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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2021
  • 283 episodes (19 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.

Episode menu

Series L, Episode 10 - Lying

Preview clips

Further details

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Sara Pascoe, Stephen Fry, Adam Hills, Jack Whitehall. Copyright: TalkbackThames


- Lab Lark Experiment: Adam and Sara block out of their vision one of their hands using a screen and cloth. What they can see is clearly a fake rubber hand. Jack and Alan stroke both the real and fake hands of Adam and Sara respectively. Eventually the brain is tricked into thinking that their fake hand is the real one. To test this Jack and Alan get out rubber mallets and hit the fake hands, which results in Adam and Sara feeling pain and shock. This experiment proves that the brain has a map of the human body at birth and can be tricked into thinking that something that is not there actually is. This is what occurs with people who have missing limbs who claim that they can still feel their limb itching.

- XL Tangent: Adam says that when he stubs his artificial foot he still shouts out in pain, despite not feeling pain.

- Tangent: Alan knew a man who was a Vietnam veteran who also knew a man who had both his legs amputated. The amputee said that he did not have the courage to make love to his wife again after the amputations, but the veteran encouraged him to do so. Later the veteran met the amputee, who said that he had made love, saying: "And with no legs, you can get right on up there."

- XL Tangent: Adam was once in bed with his girlfriend and accidentally slept on his arm so it numb. He then turned over so his numb arm was spread across body. However, he thought that it was his girlfriend's arm and started stroking it, not realising that it was his own arm.

- XL: The point of pink is that it is not really part of the normal colour spectrum. Pink, or to be more precise magenta, is in-between red and violet, which are at both opposite ends of the visible colour spectrum, so it is a sort of trick.

- - XL Tangent: The colour we see it is not strictly speaking accurate. The human eye has rods which deal with darkness and light, and cones which deal with colour. Humans have three cones, but dogs only have two hence they see less colour rather than being colour-blind. But birds however have four cones and can see ultraviolet rays.

- - XL Tangent: Alan talks about the TV show "The Six Million Dollar Man", in which the hero Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors) had a bionic eye - but it was only one eye and it only had a zoom function. He also had only one bionic leg but could still run incredibly fast with both which would be wrong. "The Bionic Woman" (played by Lindsay Wagner) has bionic ears to hear things better. Stephen says he feels old talking about these shows from the 1970s, but also jokes that at least he was able to go to university for free.

- XL Tangent: Baby-Miller pink is made by mixing a pint of red paint with a gallon of white paint. Also known as "drunk tank pink", it is used in prisons and asylums because it is a non-aggressive colour and is more likely to calm inmates down. Some American sports teams even tried to paint the away team's dressing room this colour in order to pacify them, so university sporting rules now say that the changing rooms for both home and away teams can be any colour, so long as they are both the same. However, research shows the effect of the colour incremental. If a prisoner goes to another drunk tank in the same colour, they will be more aggressive because of their past experience.

- Spending-a-Penny Bonus: The panel are shown what look like a pile of books on a small table and are asked where you would keep them. The answer is in the bathroom because it is a sculpted French commode. The books are meant to be English ones, so the French are meant to be defecating on English literature. (Forfeit: Library)

- XL Tangent: "Two up" is a game played on ANZAC Day in Australia with old-fashioned pennies. You flip the coin and you have to bet if you will get two heads, two tails or a head and a tail. If you win the money, you are allowed to leave the room and are given 30 minutes grace before someone tries to chase you and steal your winnings. ANZAC Day is the only day of the year you are legally allowed to play it.

- Tangent: The most hi-tech commode today is the Gotta Go Briefcase from Japan. The outside looks like a normal businessman's briefcase, but inside there is a lavatory, toilet paper, a newspaper to read, a small leather screen for modesty, a cup-holder, a vanity mirror and a refillable hand sanitiser. The maximum weight capacity is 80 kilos (including the weight of the person sitting on it). If you exceed it you will void all warranties, "It may result in rupture of waste tank, possible bacterial infection of briefcase contents and massive stench."

- Tangent: Stephen comments on how much men love cup-holders, referencing an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer buys an RV which has six of them.

- XL: The noseless lemur is so badly named because it is a fish. The fossil of Scalabrini's noseless lemur was found by Italian-born Argentinian naturalist Pedro Scalabrini. In 1898 Scalabrini gave a fossil fragment to palaeontologist Florentino Ameghino, who was angry at Charles Darwin for suggesting that humans descended from primates in Africa. Ameghino wanted to prove that they came from his native South America, suggesting that they had evolved from lemurs which in turn evolved in South America before the time of Columbus. However, in 2012 it was proved that the fossil was that of a fish.

- XL Tangent: Nobody believed in the platypus when it was first observed by westerners. Naturalist George Shaw examined it minutely for stitch marks around the beak to see if it was fake. It took around 30 years before people finally believed it to be true. The first time a kangaroo was sent to Britain no-one knew how it stood, so they stood the kangaroo on all-fours.

- The panel are played a piece of rap music and are asked what the singer is on about. The song, dating from 1972 and sung by Italian comedian Adriano Celentano is called "Prisencolinensinainciusol". The lyrics in the song are gibberish which are meant to sound like English. This song went to No. 1 in Italy, and reached the Top Ten in France, Belgium and the Netherlands. In 2011 another piece of English-sounding gibberish was made. London-based filmmakers Brian Fairburn and Karl Eccleston made a film called Skwerl which has had over 7million viewers on YouTube. Brian and Karl are in the studio and talk to Stephen.

- Tangent: There is a viral video clip of a woman on Malaysia's Got Talent who tries to sing "Without You", but clearly as only heard it through a second party. So her version of the chorus line is: "Ken Lee, Ken Lee Boo dee boo doutchu."

- Tangent: One of the film-makers is an Australian and Adam shows that the Australians can seemingly talk what sounds like gibberish to English ears but actually makes perfect sense. Stephen says that one Australian accent sounds like they always have heartburn. Jack says you can also talk understandable gibberish to posh people.

- The panel eat some carrot lollipops, except Alan who has a whole carrot on a stick. The reason they taste nice is because carrots do have a bit of sugar in them and so were used as dessert ingredients during World War II, such as carrot ice cream. During the war the government told people that carrots helped you see in the dark. This was partly to encourage people to eat more carrots and also to disguise the fact that we had airborne radar so we could bomb cities at night. (Forfeit: Seeing in the dark)

- Tangent: Vitamin A helps your night vision.

- The "What the Hell" effect works in various ways. One is when you are on a diet for example, then you decide to break the diet one, and as a result you think "what the hell" and just gorge because you have broken the diet. The other effect is when you are taking exams. When the examiner's back is turned, you see someone cheating, and as a result you think "what the hell" and everyone else begins to cheat. Dan Ariley of Duke University in North Carolina observed this effect, but testing it on maths students who were solving problems for money. He found that the scores inflated not by a few students cheating a lot, but lots of students cheating a little. People who scored higher on psychological tests for creativity are more likely to behave dishonestly.

- XL Tangent: Adam says the "What the Hell" effect is a bit like telling a lie, and then that lie getting bigger and bigger as time goes along. The problem is that lies and truth are dealt with different parts of the memory so you easily forget how the lie went.

- Tangent: Animals also cheat. Koko, a gorilla in California who has been taught sign-language one ripped a steel sink off a wall and tried to blame it on the cat. Another, Nim Chimpsky, lied to get out of sign-language lessons by saying she needed to go the lavatory when she did not need it.

- XL: Just about everyone overrates their own ability to drive, generosity and their ability to conduct an adult relationship (except Jack, who cannot drive at all). Another example is housework. Couples were once asked what percentage of the house work they do, and when they add the total up it came to around 130%. Things we overestimate include donating to charity, voting, maintaining a successful relationship and volunteering for unpleasant lab experiments. However, according to the Institute of Child Study at Toronto University toddlers who tell lies early on are more likely to do well in later life.

General Ignorance

- Deserts are mostly made from lots of things. Most deserts are around just 20% sand, and some in North America have only 2%. Deserts can also be made out of rock, shingle, salt or snow. The driest deserts are the Atacama in South America and the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. (Forfeit: Sand)

- The Vikings buried their dead in the ground. The burning longboat idea dates to the 19th century. There is a story of one of the Norse gods, Baldur, who was buried like that, but no real cases. (Forfeit: On a burning boat)

- XL Tangent: The Swedish illustrator Gustav Malmstrom was the first person to depict Vikings wearing horned helmets. His saga became an international hit and made the Vikings' name. A "viking" was actually a raiding expedition, and a "Vikingr" was a pirate or raider, so Vikingrs went on vikings. "Vik" or "Vike" is Old Norse for a bay or fjord. "Reykjavik" means "smokey bay".

- XL Tangent: According to Adam the socialist atmosphere in Sweden partly stems from the Vikings. This was because there was just enough alcohol to keep everyone happy on the boat. The Swedish word "largon" means "not too much and not too little". When they gave out the alcohol they have to get the amount right so that the people had the back of the ship would not be left short, but also not too little that the rowers would be unhappy with the amount they were given. Thus all the alcohol was shared fairly.

- The part of a whale used to make a whalebone corset was the baleen, which is used to sieve food. They used the baleen of the baleen whale, the toothed whale and the blue whale. Mr J. A. Sevey trading out of Boston had 54 different whalebone products including whips, parasols, umbrellas, fishing rods, canes, hats, divining rods, riding crops, ferrules, brushes, mattress stuffing, back-supporters, suspenders, billiard cushion springs, pen-holders, shoehorns, tongue scrapers and policeman's clubs. Real whalebone was used as a substitute for ivory and used by sailors for scrimshaw, including an entire scrimshaw desk. (Forfeit: The ribs)

- Tangent: A man in the audience keeps shouting out the answers. Stephen criticises him saying that this is not A League of Their Own - forgetting that Jack is one of the regulars on that show.

- Examples of blue sea creatures really do include the blue whale. They also include the blue marlin and blue starfish.

- XL Tangent: Another blue sea creature is the blue angel (glaucus altantica). As well as being the title of a film by Marlene Dietrich, the blue angel fish has second-hand venom. It eats Portuguese man o' war and injects its poison so it becomes poisonous itself.


- Adam Hills: 14 points
- Alan Davies: -8 points
- Sara Pascoe: -11 points
- Jack Whitehall: -19 points
- The "Shouty Man" in the Audience: -39 points

Broadcast details

Friday 12th December 2014
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 13th December 2014 9:00pm
45 minute version
Wednesday 6th May 2015 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 5th October 2015 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 6th October 2015 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 11th December 2015 1:20am
60 minute version
Friday 11th December 2015 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 10th April 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Friday 22nd July 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Friday 22nd July 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 10th September 2016 9:50pm
45 minute version
Saturday 10th September 2016 10:45pm
45 minute version
BBC2 Scot
Monday 19th September 2016 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 20th September 2016 3:00am
60 minute version
Monday 26th September 2016 12:50am
45 minute version
BBC2 Wales
Wednesday 28th December 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Wednesday 28th December 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 29th December 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Thursday 2nd March 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 28th July 2017 1:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 17th September 2017 1:30am
60 minute version
Monday 18th September 2017 12:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 18th February 2018 10:30pm
60 minute version
Monday 19th February 2018 2:40am
50 minute version
Wednesday 26th September 2018 1:00am
60 minute version
Monday 19th November 2018 12:40am
60 minute version
Wednesday 8th January 2020 11:40pm Dave
Thursday 9th January 2020 1:40am Dave
Thursday 2nd July 2020 11:40pm Dave
Friday 3rd July 2020 8:20pm Dave
Tuesday 29th December 2020 1:20am Dave
Tuesday 29th December 2020 8:20pm Dave
Wednesday 17th March 2021 1:20am Dave
Wednesday 17th March 2021 9:20pm Dave
Thursday 9th September 2021 8:20pm Dave
Friday 10th September 2021 2:25am Dave

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Jack Whitehall Guest
Sara Pascoe Guest
Adam Hills Guest
Karl Eccleston Self
Brian Fairburn Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Anne Miller Question Writer
Stevyn Colgan Question Writer
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
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
Alex Bell Researcher
Ben Dupré Researcher


Right hand, wrong hand

Adam Hills and Sara Pascoe are fooled into thinking that a fake hand is their own.

View this clip on the BBC website

Featuring: Stephen Fry & Alan Davies.


Radio Times review

The most jaw-dropping - or ear-opening - curiosity in this episode comes from Italy. Stephen Fry plays a song that sounds like a rap record, and kind of is. Except it dates from 1972 and is by an Italian comedian and singer called Adriano Celentano. What's weird about it is that the lyrics are all nonsense words chosen because they sound to Italian ears like American English. (It's called Prisencolinensinainciusol if you want to Google it...) The theme, you see, is lying and deception.

Otherwise, the lavatorial theme that has run through the "L" series is well-plumbed, not least with a diversion on an utterly bizarre Japanese "gotta go" briefcase-cum-commode.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 12th December 2014

Share this page