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 N, Episode 8 - Non Sequiturs

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Miles Jupp, Sandi Toksvig, Deirdre O'Kane, Phill Jupitus. Copyright: TalkbackThames

Preview clips


- This is a "General" show in Series N, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "N".

- XL Tangent: The buzzers are four 'non-secateurs', because one of the elves cannot spell. Miles and Deirdre have scissors, Phill has a knife chopping, and Alan has a man shouting "Cut!". Sandi says she has always wanted to be a victim in Midsomer Murders, so the camera would pan onto a rose bush and she would be lying dead with a trug and a pair of secateurs in her hand.


- You can get urine off a nun when you are friends with someone high up in the Catholic Church. Women who go through the menopause have urine that contains high levels of hormones that can be used to make medications to increase female fertility. In 1960, medical student Bruno Lunefeld was looking for a source of menopausal women who would be happy to donate their urine. By chance, Lunefeld met the Pope's nephew, and the Vatican ended up donating nuns' urine to him. Lunefeld said: "I was lucky enough to have a unique connection to an important authority with access to a huge supply of post-menopausal urine."

- Tangent: In the 18th century, women who wore long frocks used to have "the equivalent of a gravy boat on a ribbon" so they could urinate during long church services.

- Tangent: In the USA it is possible to rent a nun. The Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco run an "Adopt a Sister" programme, in which you donate about $500 to the sister's retirement needs, and then she will pray for you every day, saving you the bother.

- XL Tangent: In 1844, a French nun began to meow like a cat, and soon the other nuns in the convent joined in, until every nun in the convent was meowing for hours on end and they couldn't stop. They only ceased when a group of soldiers threatened to beat them up with iron rods.

- Tangent: Robert Browning wrote a poem called Pippa Passes in 1841 that went: "Owls and bats, cowls and twats; Monks and nuns, in a cloister's moods; Adjourn to the oak-stump pantry!" However, Browning thought that a twat was a nun's hat, because he misunderstood a 1660 satirical poem called Vanity of Vanities, which goes: "They talked of his having a Cardinal's hat; They'd send him as soon an Old Nun's Twat".

- Steve Mould from The Festival Of The Spoken Nerd demonstrates the abilities of D3o, a smart material, by wrapping some around Alan's fingers and whacking it with a hammer. Alan's fingers are perfectly fine because D3o is a non-Newtonian fluid, meaning that when you strike it, this normally fluid material becomes solid for a moment. You can make your own non-Newtonian fluid called "oobleck", which is cornflour and water mixed together and named after the gooey, green rain from Bartholomew and the Oobleck by Dr. Seuss. Its effectiveness is demonstrated by Sandi, who takes two condoms with a raw egg each inside them. One of the condoms is filled with water and when dropped from a height smashes; the other is filled with oobleck and when dropped the egg is protected.

- You would like to be pulled off by a Newark man because it was a steam-powered automaton from Newark, New Jersey. The Newark steam man was invented in 1868 by Zadoc P. Dederick and Isaac Grass, and was designed to replace horses in pulling carriages. It was a machine in the form of a man, which worked by opening his jacket, putting coal in his chest, and when fired up smoke would come out of its top hat-shaped chimney. While they caught the public's imagination, they could not be produced cheaply enough to manufacture on a large scale. Among the other automaton ideas at the time were one by Canadian George Moore in 1893, who created a 6ft tall steam-powered android, that walked at 5mph, had spurs in the bottom of its feet, and ejected steam from a cigar in its mouth. It was referred to by journalists as the "Iron Man", although it was made out of tin. Sadly, this didn't work so well because it had to be attached to a pole to move, so it just walked in circles.

- XL Tangent: In Manhattan they say: "The good news is there's light at the end of the tunnel, the bad news is the light's coming from Newark."

- Tangent: Another use of steam power was the steam-powered vibrator. The "manipulator" was invented in 1869, and women used it in doctors' surgeries. It used a coal-fired boiler and a turbine. It was a respected medical instrument until the 1920s.

- XL Tangent: In 2016, there was a study that found that humans get aroused even when touching the naughty bits of androids. There was a French robot called Nao that was programmed to tell people to touch its body parts, and while it was being touched scientists measured the skin conductance. When people touched the "inaccessible regions" such as the buttocks, genitalia and eyeballs of Nao, people became more aroused than when they touched the hands and feet.

- XL: If a woodpecker would peck wood, how much wood would a woodpecker peck before its eyes popped out? They could probably go on the ages and ages. Woodpeckers peck into wood 20 times per second at 15mph, but they can survive any bodily damage because of the nictitating membrane, a translucent third eyelid which acts like a seatbelt for the eyes. This membrane is also used by birds to protect their eyes from getting things into them while flying; they can also be used underwater so they can see without damaging the eyes; aardvarks close these membranes while eating so termites can't bite their eyes; polar bears use the membranes as sunglasses; and sharks use them to prevent pray from poking them in the eyes. Giraffes don't have these membranes because they can use their long tongues to clean out their eyeballs. The human nictitating membranes are the little pink bits in the corners of the eyes nearest the nose, but have no function. The only primate that has a functioning nictitating membrane is the Calabar angwantibo, better known as a potto. When the female signals she is ready to mate, she suspends herself upside-down from a branch, then the male joins her and they copulate face-to-face swinging upside-down. When confronted by a predator, they roll into a ball and keep their mouth open under their armpit, so if the predator attacks them the potto can bite it and won't let go.

- XL Tangent: There is no truth to the legend that sneezing with your eyes open would make them pop out. There are no muscles behind the eyes that contract when you sneeze.

- XL: The thing that begins with N, feels like a snake when wet and caused women to riot in the streets is nylons. After the end of World War Two, women were so excited about being able to buy nylon stockings again that it caused the Nylon Riots of 1945-46. In Pittsburgh, 40,000 women queued for 16 blocks to fight over 13,000 pairs of nylons. In Chicago, police were called to break up a mob of 1,200 women wanting nylons outside a shop. One newspaper headline at the time read: "Women risk life and limb in bitter battle over nylons." When nylon stockings were first introduced, people said they felt like snakes when they got wet, some people thought they would give you cancer of the legs, they thought they melted in hot water, and that car fumes would strip the nylons off your legs.

- XL Tangent: When Sandi was at school she had to wear two pairs of underpants: one pair was underneath her tights, and then another pair was over the top of them. Deirdre claims the reason for this is that if you were in a convent and wore patent leather shoes, the nuns thought people could see your underwear reflected in the shoes.

- XL Tangent: Nylon was first used to make toothbrush bristles. Before that, they used horsehair.

- XL Tangent: Alan once read a story about a woman who wore nylon stockings to protect herself from sunburn, but the sun actually melted the nylons into her skin and gave her third degree burns. Phill then acts up, pretending to be the host of an old-fashioned horror show, saying that this week's story is in the Bahamas. Alan says the story actually took place in Blackpool.

- The panel are asked to impersonate a trout faking an orgasm. When two trout prepare to spawn they violently quiver before releasing the eggs and sperm respectively. In 2001, a study found that out of 69 of 117 pairings the female did not release her eggs despite going through the motions, thus tricking the mate into releasing the sperm. The female does this to save herself for better trout, and it allows multiple males to deposit her sperm into her before she releases the eggs.

- The reason why Squirrel Nutkin was such a lying bastard was because he dug so many fake holes in order to fool others as to where his nuts were. Most squirrels will dig fake holes to trick potential thieves. A squirrel will dig, pretend to place a nut in the hole when in fact the nut is in their mouth, and cover the hole up. They also re-cache, so they bury nuts and then return to the hole soon afterwards, dig up the nuts and bury them somewhere else. They sometimes do this five times with the same stash. In 2008, a study showed that almost a quarter of all squirrel food burials were faked. There has been debate since at least 1884 as to whether squirrels remember where they hid their nuts or whether they just hide as many as they can and then return to a likely place.

- XL Tangent: Squirrels are not fussy as to which nuts to eat. They will eat acorns, walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and almonds. Most of the world's almonds, 80% of them, come from California. They use a huge amount of water to grown them, an amount that is enough to supply 75% of the state's human population. 1.1 gallons of water is used to grow a single almond, and you need 1.7 million colonies of honeybees (80 billion bees in total) to pollinate all the almond trees. Beekeepers thus make money renting out their bees to pollinate the trees. The cost is one cent to rent one bee for a month.

- Tangent: In 2015, a squirrel got locked into the bar of the Honeybourne Railway Club, Worcestershire, for a day. The squirrel got drunk and caused £300 worth of damage. Club secretary Sam Boulter said that all he could find was broken glasses, bottles knocked off shelves, beer all over the floor, money and straws scattered everywhere, and he found the squirrel hiding behind a box of crisps looking "unsteady and worse for wear."

- Alan and Miles play a game of "Pin the Tail on the Numbat", while Phill and Deirdre have a cup of tea. However, Alan and Phill are both wearing goggles that make you see upside-down, but actually in a way the goggles are correcting their vision. When light enters the eyes the eyeballs deliver the image upside-down, and the brain processes the image. The goggles show you the image as it is shown when it hits your retinas. If you wore the goggles for a few weeks your brain would get used to it, and it would take a day for your eyes to readjust when you had taken the goggles off. There is a theory that new-born babies see the world upside-down for a short period of time, before their brain learns to flip the images. Among the things babies can do that adults cannot do is recognise different monkeys just by their faces. Adults cannot do this, and this is known as, "perceptual narrowing".

- - Tangent: Numbats are Australian marsupials that eat 20,000 termites a day. If you disturb one, they tut. They sleep for 15 hours a day, and protect their burrows by climbing in head-first, reversing out, and wedging the entrance shut with their tough bottoms.

- The first rule of Fat Club is that you have to weigh at least 200lbs (14st, 4lb). They existed all over the USA in the late 19th century and early 20th century. At its peak, the New England Fat Men's Club had 10,000 members. Their activities involved eating huge meals, followed by physical activity such as leapfrog. Britain had similar clubs, where if you were underweight you had to pay a charity fine. (Forfeit: Don't talk about Fat Club)

- XL Tangent: The French had Fat Clubs which were called "Les Cent Kilos", meaning "100 kilos", which is 220lb, thus the French clubs were even fatter. Joining these clubs was a sign of status, because people thought you had to be wealthy to be that fat. In the 1908 US Presidential race between William Taft and William Bryan, both of the candidates were obese. A Chicago senator at the time thought there should be a law that you had to weigh at least 200lbs to hold political office, because a big country needed a big president.

- Tangent: Gifts for fat people at the time of the Fat Clubs included spring-loaded roller skates, that made you travel faster the more you weighed. A 150lb person went at 6mph, a 200lb person went at 10mph, and if you were less than 100lb the roller skates didn't move.

- XL Tangent: A 2015 study found that men eat twice as much when they are in the company of women. Alan and his wife find it disconcerting when couples in restaurants don't speak for a long time. Sandi was in a restaurant and overheard a couple saying just one thing: "Well, we sold the foot spa when Barbara had to give up waitressing."

General Ignorance

- The ones in charge of a pack of wolves are the parents, as wolf packs are normally families. The concept of the alpha male was popularised by a wildlife biologist named David Mech in the 1960s, who has spent the rest of his career trying to convince people that he was wrong, because he studied captive wolves rather than wild ones.

- XL Tangent: The caribou anti-wolf strategy isn't working as well as it might because the caribou moved away from wolves to protect themselves, only to be then hunted by black bears in the new area, and thus are losing even more caribou.

- The panel try to do an impression of a gun with a silencer being fired. The actual sound should just be like a normal gun, because a silencer doesn't make much difference. It certainly doesn't silence a gun totally, and they are no longer called silencers. In the UK they are called "moderators" and in the US they are called "suppressors". Because they can be easily heard, criminals never bother with them. (Forfeit: Pfff!)

- XL Tangent: The silencer was invented in 1902 by Sir Hiram Percy Maxim, who was the son of the man who invented the machine gun. He was an American who came to Britain and made most of his inventions in a garage in West Norwood, Surrey. This garage belonged to Sandi's great-grandfather, Field John Jackson Trickett. He and Maxim worked together, and when they tested the machine gun they would warn their neighbours by putting an advert in the local paper. Also Maxim invented and Trickett built the captive flying machine, which is an amusement ride you can still go on in Blackpool.

- The thing that Tommy Cooper wore on his head was a tarboosh, which comes from Egypt, rather than a fez, which is Turkish. The fez is shorter and wider than the tarboosh. According to legend, Cooper got his tarboosh because he forgot to put on his helmet that he normally wore on stage, so he stole a tarboosh off a waiter's head. Later in life, Cooper was in Cairo and tried a tarboosh on in a local market, and the seller who didn't recognise him said: "Just like that." Cooper asked why he said, and the seller replied: "Because every single English person who ever comes here tries one and says that, and you're the very first person who hasn't said it." Also, the tarboosh is not a hat but a cap, because it has no rim. (Forfeit: A fez).

- The panel are given a pair of sentences and are asked which is spelt correctly:

a) This has been an evening of non-sequiturs. - Correct.

b) This has been an evening of non-secateurs.

a) In computing, half a byte is called a nibble. - Correct.

b) In computing, half a bite is called a nibble.

a) A person dyed on the set of Ben-Hur (1959). - Correct. There was a pond and the water was too brown and murky, so they put lots of blue dye in it, but in a battle scene an extra fell into the pond and was dyed blue. MGM kept the extra on the payroll until he returned to his normal colour.

b) A person died on the set of Ben-Hur (1959). (Forfeit: B)


- Miles Jupp: 2 points
- Alan Davies: -2 points
- Phill Jupitus: -5 points
- Deirdre O'Kane: -16 points

Broadcast details

Friday 16th December 2016
30 minutes
  • Tuesday 7th June 2016, 16:00 at The London Studios


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Wednesday 12th July 2017 10:00pm BBC2
Thursday 2nd November 2017 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 11th March 2018 12:00am
60 minute version
Thursday 24th May 2018 11:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 23rd June 2018 8:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 24th June 2018 6:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 12th September 2018 1:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 30th December 2018 1:00am
60 minute version
Thursday 23rd April 2020 1:10am
70 minute version
Sunday 9th August 2020 10:40pm
60 minute version
Thursday 8th October 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 9th October 2020 2:25am
50 minute version
Friday 29th January 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Saturday 30th January 2021 2:30am
45 minute version
Tuesday 11th May 2021 10:00pm
45 minute version
Saturday 19th June 2021 11:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 20th June 2021 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 12th August 2021 9:00pm Dave
Sunday 3rd April 2022 3:00am Dave
Sunday 3rd April 2022 8:40pm Dave
Tuesday 14th June 2022 8:20pm Dave
Friday 4th November 2022 7:40pm Dave
Saturday 5th November 2022 2:15am Dave
Monday 14th November 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 15th November 2022 6:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 8th December 2022 7:40pm Dave
Friday 9th December 2022 2:25am Dave
Thursday 26th January 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 27th January 2023 5:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 10th March 2023 12:40am Dave
Friday 7th April 2023 10:40pm
60 minute version
Monday 5th June 2023 10:40pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 12th July 2023 12:20am Dave
Sunday 27th August 2023 8:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 28th November 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 29th November 2023 1:20am
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Phill Jupitus Guest
Miles Jupp Guest
Deirdre O'Kane (as Deidre O'Kane) Guest
Steve Mould (as Festival Of The Spoken Nerd) Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anne Miller Researcher
Stevyn Colgan Researcher
Ben Dupré Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
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
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


Alan Davies and Phill Jupitus try out upside down goggles

Fancy a game of pin the tail on the numbat, or just a cup of tea - while wearing upside down goggles?

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus, Miles Jupp & Deidre O'Kane.

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