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 1 is repeated on Radio 4 Extra on Monday at 9am.

Series 24, Episode 2

David Mitchell hosts the game show in which guests are encouraged to tell lies in a bid to smuggle as many items of truth as possible past their opponents. Panellists Lucy Porter, Zoe Lyons, Sean Lock and Jack Dee are obliged to talk with deliberate inaccuracy on subjects as varied as country and western music, sharks, jobs, and the 1970s.

Further details

The Truths

Lucy Porter - Country and Western Music

- The music genre that mixes country and western with hip-hop is called "hick-hop". Found by Sean.

- Neither Hank Williams, Hank Williams Jr. or Hank Williams III had the first name "Hank". Their first names were actually Hiram, Randall and Shelton respectively. Found by Jack.

- According to his autobiography, Johnny Cash became addicted to painkillers after he was attacked by an ostrich which he kept in an exotic animal park by his house in Tennessee. The ostrich broke two of Cash's lower rips and ripped his stomach open down to his belt, before knock Cash over onto his back, breaking three more ribs on a rock. The ostrich only ran off after Cash hit the ostrich on the leg with a stick. Found by Sean.

- In 1965, Johnny Cash destroyed over 500 acres of Los Padres National Forest in California, killing 49 out of 53 rare condors after he lit a camp fire that got out of control. He was fined $82,000. Found by Zoe.

- In 2014, a track credited to Taylor Swift was accidentally loaded onto iTunes. "Track 3" consisted entirely of eight seconds of white noise. The track reached No. 1 in Canada. Found by Sean.

Sean Lock - Jobs

- Penetration testers are hackers employed by banks to try and break into their online security to see how secure it is. Found by Zoe.

- In 18th and 19th centuries, egg merchants used to be called "egglers". Found by Lucy.

- Freelancers were originally knights who would offer their services to the highest bidder. However, the first recorded use of the word is in Sir Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe, published in 1820, so it probably was not the contemporary term. Found by Jack.

- Couples who travel in the same direction to commute to work are happier than couples who travel in opposite directions. Found by Lucy.

- NASA employs someone to sniff everything that goes into space, who is known as a "nasalnaut". Successfully smuggled.

Zoe Lyons - Sharks

- Shark Bay in Melbourne, Australia changed its name to "Safety Beach" to attract tourists. Found by Lucy.

- More people are killed by sandcastles than by sharks. Since 1990, 16 Americans have been killed by sandcastles and related pits made in their construction, compared to 12 killed by sharks. Found by Jack.

- Items found inside sharks include a chicken coop, with chickens still inside it. Found by Lucy.

- A way to repel sharks is to wave a lump of rotting shark flesh, which acts as a warning. Successfully smuggled.

- Greenland sharks can live up to 500 years, due to the high levels of antifreeze in their blood. They only reach sexual maturity at the age of 150. Successfully smuggled.

Jack Dee - The 1970s

- At one point, 20% of the world's population owned a Rubik cube. Found by Zoe.

- Bill Gates came up with the name "The Bee Gees" while working as a DJ in Brisbane. This Bill Gates was not the one who went on to found Microsoft, but a DJ of the same name who was introduced to the band by a speedway promoted called Bill Good. "The Bee Gees" get their name from the initials of Bill Gates, Bill Good and Barry Gibb. Successfully smuggled.

- Boeing 747s had piano lounges. In the early 1970s American Airlines had piano lounges in the rear of their 747s. Successfully smuggled.

- The space hopper was also known as the "hippity hop". Successfully smuggled.

- There are over 43 quintillion solutions to a Rubik cube. Successfully smuggled.


- Zoe Lyons: 1 point
- Jack Dee: 0 points
- Sean Lock: -2 points
- Lucy Porter: -4 points

Broadcast details

Monday 22nd June 2020
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Lucy Porter Guest
Jack Dee Guest
Sean Lock Guest
Zoe Lyons Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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