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 22, Episode 4

David Mitchell is joined by Richard Osman, Holly Walsh, Luisa Omielan and Jack Dee talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as names, frogs, paper and parrots.

Further details

The Truths

Richard Osman - Names

- Nell Gwyn already had two lovers called Charles before she met King Charles II, so her nickname for the king was "Charles the Third". Found by Luisa.

- In Finland, budget meatballs have so little meat in that legally they have to be called "balls". Found by Luisa.

- The Royal Navy has had five ships called HMS Flirt. The first was built in 1782. The navy has also had four ships called HMS Spanker, four named HMS Cockchafer (named after the insect) one named HMS Happy Entrance, and another called HMS Pansy, which had to change before it was commissioned into service in April 1940 due to a potential mutiny. Successfully smuggled.

- A petition to change the name of Bell End in the West Midlands was called, "a bit silly", by Stephen Young, 72, of Minge Lane, Worcester. Successfully smuggled.

- The Roman name for Paris roughly translates into English as, "Slough". Successfully smuggled.

Holly Walsh - Frogs

- By injecting urine into certain species of frog, you can use them as pregnancy tests. Until the 1960s, the only reliable pregnancy test was to inject woman's urine into a female African clawed frog. If the woman was pregnant the frog would ovulate 5-10 hours later. This was known as the "Hogben test", after the man who discovered it. A previous test involved injecting urine into female rabbits, believing that the rabbit's ovaries expanded if the woman was pregnant. People believed that if the rabbits died the test was positive, and thus the expression: "The rabbit died" meant a woman was pregnant, but the rabbits always died because they had to be dissected to check the ovaries. Found by Richard.

- The paradoxical frog becomes smaller as it grows up. Growing in South America, it starts off as a 10 inch tadpole, but the frog is a third of the size. Found by Luisa.

- Peruvians believe that there is nothing more likely to get you in the mood for sex than to pop a frog in a blender and drinking the slurry. It's nicknamed "Peruvian Viagra" and is sold in restaurants and street vendors for around 90¢. Successfully smuggled.

- Victorians would give each other Christmas cards that depicted frogs murdering each other. Other disturbing festive cards at the time include ones featuring children boiled in teapots, dead robins, man-eating snowmen, and a group of smartly dressed rats sharpening knives and settling down to a meal of roast cat. Successfully smuggled.

- The paradoxical frog grunts like a pig. Successfully smuggled.

Luisa Omielan - Paper

- There is no sand in sandpaper. It uses sharp-edged minerals such as white quartz, emery, aluminium oxide, silicon and garnet. Found by Richard.

- In China, people burn banknotes at funerals so that the deceased person will be rich in the afterlife. Found by Richard.

- The average British family use over 20 miles of toilet paper a year. Found by Richard.

- Post-it notes should not be peeled from the bottom, but from the side. Successfully smuggled.

- The world's most expensive toilet paper costs £825,000 a roll, and comes hand-delivered with a bottle of champagne. It is three-ply, infused with 22 carat gold flakes. Successfully smuggled.

Jack Dee - Parrots

- In 1995, a parrot named Henry was banned from a bowls club in Leamington Spa, because his constant shouts of: "You're a yard short" were annoying the players. Henry also laughed at players. Found by Luisa.

- In the 1890s, Paterson's Scotch Whisky trained 500 parrots to say: "Buy Paterson's Whisky", and then sent them to pubs for free. They spent £20,000 using this system, but the company went bankrupt in 1898. Found by Luisa.

- The lead singer of the death metal band Hatebeak is a 21-year-old African grey parrot called Waldo. Their albums include Bird Seeds of Vengeance and Number of the Beak. Found by Holly.

- New Zealand parrots are strong enough to mount the backs of sheep and tear out the fat from its kidneys while the sheep is still alive. Found by Luisa.

- According to her book on household management, Mrs. Beeton once had a dozen parrots, which she covered in puff pastry and baked in an over at 200 degrees, as a recipe for parrot pie. Successfully smuggled.


- Richard Osman: 6 points
- Holly Walsh: 0 points
- Luisa Omielan: -3 points
- Jack Dee: -4 points

Broadcast details

Monday 22nd April 2019
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Jack Dee Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Richard Osman Guest
Luisa Omielan Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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