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.

  • Due to return for Series V
  • Series R, Episode 1 repeated at 10:35pm on Dave
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 836

Episode menu

Series M - Merriment

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Stephen Fry, Jenny Eclair, Johnny Vegas. Copyright: TalkbackThames

Preview clips


- Each of the panel are given a Christmas card and are asked which of their cards is the most similar to the very first Christmas card sent. Jenny's card features a Roman statue in a Christmas jumper; Johnny's card features a baby drinking champagne; Bill's card features a robin; and Alan's card features a poster for a 1916 production of the pantomime Puss in Boots, depicting an actor who has a remarkable likeness to Alan. The card most like the first ever Christmas card is Johnny's, as the first card depicts a family, including a baby, toasting. The card was designed by John Callcott Horsley of the Royal Academy, and also depicts charitable acts such as feeding the poor and clothing the naked. The origins of robins on cards dates back to when postmen had red-breasted uniforms and thus were nicknamed "robins". The reason for the statue in the jumper is because the Romans invented novelty jumpers for Saturnalia. Correction: Robins on Christmas cards do not represnt postmen as robins appeared on cards before postmen had red-breasted uniforms. This error was correcting in Series O, Episode 9: "O Christmas".

- Tangent: In the last 20 years the number of robins on Christmas cards has dropped by a quarter, but the number of robins in the wild has gone up by nearly a half.

- XL Tangent: It is hard to sex a robin, but it is believed to be connected with their hairline. If the red-breast is V-shaped it is likely to be female, and if it is U-shaped it is likely to be male, but it is still very difficult to tell.

- QI has been broadcasting a message ever since it began which no-one has ever spotted. The theme tune is written in Morse code, which when translated reads as the web address www.alan0andstephenhero.com which contains a special bonus video. The theme is written by Howard Goodall (who also wrote the themes for Blackadder and The Vicar of Dibley), and his colleague Simon Nathan decoded the message, who is in the audience. Other TV shows with Morse code hidden in their music include detective series Morse, where composer Barrington Pheloung hid the names of the murderers in the score; and the theme for Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em which has the title of the show spelt out in Morse code on a piccolo. There is a building in Hollywood which gives out Morse code as well. The top of the Capitol Records building has a light which flashes out the word "Hollywood" constantly. However, it was changed in 2013 to announce Katy Perry's new album Prism and the release date. No-one noticed it.

- Tangent: As the panel talk about the theme tune code a light suddenly explodes. Recording had to be stopped while it was replaced.

- Tangent: In 2004 Morse code made its first addition since World War II, which was code for the @ symbol, which reads as .--.-.

- Tangent: As well as inventing Morse code, Samuel Morse was an expert copyist of paintings, so he painted a picture 6ft by 9ft of the most famous exhibits in the Louvre, so people did who could not afford to go to Paris could see the paintings.

- Tangent: While Stephen is talking about Samuel Morse a fly lands of Bill's hand, which Alan swats and kills.

- The panel are asked to describe the plot of, or to sing a song from, the musical The Bathrooms Are Coming. While the panel are able to improvise their own songs with Bill playing on a keyboard, none of them are able to give a correct answer. The Bathrooms Are Coming was a musical written for the American Standard bathroom company by a Broadway composer. It is an example of an industrial musical, which were popular between 1950 and 1980, which were written for conventions for various companies in the USA, not for the general public. Other industrial musicals include The Sound of Selling, B. F. Goodrich's 1966 Sales Meeting and The Saga of the Dingbat. Around 1955 the USA produced two-thirds of the world's goods.

- XL: The panel are given some lines from the musical and have to guess the company they were made for.

- I can sell a weiner! My school supplies are cleaner! I sell candy! My cold cuts are dandy! - 7-Eleven, 1965.

- Any cola tastes so much colier; Holy water is somewhat holier - Scott paper cups, 1966.

- Though our boss never beats us, for that he'd never do; It always looks as though he does 'cause we are black and blue; With ribbons! Ribbons! Ribbons! Ribbons! - Monroe Calculators, 1967.

- I really enjoyed my appendectomy. Loved my hysterectomy. - Surg-O-Pack (disposable surgical covers and gowns), 1967.

-XL: The music that cats like best is music that is made especially for them. Cat music features bird, mouse and cat noises. Younger cats react to the music more than middle-aged cats. Some cats like the music so much they rub their faces against speakers. The composer of the music is working with the Smithsonian National Zoo to make music for cotton-top tamarins, which normally prefer silence to music.

- XL Tangent: Johnny asks if it is true that cats only meow to humans, not to other cats.

- The panel are all given some ice cream, and are asked (repeatedly and increasingly louder by Stephen as the rest of the panel argue over the ice creams they got) what the biggest nuisance in Victorian theatre was. The answer is going to the toilet - namely the one and only toilet in the entire theatre. In 1837 the Theatre Royal, Newcastle, installed lead lining on the floor of the balcony because urine was dropping down onto the people in the stalls, because people urinated where they sat because there was nowhere else to go. Intervals then helped to promote the installation of more toilets, with the shows taking into account of "Broadway Bladders", which is reportedly 75 minutes long.

- Tangent: Films which had intermissions include Zulu, The Godfather, The Sound of Music. Alfred Hitchcock said: "The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder."

- XL Tangent: The one Stephen remembers the most from his childhood featured a car going towards a cliff, falls off, goes down the cliff face, then it cuts to the intermission, and when it returns the car continues to fall before it eventually begins flying, because the car was "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang".

- XL: The worst person to sit next to in a silent movie is someone who reads the captions out aloud. This was named at the time of the silent movie era as the most annoying thing you could do. The theatres would also post images giving instructions to patrons on how to behave during the film, with captions telling people that loud talking and whistling was not allowed, telling them to applaud with hands only, and to take off large hats that would block the view of the people sitting behind you.

- XL Tangent: Bill says it is great watching films in America, New York especially, because the audience get involved and shout along. Bill went to see The Lord of the Rings and the during the fight scenes the audience were shouting out things like: "Kick that orc's ass!"

- XL Tangent: The "spoiler paradox" states that you are more likely to enjoy a film if you know what is happening.

General Ignorance

- XL: If you imagine it is a moonlit Christmas night in the city and you can see fine, if the moon were to suddenly go behind a cloud it would suddenly become brighter, because the clouds reflect the street light. This happens in both urban and rural areas. The brightest place is Schipluiden, The Netherlands, where they have greenhouses with strong lights in them that are used for growing tomatoes. The sky is 10,000 times bright than the darkest night sky.

- XL: The boys in the NYPD choir do not sing anything, as there is no NYPD choir. When the Pogues made the video for "Fairytale of New York" the band that appear are the pipe band of the New York Police Department, but they did not know the song "Galway Way", so they actual sang "The Mickey Mouse Club" and the footage of them singing was slowed down to fit the words. (Forfeit: Galway Bay)

- XL Tangent: The Pogues get their name from the Irish phrase: "Pog mo thoin", which means: "Kiss my arse". Johnny once went out with Shane MacGowan drinking, during which Johnny fell amd damaged his thumb, which he can now no longer bend properly.

- In Britain the bank holiday it is most likely to snow on is Easter Monday. The average amount of snowy days in December is 3.9 and for March is 4.2.

- Tangent: Jenny once talked to a man who had an open-top sports car who told her that there only about six days a year in which you can put the roof down in your open-top car because of the weather in Britain. The British own more convertibles per capita than any other European country.

- No-one can give a line from the world's first pantomime because they were silent. They were mimes in Roman plays who represented mythological creatures. (Forfeit: He's behind you)


- Alan Davies: 11 points (Alan's 26th victory)
- Johnny Vegas: 8 points
- Bill Bailey: -1 point
- Jenny Eclair: -2 points

Final Magic Trick

- Stephen goes to a large crate, inside of which is a regular suitcase and nothing else. Stephen keeps the crate door open so you can see that it is empty, and rests the suitcase on the top of the crate. He then opens the suitcase and from it he pulls out Scott Penrose, President of the Magic Circle. In order to become a member of the Magic Circle you have to take a test, and because Stephen has been successfully performing a series of magic tricks throughout Series M, Scott awards Stephen by making him a member of the Magic Circle.


The XL version of this episode was broadcast first.

Broadcast details

Saturday 19th December 2015
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 19th December 2015 10:20pm BBC2
Saturday 19th December 2015 11:20pm BBC2 Wales
Saturday 19th December 2015 11:50pm BBC2 Scot
Friday 25th December 2015 9:50pm BBC2
Tuesday 25th October 2016 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 26th October 2016 2:00am
60 minute version
Saturday 17th December 2016 10:25pm
45 minute version
Thursday 2nd February 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 4th July 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 10th October 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 21st December 2017 11:05pm BBC2
Tuesday 26th December 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 27th December 2017 1:00am
60 minute version
Wednesday 7th February 2018 3:00am
60 minute version
Wednesday 17th April 2019 1:00am
75 minute version
Wednesday 17th April 2019 9:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 29th July 2019 12:00am
60 minute version
Monday 29th July 2019 7:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 24th October 2019 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 25th October 2019 2:45am
50 minute version
Sunday 15th December 2019 8:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 16th December 2019 1:40am
65 minute version
Sunday 2nd February 2020 10:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 3rd February 2020 6:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 10th May 2020 10:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 13th May 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 13th May 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 8th September 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 9th September 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 6th November 2021 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 7th November 2021 1:20am
70 minute version
Sunday 13th March 2022 11:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 14th September 2022 1:15am
70 minute version
Wednesday 14th September 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 20th December 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 26th April 2023 8:20pm Dave
Thursday 27th April 2023 12:40am Dave
Sunday 1st October 2023 11:40pm Dave
Monday 25th December 2023 1:20am Dave
Monday 25th December 2023 10:20pm Dave
Saturday 20th January 2024 9:40pm Dave
Tuesday 30th January 2024 12:40am Dave
Friday 24th May 2024 9:00pm Dave
Saturday 25th May 2024 1:20am Dave

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Bill Bailey Guest
Johnny Vegas Guest
Jenny Eclair Guest
Scott Penrose Self
Scott Penrose Master Magician
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Mat Coward Researcher
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Alex Bell Researcher
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
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


Exploding light

The show grinds to halt after a light bulb explodes above the set.

Featuring: Stephen Fry, Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Johnny Vegas & Jenny Eclair.


QI: series M, episode 8 - Merriment review

One of the best episodes of QI I can remember for a while.

Ian Wolf, On The Box, 20th December 2015

Radio Times review

Those QI elves have been busy. We learn that every episode of QI since the start has included a secret coded message that nobody has spotted. And that's not the only bauble: at the end, Stephen Fry gets a (literally) magical surprise gift and it brings such childish joy to his face, it feels like a proper Christmas moment.

Elsewhere, there's a hilarious ad lib from Johnny Vegas when a studio bulb blows, keyboard skills from Bill Bailey, and some improvising around that little-known (but genuine) musical, The Bathrooms Are Coming.

David Butcher, Radio Times, 16th December 2015

Share this page