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

The Unbelievable Truth

  • Radio panel show
  • BBC Radio 4
  • 2006 - 2022
  • 171 episodes (28 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 9, Episode 1

David Mitchell presents another edition of the panel game built on truth and lies. The guests, Tony Hawks, Arthur Smith, Lucy Porter and Graeme Garden, talk on the subjects of parrots, breakfast, insurance and Oliver Cromwell.

The Truths

Tony Hawks - Parrots

- The Royal Navy has a parrot which shouts, "Show us your tits." Called "Sonny", she is an African grey which lives on HMS Lancaster. She also says, "You ain't seen me, right," and, "Zulus! Thousands of them!" Found by Arthur.

- A pet parrot living in Rochdale called "Perky", that is being stalked by cats, has learned to mimic a dog's bark. Found by Graeme.

- The artist Paul Cezanne taught his parrot to say, "Cezanne is a great painter." It is believed Cezanne made his parrot do this because he thought he was a failure as an artist. Found by Arthur.

- In 1997 a Swedish woman took her local pet shop to court after they sold her a parrot which dropped dead a few days after she brought it. The staff claimed the parrot was just sleeping. Found by Lucy.

- Elizabeth Taylor had two pet parrots called "Dick" and "Liz". She loved parrots and took them on tour with her. Successfully smuggled.

Lucy Porter - Breakfast

- The Queen is entertained by bagpipe music outside the dining room window for 15 minutes during breakfast. Found by Tony.

- Henry VIII's ladies-in-waiting were given an allowance of two loaves of bread, a joint of beef and a gallon of ale every day for breakfast. Found by Arthur.

- In German the word, "Kummerspeck", literally meaning, "Grief bacon", is the weight you gain when you eat when unhappy. Found by Tony.

- Sunmaid raisins once came with the instructions, "Why not try tossing over your favourite breakfast cereal." Successfully smuggled.

- In Devon, it is believed that if bacon curls up in the frying pan when cooked then a new lover is on the way. Successfully smuggled.

Graeme Garden - Insurance

- When Otis Robins got up unhurt after being hit by a car in New York a passer-by told him to lie down again and pretend he was injured to claim on the insurance. He did, but the car rolled forward and crushed him to death. Found by Lucy.

- If the wife kisses her husband before he drives to work then he is less likely to crash. Found by Lucy.

- Japanese golfers insure themselves against getting a hole-in-one, because traditionally whenever someone does the achievement they share the luck and have to buy gifts for all their friends. Found by Tony.

- Beefeaters have been refused insurance because of their Tower Hamlets post code, which has a high crime rate. Successfully smuggled.

- George Clooney once worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman. Successfully smuggled.

Arthur Smith - Oliver Cromwell

- After he died Cromwell's body was dug up, beheaded and his body flung into a pit in Tyburn. Found by Tony.

- Cromwell banned kissing on Sundays. Found by Lucy.

- As a child Cromwell met the future Charles I, when James I was stayed at his uncle's house. Tradition has it that the two boys had a fight and Cromwell drew royal blood, but there is no proof for this story. Successfully smuggled.

- Cromwell was well known as a practical joker. It was reported that he used to put sticky sweets on guests chairs and then trick them into sitting on them. Successfully smuggled.

- Cromwell had a very large brain. It was 60% bigger than average, the average being 3lb, 1oz. Successfully smuggled.


- Lucy Porter: 3 points
- Graeme Garden and Arthur Smith: -1 point
- Tony Hawks: -5 points

Broadcast details

Monday 2nd April 2012
BBC Radio 4
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 8th April 2012 12:00pm Radio 4
Monday 9th April 2012 7:30am Radio 4 Extra
Monday 9th April 2012 10:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Wednesday 11th January 2017 9:00am Radio 4 Extra
Wednesday 11th January 2017 4:00pm Radio 4 Extra
Thursday 12th January 2017 4:00am Radio 4 Extra
Saturday 14th January 2017 12:00pm Radio 4 Extra

Cast & crew

David Mitchell Host / Presenter
Guest cast
Graeme Garden Guest
Tony Hawks Guest
Lucy Porter Guest
Arthur Smith Guest
Writing team
Dan Gaster Writer
Colin Swash Writer
Production team
Jon Naismith Producer


The comedic lies invented by the panellists to win points are good, but the unbelievable truths are even better. Did you know, for example, that George Clooney used to be an insurance salesman and that Oliver Cromwell loved a practical joke?

Jane Anderson, Radio Times, 2nd April 2012

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