The Unbelievable Truth. David Mitchell. Copyright: BBC / Random Entertainment
The Unbelievable Truth

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2024
  • 177 episodes (29 series)

David Mitchell hosts this Radio 4 panel game built on truth and lies. Contestants must try and smuggle truths into lie-filled speeches.

Episode menu

Series 24, Episode 1

David Mitchell returns with the comedy panel show in which those taking part bid to smuggle as many items of truth as possible past their opponents. The first in a series recorded during the Covid-19 lockdown sees Holly Walsh, Miles Jupp, Sara Pascoe and Frankie Boyle talking with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as musical instruments, recipes, pets, and women.

The Truths

Holly Walsh - Musical instruments

- Franz Liszt wrote a piano concerto featuring a triangle solo. Concerto No. 1 in E Flat contains this solo and is thus known as the Triangle Concerto. Critics called it: "A lapse in taste." Found by Miles.

- La Monte Young composed a piece demanding that the pianist fed a piano with hay. Young's instructions were: "Bring a bale of hay in a bucket of water onto the stage, for the piano to eat and drink. The performer may then feed the piano, or leave it to eat by itself. If the former, piece is over after the piano has been fed. If the latter, it is over after the piano eats or decides not to." Found by Miles.

- The triangle was originally made with rings strung along it. The modern day orchestral triangle is based on a Turkish marching instrument called the "Turkish crescent" or "Jingling Johnny". It was 2m long and strung with bells and rings. The rings were not removed until the 1800s. Successfully smuggled.

- Piano maker Tobias Schmidt built the guillotine. He helped create the original guillotine as proposed by Joseph Guillotin. It was designed by Dr. Antoine Louis, who was later killed with a guillotine. Successfully smuggled.

- J. S. Bach's grandson, W. F. E. Bach, wrote a concerto involving a large male pianist playing with his arms around two small women. Dreyblatt is meant to be performed with six hands. Successfully smuggled.

Miles Jupp - Recipes

- Everyone serves Brussels sprouts with cyanide, as the chemical is in the sprouts. It is this chemical that causes them to taste bitter. Found by Holly.

- The average Briton knows only four recipes. Found by Sara.

- Charles Dickens wrote about chips. In chapter five of A Tale of Two Cities, published in 1859, Dickens wrote about: "husky chips of potato, fired with some reluctant drops of oil." It is the first recorded used of the word "chips" in reference to frying potatoes. Found by Holly.

- Fish sperm crepes and sea urchin gonad sauce are uniquely French recipes. Successfully smuggled.

- On April Fools' Day 1998, Burger King announced a "fast food breakthrough" with their "left-handed Whopper". It featured the same ingredients as the original, except the condiments were rotated 180 degrees. Successfully smuggled.

Sara Pascoe - Pets

- Anton Chekhov had a rowdy pet mongoose. Found by Frankie.

- Napoleon Bonaparte was scared of small furry things. Once, he was swarmed by thousands of tame rabbits during a hunt who mistakenly thought Napoleon had come to feed them. Another time, Napoleon was found by his manservant sweating and shaking in his bedroom, lashing out wildly with his sword at a tiny kitten behind a curtain. Found by Frankie.

- Princess Diana once won a prize for her guinea pig. In 1972, at the age of 11, Diana entered her guinea pig called Peanuts into a pet show in Sandringham, winning first prize in the "Fur and Feathers" section. Found by Miles.

- Joseph Stalin once murdered a parrot for imitating him. His pet parrot imitated the noise made when Stalin smoked his pipe. Her daughter records that on one occasion, Stalin returned to his flat in the Kremlin in such a bad mood that when he began to smoke, the parrot imitated him, and in a rage Stalin reached into the parrot's cage and crushed the parrot's skill. Successfully smuggled.

- People in Los Angeles are not allowed to keep gerbils, for fear of them becoming an invasive species. Successfully smuggled.

Frankie Boyle - Women

- Wearing white at Wimbledon began as a way of hiding the fact that women sweated. The dress code, created in the 1880s, decided that white was best to hide unsightly sweat stains. The rule was brought in specifically with women in mind, as in the words of Valerie Warren, author of Tennis Fashions: "It was quite unthinkable that a lady should be seen perspire." Found by Holly.

- Mini-golf was invented for women who were not allowed to play on regular golf courses. The first mini-gold course was created at St. Andrews in 1867. Found by Sara.

- Vegetarian women are more likely to give birth to girls than boys. Nottingham University conducted a study of 6,000 women, with researchers suggesting that the diet might put a stress on the female body, meaning that only the more robust female foetuses survive, or the diet may change the acidity of vaginal secretions, creating a hostile environment for sperm containing male genetic information. Found by Miles.

- The word "she" did not exist in the English language until the 12th century. Found by Sara.

- According to the Greek historian Herodotus, dead Egyptian noblewomen were given the special treatment of being allowed a few days to ripen, so the embalmers would not find them too attractive. Successfully smuggled.


- Holly Walsh and Miles Jupp: 3 points
- Frankie Boyle: 0 points
- Sara Pascoe: -1 point

Broadcast details

Monday 15th June 2020
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 21st June 2020 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 22nd June 2020 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 22nd June 2020 5:30pm Radio 4 Extra
Monday 22nd June 2020 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Tuesday 23rd June 2020 5:30am Radio 4 Extra
Thursday 2nd November 2023 9:00am Radio 4 Extra
Thursday 2nd November 2023 2:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Thursday 2nd November 2023 7:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Friday 3rd November 2023 4:00am Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Frankie Boyle Guest
Miles Jupp Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Sara Pascoe Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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