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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 J, Episode 9 repeated at 10pm on Dave
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 991


Episode menu

Series O, Episode 16 - Overseas

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Colin Lane, Sandi Toksvig, Desiree Burch, Bill Bailey. Copyright: TalkbackThames
Sandi Toksvig ventures Overseas to find out about Allotment Annies, who keeps their brothers in a cage, and much else besides. With Colin Lane, Desiree Burch and Bill Bailey.

Preview clips


- The Australian icon that is regularly smeared in olive oil is the Sydney Opera House. A Greek migrant arrived in Sydney in 1964 named Steve Tsoukalas, and he fell in love with the building while it was being constructed. He thus began working there, and is still working there, being the building's longest-serving employee. He said: "Olive oil for the Greeks means a lot of things. The Greeks used olive oil in the Olympic Games to rub on the body. Olive oil protects from the sun." Thus Tsoukalas rubbed the building in olive oil, although it doesn't protect it from the sun. It does however stop the railings, door frames and window frames from getting rusty. (Forfeit: Colin Lane)

- Tangent: Sydney Harbour Bridge is 200 metres away from the Opera House.

- Tangent: The Opera House's Danish architect Jørn Utzon got the idea for the shape of the building when he was peeling an orange. If you put all 14 pieces of the Opera House together they would make a perfect sphere. His design was recovered from a reject pile, and the design was part of a competition for which Utzon won £5,000.

- XL Tangent: Sadly for Utzon, building for the Opera House went over-budget and the people building it did not want to construct his inside design.

- Tangent: York Minster is protected using paint made out of olive oil, which stops rain damage. One of things in olive oil is a substance that reacts with limestone surfaces, which forms a protective barrier.

- Tangent: Bill once had a neighbour who hated squirrels, so he painted all the trees in his garden with anti-climbing paint. Bill says that it was hilarious to watch.

- XL Tangent: Reportedly if you want to kill squirrels you are encouraged to drown them in a barrel. Bill found an injured fox in his garden that wasn't going to survive, so he had to kill it himself with a shovel. He hoped that no-one was watching him do it. Sandi asks if the humane was to kill an animal is to put in a garage with a car running so the fumes kills it, but Alan says the barrel sounds more humane.

- Tangent: Olive oil is used in the Turkish national sport of oil wrestling. The Oil Wrestling World Series known as Kirkpinar, meaning "40 Springs", is the oldest continuing sporting championship in the world. There are 13 categories ranging from "Best Beginner" to "Chief Wrestler". In between are "Big Medium", "Small Medium Big" and "Small and Sweet". You can put your hand down the opponent's trousers, but the rules stop you from grabbing your opponents testicles or "invade his rectum".

- The thing that Romans thought that the Britons had ever done for them was oysters. When the Romans invaded British oysters were considered a delicacy. The 1st century BC Roman historian Sallust said: "Poor Britons, there is some good in them after all. They had produced an oyster." Oysters were transported in carts across the Alps, the carts being packed with snow and ice. Wealthier Romans had saltwater tanks in their gardens to keep them fresh. Aside from oysters, the Romans considered the Britons uncultured and backwards, mocking our abundance of tattoos and lack of clothing. 2nd century historian Herodian claimed the reason the Britons didn't wear clothes was to show off their tattoos.

- Tangent: William Thackeray once ate an oyster the size of a dinner plate when he was in New York in 1852. He described it as: "Swallowing a life baby." 19th century London was plagued by a man named Dando, the celebrated oyster glutton, who was constantly sent to prison for overeating oysters and not paying the bill. Every time he left prison he immediately started eating oysters again, and going back in jail. He once left Brixton Prison, and while still in his prison uniform he ate 13 dozen oysters, washed down by 5 bottles of ginger beer, because: "He was troubled with wind in the stomach." He also once ate 240 oysters in one sitting.

- XL Tangent: Casanova had 60 oysters for breakfast every day as it was his preferred aphrodisiac. Studies show that oysters are rich in rare amino acids that can trigger increased levels of sex hormones.

- XL Tangent: Sandi once lacerated her hand quite badly trying to open an oyster shell, which led her to wonder if that was the most middle class injury possible, but then she got her finger stuck in the ladies' lavatory at the Dorchester, and she thought: "No, that's quite bad as well." Bill suggests the most middle class injury would be passing the port the wrong way, realising it halfway through and getting a crick in your neck.

- The screen behind the panellists shows some anagrams of country names, and they have to figure out the anagrams of "Swale", "Fancer", "Go Alan" and "Shake Za Tank". The panel are asked who got all four, and none of them could of because the last one doesn't work as an anagram. The words are "Wales", "France", "Angola", and a misspelt "Kazakhstan", which shouldn't have an "e" in it. This question is based on a study that shows you are more likely to act immorally if you spend time abroad. People were given anagrams and those who spend time aboard are more likely to claim that they solve all the anagrams when they didn't. 48% of people who spend a year in foreign country cheated on the test, compared to 30% of the others. Some people think your moral compass loses its influence while you are aboard. A fifth of people admit to stealing while in a foreign country, and similar figures admit to urinating in public while abroad. 5% admit to drinking too much while aboard, resulting in a naked escapade in public. (Forfeit: I Did)

- Tangent: Expedia did a survey in 2002 and the British were voted the worst tourists in the world.

- XL Tangent: Desiree blames Britain's awful tourists on the fact we drink too much, leading to Sandi to comment that the Danish have a different attitude to drink. She was in the A&E department of the Central Hospital in Copenhagen on a Saturday night, and it was completely empty. Sandi asked a nurse where all the drunk people are, and the nurse told her: "If people are drunk, they should go home." Bill once did a festival in Lund, Sweden, on a Friday night, and the only people out after midnight were drunken British tourists. Expedia repeated their tourist study seven years after the original one to find that Britain now has the second-best tourists after Japan.

- Tangent: The best tourists were the Japanese. In 2012, two Welsh holiday-makers drank a litre-and-a-half of vodka in Queensland. They woke up to find they were sharing their apartment with a fairy penguin called Dirk, because they had broken into Sea World the night before. Fairy penguins are the smallest species of penguin, measuring 13 inches high. The tourists had also swum with the dolphins and let off a fire extinguisher in the shark pool. They tried to care for the penguin by giving it a shower and putting it in a canal.

- XL: The panel are played a video and are asked what Sandi is doing. The video shows her dressed as a cowgirl riding a hobbyhorse across some land, waving her hat and shouting "Harrah!" When Oklahoma was opened up to American settlers, the way you could claim any spot of land was by just standing on the land, waving your hat and either shout "Harrah!" or fire a gun. In 1889, President Benjamin Harrison declared two million acres on Indian territories to be available to white settlers in "land runs", and on 22nd April all the land was available to claim. 50,000 Americans set up tents along the border so that could be ready to claim. Most galloped across the land after the starting gun was fired at midday. Because of the gunfire the claimers were nicknamed "boomers", and if you didn't travel by horse you could use a boomer train. However, the trains were limited in speed so that they couldn't travel faster than the horses. One woman, Nannita Daisy, who helped fight against gender discrimination, took part in four land runs. She got her first bit of land by jumping off a train and firing a shot, then got back on the same train, carried on to the next piece of land and grabbed that one too. Legend has it she jumped off the cow catcher. There is a statue of Daisy in Edmond, Oklahoma. Aside from the "boomers" there were also "sooners", who hid in Oklahoma before the legal date and time so they could claim land earlier. Because of this, Oklahoma is nicknamed "The Sooner State".

- XL Tangent: The name "Oklahoma" comes from the Choctaw phrase "okla humma", meaning, "red people". In 1847, during the Great Famine in Ireland, the Choctaw were so moved by the tragedy that this poor tribe raised $170, which was a lot of money at the time, and sent it to the Irish to help them.

- The people who were overpaid, undersexed and over there were American women. During the Second World War, wives of American servicemen who were sent aboard got an allotment costing $50 per month of their husband's tour. If the husband died in battle the widow got $10,000 in life insurance. Some women thus decided to marry as many men as they could and became bigamists in order to claim more money. These women were dubbed "Allotment Annies". One, 17-year-old Elvira Taylor had married two men, and was caught when two American sailors were in a pub and they both showed photos of their wives to each other, discovering they both had the same wife. They then found out she was married to another four sailors. Warnings against bigamists had to be printed because it was such a problem. Even a film was made called Allotment Wives. Hundreds of women were convicted after the war.

- XL: When American GIs were overpaid, oversexed and over here, the original "here" was Australia. Australia was the first country American soldiers were sent to when they joined World War II, in December 1941, and the Australians were the first to use the phrase.

- XL Tangent: Sandi asks Colin if the Australian women found American GIs attractive. Desiree argues that all people from a foreign land sound exotic to the locals, but Bill says this is not true for people from Birmingham.

- The thing that is a great beauty with pouty lips, long legs, good posture, firm ears and spits in your face when you annoy them is a camel. Every year the government of Oman, the only country in the world beginning with "O", runs a camel beauty contest. The guidelines for a beautiful camel are: "Well proportioned body and face; a long gharib (the area between the hump and neck); long body; firm ears; pouty lips; board cheeks; big whiskers; a long, straight neck; long, straight legs; and fur shimmer." Mostly importantly the fur must be natural.

- Tangent: The UK holds a tarantula beauty contest. Zoologist Mark Amey is brought onto the stage to talk about this, with Bill holding them. One of them is a Mexican redknee tarantula, and the other is a Chilean Rose named Rosie. They only have a mild venom, similar to the sting from a bee or wasp. There is a nettle sting they can give off from their abdomen, given by barbed javelin-like hairs. When the males reach sexual maturity and finally mate they normally then die of starvation. If not, the last female they meet generally kills them.

- You would keep your brother in a cage to protect a throne's lineage. In the Ottoman Empire, it was decreed than when a sultan ascended to the throne he should kill all of his brothers to prevent sibling rivalry. Sultan Ahmed I in 1603 however said he didn't want to kill his brothers, so he made a special pavilion called "the cage". His brothers were cut off from the rest of the world, accompanied by eunuchs and concubines past child bearing age, and they spend all their time doing macramé. If a sultan died with no heirs, one of the brothers would be taken out of the cage and would be made the new sultan. However, the sultan who came out of the cage was not always the oldest. In 1622 sultan Osman II died by "compression of the testicles at the hands of an assassin." The assassin was Pehlivan the Oil Wrestler.

- Tangent: Sandi and her brother used to play a game where they threw balls of socks at each other in the dark, scoring points if you hit the other person. Sandi always won because his brother had a luminous dial on his watch and she never told him until his 50th birthday, and he is still cross about it. Colin's big brother used to bully him, meanwhile their little brother was in the bathroom one day, and then came out nude pretending to be a robot. The thought this was funny, then the little brother turned around and showed he had a battery sticking out of his bum.

- Tangent: If a grand vizier of the Ottoman Empire was sentenced to death he could have the sentence commuted to banishment if he could beat the head gardener, who was also the chief executioner, in a race around the royal palace. The vizier was summoned by the gardener, would be given a cup of sherbet, and if it was all white it was fine. If it was red, it meant death, and he had to run 300 yards from the palace to the Fish Market Gate. If he survived, he could carry on living. This practiced continued into the 19th century.

- Tangent: In 1517, the Ottoman Empire defeated the Mamluks of Egypt, but this was mainly because the Mamluks considered guns to be beneath their dignity.

- XL: When the Ottomans invaded Constantinople they had to get from the Bosphorus to the Golden Horn via boat. The way they did it was moving the boats across land. They couldn't sail across it because there was a huge iron chain floating on logs that had been installed making the way impassable. Thus the Ottomans secretly built a road and rolled the boats along on logs, having hidden their guns.

- XL Tangent: The first railways were used to move ships across land. Evidence of this can be found in the form of a paved trackway near Corinth, called the "Diolkos", which allowed ships to be moved over the Isthmus of Corinth.

- XL: The thing you can tell about someone who wears socks with sandals is that they are not your enemy. Hiroo Onoda was a Japanese army officer in the mountains of the Philippines who refused to believe that World War II had ended. He was in hiding until 1974, when Norio Suzuki found him, and Onoda spared his life because Suzuki was wearing socks with sandals. Onoda wrote: "I might have shot him, but he had on these thick woollen socks, even though he was wearing sandals." He knew the locals would never do such a thing. Onoda effective got away with murder as he killed 30 people during his guerrilla campaign, but he was pardoned because he thought he was at war. (Forfeit: Brit aboard)

- XL Tangent: Norio Suzuki dropped out of college in order to find the abominable snowman, a panda bear and Onoda. Suzuki died in 1986 in an avalanche while hunting for the abominable snowman.

- XL Tangent: There was also another Japanese soldier who refused to believe the war had ended. One soldier was still fighting in Guam until 1972. When he returned to Japan he said: "It is with much embarrassment I have returned." He got $300 back pay.

- XL Tangent: Wearing socks with sandals is common in Japan. The Japanese have special socks called "tabi" which they wear to stop chafing.

General Ignorance

- Most of the world's obelisks are in Rome. Rome has twice as many obelisks than Egypt. Rome has 13, and Egypt has 6. Many of the Roman obelisks were ones the Romans stole, but five are homegrown. The word "obelisk" was coined by the ancient historian Herodotus. Britain has one obelisk, Cleopatra's Needle.

- XL Tangent: Cleopatra's Needle almost never made it to Britain. It was given to the UK in 1819 by the then ruler of Egypt, Muhammad Ali, to commemorate Lord Nelson's victory at the Battle of the Nile. While the British liked the gift, they didn't want to transport it because it would cost a fortune. Eventually, a purpose-built iron cylinder was made, and it was towed towards Britain by a ship called the Olga. However, the Olga was wrecked, Cleopatra's Needle was lost at sea for five days, and then another ship found it and towed it the rest of the way.

- XL: There is nothing special that is outside Mongolia. Outer Mongolia no longer exists. When Outer Mongolia did exist, between 1644 and 1911, it was inside the modern day country of Mongolia. However, it was a semi-independent territory of China's Qing dynasty. Inner Mongolia was under more direct Chinese rule. The region then declared independence in 1912, and then became Mongolia again in 1992. (Forfeit: Outer Mongolia)

- XL Tangent: The first person to use the phrase "Outer Mongolia" to mean a place in the middle of nowhere was American explorer Roy Chapman Andrews, who was also director of the American Museum of Natural History. Andrews is believed to be the man that Indiana Jones is based on.

- XL Tangent: An expedition to the island of Komodo by the American Museum of Natural History inspired the story of "King Kong". They went to the island, found the Komodo dragons, brought one back to America, and it became a sensation. The idea of a creature terrorising the locals on an island inspired the idea of the giant ape.

- An endangered mammal that eats bamboo is the golden bamboo lemur. Pandas are no longer endangered, and are now classified as "vulnerable". (Forfeit: Panda)

- Tangent: In 2014, China's Giant Panda Protection and Research Centre advertised for panda nannies. The wages are £28,000 a year, with free meals, travel and accommodation, and you get to hug pandas all day. Basic knowledge of pandas is required, as well as the ability to take pictures. The job involved spending 365 days a year with pandas and sharing their "joys and sorrows".

- Rome was built on eight hills. There was a festival celebrating seven hills, but when you count them there are actually eight hills. Classicist Mary Beard says that: "Something has got confused there somewhere along the line." (Forfeit: Seven)

- Tangent: About 75 cities claim to be built on seven hills including two called Rome, two called Athens and one called Seven Hills in Ohio. Alan and Bill then talk non-stop about hilly and non-hilly cities, which results in Sandi saying that when she is in the company of men like this, she is happy about her life choices.

- XL Tangent: The area of Denmark that Sandi comes from is very flat. It has just one tiny hill in it and the locals call it "Little Switzerland".


- Colin Lane: 16 points
- Desiree Burch: 3 points
- Bill Bailey: -3 points
- Alan Davies: -57 points

Objectionable Object Prize

- Colin wins a cuddly spider toy.

Broadcast details

Friday 16th February 2018
30 minutes
  • Tuesday 9th May 2017, 15:30 at The London Studios

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Bill Bailey Guest
Colin Lane Guest
Desiree Burch Guest
Mark Amey Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Mat Coward Researcher
James Harkin Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anne Miller Researcher
Alex Bell Researcher
Stevyn Colgan Researcher
Ben Dupré Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Alice Campbell Davis Researcher
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Mike Sutcliffe Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


How many hills was Rome built on?

Sandi corrects a popular myth, with very little help from Bill Bailey and Alan Davies.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Bill Bailey, Colin Lane & Desiree Burch.


Preview - QI: Overseas

The final episode from Series O (except for two highlights episodes) sees Denmark's Sandi Toksvig take the show across the world.

Ian Wolf, On The Box, 16th February 2018

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