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

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2021
  • 159 episodes (26 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 26, Episode 1

David Mitchell is joined by Holly Walsh, Henning Wehn, Zoe Lyons and Richard Osman as they lie on the subjects of the Ancient Romans, tea, crustaceans and balls.

Further details

The Truths

Holly Walsh - The Ancient Romans

- The Romans invented battery-farmed chickens. Found by Zoe.

- Pliny the Elder claimed that headaches could be cured by strapping male fox genitals to your forehead. Found by Richard.

- The Romans collected souvenir glass mugs, which commemorated chariot races, charioteers and gladiators. 13 such mugs have been found in Colchester. Found by Henning.

- Roman women bought gladiator sweat to use on their skin and improve their complexion. Found by Henning.

- On 28th March 193 AD, the entire Roman Empire was sold at auction. After the murder of Emperor Commodus, the Praetorian Guard put the Empire up for auction. It was sold to Marcus Didius Severus Julianus, who paid over 28 million drachmas for it. He became Emperor briefly, but he too was later murdered. Successfully smuggled.

Henning Wehn - Tea

- William Gladstone liked tea so much that he had his wife put tea in his hot water bottle, so he could drink it in the morning without waking the servants. Found by Zoe.

- Salep or saloop was a luxury drink made out of ground orchid tubers, which was an alternative to tea, but it fell out of favour when tea prices fell and rumours spread the salep could be used to treat venereal disease. Found by Holly.

- There was once tobacco tea. Found by Richard or Holly, but following a row David does not given either of them a point.

- During WWII, the British bought more tea by weight than ammunition. To boost morale, the government bought all the black tea available in Europe. At any point during the war, there was at least 30 million tonnes of tea in Britain. Some historians believe that tea was Britain's secret weapon, as it united the troops and reminded them of home. Found by Richard.

- There is only one species of tea. All tea comes from one plant, Camellia sinensis. Other plants which are commonly referred to as tea such as camomile and rooibos are not strictly speaking tea. Successfully smuggled.

Zoe Lyons - Crustaceans

- There is an annual Miss Crustacean beauty pageant for hermit crabs in Ocean City, New Jersey. No prize money is on offer. Found by Henning.

- The Swedish equivalent of the phrase: "Born with a silver spoon in your mouth", is: "Having slid in on a shrimp sandwich." Found by Richard.

- It has actually been rumoured that Banksy was going to originally go under the name of Mr. Barnacle D. Found by Richard. Accidentally included when Holly buzzes in claiming that the statement could be true if it is rumoured, but it was not a rumour when Holly buzzed. However, it did become a rumour when Richard buzzed afterwards.

- French writer and poet Gerard de Nerval kept a pet lobster called Thibault, which he walked on a leash of blue ribbon. Nerval suffered from many periods of mental instability and was once diagnosed insane. Found by Henning.

- When a single new shell washes ashore, hermit crabs line up from biggest to smallest and exchange shells. Successfully smuggled.

- Bram Stoker claimed to have had the idea for Count Dracula after a crab supper gave him nightmares. Successfully smuggled.

Richard Osman - Balls

- Tennis balls used to be black, until David Attenborough suggested they should be yellow. They used to be either black or white, but when colour TV came about Attenborough, controller of BBC Two, suggested they should be changed to make it easier for viewers to watch. It took Wimbledon another 14 years before they agreed to the change. Found by Holly.

- There is a hip-hop artist called Yak Ballz. Successfully smuggled.

- Westminster Abbey employs a cleric Canon Ball. Rev. Anthony Ball became a canon in 2016. Successfully smuggled.

- It is against the rules of golf to warm up your golf balls during a game, but you are allowed to warm them up before the game. Successfully smuggled.

- Steel balls bounce higher than rubber balls. Successfully smuggled.


- Henning Wehn: 1 point
- Richard Osman: 0 points
- Zoe Lyons: -2 points
- Holly Walsh: -8 points

Broadcast details

Monday 26th July 2021
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 1st August 2021 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 2nd August 2021 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 2nd August 2021 5:30pm Radio 4 Extra
Monday 2nd August 2021 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Tuesday 3rd August 2021 5:30am Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Henning Wehn Guest
Holly Walsh Guest
Richard Osman Guest
Zoe Lyons Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer

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