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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show focusing on quite interesting facts. 233 episodes (pilot + 16 series), 2003 - 2019. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Next new episode is on Monday at 10pm. Series P, Episode 7
Catch-up on Episode 6 on BBC iPlayer   Series K, Episode 13 is repeated on Dave today at 1:35am.

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Gyles Brandreth, Sandi Toksvig, Jimmy Carr, Sally Phillips. Copyright: TalkbackThames.

Series P, Episode 3 - Piecemeal

Further details


- As the general theme is being politically correct and not causing offense, there are bonus points for politeness, and if someone gets a bonus, they all do, so everyone's a winner.


- You can tell if a police constable is cut out for the job by using cardboard cut-outs of police officers to see if they deter crime. In 2013, the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority Police put two cut-outs in bike-rack cages in Alewife Station, which resulted in thefts falling by two-thirds. Thames Valley Police rotate two cut-outs between shops in Oxford, Windsor, Maidenhead and Ascot. The Police Federation are against the use of cut-outs because they believe it is a way for bosses to avoiding paying salaries and pensions to actual officers.

- Tangent: Sandi gets out a police officer cut-out which is much taller than her. Jimmy says it is actually regular height, but everyone stands by it and it really is tall. Gyles then says that he made a film for The One Show about the subject of the cut-outs, and he says that the thing that makes the difference is just the eyes looking at you.

- Tangent: Some forces have admitted that their cut-outs have been stolen. Three have gone missing from petrol filling stations in Derbyshire, two were stolen in Cleveland, one was lost in Humberside at the Tesco Supermarket in Grimsby.

- The people who wear the trousers in a pantisocracy are everyone. It means "power by all". It was set up by romantic poets Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Robert Southey in 1794 when they were 21-year-old students, and they planned to set up what we would today consider to be a hippie colony in the USA. Problems quickly arose because Southey assumed that servants (i.e. women) would do the actual work. The plans were then scaled back so they would instead go to Wales, and then the plan was scrapped altogether.

- Tangent: Gyles claims to have lived in a pantisocracy and that it was hell. When he was about 17 a master from his school invited some of the children to go on holiday to Devon, and that they would be pantisocrats. They went to a village where Coleridge had been on holiday, and where he and Southey invented their idea of pantisocracy. During the holiday Gyles, seven other pupils and the teacher lived like equals and pretended to be different romantic poets (Gyles was H. J. Byron, first cousin of Lord Byron). Gyles said it put him off equality forever. At the end of the holiday they all wrote a poem and the boy who was Southey performed The Story of the Three Bears, while Gyles as Byron acted as Widow Twankey and Buttons, who were panto characters he invented. The teacher was Coleridge and Gyles jokingly claims the teacher took opium. Sally asks if Gyles chose the roles, comparing it to the time she auditioned for Jonathan Creek and as she opened the door she thought it would be good if her character was Spanish. She didn't get the part.

- Tangent: Sandi feels sorry for Southey because no-one seems to remember any of his works. However, he was the man who wrote The Story of the Three Bears, the original story of Goldilocks.

- The panel are asked to name a Greek word with a silent "p". The answer is they can't because while there is no silent "p" in Greek, but there is in English. The Greek letter Ψ that in English is pronounced "psi" is in Greek pronounced more like the "ps" in "lasp". (Forfeit: Pterodactyl; Psalm; Philosophy; Philip)

- Tangent: The name for bird "ptarmigan" is Gaelic, which a man named Sir Robert Sibbald wrongly assumed to be Greek and added "p" for no reason. Sibbald was the first person to scientifically describe the blue whale when one got stranded in the Firth of Forth in 1692.

- Pie-eating competitions have been made more political correct with some rule changes. The World Pie-Eating Championships, have been held in Harry's Bar, Wigan, since 1992. Originally the rules were to eat as many pies as they could in three minutes, but in 2006 the rules were changed to reflect changing attitudes towards diet, so the rules now are that you have to eat one pie the fastest. Also, a vegetarian category was added after "relentless pressure" from the Vegetarian Society. Organiser Tony Callaghan said that while these changes may be controversial, it was the way forward. Dave Smith, the first winner of the contest back in 1992 complained that they had taken things too far and that any pie wasn't meat and potato it just wasn't normal. Callaghan also complained that people eating less pies may have been responsible for the last recession. In 2007, twenty pies that had been prepared for the competition were all eaten in a single sitting by a rescue dog called Charlie. His owner Dave Williams was distracted when Charlie ate the pies, but as a result of this he entered Charlie in the competiton. However, Charlie was full from the previous day and only ate half his pie.

- Tangent: Gyles was once invited by Lord Longford 45 years ago to join his campaign against pornography by being a member of a "Pornography committee". Gyles was the youngest member of the committee, whose other members included a bishop, an archbishop and a rabbi. They all went to a club in Copenhagen where they were offering them a special pie. They all sat around it and when they removed the crust it was full of naked people.

- Tangent: The panel have their own pie-eating competition, but because they are obeying the official rules, Sandi has to ask if anyone has earned any money from a previous pie-eating competiton. Jimmy wins. Gyles says that he ate a pie with a human in it. He said he came across it in India where he was researching a book he was writing called Have You Eaten Grandma? and he learned of a tribe where they eat their grandparents. While the UN has banned cannibalism, the ban has been exempt for this tribe, because they believe that by eating them, the spirit of their grandparents comes to them. When the person dies, they feed the body to fish, and the fish are then put in the pie.

- The politically correct procedure for eating a piece of pizza depends on who you ask. Some say you should fold the pizza to avoid spilling grease.

- Tangent: Gyles (speaking again) mentions that he once knew Fanny Craddock, and she taught him and his wife how to make a proper pizza. Craddock said you had to eat the pizza by hand and you had to feed one another.

- Tangent: The panel are given a pizza-tossing lesson, assisted by Paolo, the group-training development chef from Strada. You work from the centre and towards the edge.

General Ignorance

- Nobody knows where the phrase "towing the line" comes from. Gyles has previously and wrongly stated that it came from the House of Commons, where there are two red lines in the carpet that divide the government and opposition benches, you have to keep your toes behind the line, and that the gap between them is the length of two outstretched swords. However, the problem with this story is that the modern day chamber dates back only to 1950, and all older paintings of the House of Commons show no red lines on the floor at all. The best suggestion for the phrase's origin currently known is getting a group of people's toes on a line to get them organised for starting something like a race or parade. Another possible suggestion for the phrase is from prize-fighting, which refers to the "scratch", a line in the middle of the boxing ring where the two fighters stood in order to start the fight. This line is where we get the phrase "up to scratch". (Forfeit: It comes from Parliament)

- To be "drawn" as in "hung, drawn and quartered" was to be drawn through the streets to the site of your execution. The phrase is actually the wrong way around, as you were drawn first and then hung. According to the OED, "to draw" means, "to drag a criminal by a horse's tail or hurdle or the like to a place of execution." (Forfeit: Being disembowelled)

- Captain Nemo's submarine was called "Nautilus", but it only dived four metric leagues or 16km underwater. The 20,000 leagues in the title of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea refers to the distance travelled in the Nautilus, not to the depth it went to. 20,000 metric leagues is equal to 80,000km, and the diameter of the Earth is only 12,742km, meaning that 20,000 leagues is six times the total diameter of the planet. While the Nautilus dived down to 16km, the deepest part of the ocean, the Hadal zone, is only 11km. More people have been to the Moon (12) than the Hadal zone (3). The underwater pressure there is 6 tonnes per square inch, which is akin to 100 elephants standing on your head. (Forfeit: 20,000 leagues)


No points are given and everyone instead is a winner on the following grounds.

- Gyles Brandreth: Most positive attitude.
- Jimmy Carr: Tidiest desk.
- Sally Phillips: Neatest colouring in.
- Alan Davies: Waggiest tail.

Broadcast details

This episode is currently available on BBC iPlayer

Monday 24th September 2018
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Gyles Brandreth Guest
Jimmy Carr Guest
Sally Phillips Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Kalpna Patel-Knight Executive Producer
Sarah Clay Executive Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer


Cardboard cutout policemen

The QI panellists take a look at a super tall cardboard cutout policeman.

Featuring: Sandi Toksvig, Alan Davies, Gyles Brandreth, Jimmy Carr, Sally Phillips.