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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series R returning soon
Series R, Episode 7 is repeated today at 9pm.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Rich Hall, Sandi Toksvig, Susan Calman, Josh Widdicombe. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series O, Episode 10 - Origins And Openings

Tune in to hear what Mr First thought of Mr Second - and much more. With Susan Calman, Rich Hall and Josh Widdicombe.

Further details


- The panel are asked to act out the opening to the film All Together Passionately. It is the translation of the Italian title of The Sound of Music, so they should be singing. When the film was first released in South Korea it was so popular that one cinema owner in Seoul made the film shorter by cutting out all the musical numbers in order to show it more often.

- Tangent: Susan never flies but goes everywhere by train, and has to be careful about which films she watches in case they have 'naughty scenes'. Rich asks if people cry at films or even adverts if they watch them on a plane.

- Tangent: When Josh admits to never having seen The Sound of Music Sandi and Susan gasp in horror. Susan tries to sing "Sixteen Going On Seventeen", to which Sandi replies that it sounds like that but with a tune. Sandi once met Julie Andrews, and says it was the only time in her life she's been completely speechless. Alan suggests it was because Andrews wouldn't shut up, and pretends to be her constantly talking about the film.

- XL Tangent: In 2004, The Sun reported that they saw a leaked document saying that in the event of a nuclear bomb going off, official advice would be to stay indoors and watch television. BBC bunkers were to broadcast "The Sound of Music" for 100 days, or until we're all dead.

- The panel are shown some other original movie title translations:

- Please Don't Touch the Old Women: the Italian name for The Producers.

- Eleven Men and a Secret: the Brazilian name for Ocean's Eleven.

- Don't Open That Door!: the Italian name for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

- His Great Device Makes Him Famous: the Chinese name for Boogie Nights.

- XL: The panel try it the other way around and think of the foreign-language titles for films.

- Jaws: In France, it's called "The Teeth from The Sea".

- Free Willy: In China, it's called "A Very Powerful Whale Runs to Heaven".

- Bad Santa: In the Czech Republic, it's called "Santa is a Pervert".

- Die Hard: In Germany, it's called "Die Slowly"; in Greece it's "Very Hard to Die"; and in Norway it's "Action Skyscarper".

- XL Tangent: SpongeBob Squarepants was originally going to be called "SpongeBob Ahoy", but the name had to be changed as it was already copyrighted, being the name of a mop.

- XL Tangent: The working title for The Lion King was "King of the Jungle", but it had to be changed as there are no lions in the jungle.

- XL: The most original thing in the 1831 book On Naval Timber and Arboriculture by Scotsman Patrick Matthew was natural selection. He had some of the original ideas of natural selection being the mechanism for evolution, but Darwin claimed to have no idea that Matthew had these ideas when he wrote On The Origin of the Species. In 1860, Matthew read a review of On The Origin of the Species which said: "Darwin professes to have discovered the existence and the modus operandi of natural selection". Matthew wrote to complain, saying the he had already written about this, to which Darwin replied: "I had no idea, I've never, ever read your work." Not only did Matthew get the idea of natural selection first, but lots of his ideas were proved to be more correct. Aside from Matthew and Darwin, the other person to have independently discovered natural selection was Alfred Russel Wallace, who had the idea five years before Darwin. Wallace wrote an essay, and then Darwin quickly wrote On The Origin of the Species in order to make sure that he got his ideas out before anyone else. Darwin emphasised competition between individuals, while Wallace emphasised environmental pressures, and both are probably right.

- XL Tangent: Rich asks that if all three of these men proposed natural selection, why do they have hair coming out of their ears. Susan replies that sometimes personal grooming falls by the wayside and that she has stopped plucking her toe hair.

- XL Tangent: After Darwin published On The Origin of the Species he gave the original manuscript to his children to use as scrap drawing paper. The only surviving pages are ones that have been drawn and written on, including a short story called "The Fairies on the Mountain", about two fairies who travel to the sun and find that life has adapted to the environment.

- Mr. First thought Mr. Second was a bitter rival. Omero Catan, nicknamed "Mr. First" claimed to be the first person to have attended over 500 opening events. His brother Michael sometimes took his place however, and Michael became known as "Mr. Second". The two eventually became rivals. When Omero was 13 he heard of a family friend who had been the first to cross Brooklyn Bridge when it opened in 1883. The following year, Omero became the first American passenger on the Graf Zeppelin, and the first American to cross the Atlantic in it in a journey lasting four-and-a-half days. Omero later set up camp outside the Lincoln Tunnel for four days so he could be the first to drive through; he was the first person to buy a token on the Eighth Avenue subway; the first person to skate on the Rockefeller Ice Rink; the first person to drive across the Hudson Tappan Zee Bridge; and the first person to put a quarter in a New York parking meter. When asked if he would like to be the first man on the Moon, Omero said that he, "wouldn't have the nerve" to do it. In 1945, the third Lincoln Tunnel opened, but Omero was in the UK at the time, so Michael took his place. Michael then stood in more regularly until the papers gave them equal status, then Michael became Mr. First, resulting in Omero thinking that Michael was trying to steal the limelight. Hollywood offered the brothers a movie, but Omero rejected it because he didn't want equal billing with Michael. Omero's last first was a drive through the newly opened I-595 road from Fort Lauderdale International Airport to the Everglades.

- XL Tangent: The panel are shown a picture of Adam and Eve and are asked what is wrong with it. These include a fact from the very first televised QI, which is that Adam would not have a belly button, but the picture depicts him with one. Also, they are eating apples, which are not mentioned in the Bible and no-one knows what the 'forbidden fruit' was. Plus, the snake has a human face.

- XL Tangent: In Omero Catan's last 20 years of his life, he and Michael lived just 20 minutes apart but wouldn't speak to each other.

- XL Tangent: The panel are asked if they had achieved any firsts. Susan says she was the first person ever to get 100% in the Currys electrical superstore exam. She was in charge of microwaves and vacuum cleaners with an overall ambit for white goods. She went to Newcastle for a training course and she had to sit an exam that covered not only the goods themselves but also positive mental attitude. In the exam she wore a cravat and a badge saying: "Susan, happy to help". Josh claims he is the first person to put a whole packet of Polos in his mouth (having taken them out of the packet first). Rich says he was the first person to Google himself to see if he was still alive, after a dormitory at Boston University also called "Rich Hall" caught fire. Alan says he hasn't done any firsts, but someone did send him a link to a website saying that he had died in 1997. Sandi was the first person to do stand-up in Stockholm, performing on the converted Royal Yacht Britannia. She performed to complete silence, but when she finished the whole audience applauded. Afterwards, the organiser said they didn't want to interrupt her with their laughter.

- XL Tangent: Rich asks why people want to be the first person on Mars, and proposes it is just because they can dominate every conversation afterwards. They also wonder why we should go when all it has is some water. Susan says she would rather go to a planet that had Angel Delight on it, leading Sandi to ask if she has ever set fire to Angel Delight. This can be achieved by putting a tea light on the floor and sprinkling the powder from a height, causing phosphorescence.

- There are various worst things that can happen when you open something. These are examples of terrible opening nights.

- At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics there will be no doves because they were banned after the 1988 Seoul Olympics when the doves perched on the saucer containing the Olympic flame, rather than fly out of the stadium, and thus several birds were roasted.

- The opening night of BBC Two failed because of a power cut. To publicise the launch they used a graphic of a kangaroo representing BBC One and a joey in the pouch representing BBC Two, so for the opening night they decided to get some real kangaroos in the studio. The kangaroos ended up trapped in a lift when the power cut occurred, and they went berserk.

- Honore de Balzac's play Les Ressources de Quinola opened to a completely empty house on 19th March, 1842. In attempt to create a buzz about the play he made it known that the show had sold out; rather than creating a clamour for tickets, the public thought that there was no point in trying if none were available.

- XL Tangent: If you are a performer at the Edinburgh Fringe you are contracted to perform your show even if only one person turns up to see it. Susan had a friend who, at one point, was performing to one person, and as she turned around to get a prop saw the punter sprinting out of the room. Alan once went to see Arthur Smith doing a Fringe show that cost 50p to enter, and as the audience entered he offered everyone £1 to go.

- When Disneyland first opened on 17th July, 1955, the day became known as Black Sunday because so much went wrong: there were 15,000 gatecrashers because the tickets were easy to counterfeit; someone put a ladder up against a boundary hedge in the parking lot and offered people to climb into the park for $5; the asphalt had only been poured at 6am that morning so all the guests' shoes got stuck in it; a tiger and a panther broke loose in a circus parade and had a fight; and there was a plumber's strike, so they had to chose between drinking fountains and flushing toilets.

- Tangent: Susan claims that the worst thing to see when you open something is herself on a train toilet, which did happen when a man opened the train toilet door that she hadn't locked properly. The biggest problem however, was that because Susan is so short her legs were swinging. Sandi once took a five-day long train journey to see her aunt in California, and to pass the time she would flush the toilet and run to the back of the train where you could see all the toilet paper being ejected from it.

- Tangent: Equity rules say that a show can be cancelled if the audience is smaller than the cast. Alan once did a show at Wilsden Library Centre, with Bill Bailey in the Rubber Bishops (a duo), Bob Mills and someone else. There were seven people in the audience meaning they had to perform, but a couple then asked them if it would help if they left. They said it would, so the couple left and the gig got cancelled.

- XL Tangent: When Pinocchio premiered in 1940, one US cinema decided to hire 11 dwarves to dance around in Pinocchio costumes on the roof to entertain and entice people. However, it was a very hot day so they gave the performers beer to cool them down. By three o'clock they were belching loudly and playing cards in the nude. They refused to dress or come down, so the police climbed onto the roof and all eleven were taken away in pillow cases.

- The art of folding paper into shapes without cutting it comes from Germany. Origami uses white paper, which can be folded and cut. German kindergartens use paper that is uncut and is coloured on one side, and this came into Japan when the country opened its borders in 1860. Thus what we generally consider origami today in fact has German roots. (Forfeit: Japan)

- Sandi gives origami structures to the panel. Josh has a jumping frog, Rich a jackrabbit, Susan an elephant and Alan a white whale. Sandi has a $1 bill folded into a heart badge. As they put them away, Rich shouts: "Look out, a car", and crushes his jackrabbit with a bottle. (Forfeit: Blue whale)

- XL Tangent: The panel are also given origami sunglasses, but you can't see out of them; and origami boomerangs to throw. Alan is the best at throwing them.[i]

- If you have oysters, ox horns, wood and walrus penis you plan to make a window. The windowpane oyster is used to make windows in the Philippines, and the military is interested in using them to make bulletproof visors. Wood can be boiled in water and chemicals to remove the colour, and it is covered in resin to make it stronger so it can used to make a window. In Medieval times, ox horns were used for windows by soaking the horns in water for three months. The walrus penis is used in Arctic dwellings, by being stretched and then used like cling film.

- [i]XL Tangent: The litre of light is an environmentally friendly and cheap way of providing light in the roofs of small houses, which works by cutting a small hole in the roof and sticking a large plastic bottle full of water into the hole so half the bottle sticks out at each end. The bottle acts as a prism, with 40 to 60 watts of sunlight refracted into the house.

- XL Tangent: The largest window in the world is the rose window in Notre Dame Cathedral. The world's largest passenger aircraft windows, to be made in 2018, are going to be four-and-a-half feet by a foot-and-a-half. Josh says Susan can fit through that. Susan is so small she can stand up completely straight in the back of a London black cab.

- The first job that will be done exclusively by robots is rectal teaching. Currently the UK has just one registered rectal teaching assistant, whose backside proctologists are taught on so that they can learn how to perform rectal examinations. Apart from the problem of training the entire country with just one bottom, the professor teaching them can't actually see what they are doing. Imperial College, London, have thus invented a robotic rectum, and each one costs £25,000.

- Tangent: People with non-functioning rectums can be fitted with a bionic rectum. You take a muscle from the leg, wrap it around the anus, and hook it up to a device with electrodes.

General Ignorance

- The best time to rob a bank is when there is someone there. You cannot rob a bank when nobody is there, because robbery is when you steal something by threatening someone. If no-one is there, then technically it is a burglary. Thus the Hatton Garden Heist was a burglary. (Forfeit: When it's closed)

- XL Tangent: Harman's Case is a case in 1620 that establishes the principle between robbery and burglary. Harman stole a purse from a man called either Halfpenny or Ha'penny. Harman was indicted for robbery, which is a felony, and a conviction would mean that he couldn't claim Benefit of Clergy. However, as Harman took the purse first and then threatened Halfpenny, it was done by stealth and thus it wasn't a robbery, so he could claim Benefit of Clergy.

- The panel are shown a picture of someone's blue eye and are asked what colour the pigment is. The pigment, melanin, is always dark brown, but people with blue eyes have less melanin in them. This is known as the Tyndall effect. If you have less melanin, light is not being absorbed and is thus reflected back. (Forfeit: Blue; Green)

- XL Tangent: The easiest way to change the colour of your eyes is with a corneal tattoo, which is done by injecting ink into the cornea This has been done since the 2nd century, where Greek physician Galen used ink made from pomegranates to change eyes that were disfigured by disease.

- The panel are shown the famous The Road to Homo Sapiens diagram by Rudolph Zallinger, of different species of ape and human evolving, and are asked what is happening. The answer is that the picture is wrong. The picture was used to illustrate a Time-Life Book called Early Man, but human evolution is not as straight forward as the picture implies. The first four are not ancestors of humanity at all. The original drawing had 15 depictions, but it has mistakes too. The author said the image was not meant to indicate that one species lead to another. Another big problem with the picture is that there are no women in it.


- Susan Calman: 9 points
- Rich Hall: 3 points
- Josh Widdicombe: -8 points
- Alan Davies: -25 points

Broadcast details

Friday 5th January 2018
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Rich Hall Guest
Susan Calman Guest
Josh Widdicombe Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Alex Bell Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer

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