

- The word SWIMS, written in capitals, reads the same way if you rotate it 180 degrees. This is an example of an "ambigram". Other examples include "suns" and "dollop". Found by Graeme.

- Many professional swimmers wear two swimming caps when racing. The second cap is to stop their goggles from falling off. Found by Susan.

- In public swimming pools in New York City, you are not allowed to hold your breath. The ban is also in force in Santa Barbara, California. The ban is designed to stop shallow water blackouts. Successfully smuggled.

Sindhu Vee - Mothers

- Until the 18th century in certain parts of Europe and America, mothers would hang their babies on hooks alongside their coats while they got on with the housework. Found by Susan.

- In California, a mother was arrested for arson after she started fires in order to help her son's work as a fireman. American firefighters earn a base salary, but earn extra money when fighting fires. Found by Graeme.

- The German version of the phrase, "a bun in the oven", referring to expectant mothers is, "a roast dinner in the oven". Successfully smuggled.

- Peter Pan was almost called The Boy Who Hated Mothers. J.M. Barrie's producer, Charles Frohman, disliked the title, so Barrie changed it to The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up, and then Frohman suggested changing "Couldn't" to "Wouldn't". Successfully smuggled.

- Barack Obama's mother was named Stanley Ann Dunham, and her nickname at school was "Stan the Man". Successfully smuggled.

Susan Calman - Magazines

- The first edition of The Lady published in 1885 included detailed instructions on how to take a bath properly. Despite the name of the magazine, the instructions were illustrated with a picture of a man bathing. Found by Sindhu.

- There is an American magazine called Girls and Corpses, which describes itself as: "sort of like Maxim Magazine meets Dawn of the Dead." It features semi-naked glamour models posing sexually with life-size models of decaying corpses. Found by Sindhu.

- Exorcist Monthly is a Catholic magazine in Poland. Other Catholic magazines in Poland include Saints at a Glance and Christ, Reign over Us, which features a column on the hobbies of altar boys. Found by Sindhu.

- All glossy magazines are radioactive. The clay that is added to paper to make a glossy, smooth service contains small amounts of uranium and thorium. Other radioactive consumer products include ceramic tiles, Brazil nuts and cat litter. Successfully smuggled.

- Nigel Farage has a column in Total Sea Fishing magazine. David says that this is appropriate for a total c. Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Clowns

- Triboulet, the jester to King Francis I of France, was so disrespectful to the king that Francis sentenced him to death, but allowed Triboulet to choose the method of execution. Triboulet chose to die of old age. Found by Susan.

- A clown has run for US President. Dan Rice dressed like Uncle Sam and ran for president in 1868. Found by Sindhu.

- The last official court jester in Tonga was appointed in 1999, and he was also made a financial adviser. However, he invested $26million in an American company that went bankrupt, losing all the money, including $11million in interest. Found by Tony.

- Henry II of England had a court jester named Roland whose act during Christmas consisted of a jump, a whistle and a fart. Successfully smuggled.

- In 1971, Richard Nixon inaugurated National Clown Week in the USA. Successfully smuggled.


- Graeme Garden: 1 point
- Sindhu Vee: -2 points
- Susan Calman: -3 points
- Tony Hawks: -5 points

Broadcast details

Monday 8th April 2019
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Tony Hawks Guest
Susan Calman Guest
Sindhu Vee Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

Supporters and subscribers get more

Additional content and tools are available across the site for Supporters and BCG Pro subscribers. On this page you can:

  • Broadcast details of 5 further repeats of this episode

Donate (for fans) BCG Pro

Already a donor or Pro user?