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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2022
  • 279 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.

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Series L, Episode 7 - Lethal

Preview clips

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


- The panel are given a small plastic bag (the sort you use to pick up dog excrement), and demonstrate how it can be used to pull a cork out from inside a bottle, by blowing the bag from inside the bottle and dragging the bag and the cork both out at the same time. The quite interesting thing about it is that this trick may well save millions of lives that would otherwise have been lost during childbirth. An Argentinian car mechanic named Jorge Odon watched this trick online and thought that a similar device could be used to help babies come out of the womb. When an obstetrician was told about this scheme by Odon the obstetrician thought he was on a hidden camera show, but discovered that this idea really would work. Originally the devices used were first forceps and then more recently a sucker device called a vontouse or kiwi. Odon's method involves inserting a plastic bag into the birth canal, under the baby's chin. Air is then pumped into the bag, inflating the bag gently around the baby's head. Babies do not breathe in the womb so there is no risk of suffocation. The baby is then sucked out of the womb without the need for forceps.

- XL Tangent: Jason asks if other people have experienced seeing people putting dog excrement in bags and then hanging the bags from trees. Stephen says it is probably just a Salford thing.

- Tangent: Bill comments that the bag works similar to the way a chameleon's tongue catches its prey.

- XL Tangent: One of the other advantages of this machine is that is so easy to use. A midwife can use it without needing a doctor.

- Lethal uses for a laptop, other than using them to fly drones or simply hitting someone on the head with one, include using a laptop as a euthanasia machine. Invented in Australia, the person committing suicide has to answer three questions and has to be sane and smart enough to say "Yes" to all three. The questions are: "1. Are you aware that if you go ahead to the last screen and press the 'Yes' button, you will be given a lethal dose of medications and die?", "2. Are you certain you understand that if you proceed and press the 'Yes' button on the next screen that you will die?" and, "3. In 15 seconds you will be given a lethal injection... press 'Yes' to proceed."

- Tangent: Stephen mentions his recent role playing the British Prime Minister in the American thriller 24 starring Kiefer Sutherland. Stephen says his Prime Minister was of no specific political party, much like almost every Prime Minister for the past 20 years. Jason thinks that when Sutherland says "parabolics" he sounds like he is saying "pair of bollocks". The panel ask how realistic the show is in London, and whether Sutherland's character is having trouble with London's transport network.

- Tangent: Bill once went on a speed-awareness course and the ex-policemen teaching them tried to scare the room by saying that one woman was killed when she broke too quickly and the laptop in the back of the car shot towards her, taking her head clean off. An old woman who sat next to Bill grabbed Bill's hand and exclaimed: "Oh my God!"

- Tangent: Jason was unaware of the rule that you can only buy a certain amount of pills from any shop because of the possibility that the customer could commit suicide via a fatal overdose. Jason often gets headaches on tour so he tried to stock up on paracetamol, but found that he was not allowed to do so. When he was told this by the shop assistant, Jason defence was that he was also buying some frozen food and that there was no point in buying them if he was going to kill himself. Stephen says that if he tries to buy a bottle of vodka he is only given a quarter-sized bottle because of his past suicide attempts.

- XL Tangent: The only time Sandi had taken morphine was in Copenhagen when was suffering from a kidney stone. Her partner was embarrassed because she claimed Sandi just lied back saying: "I'm filled with honey." On another recording of QI Jeremy Clarkson was talking about a time when he had a kidney stone and said it was the most painful thing a human being can have. Someone in the audience said that childbirth was more painful. To settle the matter Jeremy asked the studio audience if there was anyone who has been through both. One woman put up her hand and she said that the kidney stone was more painful.

- XL Tangent: The idea of the "Suicide Booth" comes from the film "Soylent Green". They later appear in the cartoon series "Futurama" where they have three options: "quick and painless", "slow and horrible" and "clumsy bludgeoning".

- XL Tangent: In the first TV job Sandi applied for she had to send in her CV and photo. She did not know however it had to be an 8 by 10 glossy photo, and instead she just went to a photo booth at Victoria Station. To make things worse the stool was stuck low, so she sent in a photo of the top of her head. However, because the people casting the show thought it was a joke, so she got the job. Barry Humphries once sent a photo of himself to the actor's directory Spotlight which included the words: "Leather and denim roles preferred." Bill tries to add weird things in his Spotlight listing such as, "Can hover", or "I'm OK around chickens", but none made it in.

- The panel are shown a picture of an animal which is about to kill itself and ask how it does so. The animal is an antechinus; a marsupial which dies after it has sex. This is known as "semelparous" - an act only done once. He mates for 12 hours with one female, then moves onto the next female for another 12 hours and so on. He does not eat or sleep, he uses all of his vital proteins and suppresses is immune system. After a fortnight he is bald, gangrenous, stressed, infected, keels over and dies. Stephen adds the warning: "Russell Brand, take note." (Forfeit: Throwing himself off a cliff)

- XL Tangent: Another animal with a suicidal sex drive is the quoll, a type of marsupial cat. The male subjects the female to bouts of copulation that can last 24 hours, with plenty of biting and screeching. Afterwards the male loses weight, becomes anaemic, the scrotum shrinks, fur falls out, become infested with lice, and dies within a week or two.

- If you challenged someone to a duel, and if the challenger had to choose between hot air balloons, billiard balls, swords or sausages, you had best hope that the challenger chose swords. This is because a sword duel is over once someone has first blood, and serious injury or death is less likely to occur than with the other weapons. The sausages were used as a duel weapon by German pathologist Rudolf Virchow who was challenged by Otto von Bismarck because Virchow disliked his armaments programme. Virchow was the first man to isolate the pathogen behind pork that had gone off, known as Trichinella spiralis, and said that he would inject one sausage with this pathogen and Bismarck would have to pick one of two sausages to eat. If he chose wrongly he would be poisoned to death. Bismarck used his right to withdraw the challenge. Two Frenchmen named Monsieur Grandpre and Monsieur de Pique fought a duel in hot air balloons in 1808 over the affections of a woman. Each was armed with a blunderbuss, de Pique shot first but missed, and then Grandpre shot down de Pique and his second who fell to their deaths. The only billiard ball duel was between Monsieur Lenfant and Monsieur Melfant, who fell out over a game of billiards. They drew straws which Melfant won, and Melfant hit Lenfant with his billiard ball, knocking him out and killing him on the first throw.

- XL Tangent: The first ever female air passenger was in a hot-air balloon. Elizabeth Thible was an opera singer who dressed up as Minerva and sang arias of opera as the fire was fed and the balloon took off. Unfortunately when she landed she sprained her ankle.

- XL: You would resupply your enemy with bullets when they ran out of them to preserve an historical monument. It took place at the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is, 200 years ago when Greece was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. During a rebellion lead by the Greeks and some notable Britons like Lord Byron, the rebels had got a grip on the Ottomans by 1820. The Ottomans were pushed all the way back to the Acropolis, who stationed themselves in the Parthenon. They Ottomans ran out of ammunition, but the 70,000 pieces of marble that make up the Parthenon were held together by lead sheets and iron. The Ottomans then started to take these lead sheets and turn them into shot, but the Greeks were so horrified of what would happen to the Parthenon if all the metal was taken away that they sold their own ammunition to the Ottomans so they could use that instead of destroying the building. Stephen argues that if this is not motivation for the British to give back the Elgin Marbles to Greece then he doesn't know what will.

- A pint of best in 19th century Norfolk was just what the doctor ordered because it contained opium. People in Norfolk had been drinking opium for a long time, then laudanum came along and they drank laudanum with beer, which became known as "Best". Norfolk and parts of Lincolnshire consumed five-and-a-half tonnes of it, more than the rest of the country combined. This was during the "Great Binge" between the 1880s to World War One.

- XL Tangent: During the Great Binge you could by liquid aniseed which acts on dogs the same way catnip acts on cats. As a practical joke you could sprinkle some on your trouser legs and dogs on leashes would follow you, dragging their owners with them.

- Spending-a-Penny Bonus: Sugar-free sweets are not good for because they contain a chemical called lycasin which has a laxative effect. The Amazon page selling sugar-free Haribo Gummy Bears warns that they: "May cause stomach discomfort and/or a laxative effect." The same page has over 250 comments from customers which include: "Stomach discomfort turns out to be a massive understatement!", "Gastrointestinal Armageddon", "Calamitous flatulence", "Trumpets calling the demons back from hell", "Guttural pronouncement so loud it threatened to drown out my own voice" and "Flammable liquid napalm extruding".

- XL Tangent: Bill tried to investigate how many Gummy Bears you could put in a small toy helicopter before you compromised its airborne stability. He could not even get it to fly with just one in.

General Ignorance

- There are no non-venomous snakes. Even grass snakes have a small amount of venom in them. Prof. Brian Fry of the University of Queensland discovered in 2013 that such venom is now used as a kind of lubricant to help snakes swallow their prey. He also showed that the kimono dragon uses venom to kill its prey rather than using a form of bacteria. (Forfeit: Grass snake)

- XL: The fastest mass extinction took place over a period of around 60,000 years. This was the Great Dying that took place 252 million years ago in the Permian period. We are currently in the middle of the sixth mass extinction event, mainly caused by human activity, monocultures and so forth.

- Even if you wanted to you cannot take a bullet for someone because the bullet is travelling too quickly. You have to be able to predict incredibly quickly if someone was going to fire a gun. (Forfeit: Yes)

- XL Tangent: In cricket they have stopped using bowling machines because they do not help. Good batsmen can tell where the ball is going from the angle and shape of the throw.

- The reason people fall over when they have been shot is because they have seen people do it in films. You never fall from being shot unless you know you have been shot, according to the FBI Academy Firearms Training Unit. (Forfeit: Because they've been shot; The impact)

- In Britain it is not wrong to eat people. There are laws against murder, but not against cannibalism. So you could not kill someone and then eat them because that is murder, but you could for example have a kidney removed and eat that.

- XL Tangent: In 2003 the German computer technician Armin Meiwes conspired with a fellow engineer called Bernd Brandes to eat him. Meiwes cut of Brandes penis with his permission. Then Meiwes stabbed Brandes and froze the corpse to eat later, again with permission. Brandes originally asked Meiwes to bite off his penis but he could not do so, so Meiwes used a knife. He tried to eat the severed penis raw, but it was too chewy, so they fired it with salt, pepper, wine and garlic, but it was overdone so they fed it to the dog. Meiwes ate Brandes body over a period of ten months. Meiwes was first found guilty of killing on demand, but then was retried and found guilty of murder.


- Sandi Toksvig: 6 points
- Bill Bailey: -8 points
- Alan Davies: Score not given.
- Jason Manford: -19 points

Broadcast details

Friday 21st November 2014
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 22nd November 2014 9:00pm
45 minute version
Sunday 23rd November 2014 2:30am
45 minute version
BBC2 Wales
Wednesday 8th April 2015 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 7th December 2015 12:00am
60 minute version
Monday 7th December 2015 7:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 18th April 2016 11:30pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 19th April 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 11th June 2016 10:10pm
45 minute version
Friday 15th July 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Friday 15th July 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 12th September 2016 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 13th September 2016 3:00am
45 minute version
Monday 26th December 2016 12:00am
60 minute version
Monday 26th December 2016 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 23rd February 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 22nd September 2017 11:30pm
60 minute version
Sunday 12th November 2017 12:00am
60 minute version
Monday 28th May 2018 10:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 1st June 2018 7:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 13th November 2018 1:30am
60 minute version
Tuesday 7th January 2020 11:00pm Dave
Wednesday 8th January 2020 1:00am Dave
Thursday 2nd July 2020 7:40pm Dave
Saturday 12th December 2020 1:20am Dave
Tuesday 16th March 2021 12:40am Dave
Tuesday 16th March 2021 8:40pm Dave
Monday 27th September 2021 8:20pm Dave
Tuesday 28th September 2021 2:15am Dave
Monday 3rd January 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 4th January 2022 12:40am
60 minute version
Friday 22nd April 2022 12:40am
60 minute version
Friday 22nd April 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 25th May 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 26th May 2022 2:40am
50 minute version
Tuesday 31st May 2022 2:45am
45 minute version
Wednesday 29th June 2022 1:00am
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Bill Bailey Guest
Sandi Toksvig Guest
Jason Manford Guest
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


What would Jack Bauer sound like in London?

The panel discuss what Jack Bauer might sound like if he had to deal with London roadworks.

Featuring: Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Sandi Toksvig & Jason Manford.


Radio Times review

Stephen Fry is absolutely lethal tonight. Partly because that's the theme of this week's show, but also because he's on fire comedically. After a lengthy dissertation about a particular marsupial's energetic but ultimately deadly sex life, he solemnly wags his finger and says, "Russell Brand take note."

Sandi Toksvig, Jason Manford and Bill Bailey join Alan Davies to try to answer questions about laptop fatalities, the perils of sugar-free confectionery, unusual duelling weapons and the possibility of taking a bullet for someone. They also learn a nifty method of extracting a cork that's dropped down inside a glass bottle using a plastic bag. How handy.

Jane Rackham, Radio Times, 21st November 2014

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