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.

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Series R, Episode 1 - Rude

QI. Image shows from L to R: John Barrowman, Alan Davies, Sandi Toksvig, Phill Jupitus, Aisling Bea
The show has now reached the letter R, and begins with a rather Rude episode. Joining Sandi are John Barrowman, Phill Jupitus, Aisling Bea and regular panellist Alan Davies.


- The panel are asked to name something so rude that you cannot say it on a BBC comedy show. Phill goes into a string of expletives, leading to a test-card going up and a message saying: "Please stand by". After a few seconds it goes away and Sandi rephrases the question: Name something that you can say on a BBC comedy show now, that you couldn't say in the 1950s. You can say "fuck", but only it is cleared by BBC management first. In the late 1940s, the BBC Variety Programmes Policy Guide for Writers and Producers, more commonly known as the Green Book, listed what was acceptable to broadcast. There were absolute ban on jokes regarding, "lavatories, effeminacy in men, immortality of any kind, and suggestive references to honeymoon couples, chambermaids and fig leaves." Something else that must be avoided was vulgar use of the word, "basket" and suggestive references to ladies underwear. It conceded that, "references to Noah were sometimes permissible", but added that: "Since there is seldom anything to be gained by them, and since they can engender much resentment, they are best avoided altogether." You could not also make jokes about solicitors, miners, the working class, and a specific Irish family called the MacGillycuddys of the Reeks, an ancient family that was the subject of several jokes to which the family took offence towards.

- Tangent: When Alan started doing BBC radio in the 1990s, the BBC had a list of eight words that could not be said. However, the only thing he really got into trouble for was blasphemy.

- XL Tangent: Aisling comments on Irish words like "feck", "Jaysus" and "shite", which sound rude to the English but are an equivalent of "fudge". Thus, the line in Father Ted: "Drink, feck, arse, girls!" is perfectly acceptable. John comments that in the USA you can get away with saying: "frickin'".

- Tangent: In 1944, Max Miller, told a story about meeting a rather attractive woman on a mountain pass that included a line saying that he didn't know whether to, "block her passage or toss himself off". For this joke, Miller was banned by the BBC for five years.

- Tangent: The first song banned by the BBC was My Little Ukulele in my Hand by George Formby in 1933. The BBC considered him a repeat offender, with the corporation describing him as: "our old friend". John remembers being BBC-trained for presenting and being told: "You can say it on air, as long as it is in a medical book." This leads to Phill impersonating Formby, singing: "Oh, I'm absolutely riddled with chlamydia." Another censored singer was music hall performer Marie Lloyd, who was told to change her song She Sits Among the Cabbages and Peas. She changed it to She Sits Among the Cabbages and Leeks.

- Tangent: In the film Mrs Miniver there is a scene where an actor jumps into bed in his pyjamas just after he's got back from helping the rescue at D-Day, and as he jumps into the bed his penis falls out of his pyjamas. For some reason, the editor missed this, the scene was not cut out, and the penis still appears in the film. Aisling did an acting job recently, and actors have to say what kinds of nudity they are OK performing. Her agent texted her that she had to tell the producers the next day, and Aisling could only text her what to put into the contract, which was: "Boob, no nip. Top of crack, fine. Bottom of crack, no." The agent printed out the text and framed it for Aisling.

- The panel are given chopsticks and are asked what the rudest thing you can do with them is. The rudest thing is passing food with your own chopsticks to another person's chopsticks. This is because it reminds people of Buddhist funerals, as chopsticks are used to pick out the deceased's bones out of the ashes and place them in an urn. Thus for larger bones you need two sets of chopsticks, and two sets of chopsticks touching reminds people of removing their ancestors' bones and putting them in the urn. Also rude is sticking chopsticks vertically up in the food, which is very rude in China and Japan as it reminds people of joss sticks, which are also used at funerals. In Japan, the word for chopsticks is "hashi", which becomes "bashi" when it is part of a compound word. Examples of rude things to do with chopsticks include "watashi-bashi", resting the chopsticks across the bowl; "neburi-bashi", sucking on the chopsticks; "saguri-bashi", which is using the chopsticks to rummage through the food; and "sashi-bashi", which is skewering the food.

- Tangent: The world record for catching the most shuttlecocks with chopsticks is 54 in a minute.

- XL: The motive Oedipus had for killing his father was chariot rage - the Ancient Greek equivalent of road rage. In the myth, the soothsayer Tiresias told him that Oedipus would kill his father and marry his mother. Oedipus was never told that he was adopted, so he never knew who his actual father was. One day, he argued with his birth father, King Laius, over who had the right of way, and Oedipus killed Laius, not knowing that Laius was his father.

- XL Tangent: Alan starts humming the theme to the film Chariots of Fire. He says that the best nickname of any sportsperson was for rugby player Martin "Chariots" Offiah. John mentions that "Chariots" is also the name of a very popular gay sauna in Central London.

- XL Tangent: Before road rage, chariot rage and carriage rage had existed. In 1817, Lord Byron wrote to a friend that he had just had a row with a man in a carriage who had shouted at him and frightened and his. The man expressed: "An intention of mending the roads with his immediate remains if he did not hold his tongue." He held it. Byron kept a pet bear at university.

- XL Tangent: The phrase "road rage" dates back to a Florida newspaper in 1988, and is probably a play on "steroid rage", which was shortened to "roid rage". A study of 2,400 American drivers found that motorists who carry guns are more likely to be prone to road rage. A 2019 survey of UK drivers found that the drivers most prone to road rage come from Yorkshire, and the least prone are from the West Midlands.

- The thing that thinks it is attractive to stand in front of a female and shout in her face is the white bellbird (Procnias albus). It lives in the Amazon and has the loudest call in the avian kingdom. Singing a single note like a fog horn, from a metre away it averages 116 dB, the same as a rock concert. When the male finds a likely mate, they land on a branch, swivel their body face-on, bray into the female's face, and if the female likes it they will mate.

- Tangent: The highest John seems to be able to sing is B flat, which he does by singing the word: "Shuttlecock" loudly at Aisling.

- The person whose genitals are seven feet longer than they used to be belong to the Cerne Abbas Giant, also known as the Rude Man of Cerne or the Old Man of Cerne. This is the 200-foot tall chalk carving in Dorset of a naked man holding a club. Originally his penis was just 16ft long, which when taking things into scale is about average for a man. However, in 1908, for unknown reasons his penis and belly button were merged together, making his penis seven feet longer. We don't know the age of the giant. A survey of land in 1617 has no mention of him, but references start to appear in the 1760s, with an article in a 1764 edition of The Gentleman Magazine including drawings and measurements. We don't know why it was created, but it is possibly a parody of Oliver Cromwell and dates to the Civil War. In 1921, a campaign from a Mr. Long in Gillingham tried to cover the giant's genitals with a huge fig leaf. Two local bishops supported him, and while the Home Office considered the idea, nothing was done. (Forfeit: Mine)

- Tangent: Aisling says that when she looks at the giant, she thinks it looks more like a shy little girl in pigtails licking a lollipop.

- XL Tangent: In 1992, some pranksters made a giant pair of jeans for the Cerne Abbas Giant. In 2002, the Giant was given a condom by the Family Planning Association. In 2007, a protestor known only as the Purple Phantom painted the Giant's entire penis purple using dye.

- The people who are always a little bit late are the Danes. There are 50 or more labs in the world which all run on atomic clocks, which measure the vibration of cesium atoms. One second is defined as the time it takes for a cesium atom to vibrate 9,192,631,770 times. Each clock around the world sends all of its data to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris, who collate it. The process is called Coordinated Universal Time, and it is used throughout the world, except in Denmark, where the laws were never updated. Denmark instead uses Mean Solar Time, which means that they are a quarter of a second later than everyone else on Earth.

- Tangent: Coordinated Universal Time's acronym is UTC, because in French the phrase would be "temps universel coordonne" or TUC, and because they couldn't agree on either CUT or TUC, they went with UTC as a compromise.

- Tangent: The reason we have 60 second and 60 minutes is because the number 60 can be divided by 12 other numbers. This can be dated back by 4,000 years to the Babylonians.

- XL Tangent: When Sandi was at university she at a lecture where someone was talking about how cavemen used a version of a calendar that would have 28 markings on a bone, called the Ishango bone, and Sandi asked: "Why would it be a caveman using it and not a cavewoman?" She asked why a man would need to know that 28 days have passed, when a woman would need to know for medical reasons. Sandi however says that this thought was actually first given to her by Dr. Deborah Swallow.

- XL Tangent: The Romans used 60 seconds in a minute, but they did not use 60 minutes for an hour. Thus in the summer an hour could be 75 minutes long and in the winter just 45 minutes. The Vikings meanwhile divided the day into eight parts by splitting the horizon into eight parts, and people would pick a feature of the landscape that was directly above the middle of each of these sections. You would then know what time it was depending on where the sun was over a particular feature.

- The panel are shown drawings of five faces, each time the faces becoming more anxious looking, and are asked what comes next. The answer is a drawing of the face vomiting. This is "BARF" - "Baxter Animated Retching Faces" - and is used to help children explain how nauseous they feel, because they have difficulty explaining how they feel in words. BARF is based on a similar scale called the Wong-Baker Scale, which is used for pain.

- XL Tangent: You should not be rude to your doctor because there is an increased likelihood of them doing something wrong. In 2017, a study of surgeons in Israel found that being rude to doctors make them 50% less good at their jobs. The surgeons performed a simulated surgery on a child, all the time while being yelled at by one of the parents. The surgeons communicated less well, made incorrect diagnosis, and sometimes picked up the wrong instruments. Lots of the patients they were "operating on" would have died.

- XL: The most mature people blow raspberries because it is an important part of a baby's language development. It helps babies learn how to manoeuvre their jaw, lips, tongue etc. The earliest a baby blows a loud raspberry the earlier they tend to speak.

- XL Tangent: A 2018 study of babies found that London infants are the rudest, West Midland infants are the most polite, and Scottish babies learn the word "sorry" the quickest. Another study shows that increased use of household assistants like Siri and Alexa are making children ruder because you don't need to say "please" or "thank you" to them. 42% of children between 9-16 now use them.

General Ignorance

- An example of a body part this is built only for pleasure is the nucleus accumbens. While it was thought that the clitoris was purely for pleasure, we now know the clitoris informs the brain that it is time to create the very best swimming conditions for sperm. The nucleus accumbens is the part of the brain that activates when we feel rewarded in some way, and fires dopamine into the body. (Forfeit: Clitoris)

- The country's whose national poem begins with the words: "O Lithuania", is Poland. Adam Mickiewicz wrote the poem and the opening verse begins: "O Lithuania, my country, thou / Art like good health I never knew till now / How precious, till I lost thee." The reason for mentioning Lithuania is because Poland and Lithuania were once part of a joint commonwealth. (Forfeit: Latvia; Estonia; Lithuania)

- Tangent: The country with the world's longest national anthem is Greece, which has 158 stanzas, but normally only two are sung. Meanwhile the Congo's national anthem asks: "And if we have to die does it really matter?"

- If you can smell burnt toast, then it means that someone is burning toast. The idea that it means you are having a stroke is a total misconception. "Phantosmia" is when you think you can smell something but there is nothing to smell. Strokes do not affect your sense of smell. (Forfeit: Having a stroke)

- XL: You should not flash in an art gallery because the photo will be poor and it will annoy other people. The flash on the average camera won't damage paintings. In order to damage it the flashes would have to be as powerful as the ones inside professional photography studios, and even then the effect would be so small that it would be invisible to the naked eye. (Forfeit: Because it can damage the paintings)


- John Barrowman: 1 point
- Alan Davies: -1 point
- Aisling Bea: -2 points
- Phill Jupitus: -5 points
- The Audience: -10 points

Broadcast details

Thursday 28th May 2020
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Saturday 29th August 2020 9:00pm
45 minute version
Monday 5th April 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 6th April 2021 12:20am
60 minute version
Tuesday 13th July 2021 10:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 14th July 2021 2:00am
60 minute version
Tuesday 2nd November 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version
Tuesday 1st March 2022 11:00pm
60 minute version
Sunday 17th July 2022 12:00am
60 minute version
Sunday 17th July 2022 8:00pm
60 minute version
Thursday 29th September 2022 2:30am
45 minute version
Thursday 29th September 2022 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 26th October 2022 10:00pm BBC2
Sunday 3rd December 2023 11:00pm Dave
Sunday 18th February 2024 10:00pm Dave

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Phill Jupitus Guest
Aisling Bea Guest
John Barrowman Guest
Writing team
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Mat Coward Researcher
James Harkin Question Writer
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Researcher
Ed Brooke-Hitching Researcher
Mandy Fenton Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
Emily Jupitus Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Ethan Ruparelia Researcher
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Aran Kharpal Graphics
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor

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