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.

Episode menu

Series P, Episode 1 - Panimals

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Danny Baker, Sandi Toksvig, Phill Jupitus, Teri Hatcher. Copyright: TalkbackThames

Preview clips


- The buzzers are all the calls of birds beginning with "P". Danny - Peacock; Phill - Parrot; Teri - Penguin; Alan - Partridge (going "A-Ha!")

- One of the questions will be about a pig. If the panel think the question is pig-related, they throw a toy pig and shout "pig" to gain bonus points.


- Complete this sentence: "Donald Trump is the first president in 168 years not to have..." The answer is "...a pet". He is the first president since 1850 not to have a pet in the White House. Among previous presidents to have had pets are Thomas Jefferson, who had two bears cubs; Benjamin Harrison had two opossums named Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection; Franklin D. Roosevelt had a Great Dane called President; Herbert Hoover's son Allan had a pair of alligators; and Teddy Roosevelt had nine dogs, two ponies, two cats, a hen, a lizard, a blue macaw, a garter snake named Emily Spinach by his daughter Alice "because it was as green as spinach and as thin as my Aunt Emily", a small bear, a piebald rat, a pig, a rabbit, a laughing hyena, a barn owl, a one-legged rooster, five guinea pigs, a badger called Josiah and a pony called Algonquin. Teddy Roosevelt also had six children. (Forfeit: Decency)

- XL Tangent: John Quincy Adams kept his pet alligator in the bathtub. It was a gift from French general Marquis De Lafayette. Sandi asks Teri if she remembers driving north from Florida and seeing signs saying "Alligators for Sale". There are now urban myths about alligators living in New York's sewers, which Sandi heard as a child, and thus she tried to avoid sitting on the toilet for too long.

- Tangent: Teddy Roosevelt's son Archie loved Algonquin the pony so much that when Archie was sick in bed his brothers Kermit and Quentin brought Algonquin up in a lift so he could see him.

- XL Tangent: There was a mirror in the lift that Algonquin was brought up in, and Algonquin was so obsessed with its own reflection that he wouldn't leave the lift.

- XL Tangent: Andrew Jackson had an African grey parrot named Poll who was famous for shouting obscenities at visiting dignitaries. Poll even interrupted Jackson's own funeral. Danny once read that a 50-year-old parrot was on its deathbed, and before it died the parrot turned to its owners and said: "Thank you."

- Tangent: In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt was given a Scottish Terrier puppy that he named Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, after one of his Scottish ancestors. The dog was more commonly known as Fala. Fala had his own secretary to answer his fan mail. During the Battle of the Bulge, American soldiers would ask each other the name of the dog by way of determining if the other was a real American or a German in disguise.

- People who might be afraid of a tiny dancer called "Sparklemuffin" are probably arachnophobics such as Phill, because it is a spider. However, it is a nickname for a rather cute-looking peacock spider the size of a chia seed. Other peacock spiders include the circuit board, the bat and the elephant. They are the only known dancing spiders and are home to nature's smallest rainbow, because they refract light from their bottoms. Scientists have tried to recreate this rainbow but have been unsuccessful. Half of all peacock spider species have been named by a single person, Dr. Jurgen Otto of Australia. When mating, the females must be virgins and then the males dance.

- XL Tangent: Sandi says her biggest fear is being stuck in a lift with a man who is confident he can fix it. Teri says she is afraid of snakes, and there are rattlesnakes in California where she lives. She came across one in a spa, all coiled up, and all the other women in the spa jumped back while pushing Teri closer to it.

- XL Tangent: Spiders can't hear, but they can feel vibrations through their legs.

- The thing that is black and white and pissed all over is a human dressed as a giant panda, covered in panda urine. When introducing cubs into the wild Chinese researchers dress as adult pandas and cover themselves in panda urine to disguise their human scent. While scientists have debated the relationship between giant and red pandas, giant pandas are bears and red pandas are closer to raccoons. Giant pandas' black and white fur is there for camouflage: the black helps them hide in summer and the white in winter. This was discovered by Tim Caro, a biologist from the University of California who also spent 10 years trying to discover why zebras are black and white: the reason being that it is to deter flies from landing on them, as they do not like stripes. (Forfeit: A flock of drunk penguins)

- XL Tangent: A man called Joel Berger, a biologist at Colorado State University, wanted to see how moose reacted to the urine of other species. He dressed up as a moose, soaked snowballs in urine from other animals, then threw them at real moose. The reason for this was because bears and wolves were reintroduced to various places like Scandinavia and the USA, which the moose had not seen before, so they wanted to check if the moose had remembered the instinct to run away from these predators. The snowball experiment showed that they didn't know to run away, but in one generation they were able to relearn about the dangers of these reintroduced animals.

- XL Tangent: In Hawaii, there was a big problem with rats. Thus, they decided to ship in their natural predator, the mongoose, to combat the problem. However, this didn't solve the problem as rats are nocturnal and mongooses are not, so now Hawaii is overrun by both.

- XL Tangent: The first panda learned about in the west was discovered by Armand David, a French missionary working in China. He bought a dead specimen from local hunters in 1869.

- The primate with the most dangerous elbows is the slow loris, the only known venomous primate. They have patches on their elbows that they lick as saliva activates the poison. If a person is bitten by one they can suffer from anaphylactic shock and death. All eight species of loris are currently endangered. Due to their appearance, many people want a loris as a pet so remove their teeth. Unfortunately this often causes the loris to die from infection. The reason for the big eyes in a loris is that they evolved to mimic cobras, being able to hiss and undulate thanks to an extra vertebrae in their spines. Writing in 1905 in Sri Lanka, John Still said: "I saw the outline of a cobra sitting up with hood expanded and threatening a cat who crouched about six feet away. This was the loris, who with his arms and shoulders hunched up, was a sufficiently good imitation of a cobra to take me in as he swayed on his long legs and every now and then let out a perfect cobra's hiss."

- A "Stachelschwein" is a porcupine, but the name translates from German as "spiked pig". (Forfeit: A type of pig)

- A "Wasserschwein" is a capybara, meaning "water pig".

- A "Schweinswal" is a porpoise, meaning "pig whale".

- A "Nabelschwein" is a peccary, a distant relative of the pig. Nobody throws their pig to answer the question.

- Tangent: Capybaras are the largest rodents in the world, growing up to four feet long, and are eaten in Venezuela at Easter. They taste a bit like rabbit. Teri ate guinea pig in Lima, Peru, where it is the national dish. Three of the top 50 restaurants in the world are in Lima. Teri tried it twice but stopped, mainly because she had guinea pigs as pets as a child. In Chile, they sell guinea pigs on sticks coated in honey.

- XL Tangent: While many places in Asia are attacked for eating dog, the Swiss also eat dogs.

- XL Tangent: In the 1980s, Siouxsie and the Banshees adopted a peccary in London Zoo on the condition they could name it. They called it Gregory Peccary.

- Tangent: The German phrase "Innerer Schweinehund", meaning "Your inner pig-dog", refers to that tiny voice inside that tells you not to exercise and just be lazy. Danny has a certificate saying he can speak fluent German even though he can't. He got it because when he was at school his German teacher left after three months, but they all decided to do a language exam. Danny was ill on the day of the exam, but he came back two days later, and was told he had to do the exam on his own. He was seated alone in the school's library so simply referred to a German dictionary and achieved a mark of 81%. As Alan later points out, Danny still only got 81% even though he had a dictionary to help him.

- XL Tangent: The term "Schweinehund" is a German insult, but it is mainly used in British movies. One famous German pig was Tirpitz. He was in a battle off the coast of South America in 1915, where HMS Glasgow and HMS Kent attacked the German cruiser SMS Dresden. This pig was on the Dresden where it flopped into the water and was rescued by the British, for whom she became a mascot. She was named after Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz, the head of the German Navy, who among other things had a long beard that was split in two down the middle.

- A question on palaeontology: the panel are given a tray of finds and are told to identify the five fossils on it, but they are not allowed to use their hands. One method used is to lick each fossil.

- A: Dinosaur bone, which is stickier than a normal stone because of calcium.

- B: Dinosaur poo, which sticks to the tongue.

- Tangent: Big Bone Lick is the birthplace of American palaeontology. It is an area of high mineral content that attracted dinosaurs, and was at the time very swampy, causing them to get stuck and die, becoming fossilised.

- XL Tangent: You can use your tongue to identify pearls, because real ones will feel gritty and rough.

- Tangent: The phrase: "Lick into shape" comes from a mediaeval European belief that bear cubs were born shapeless and the mother licked the cub to shape them.

- XL: The reason why penguins take turns on the outside of the huddle is to cool down. Penguins keep themselves warm by huddling together but it operates so well that they produce too much heat. The ones in the middle of the huddle need to move to the edge because they feel too hot. The trick to the huddle is to get the packing right, because if it is too loose they won't be warm enough, but if it is too tight they can't rearrange themselves and the penguins in the middle won't be able to cool down. Thus the huddle takes 2-to-4 inch steps every minute, causing a wave of movement throughout the huddle as the shuffle around. A group of penguins is called a "waddle".

- XL Tangent: Fat penguins also fall over more than slim ones. This was discovered by getting penguins to walk on a treadmill, but they also discovered that some of the penguins were "water-skiing", by leaning on the back wall of the cage the treadmill was in and just moving their feet in the air.

- XL Tangent: In 2017, German scientists advised people to walk like penguins to avoid slipping on icy roads. You should lean your torso forwards so the centre of gravity is on your front leg, then copy the penguin walk of pointing your feet outwards.

- The people in the QI studio that should be replaced with pigeons are the camera operators. Birds can't move their eyes, and their necks have been designed to keep their heads completely still when they move. As pigeons walk, their heads and eyes move forward, lock into place, and then their body catches up with them. These static images are what a good camera operator tries to achieve. Pigeons have been used since the early 20th century as aerial photographers. The first person to attach a camera to a pigeon was German apothecary Julius Neubronner, who sent medication to an asylum via pigeon post. He then kept his own pigeons, and found that one returned having eaten, so he attached a camera to find out where it had been fed. He learned that the pigeon had visited a restaurant on the way. The camera worked using two chambers, one of which had gas that was slowly released, and when it was empty it took a single photo.

- XL Tangent: One problem for the camera was that the pigeons landed very heavily, so Neubronner created an elasticated board for the birds to land upon.

- XL Tangent: During the First World War, wounding or molesting a carrier pigeon was punishable by six months imprisonment or a £100 fine.

- XL: The point of a poodle's perm was to help them get their quarry from water. Poodles are German, their name means "water dog", and the word has the same route as the word "puddle". The thick outer coat of a poodle is very heavy when wet, so the bottom half is shaved so the poodle doesn't drown, but the front half is left furry in order to keep the organs warm in cold water. The bracelets of ankle hair protect the poodle's joints from rheumatism. The face hair is shaved so they can fulfil their retrieving purposes. The topknot of hair is designed to keep the hair out of the eyes, but also brightly coloured ribbons were tied to the hair so poodles could be easily identified. It wasn't until 18th Century France when poodle hair styles became more ornate. Poodle styles include the Continental and the English saddle. Both are designed to show off a poodle's squareness. In a properly square poodle, the area from the breastbone to the rump measures exactly the same distance as the shoulders to the ground.

General Ignorance

- The "S" on Superman's chest stands for nothing, because it is not an "S". In the 2013 film Superman says it is a Kryptonian symbol of hope. (Forfeit: Super; Simon)

- Superman's real name Kal-El. His father's name was Jor-El. Clark Kent is his adopted name.

- Tangent: Teri played Lois Lane in 88 episodes of The New Adventures of Superman. An image of Teri as Lois wearing nothing except Superman's cape around her body was at one time the most downloaded image in the world. Aside from Lois Lane, Superman's other love interest is Lana Lang.

- XL Tangent: Teri and her Superman co-star Dean Cain were at a comic convention in Sydney, and they both climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but Teri didn't know at the time that Dean was afraid of heights.

- XL Tangent: A 2016 study at the University of York showed people side-by-side images and asked people if the images were of the same people. These include pairs with glasses, without glasses, and where one image had glasses and the other didn't. In the first two categories, people guessed correctly 80% of the time, but in the last category it fell to 74%.

- The crow flies using human transport routes, as do pigeons. According to an Oxford study, if a crow travels from Portsmouth to the Peak District, it would go up the M275, then the M3, then the M40 to Oxfordshire, take the A46 to Coventry, and then follow the M1 for 62 miles. (Forfeit: In a straight line)

- Tangent: A start-up company in the Netherlands called Crowded Cities is trying to get crows to recognise cigarette butts and drop them into bins. If a camera in the bin recognises the object as a cigarette butt, the crow is given food.

- XL Tangent: Belgian designer-scientist Tuur Van Balen wants to use pigeons to clean up things, so he is working on a pigeon diet that turns the bird's faeces into soap, so when they defecate they would clean things rather than make them dirty. In order to do this, he has to get the pigeon to fly into a special box so that they can eat his special diet.

- An octopus has no tentacles. People used to use the word "tentacle" interchangeably with "arm", but the modern convention is that if an invertebrate has suckers along its entire length then it is an arm. If suckers are only on the tip, that is a tentacle. Thus, the octopus has eight arms but zero tentacles. Creatures with tentacles include jellyfish and sea anemones. Octopuses can use their suckers to smell, taste, and stick to any surface except themselves. (Forfeit: Eight; One; Two; Ten)

- XL Tangent: One famous octopus was Paul, who predicted football results for a World Cup by being presented boxes of food that were identical, except for the front of the boxes that featured the flags of playing countries. The box Paul picked first would represent the country that won. It turned out that Paul had a preference for flags with horizontal stripes.

- XL: The first line in Moby Dick is: "Etymology supplied by a late consumptive usher to a grammar school." "Call me Ishmael", is the first line in Chapter One, but before that there are two rambling introductory chapters called "Etymology" and "Extracts". Ishmael is also not the name of the narrator, as the line is a Biblical reference. The narrator's name is unknown. (Forfeit: Call me Ishmael)


- Danny Baker: -7 points
- Phill Jupitus: -18 points
- Teri Hatcher: -38 points
- Alan Davies: -54 points

Broadcast details

Monday 10th September 2018
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 13th October 2018 10:00pm
45 minute version
Friday 22nd March 2019 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 9th December 2019 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 10th December 2019 1:40am Dave
Thursday 13th February 2020 6:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 13th February 2020 11:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 5th May 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 6th May 2020 1:40am
55 minute version
Wednesday 19th August 2020 1:20am
70 minute version
Wednesday 19th August 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 29th November 2020 10:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 30th November 2020 9:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 22nd March 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 23rd March 2021 2:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 22nd June 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 22nd June 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 23rd June 2021 12:35am
60 minute version
Monday 23rd August 2021 10:00pm BBC2
Monday 20th September 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 21st September 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 24th November 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 24th November 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 27th June 2022 11:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 17th October 2022 2:00am Dave
Monday 17th October 2022 9:00pm Dave
Tuesday 27th December 2022 12:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 26th February 2023 11:00pm
60 minute version
Monday 27th February 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 16th July 2023 11:00pm
60 minute version
Friday 27th October 2023 9:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Danny Baker Guest
Phill Jupitus Guest
Teri Hatcher Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Anna Ptaszynski Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mandy Fenton Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Alice Campbell Davis Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nigel Catmur Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor
Kalpna Patel-Knight Commissioning Editor


Sandi Toksvig forgets to introduce Alan Davies

A behind-the-scenes moment from the first episode of Series P: Sandi Toksvig gets so excited introducing Teri Hatcher, she forgets about arguably the most important panellist of all...

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Phill Jupitus & Teri Hatcher.


Women are edited out of TV panel shows, says Toksvig

QI host says women perform cleverly but are then seen 'just laughing at the boys'.

Aamna Mohdin, The Guardian, 11th September 2018

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