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.

Christmas special coming up.
Series K, Episode 16 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 2am.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Nish Kumar, Sandi Toksvig, Ross Noble, Sally Phillips. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series O, Episode 5 - Odorous And Odious

Sandi Toksvig considers all things Odorous And Odious. Why is the world's second-smelliest man so frustrated? Sandi has the answer. With Nish Kumar, Sally Phillips and Ross Noble.

Further details


- If any of the panel does well, Sandi will give out scratch-and-sniff stickers to them. However, as Sally has a cold she can't smell anything.


- The scent you should wear to attract a cougar is Calvin Klein's "Obsession". In 2003, the Wildlife Conservation Society tested out several scents to find which ones big cats find attractive, so that they can be lured into camera traps for filming purposes. "Obsession" kept big cats interested for 11 minutes, while Revlon's "Charlie" only worked for 15 seconds.

- Tangent: Nina Ricci's "L'air du Temps" keeps cougars interested for 10 minutes.

- Tangent: Sally originally thought they used the smell of urine to attract big cats. Nish says they do, but they call it Lynx.

- XL Tangent: In 2003, the Manitoba government had an issue with polar bears, in that adult females were refusing to adopt orphans. To solve the problem, both the mother and the orphan were put to sleep, they rubbed the baby all over with Vicks VapoRub and put VapoRub on the mother's muzzle. Thus, when the mother woke up, she smelled the orphan, thought it was her baby and adopted it.

- The panel play a game called "On The Scent". Sally reads descriptions of perfumes and they have to guess which celebrity scent it is.

- "Focused on the topic of decisiveness and persistence. Its composition is based on sophisticated shades of spices which are blended with citruses for a masculine, elegant heart, and a woody, leathery base." - David Beckham's "Beyond Forever".

- "The perfect accessory for the confident man determined to make his mark with passion, perseverance and drive. For those who inspire to create their own empire through personal achievement. This dynamic scent is both compelling and leaves a lasting impression." - Donald Trump's "Empire".

- "Base notes are leather, peat fire, highland mud, burnt rubber and white truffle. Hot notes are sharp and tempting, with cigar, fur and rubber. Top notes complete the fragrance with fresh spiced notes of bergamot, black pepper, pine and whisky." - Alan Cumming's "Cumming".

- XL Tangent: Ross likes the idea of a woman's perfume that included two-stroke mix. Sally once spotted that Ann Summers were selling lager-flavoured Booby Drops.

- The Apocalypse will smell of "Apocalypse" by artists Jon Thomson and Alison Craighead, who made a perfume that smells of everything that has a recognisable smell that is mentioned in the 1611 King James Bible version of the Book of Revelations. It smells of blood, rocks of the mountains, incense, wormwood, rod of iron, creatures of the sea, hail and fire, animal horns, burnt flesh and brimstone. The duo gave this list to an Edinburgh based perfume maker, Euan McCall, who made it into a perfume. A reporter for The Guardian described the smell as: "digestive".

- XL Tangent: According to Anna Williams, associate professor in forensic anthropology at the University of Huddersfield, the smell of death is very complicated. There are about 480 individual odours. It starts of being rather pleasant, smelling of freshly-mown grass, then leaf litter, then a few days later it smells of paint thinner. Once decomposition begins death smells of rotting cabbage, then old fish, vomit and eventually sweet burning rubber.

- XL Tangent: Alan once went walking with Caroline Quentin during a break while shooting "Jonathan Creek" and they found a dead donkey in a pit, which had a terrible stench. Ross suggests it was a real-life game of Buckaroo gone wrong.

- XL Tangent: Dead saints supposedly smell nice. Osmogenesia is the odour of sanctity, which smells of lilies. Ross claims that the saint Padre Pio looks exactly the same as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

- XL: The Battle of the Smellies was won by no-one. In the 1950s, cinema was worried about TV taking away audiences, so as a gimmick they decided to pipe smells into films. Two different systems were developed, Smell-O-Vision and AromaRama, and this became known as "The Battle of the Smellies". However, neither was successful. Smell-O-Vision was delivered by a device called the "smell brain" that was kept under the viewer's seat. However, some aromas came too late to match the images, other smells made viewers nauseous, and the delivery mechanism hissed loudly. AromaRama used the cinema's air conditioning system. One New York Times review from 1959 said: "when this viewer emerged from the theatre, he happily filled his lungs with that lovely fume-laden New York ozone. It never has smelled so good."

- XL Tangent: In 1972, American singer-songwriter Melanie released an album called "Garden in the City", which had a scratch-and-sniff label on the cover which read: "Rub gently to release the magic of Melanie's garden."

- The second smelliest man in the world is so frustrated because he has no sons. Kailash Singh, a cattle herder from India, stopped washing in 1974 because a priest told him he would have a son if he didn't bathe or cut his hair. Thus he hasn't bathed or showered in over 40 years, has six-foot long dreadlocks, has seven daughters and no sons. His family did once try to force him to bathe in the local river, but he fought them off and said he would rather die. Singh says he will was in the next life. The person believed to be the smelliest in the world is Amou Haji, who hasn't washed in 60 years and lives in a remote village in Southern Iran, eating mainly roadkill, especially porcupine, and smokes animal dung. If he needs a haircut, Haji burns his hair.

- Tangent: Nish once did a terrible fart but didn't admit to it, which resulted in his father getting a copy of the Yellow Pages out to find a plumber, because he thought a sewage pipe had leaked. Alan claims the only time his dog would get up was when she farted.

- Tangent: You measure the unpleasantness of a smell in olf. Danish engineer Prof. Povl Ole Fanger created the olf scale to measure smell. 1 olf is the emission of air pollutants given off by a standard person, and the scale goes up depending on how many people it would take to cause that level of unpleasantness.

- Tangent: The horse belonging to Ross's wife farts so loudly that sometimes he has turn the volume on his TV up because of the noise the horse makes.

- The UK's stink pipes act as exhaust pipes for the sewers. They are tall, hollow, cast iron pipes, around 6-8 metres tall, and are designed to act as ventilation for the explosive sewer gas. Explosions have occurred in the River Fleet in 1846 in the Kings Cross area, which destroyed a Clarkenwell poorhouse. Sometimes the gas used to be burnt in order to provide light.

- XL Tangent: Wattle and daub is an old building material that used animal faeces. In the pioneer days of the USA, they used to burn buffalo dung as fuel.

- XL Tangent: The interior of Crossness sewer pump station in Belvedere, Kent, is known as the Cathedral on the Marsh for its beauty. Another notable building is a 17th century tower in Copenhagen called the Rundetaarn. It was one of the world's first observatories, and has a slopping floor rather than stairs so the king could ride his horse up to the top. At the top of the tower is a toilet which consists of a seat and a shaft straight down to the bottom, but as there was no way of emptying it the toilet just filled up. The toilet was point zero, as used by Danish astronomer Thomas Bugge in the 1760s, when he began measuring Denmark. The top of the tower now has a kissing bench for couples.

- XL: The thing whose social media little more than an odious pile of crap is the white rhino. A study by the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa showed that as these rhinos have communal latrines they leave chemical clues, allowing you to tell the age, sex, general health and reproductive condition of other rhinos. Thus through poo rhinos can communicate with each other.

- XL: The Rhinoceros Party, a former joke political party in Canada, had policies which included abolishing the environment because it caused too much trouble. The party was named after Cacareco, a black rhino who was put up as a candidate in 1958 of Sao Paulo and won, gaining 100,000 votes before her election was nullified. Other animals in elections include a goat called Smelly, which in 1954 was voted as a city councillor in Brazil, and at the time of a recording a cat called Stubbs is mayor of Talkeetna, Alaska, and has been since 1997.

- The panel are given some oil and are asked what has been added to it. One thing that hasn't been added is truffles, because almost all truffle oil on sale doesn't contain truffles. Truffle oil is a mixture of olive oil and chemicals. They use methyl mercaptan, the main compound in bad breath and smelly feet, added with formaldehyde. (Forfeit: Truffles)

- Tangent: Medieval monks were not allowed to eat truffles for it was feared it would make them forget their calling.

- Tangent: Olive oil is also often mislabelled. Over 50% of olive oil sold in Italy is adulterated, and 75-80% of US olive oil is adulterated.

- You have the ability to sniff out crime. Prof. Matt Olsen of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden claims that people can tell a criminal by smell as well as sight. They showed clips of crimes being committed to people, while at the same time people smelled the body odour of the criminal. When they had a line-up, they could spot the criminal by smell alone 70% of the time, which is the same average as a visual line-up. Alaska, Florida and New York use scent line-ups with dogs.

- Tangent: Alan is given some dummy contraband and sits in the audience; with the audience all putting on Alan face masks. A sniffer dog named Rex is brought in by Co. Sam Robson-Rodriguez from the RAF Police to smell out the contraband and finds Alan. The dogs are trained by covering their toys in certain scent, and the dog things it is looking for their toys rather than the contraband.

General Ignorance

- The full bikini wax was invented in the USA. It was invented by Jonice Padihla of J. Sisters salon in Manhattan in the 1990s. Playboy tried to patient it, so to avoid doing so Padihla claimed that it was popular in her home country of Brazil. The J. Sisters salon is directly opposite Trump Tower, so in the words of Sandi: "You can have a Brazilian and avoid being grabbed by the pussy at the same time." The wax was invented after other salons refused to wax around people's intimate areas. (Forfeit: Brazil)

- Tangent: One of the world's most expensive car waxes is also Brazilian. Carnauba wax is made out of a palm tree that only grows in north-east Brazil.

- You shouldn't be worried about how you store your toothbrush. The idea that if you put your toothbrush in the same room as the toilet it may get covered in faecal matter is a myth, mainly because there are trace amounts of it all around the house, and so you should be fine. According to the American Dental Association: "There is insufficient clinical evidence to support that bacterial growth on toothbrushes will lead to specific adverse oral or systemic health effects."

- An animal that can play possum is the opossum. Although we talk about "playing possum" when you "play dead", it is actually the opossum that does this, which is a different animal. Both are marsupials, but the possum lives in Australia and the opossum in the USA, and they don't have much in common. The similarity in name comes from Captain Cook's voyage to Australia, where the naturalist Joseph Banks mistook the local possums for opossums. (Forfeit: Possum)

- Tangent: Alan was in Australia when his daughter was very little, and the only way he could her to go to sleep was taking her into the streets at night and finding a possum. The best place to find them was walking along telephone wires. When Ross lived in Australia, he had possums living in his roof that sighed. He was once watching documentaries when the possums sighed, but when he switched to a music channel they stopped.

- XL Tangent: Turkey vultures react to threats by regurgitating their last meal, which is normally rotting carrion. The king ratsnake, also called the stinking goddess, empties its anal glands when attacked. The honey badger can turn its anal pouch inside out, which puts of predators but has a calming effect on bees.

- Tangent: According to the Guinness Book of Animal Records the smelliest animal in the world is the zorilla, aka the striped polecat. The emissions from their anal glands not only stink, but can temporarily blind predators and can cause painful burning sensations on the skin.

- Tangent: The karaftohelix snail does the opposite to playing possum by using its shell as a battering ram to fight off predators.


- Nish Kumar: 3 points
- Alan Davies: -2 points
- Ross Noble: -3 points
- Sally Phillips: -5 points

Objectionable Object Prize

- Sally wins a bottle of the "Apocalypse" perfume.

Broadcast details

Friday 24th November 2017
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Ross Noble Guest
Nish Kumar Guest
Sally Phillips Guest
Sam Robson-Rodriguez (as Cpl. Sam Robson-Rodriguez) Self
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Stevyn Colgan Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer


Celebrity Perfumes

The teams have to guess which description belongs to which celebrity perfume.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Ross Noble, Nish Kumar, Sally Phillips.


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