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 recorded.
Series P, Episode 4 is repeated on Dave today at 1pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Dermot O'Leary, Stephen Fry, Cariad Lloyd, Phill Jupitus. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series M, Episode 10 - Making A Meal Of It

Further details


- The panel are shown a menu and are asked what is missing from it. The menu lists "tortoise" 69 times. The answer is two more tortoises, as there were 71 tortoises eaten in what is the world's oldest known feast. Archaeologists found the tortoise shells as well as a female shaman's body next to them. The tortoises were roasted. (Forfeit: Hare)

- XL Tangent: There are three tortoises in London Zoo, the oldest of which is about 90 years old. Dermot asks if Charles Darwin had a tortoise that died recently, which results in some old QI facts, including how Darwin and the crew on the Beagle ate all the giant tortoises on board because they tasted so good, and when Darwin was at Cambridge University he was a member of a club which specialised in eating rare and unusual animals.

- Tangent: Cariad jokes about having to cook tortoises by pricking the shells with a fork like you do with a microwavable meal. Stephen says he is always unsure how many times he needs to prick the packaging, leading Phill to say that he likes the idea of Stephen just eating a microwavable meal. Alan is annoyed by his microwave making constant bleeping noises when it has finished making his meals, as well as the noises made by his other electrical appliances like his fridge and washing machine.

- XL Tangent: The first menu discovered by archaeology was in Ancient Egypt. It was for the celebration of the birth of twins, one of whom became Ramses II. However, the menu was not for the diners, but for the kitchens. The first record of a menu for diners comes from 18th century France.

- The panel are now shown a photograph of some male diners from the early 20th century and are asked why you would not want to share a meal with them. The reason is that they were part of the "poison club", a group of volunteers set up by the US Department of Agriculture to test food additives, who were paid in meals. For example, between October 1902 and July 1903 they experimented with eating borax. Their Christmas menu was: "applesauce, borax, soup, borax, turkey, borax, borax, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, turnips, borax, chipped beef, cream gravy, cranberry sauce, celery, pickles, rice pudding, milk, bread and butter, tea, coffee, little borax." Borax is used today as a detergent, a fire retardant and an anti-fungal compound. There is no record of any member of the poison club dying from what they ate, but they had medical checks. In 1906 Congress passed the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food And Drug Act because of the poison club's dining.

- The thing that likes to feast on horse manure, rancid pickled mudfish, Thai Boy shrimp, and Big Cock shrimp paste is the purple emperor butterfly. These butterflies normally live high-up in trees, but in midsummer they come down to eat at cowpats. Because these butterflies are so admired, particularly in Northamptonshire, a picnic is spread out for them. The butterflies like this possibly because of the sodium content, but no-one is really sure.

- Tangent: Dermot is married to a Norwegian, and when Dermot went to visit his in-laws he was given a traditional Norwegian fish known as lutefisk, a form of jellified cod which is buried and dried out. Dermot ate it and found it to be disgusting, but he was worried about offending his in-laws so he ate it quickly. His mother-in-law thought that Dermot liked it and gave him some more. After he ate this he then confessed that he didn't like it, to which his in-laws said that they also hated it, but they just served it because Dermot was there.

- XL: The worst place to be if you are not a morning person is the International Space Station, because it orbits around the Earth every 90 minutes at 17,500mph, so you get 15 mornings in a 24-hour-period.

- XL Tangent: Dermot did a TV show about the International Space Station in which he interviewed astronaut Luca Parmitano, who almost drowned in his own spacesuit. The cooling fluid started leaking into his helmet during a five-hour spacewalk. Just as his crew said that they needed to get him back inside the ISS the sun went down, so he was in total darkness. Dermot asked Parmitano how he was able not to panic, to which Parmitano said: "It's just training." Astronauts are trained in the world's largest swimming pool before going out, and he could feel his way around the ISS. Dermot's favourite ISS story was that when it was built half of it was constructed by the Americans and the other half by the Russians. Thus the two halves had to link 250 miles above the Earth, and as Dermot described it, "One half has to be the female, one half has to be the male", so the two halves dock together as they if they were mating. However, neither the Americans nor the Russians wanted to build the "female" half. It therefore had to be redesigned to connect with a monkey grip.

- XL Tangent: When brushing your teeth in space you cannot spit the toothpaste out, so you have to swallow it or spit into a towel. Instead of showering, you have to use wet wipes. Phill compares this to Glastonbury, where often the showers are so busy people will instead use wet wipes to clean themselves. In part of East London this is known as a "cat's lick wash". Phill asks if at Glastonbury they used trained cats.

- XL Tangent: The first Briton in space came from Mars. Helen Sharman worked at the company that made Mars Bars before she worked for the space agency. She worked on the team that made the Mars Bar ice cream. She decided to become an astronaut after hearing an advert on her car radio which said: "Astronauts wanted. No previous experience necessary."

- There are two things you can get from a kangaroo's nipple: full-fat milk and semi-skimmed milk. Baby kangaroos, joeys, look like maggots when they are first born, have to crawl into the pouch, and the mother's nipples are inside the pouch. However, there might be an older kangaroo in the pouch. Female kangaroos can have two joeys, which are completely different ages and have completely different needs. Therefore the nipples can tell if the joey is young and needs a form of semi-skimmed milk, or an older joey that needs a much thicker milk. The nipples tell by the power of the suction.

- Tangent: Alan once saw a joey in a wildlife park that got a bit spooked by all the tourists, so it jumped into its mother pouch headfirst, and then Alan could see the joey legs wiggle in the sack, trying to position itself.

- XL Tangent: The mammal with the most nipples is a tenrec from Madagascar which has 29 nipples.

- When human mothers give suck to their infants they feed two species: one is the baby, and other is a form of bacteria in the baby's stomach. Human breastmilk contains oligosaccharides that the baby cannot digest, but are fed on by the bacteria that help the baby survive.

- Magic Trick: Stephen takes out five glasses, each of increasing size. The smallest cup is full of milk while the others are empty. Stephen takes the smallest cup and pours the milk into the second smallest cup. However, the second smallest cup is filled right to the top, so Stephen has produced more milk. Stephen then pours this into the middle cup, and again more milk is produced, and he continues until he fills the largest cup of all, right to the top with milk. Stephen then pours the milk from the largest glass into the four smaller ones to prove that he had more milk than he had at the start.

- The reason why five royalist men from Milton failed to eat their own buttocks was because there was too much blood lost. These Cavaliers during the English Civil War era want to prove how loyal they were by having a toast involving blood rather than wine or beer. In order to get the blood, one man placed his buttocks on a gridiron while a second sliced it off with a sword. However, the man lost a lot more blood than they were expecting and it ended up going horribly wrong. Their wives were furious when they found out.

- XL Tangent: Milton used to be in Berkshire but is now in Oxfordshire. The programme believes that the pub where the incident took place is now the one known as the Plum Pudding, but at the time of the event was call the Dog, and was later also renamed the Red Lion and the Admiral Benbow.

- XL: The most expensive lump of meat in the world is an art exhibit in Japan. It dates from the Qing Dynasty, and is a piece of pork belly rendered in jasper. It is nearly 6cm tall and drew 84,000 people in one small exhibition. However, the Qing Dynasty jadeite cabbage drew an even larger audience, which is in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Over a quarter of a million mobile phone souvenirs were sold of these food exhibits.

- XL Tangent: Stephen wondered if jadeite cabbage was supposed to funny, so he invited Jaing Kun, the most famous comedian in China, onto the show to ask him. Jaing, who is sitting in the audience, say it is not funny.

General Ignorance

- There is a lot of sugar in a sugar-free Tic Tac. In fact, it is nearly all sugar. However, it is "sugar-free" according to the limits set by the US Food and Drug Administration. The laws say that if there is only half a gram of sugar in a serving it is sugar-free, but the company that makes them say that just one Tic Tac is a serving. According to the company's website: "Tic TacĀ® mints do contain sugar as listed in the ingredients statement. However, since the amount of sugar per serving is less than half a gram FDA labelling requirements permit the nutrition facts to state that there are zero grams of sugar per serving." (Forfeit: None)

- XL: When you lose weight, most of the fat is exhaled. The body breaks down the fat cells and metabolises the compounds into triglycerides, which are made of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. For every 10kg of fat lost, 8.4kg is breathed out. The rest is turned into fatty water which is excreted as either urine or sweat.

- The Goliath bird-eating spider only very rarely eats birds. It gets its name from when the first person to observe one noticed it eating a hummingbird, but they mostly eat worms. They are a form of tarantula from South America.

- Tangent: Cariad is arachnophobic and gets scared of the footage played of the spider. Phill who has had treatment to cure his arachnophobia, starts to help Cariad but letting her hold his hand, but then scares her by pretending his hand is a spider and moving his fingers.

- If Cariad, or anyone else were to be bitten by a snake, the thing you should is drive to the nearest hospital that has anti-venom. You should also either take the snake or a photograph of it, so the doctors know which poison they need to cure. (Forfeit: Suck out the venom; Make a tourniquet)

- XL Tangent: Alan's father got bitten by an adder on a golf course. Alan's step-sister, who is a GP, said that that it wasn't a snake bite, just a scratch from a bramble. However, his father's leg went black with the poison and nearly came off. Alan's aunt went to the golf club, asked the groundsman if any adders were on the course, the groundsman said that adders had been reintroduced to the area.


- Phill Jupitus: 4 points
- Cariad Lloyd: 0 points
- Dermot O'Leary: -10 points
- Alan Davies: -16 points

Broadcast details

Friday 8th January 2016
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Phill Jupitus Guest
Cariad Lloyd Guest
Dermot O'Leary Guest
Scott Penrose Master Magician
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
Anna Ptaszynski Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Sohail Shah Executive Producer


It happened one time!

The Goliath bird-eating spider is named after a chance occurrence.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, Phill Jupitus, Cariad Lloyd, Dermot O'Leary.


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