QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 269 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series S commissioned.
Series Q, Episode 4 is repeated on Dave today at 8pm.
Recording at Zoom (Virtual). Tickets

Series K, Episode 6 - Killers

Further details

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry, Jason Manford, Trevor Noah. Copyright: TalkbackThames.


- The second best hunters, after humans, are killer whales. Killer whales are however dolphins. Their English name is a mistranslation from the Spanish name for them which means "whale killer". Killer whales actually kill whales, as well as seals. Acting as packs they can kill seals by tilting an ice flow which a seal is on. If the ice flow is too big the leader of the pack gives a signal for the other killer whales to charge and make a bow wave big enough for the ice flow to tilt, while the baby killer whales observe. Killer whales also attack on land, pretending to be beached and then grabbing the seal.

- Tangent: Alan saw a documentary in which a killer whale pursued a mother and baby grey whale for hundreds of miles along the California coast. Eventually the grey whales become too tired to fend of the killer whale and the killer whale ate the baby.

- XL Tangent: In 2005 it was observed that killer whales, also called orcas, can also eat herring gulls by vomiting. The vomit acts as bait which the gulls eat, and then the orca eats the gulls. Scientists then observed orcas copying this technique from one another.

- Tangent: Alan mocks Stephen narration of the killer whale clips saying ironically that Stephen should do more voice overs. Stephen did once do a voice over the documentary Ocean Giants, but for that he had a written script.

- Tangent: Jason and Stephen both appeared in the comedy show Walk on the Wild Side which features people giving humorous voice overs to wildlife footage. Stephen played an over-eating panda. Sir Tom Jones was asked to be the voice of a lion, but he told Jason that he did not like lions and wanted to be a penguin. Jason thus had to write a penguin sketch in 24 hours for Jones to perform.

- A bottle of whisky can save your life because if you have some form of trauma and have ethanol in your system you are more likely to survive. In one documentary case a New Zealand chef called Duthie went literally blind drunk after a vodka binge, most likely because he was on diabetic medication at the time and the vodka turned it into formaldehyde. Usually the way to cure this is using an ethanol drip, but at the hospital he went to there was no ethanol so they used a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black Label from an off licence instead. Duthie's sight was restored five days later.

- Tangent: If you have an accident or serious injury while drunk you are more likely to recover than if you are sober. Sandi wrote a play which featured soldiers and during battle the ones that were intoxicated recovered better. There is a thing called the ragdoll effect, where if you fall while drunk or do not brace during a crash, you are more likely to survive. Lee Friedman, University of Chicago spent 14 years examining the ragdoll effect, analysing the blood alcohol of 190,000 trauma patients. With the exception of burns death rates from all traumatic injury fell as blood alcohol levels rose. Amongst the extremely drunk mortality rates fell by nearly 50%. Gunshot and stab victims had the greatest benefit. Amongst drivers however, you are between two-to-four times more likely to die in a car crash.

- Tangent: DRI is short for "Drink Related Injuries". Alan had a friend who was drunk but managed to get back home safely. But then he got a DRI when he fell asleep next to a turned-on radiator which burned his arm. When Jason was growing up one practical joke he did was to fill a football up with cement, leave it outside a pub, and wait for a drunk person to kick the ball.

- You use a square bullet for killing Turks. In 1718 the puckle gun invented by James Puckle which used round bullets to kill Christians and square ones to kill Muslims, mainly Ottoman Turks. The problem however, aside from political incorrectness, is that a square bullet cannot be rifled, which is what gives the bullet accuracy as it travels through the air, so it was not an accurate weapon. This weapon is strictly speaking not the first machine gun, but it was three times quicker in terms of firing and loading than muskets, firing nine rounds minute.

- Tangent: As well as werewolves, silver is good at killing vampires. This is because the original vampire myth states that Judas Iscariot became a vampire and the 30 pieces of silver he was given burned him. However, bullets are better for werewolves because they are quicker.

- Tangent: Technically the first bulletproof vests were invented by the Zulus when they fought the British. Shaka, the greatest Zulu leader, discovered that if you dipped a leather shield in water before battle the bullets would not penetrate. As a result the Zulus could charge in and kill many more British soldiers before they had the chance to reload. Trevor is half Xhosa, and the Xhosa people were of the Zulus. There are three clicks in the spoke Xhosa language for X (a lateral click), Q (a postalveolar click) and C (a central click). Miriam Makeba sung the famous "Click Song" which is in Xhosa. The Xhosa were pacifists who separated from the Zulus, whereas the Zulus are South Africa's military pride and joy. The Zulus were the first to use shortened spears design to stab, invented by Shaka, replacing long throwing javelins.

- XL: You could argue that actors are grotesquely overpaid because camerawork and editing can often do the work instead. In 1919 the film-maker Lev Kuleshov performed what became known as the Kuleshov Experiment, where he filmed an actor looking at different things. He discovered the audience read into the film different things depending on what the actor was supposedly looking at. The screens behind the panel show a mock Kuleshov Experiment with Alan having the same expression as he looks at Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger winning a trophy, Wenger looking upset, an attractive woman on a motorbike, and a photoshopped image of a hunky Stephen on a motorbike.

- XL Tangent: The film director Milos Forman often shouts, "Stop acting!" to actors while filming. In one film Humphrey Bogart looks down on some carnage and the audience think he is acting brilliantly at the horror of everything. Then you see that he is on a balcony and the director shouts "Look bored."

- XL: The chances are you that you have enjoyed a shower in chocolate sauce because Bosco's Chocolate Sauce was used as substitute blood in the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho. One of the reasons why the scene is regarded as one of the best in cinema history is because it uses 77 different camera angles and 50 cuts, even though the scene is just three minutes long. The sound of the stabbing was created by sticking a knife into a melon. At first Hitchcock just wanted the scene to be sound effects only, but then his favourite composer, Bernard Herrmann, created his jagged string-only score to go with the scene and Hitchcock liked it so much he doubled Herrmann's fee. At first everyone was against Hitchcock making the film as a whole, because he had just made North by Northwest, one of his most lavish thrillers, and he was always keen on experimenting with different ideas. First he suggested making it in black-and-white to make it cheaper, and then he used his TV crew rather than his film crew. The one thing that did annoy Hitchcock about the end was there was no time to get Janet Leigh adjusted to her contact lenses that would make her pupils dilate, which occur after you have just been stabbed, making it the one inaccuracy in the scene. (Forfeit: No)

- XL Tangent: Another clever aspect of Psycho is that you are with the star Janet Leigh from the very start, the plot is built around her, but then she killed in the show half-way through the film.

- The curriculum at the British Hate Training Academy involved teaching soldiers to hate the enemy during the Second World War. Soldiers were put into rooms and shown various atrocities such as rotting corpses and starving people. They were then taken to slaughter houses where they watched sheep being killed and the soldiers were smeared with the blood. The public found out about these academies and there was uproar. The Bishop of St. Albans said: "The attempt to inculcate hatred in the fighting forces and civilians is doing the devil's work." General Sir Bernard Paget, Commander in Chief of the home forces agreed saying: "Hate was foreign to British temperament."

- Tangent: After the war it was estimated that only between 15-20% of anyone in any of the armed forces ever fired their gun. If they did they usually tried to miss. Supposedly the most gentlemanly fighters were the air forces. There were unspoken rules about not shooting planes that were already going down and not shooting anyone who had bailed out. Also if it was a good fight and respected the opponent, it was custom for your plane would give a little wing tip salute.

- XL Tangent: You are more likely to by psychologically affected if you kill someone close up, with a bayonet for example, than further away.

- XL Tangent: The British Hate Training Academy was stopped not because of the public outcry but because it just did not work. Rather than making the students angry it made them depressed.

- XL Tangent: The Germans desensitised SS soldiers by giving them a dog when they joined up and after they graduated from training they were made to shoot the dog.

- Out of a thousand bananas, half a litre of wine, 1.4 cigarettes and two days in New York, all of them are as dangerous as each other. Stanford professor Ronald Howard invented a scale of dangerousness called the micromort in 1968. Something measuring one micromort means it has a one-in-a-million chance of killing you. For example, if a million outings on a hand-glider results in eight deaths then the chances of death by hand-glider is eight micromorts. The normal background risk of death in the UK is 41.6 micromorts. All of the listed risks above increase the risk of death by a single micromort, as well as living with someone who smokes and 40 tablespoons of peanut butter.

- Tangent: Sandi's headmistress at her boarding school spent hours teaching girls how to eat a banana properly. When Sandi asked how to eat an orange properly her headmistress said: "No young woman should ever embark upon an orange."

- XL Tangent: Scuba diving adds 5 micromorts to your background risk, taking heroin adds 30 micromorts, one night in hospital adds 75 micromorts and childbirth adds 80 micromorts.

- XL Tangent: Jason heard an urban myth that heroin is the only thing that can cure a cold. Sandi's dad had a joke saying that the Irish way to cure a cold is to take a hat and a bottle of whisky to bed with you. You put the hat on the end left bedpost and you drink the whisky until you can see the hat on the right.

- XL Tangent: One micromort measurement we currently do not know is skydiving while someone else carries your parachute. Japanese skydiver Yasuhiro Kubo has successfully skydived out without a parachute on when jumps out and is then given his parachute by another skydiver on the way down many times. Because he has not died yet, we do not know how many micromorts his risk measures.

- XL: The thing that we can do to stop killer robots to prevent them from being built in the first place. We already have drones, which are remotely controlled weapons, but groups of academics and Nobel Peace Prize winners are trying to bring in legislation to stop intelligent robotic killing machines from being made. The difference between a drone and a robot is that with the drone there is a human element controlling it. Dr. Noel Sharkey, professor of computer science at the University of Sheffield, as well as a consultant and judge on the TV series Robot Wars, is one of the leaders in this campaign. At the moment, there is nothing in the Geneva Convention covering the use of robots in warfare.

- XL Tangent: In South Africa traffic lights are called "robots". Stephen was once filming in South Africa and he thought a local asked if Stephen wanted arse cream. He was actually saying "ice cream".

- XL Tangent: People who play video games make for 50% times better army recruits than those that do not play, according the US army.

- The panel are shown pictures of animals and asked what they pray on:

- Crab-eater seal: Eats krill. Its teeth are like those of a blue whale and sieve all other food out. (Forfeit: Crabs)

- Bagheera kipingi spider: The only vegetarian spider in the world. Named after Bagheera the panther in The Jungle Book and Rudyard Kipling who wrote it, these spiders avoid ants and eat the buds of acacia trees. They will only occasionally eat meat.

- XL: Great tit: In Hungary they have been observed eating roosting bats, possibly due to a lack of caterpillars in the country.

- Pacu fish: From Papua New Guinea and a relative to the piranha, it eats seeds and nuts. It also goes for a different kind of nut, hence its nick name of the "Ball-cutter fish", which goes for the gonads if you are swimming naked near it. There are two recorded deaths by castration from this fish.

- The worst a swan can do to you is chase you around. Their bones are hollow and thus are unlikely to break your arm. If someone has broken their arm from a swan, it is mostly likely because they have fallen over while been chased. (Forfeit: Break your arm)

- XL Tangent: In Wells, Somerset, swans have been observed ringing an outside bell. When they ring the bell they get fed.

- Knick-Knack Experiment - Stephen demonstrates a chain reaction. He has a large container with a hole at the top. Inside the container are lots of mousetraps with ping-pong balls on them. When Stephen drops a another ball into the container it sets off mousetraps and fires more balls, which set off more traps and so on.


- Sandi Toksvig: 14 points
- Trevor Noah: 9 points
- Jason Manford: -6 points
- Alan Davies: -28 points

Broadcast details

Friday 11th October 2013
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sandi Toksvig Guest
Jason Manford Guest
Trevor Noah Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer


Trevor Noah's click-singing

Trevor Noah talks about Zulus and demonstrates his click-singing.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Sandi Toksvig, Jason Manford, Trevor Noah.


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