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


  • TV panel show
  • BBC Two / BBC One / BBC Four
  • 2003 - 2022
  • 279 episodes (19 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 R, Episode 10 - Rest & Recreation

QI. Image shows from L to R: Alan Davies, Stephen K Amos, Sandi Toksvig, Lou Sanders, Susan Calman
Sandi Toksvig asks questions on the theme of rest and recreation this week, with Stephen K Amos, Susan Calman, Lou Sanders and Alan Davies trying to come up with interesting answers - while avoiding the most obvious ones.

Further details


- Tangent: Sandi asks the panel for their favourite ways to relax. Lou used to mediate. Once, after coming out of a long period of mediation, she honestly thought she could speak Portuguese. Sandi asks if Alan goes to the football to relax, but he doesn't relax there. He says that if he wants a nap, he'd go for a drive. Susan says that she would relax with brandy and a game of bridge, but Sandi knows that Susan would count her Smurf collection. Alan asks if it is more relaxing to be in a locked or unlocked room. Sandi was once at a hotel, slept naked, woke up, couldn't remember where the toilet was and accidentally locked herself out of her room. Alan asks why Sandi couldn't just go under the door.

- The panel are each given something to help them relax.

- Alan - A dummy cow: Mountain Horse Farm in Upstate New York allows you to cuddle cows to help you relax, for $75 an hour. The farm assures customers that all cuddling sessions are private.

- Susan - Oranges: People pay to sniff oranges and lemons in order to relax. The Mayo Clinic in the USA use it as part of their aromatherapy.

- XL Tangent: Another reason for smelling an orange is to check of olfactory dysfunction, the loss of the ability to smell anything. It is a really strong predictor as to whether or not a person is well, and if you might die from certain conditions, including heart failure, cancer and lung disease. In 2014, the University of Chicago tested 430 people over five years, and 39% of the people who had a significant loss of smelling had died.

- Lou - A dummy hand: If you close your lips around your thumb, blow on it hard and exhale, tis stimulates the vagus nerve, which is responsible for the body's relaxation response. This is known as the Valsalva manoeuvre. It lowers your heart rate and clams you down.

- Tangent: When Lou gets the dummy hand, she immediately thinks the answer is something rude. She tries to resist making any rude jokes because her mother did not like it the last time she said something rude on QI, but Lou then starts to put the fingers of the dummy in her mouth and lick then sexually.

- Stephen - The ingredients to make slime: In 2017, "How to make slime" was the most popular "how to" Google search in the entire UK that year. Slime was responsible for a glue shortage in the USA. People relaxed by watching other people playing with it, it being an example of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR. One woman, 26-year-old Karina Garcia, has nine million subscribers on YouTube that watch her play with slime, as well as videos of her trying to fit as many chicken nuggets as possible into her mouth. She makes $200,000 a month.

- XL: The one thing that is guaranteed to ruin a good night's sleep is the snooze button on your alarm clock. If you press it, your brain thinks that you have launched into another long sleep cycle, and then you unexpectedly wake up a few minutes later. This is really bad for you. Rapid eye movement (REM) tends to be in the second half of your night's sleep, and when you press the snooze button, your brain thinks it is time to start another REM cycle, but the alarm interrupts it and you are left even groggier. At least half of all sleepers hit the snooze button once every morning. People who press it several times have the greatest fatigue.

- The thing that is rotund and makes a royal retch is a rotunda in Leicester Square. Next door to the Leicester Square Theatre is a purpose-built, gigantic building, that was originally created to display enormous paintings. The paintings were by artist Robert Barker, who coined the term "panorama". He began with a view of London which cost three shillings to see, and he made a fortune. The rotunda was perfectly round and had a lower and upper circle, so one panorama could be displayed above another. The paintings were so large that you needed to have a map in order to find your way around. The building is now the Notre Dame de France Catholic Church, and a brick front prevents you from seeing the original design, but when viewed from above you can see how large the original rotunda was. In 1794, just before it opened, King George III and Queen Charlotte were given a private viewing of a naval scene that was so realistic and overwhelming that it made Charlotte retch, because it made her seasick.

- Tangent: Susan says she knows how Charlotte must have felt, because she went to see the film Gravity at the IMAX cinema. However, as there only a few seats available so she had to sit right at the front, and it was so realistic that Susan vomited on herself.

- XL Tangent: Sandi once vomited while scuba diving. Stephen was asked to go on a jet plane, doing a loop-the-loop, and he vomited in his helmet.

- Tangent: Another artist, John Banvard, painted moving panoramas of the Mississippi Valley in the 1840s. Instead of you moving to look at all the pictures, the pictures were on rollers that were cranked around, and someone would explain a story to you as the action unfolded. They were eventually brought over to Britain where Queen Victoria was given a private viewing.

- XL Tangent: The experience of feeling sick while looking at these pictures is akin to the modern phenomenon of feeling sick while playing virtual reality video games. Susan felt sick playing a game set on a plane. Between 40-70% of people feel sick playing these games. It is like the opposite of motion sickness. While motion sickness is where you feel the motion of the vehicle but cannot see what is happening, in these games you see the movement on the screen but feel no movement.

- Tangent: You can be sick while looking at optical illusions. Prof. Akiyoshi Kitaoka from Kyoto creatures illusions online, and they come with warnings that if you look at them you can actually be sick, even if the picture is not moving. If you do feel sick, you should immediately cover one eye with your hand, but don't close your eyes as that can make the attack worse. The panel are shown one of Kitaoka's pictures called "Irrigation", which is a completely static picture, but it looks like a set of rollers moving. Another of his pictures shown is called "Rotating Snakes", where several circles appear to be moving even though the picture remains static.

- XL Tangent: In the Puzzling Place in Keswick, there is a room where everything is deliberately at the wrong angle, but you don't know it is until you step into the room. Susan could not even enter the room because it made her feel sick.

- There are a few examples of what can be considered to the least sportsmanlike thing you can do on a rugby pitch. Alan says that at school, as a joke people would put Deep Heat in the jockstraps. However, in terms of professional matches, one example of unsportsmanlike behaviour occurred in a game between England and the fairly new formed New Zealand team in 1889. At a game in Blackheath, English player Andrew Stoddart was tackled and his shorts were accidentally ripped off. Thus, the Kiwis surrounded Stoddart to allow him to get back his modesty, but while this was happening another English player, Frank Evershed, picked up the ball and scored a try unopposed. The try was allowed by the referee, Rowland Hill, who just happened to be the Secretary of the English Rugby Football Union. Three Kiwis went off the pitch in protest, England won the game 7-0, and the Kiwis were later forced to apologise for their players leaving the field. However, even worse than this was another match involving New Zealand in 1986, playing against France. Wayne Shelford, who would later go on to be captain of the All Blacks, in one of his first games ended up at the bottom of the ruck. He lost four teeth and a French boot ripped open his scrotum, causing a testicle to hang out of it. The scrotum was sown back together on the sidelines, and Shelford played on until into the second half when he was knocked unconscious. Today, Shelford says he has no memory of the game.

- XL Tangent: The force of tackling in rugby has only recently been quantified. In 2013, the Hutt Old Boys-Marist club in New Zealand used electronic mouth guards and behind the ear patches to measure the impact of tackles. F-16 fighter jet rolls generate 9 Gs of force; a 40mph car crash generates 35 Gs; but the highest G-force recorded by this rugby club was 205 Gs. According to the physician observing this there was no sign of cognitive injury to any of the players.

- XL Tangent: Sandi asks Lou if she likes sports. Lou says she likes doing them but not watching them, but when asked which sports she does Lou replies: "Actually, now I think about it, I don't think I'm a sports person."

- The world's first roller-coasters were made out of wood and ice. In 15th century Russia, "ice-slides" or "flying mountains" were built in several towns, including St. Petersburg. Some were 80 foot high. They were on wooden supports, coated with water which quickly froze to create an icy surface. Hollowed blocks of ice lined with straw were used as the cars. Catherine the Great had one specifically built for herself at the Oranienbaum Palace on the Gulf of Finland. They became so popular that they were called "Russian Mountains". The Spanish still call roller-coasters "Montana Rusa".

- Tangent: The pioneering American roller-coaster engineer Ron Toomer, the designer of 93 roller-coasters by the time he died in 2011, admitted that he didn't like going on them.

- Tangent: In June 1911, the owner of Boston's Derby Racer roller-coaster stood up in one of the cars to give a speech about roller-coaster safety. He fell out of the car and died.

- Tangent: In 1999, Fabio, the male model who starred on the cover of many romance novels, was once on the inaugural ride of a Virginian roller-coaster, but during the ride a goose flew by and they collided while Fabio was in the mid-ride, badly injuring Fabio's face. No-one is really sure if the goose flew into Fabio, or if the roller-coaster hit the goose which then hit Fabio. Afterwards, Fabio said that roller-coasters were dangerous, this was not a freak accident and it would happen again. So far as we know, no-one else has even been hit by a bird while riding a roller-coaster.

- XL: A really ropey thing to do in a churchyard is rope-sliding. In the 18th century, steeplejacks perform rope-sliding shows in churchyards. The steeplejack would climb up the church spire, attach a rope to the peak, then another rope would be attached to the ground, and the steeplejack comes down diagonally at a sharp angle. Lots of people died doing this. The most famous rope slider was Robert Cadman, who performed many times in the 1730s. There was a line from St. Mary's Church, Shrewsbury, which was attached to a tree in Gay Meadow (which later became the football ground for Shrewsbury Town). Cadman walked up the 250m long rope, then wore a wooden breastplate with a central groove in it, and chest surfed all the way down. St. Mary's Church now had a plaque commemorating Cadman's death, which occurred when he plunged to his death on 2nd February 1739, when the rope broke.

- XL Tangent: Susan did a zip-line ride across the River Clyde, which she did not enjoy. It was for charity, and she had to hold onto a crane while she was hooked and unhooked, but Susan was too small to reach the crane. When she told the man hooking her that she couldn't reach it, the man replied: "It's for charity."

- XL Tangent: As well as male steeplejacks there were also female steeplejills. One was Lydia Atkins, the Lady Steeplejack of Leicester, who once ascended a 150-foot chimney in just five minutes. Some steeplejills disguised themselves as men. One disguised steeplejill was helping to rebuild Wakefield Cathedral in the early 1700s, and one day she climbed to the top where she had an accident whereby her gender was exposed.

- XL Tangent: In 1733, an unnamed man rope-slid from the top of the castle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne into Bailey Gate, but he thought that this was not interesting enough, so he decided to do it with a donkey. The Newcastle Courant newspaper reported as a result of this, "accidents happened, for the weights tied to the ass's legs knocked down several, bruised others in a violent manner, and killed a girl on the spot."

- XL: When pervs tried to reinvent the wheel, people crashed. The Dynasphere, created by physicist and electrification expert John Archibald Purves, it is a single-wheeled vehicle that he revealed to the public in 1932 that could go up to 30mph. The driver's seat, the controls and the engine are sat on a carriage that slid on a sort of a vertical loop of rails, inside an outer carriage of the same shape. As the outer loop revolves, the inner loop remains level. Steering however was a problem as you could not see where you were going, unless you leaned out, and the only way you could stop was to turn off the engine and roll to a halt. There was also a risk of "gerbilling", where if you accelerated to sharply or stopped too suddenly, then the inner carriage was spun 360 degrees and it would be as if you were stuck in a washing machine.

- XL Tangent: Stephen once did zorbing, where you are strapped into a large plastic ball and roll down a hill, although he did it with a bucket of water inside. He thought he was going to die.

- XL Tangent: Another vehicle consisting of sitting inside a large wheel was Hemming's Unicycle, also known as the Flying Yankee Velocipede, which was powered by a hand crank. This too failed to take off.

General Ignorance

- Car thieves start cars using scanners. It is almost impossible to hot-wire a modern car. Since the mid-1990s various precautions have been created to stop this from happening. For example, the car key now has a chip in it, and if the car doesn't detect this chip the car won't start. Today, modern car stealing methods including using scanners to clone the radio signals from car keys. This can be done from outside somebody's house. The best advice is to keep the car keys far away from the front door as possible, or put them in a biscuit tin where the signals cannot be detected. (Forfeit: Hot-wiring)

- Tangent: The first car theft ever was committed by a woman, namely Bertha Benz, the wife of Karl Benz, the inventor of the first practical automobile. Bertha thought that Karl wasn't doing his best to sell it, so she took the car on the very first long-distance journey, on 5th August 1888. She drove 90km from Mannheim to Pforzheim, with her two teenage sons, and went to visit her mother. At one point she stopped at a cobbler's and asked him to put some leather pieces onto the breaks to stop them from wearing out. Thus Bertha Benz invented brake pads.

- XL Tangent: In modern cars, if the wing mirrors are sticking out and the car is empty, the key fob has been left in the car, because the mirrors tuck themselves in when you leave the car.

- XL: Vinyl does not sound better than CDs or MP3s. Research at Tufts University shows that LPs have a smaller dynamic range, with CDs having ten times more range. While people thought that you could hear details on vinyl that were not in digital files, these digital files are usually compressed, which is why you don't hear the details, but they don't have to be compressed. Vinyl records also have surface noise, whereas CD players use light beams so dust is not a problem. Vinyl records have an underlying, low frequency rumble from the actual mechanics and the needle moving across the surface. The record can also unexpectedly vary in speed and pitch. The researchers say that: "From any objective standpoint, there's no justification in called the sound of vinyl records better."

- The cat that got the cream is probably ill. While kittens drink their mother's milk, adult cats are lactose intolerant, so cannot drink cream. They do not have the lactase enzyme in their digestive system.

- Tangent: Human beings made cheese for a thousand years before they became lactose tolerant.


- Susan Calman: 9 points
- Stephen K. Amos, Lou Sanders and Alan Davies: -6 points

Broadcast details

Thursday 30th July 2020
30 minutes


Show past repeats

Date Time Channel
Tuesday 2nd February 2021 10:00pm
45 minute version
Tuesday 20th April 2021 9:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 21st April 2021 2:00am
50 minute version
Tuesday 5th October 2021 10:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 17th November 2021 1:00pm
60 minute version
Wednesday 17th November 2021 6:00pm
60 minute version

Cast & crew

Sandi Toksvig Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Susan Calman Guest
Stephen K Amos Guest
Lou Sanders Guest
Writing team
James Harkin Script Editor
Anna Ptaszynski Script Editor
Sandi Toksvig Script Editor
Ed Brooke-Hitching Question Writer
Production team
Diccon Ramsay Director
John Lloyd (as John Lloyd CBE) Series Producer
Piers Fletcher Producer
Justin Pollard Associate Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Nick Collier Lighting Designer
Howard Goodall Composer
Pritesh Ladva Graphics
Mat Coward Researcher
Will Bowen Researcher
Mandy Fenton Researcher
Mike Turner Researcher
Jack Chambers Researcher
Emily Jupitus Researcher
James Rawson Researcher
Ethan Ruparelia Researcher
Sarah Clay Commissioning Editor

Share this page