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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2024
  • 312 episodes (21 series)

Panel game that contains lots of difficult questions and a large amount of quite interesting facts. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

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Series L, Episode 1 - L-Animals

Preview clips

QI. Image shows from L to R: Colin Lane, Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Ross Noble, Sarah Millican. Copyright: TalkbackThames


- The loneliest whale in the world also makes the highest-pitched noise in the world. No-one knows what sort of whale it is. It is either a blue whale, a fin whale, or possibly the offspring of two different whale species, and thus would be the only whale of its kind. The noise measures at 52 Hertz, and is so high pitched that you cannot hear it on most TV because the bass is so high (unless you have a really good sound system).

- Tangent: The blue whale makes the loudest noise of any animal. It is 180db, can be heard over 500 miles away, and the deeper the whale is the further it will travel.

- XL: If you were to find a vampire deer who're gonna call? The Natural History Museum is who. Stuart Hine, who is in the studio audience, comes from the department of the museum that you contact whenever you discover the remains of something strange. One example is the skulls of vampire deer, a species of sabre-tooth deer found around Cambridgeshire and Norfolk. These deer originally came from China, where they are now increasingly endangered, but a pair from a wildlife park in England escaped in the 1930s and now around 10% of the world's wild vampire deer population comes from this pair. Other objects often sent to the museum include what people think might be meteorites but are in fact just lumps of slag, and "star jelly" which people think is jelly from meteorites or space that is actually frogspawn, possibly combined with magpie vomit. (Forfeit: Ghostbusters)

- XL Tangent: Stephen jokes that the success of a single pair of breeding vampire deer is proof that incest sometimes works. This in turn leads Ross to remind Stephen that these vampire deer live in Stephen's home county of Norfolk.

- XL: The thing that is wild, horny, comes from North-East England, and hasn't been touched by man for more than 800 years are the Chllingham white cows. However, they are protected up in Northumberland. During the last foot-and-mouth crisis the white cows were quarantined and saved. Also, farmers send them hay using pitchforks in order to feed then. They have not been touched by man for at least a century, and probably for much longer, because they are so feral. During the harsh winter of 1946-47 the population dropped down to 13, but now there is about 100.

- Caterpillars use each other for transport. One group of caterpillars climbs on top a lower group and walks at twice the speed. Then a third groups climbs on top of this mass and moves at thrice the speed. The caterpillars on top crawl down to the bottom, pushing the ones at the back of the pile out, who then climb to the top of the pile and the pattern repeats itself. This means that this mass of caterpillars moves faster than one caterpillar on its own.

- There are some sure-fire way of telling butterflies apart. One is by tasting them. There is a thing called "Mullerian evolution", which is where one species copies one aspect of a similar species to survive. For example, one species of butterfly was attacked by birds and so evolved to taste nasty. But then a second species evolved to look like the first, so the birds assume that they are the first species and won't attack them. Another way is to look at their genitals. Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist who wrote Lolita, was a keen lepidopterist and he collected butterfly penises, which he put in jars. His collection is now at Harvard. Nabokov wrote the whole of Lolita on the index cards he also used to write his butterfly notes. (Forfeit: Colours)

- Tangent: Ross jokes that Stephen's suits are made out of butterfly penises and pubes.

- In order to impersonate a puffer fish on the pull you would have make a ridged crater in the sandy seabed and decorate it with shells. It consists of many tracks made over nine days. They have to be shaped perfectly otherwise the female will not be interested. If the female likes it, she will lay her eggs in the exact centre. The male fertilises them and looks after the infants for six days.

- The people at QI call a fish that drives a tank "Alan". Alan is a goldfish in the QI office who has a mini-tank (he has a normal-sized tank too) which detects Alan's movement, and moves on wheels in the direction Alan is swimming. The tank itself was made by QI elf Alex Bell, who appears on the set to describe how it works. It was made out Lego over a few days. This design was based on that of a Dutch company called Studio Dip who made a similar, larger tank. The tank has motion sensors in each corner that detect the movement of the fish. (Forfeit: Sir)

- The thing that has 32 brains and sucks is a leech. One experiment with leeches involves filling a condom with blood and rubbing some of these condoms on a frog. The leeches will only go for the condoms that have been rubbed on frogs because what they sense is the smell of the frog. They have not evolved to suck human blood, but to suck the blood of other animals.

- XL: The role that twiglets have in a mugger's lunch is to trick birds. The mugger crocodile uses small sticks, known as "twiglets", to disguise itself. The birds think that these twigs would be useful to make its nest from and as the bird approaches the crocodile attacks. It is the only known example of a reptile using tools, in this case a form of lure.

- XL Tangent: The panel argue that birds are dumb. Stephen defends them by saying that crows are intelligent, but Ross counters this by saying that if they are so clever, how come they are terrified of scarecrows?

- XL Tangent: Other animals that use lures are a species of snake which hides in the sand and waves its tail, pretending to be a worm. The prey approaches the tail, and then the snake jumps out of the sand and captures the prey.

- Spending a Penny Bonus: The most energetic thing a sloth does is using a communal lavatory which is shared by all the sloths in the area. At the Estacion Biologica Quebrada Blanco in Peru (a field research site near the Amazon), they observed two-toed sloths hanging above a latrine, dropping themselves down into it, and then scooping up handfuls of human excrement and toilet paper, eating it. They would scoop with one hand and eat the poo, and when more people came to watch the sloths, the sloths climbed out and went back into the trees.

- Tangent: When sloths die their corpses stay in the trees for a long period of time.

General Ignorance

- XL: You can tell that your labradoodle is pleased to see you because it quickly raises its left eyebrow. This is true of all dogs. If a dog sees someone they do not know their left ear will go back, and if a dog sees an object they do not know they will move their right ear forwards.

- The cat that never changes its spots is the lion. It has spots around its whiskers. These spots never change during the lion's lifetime and are unique to each lion. Leopards begin with big spots, which shrink as they get older and are known as "rosettes".

- Tangent: If you shave a jaguar you see that the spot pattern is on the skin, not the fur.

- The biggest of the big cats is the liger, the offspring between a male lion and a female tiger. The opposite is a tigon. (Forfeit: Lion; Panther; Tiger)

- XL Tangent: In January 2014 the first ever white ligers were born. These could be the biggest big cats ever born.

- XL Tangent: There are various zebra hybrids, and there is the wholphin, a cross between a false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin.


- Ross Noble: 6 points
- Alan Davies: -5 points
- Sarah Millican: -10 points
- Colin Lane: -20 points

Broadcast details

Friday 3rd October 2014
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Sunday 5th October 2014 10:30pm
45 minute version
Friday 13th February 2015 10:00pm BBC2
Tuesday 11th August 2015 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 8th December 2015 1:50am
60 minute version
Tuesday 8th December 2015 9:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 7th March 2016 9:50pm
40 minute version
Wednesday 23rd March 2016 10:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 24th March 2016 2:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 12th June 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 13th June 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Monday 19th December 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 9th February 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 30th April 2017 10:45pm BBC2
Saturday 4th November 2017 1:20am
60 minute version
Sunday 5th November 2017 12:35am
60 minute version
Sunday 21st January 2018 10:30pm BBC2
Wednesday 2nd May 2018 11:40pm
60 minute version
Friday 27th July 2018 11:30pm
60 minute version
Saturday 28th July 2018 2:10am
70 minute version
Tuesday 1st January 2019 11:25pm
65 minute version
Thursday 2nd January 2020 11:00pm Dave
Friday 3rd January 2020 1:40am
50 minute version
Monday 29th June 2020 7:40pm Dave
Sunday 6th December 2020 10:40pm Dave
Monday 13th September 2021 8:20pm Dave
Tuesday 14th September 2021 2:30am Dave
Monday 20th December 2021 10:20pm
60 minute version
Thursday 14th April 2022 12:40am
60 minute version
Thursday 14th April 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 25th August 2022 1:20am
70 minute version
Thursday 25th August 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 22nd November 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 23rd November 2022 6:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 19th December 2022 1:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 8th January 2023 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 18th June 2023 11:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 4th September 2023 10:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 5th September 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 24th November 2023 1:20am
55 minute version

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Ross Noble Guest
Sarah Millican Guest
Colin Lane Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Mat Coward Researcher
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
Alex Bell Researcher
Stevyn Colgan Question Writer
Ben Dupré Researcher
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer
Suzanne McManus Executive Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


How does a pufferfish attract a female?

Stephen Fry and his guests discuss the rules of attraction for pufferfish.

Featuring: Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Ross Noble, Sarah Millican & Colin Lane.


We've reached "L". Lordy. That's some longevity, right there. However, to make things a little less lumbering, question maestro Stephen Fry is concentrating only on the animal kingdom tonight: from lonely whales to larval locomotives. And possibly lolloping lorikeets, lecherous lions and lesser mouse lemurs. Guests Sarah Millican, Ross Noble and Colin Lane join resident fixture Alan Davies.

Ali Catterall, The Guardian, 3rd October 2014

Radio Times review

It's certainly a big night for comedy panel shows with Have I Got News for You joining Would I Lie to You? on BBC1 and, testing our knowledge of the baffling and the obscure, the wonderful QI on BBC Two.

We're on to the letter L - although that hardly matters - and it takes less than five minutes for it to get lewd despite the headmasterly efforts of Stephen Fry. He asks an innocent question about the sound a lonely whale makes and the ensuing banter suddenly spirals off into filth. Hilarious filth, mind you. Fry, whose obsession with gadgetry matches his love of language, also gets to demonstrate how a fish can drive a tank.

Joining QI regulars Ross Noble and Sarah Millican is the quick-witted Australian comic Colin Lane, but even he is no match for Alan Davies who, for once, isn't there simply to play the fool. "What has 32 brains and sucks," the panel is asked. "The front row" is his speedy response.

Jane Rackham, Radio Times, 3rd October 2014

Host Stephen Fry has just published the third volume of his autobiography, called More Fool Me.

It's obviously a tongue-in-cheek title as the cerebral host of the popular comic quiz - which stands for Quite Interesting - has to be the most intelligent presenter on TV!

Since 2003, Stephen has been challenging audiences with fascinating and remarkable nuggets of knowledge.

Now QI is back for its 12th series, popular permanent panellist Alan Davies returns again, and the pair will be joined by the great and good of British comedy.

Jennifer Rodger, The Mirror, 28th September 2014

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