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 8

In this special Christmas edition David Mitchell is joined by Lee Mack, Jack Dee, Rufus Hound and Graeme Garden to talk on the subjects of reindeer, decorations, boxes and pantomime.

Further details

The Truths

Lee Mack - Reindeer

- Reindeer will happily drink human urine because of the salt in it. Found by Rufus.

- Reindeer eat magic mushrooms, which lead to the popular stories about flying reindeer. Also, people drink reindeer urine to get some of the hallucinogenic effects. Found by Graeme.

- Reindeer have different hooves for different kinds of weather, depending on the season. Found by Rufus.

- Vikings used reindeer bones as ice skates. Found by Jack.

- "Hreinn" is an Old Norse meaning "Reindeer". Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Pantomime

- During a debate in the House of Commons Chris Bryant MP called Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne "Baron Hard-up", who in turn called Bryant a, "pantomime dame". Found by Lee.

- At a 2007 production of Peter Pan Cornish health and safety officers insisted that the children should wear hard hats during the flying scenes. Found by Jack.

- A Norwich TV presenter once emailed 30 primary schools asking if they would be interested in seeing a free performance of Dick Whittington, but there was only one reply because the school's email filters blocked the emails because of the word "Dick". Found by Jack.

- In Halifax the punk band Chumbawamba produced a panto called Riot, Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection. Found by Rufus.

- A 1997 production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in Southampton had to be cancelled because all the dwarves caught flu except Sneezy. Successfully smuggled.

Jack Dee - Christmas Decorations

- Candles on Christmas trees originally contained arsenic and thus caused cases of accidental poisoning. Found by Lee.

- In Ukraine a popular Christmas decoration is a spider on the front door. The myth is that a spider one decorated a bare Christmas tree belonging to a poor family with beautiful web. Found by Graeme.

- On Boxing Day until the mid-Victorian era, a tradition in certain parts of Wales was to beat the bare arms and legs of servants and the lazy with holly until they bled. Successfully smuggled.

- Christmas crackers were originally called "Cossacks". The name is believed to have been an allusion to the sudden gunfire or the crack of a whip belonging to unruly Cossack forces who occupied Paris following the first fall of Napoleon in 1814. Successfully smuggled.

- In Sweden a common Christmas decoration is a small whicker goat. Giant ones are also built, which are often victim to arson attacks. Successfully smuggled.

Rufus Hound - Boxes (Accompanied by beat-boxer Grace Savage)

- Erwin Schrödinger was probably not that keen on cats. Found by Graeme. Accidentally included by Rufus.

- During Victorian times parents made their children wear a "Self-Abuse Alarm", an electric shocker device to prevent them from masturbating. Found by Lee.

- The original table tennis bats were the lids of cigar boxes. Found by Graeme.

- In 2002, 10,500 people in Britain were injured by cardboard boxes. Found by Lee.

- In 1907 an advert campaign for Kellogg's Cornflakes offered a free box of cereal to women if they winked at their grocer. Successfully smuggled.

- Marilyn Manson collects old tin lunch boxes. Successfully smuggled.


- Jack Dee and Graeme Garden: 4 points
- Rufus Hound: 1 point
- Lee Mack: 0 points

Broadcast details

Monday 26th December 2011
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 1st January 2012 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 2nd January 2012 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 2nd January 2012 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Lee Mack Guest
Jack Dee Guest
Rufus Hound Guest
Grace Savage Self
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer


Radio 4's long-running The Unbelievable Truth, basically an update of Call My Bluff, seems to be the exception to the panel show rule in its capacity to entertain. This isn't surprising when you consider it was devised by the same people who dreamt up I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue. Granted, it has the same rotation of comedians - Jack Dee, Rufus Hound and Lee Mack were this week's guests - and is hosted by David Mitchell, a Stephen Fry-in-waiting who appears pathologically incapable of turning down work. But what it has going for it is an intellectual curiosity that this week turned up such invaluable facts as the radioactive properties of Brazil nuts, Florence Nightingale's love for her pet owl and Indonesia's 17 million boy scouts. The Unbelievable Truth wipes the floor with the competition. If only it could make the competition disappear altogether.

Fiona Sturges, The Independent, 19th January 2012

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