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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 269 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2021. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Series S recorded.
Series K, Episode 13 is repeated on Dave tomorrow at 1:15am.

Series F, Episode 11 - Film

Further details

Man Ray picture.


- The set is decorated with a red carpet, a red rope barrier, two BAFTA style masks and two giant Oscars. However, these statues have shields instead of swords due to copyright reasons.


- The panel are shown a picture of a woman with two holes in her back which make her look like a violin. They are asked what it is trying to tell them. The picture is a photograph by Man Ray of Ingres called Violin d'Ingres. It is a French pun - "Ingres violin" which means, "Somebody who does something that they are not famous for, but does it almost as well". Ingres was also a great violinist, as well as a painter. The model was Kiki of Montparnasse, who was popular with the surrealists. Ingres died in 1864.

- You would really want Cedric Gibbons nude on your mantelpiece, because he is the man who designed the Oscars, in 1928. Gibbons was the premier art director/production designer of Hollywood, for MGM. Not only did Gibbons design the Oscar statuette, but he won it 11 of them and was nominated 36 times. The person with the most Oscars is Walt Disney, who won 26.

- Tangent: Emma has won two Oscars. One for "Best Actress" for "Howard's End" and the other for "Best Adapted Screenplay" for "Sense and Sensibility". She has also been nominated for three others - "Remains of the Day" (Best Actress), "In the Name of the Father" (Best Supporting Actress) and again for "Sense and Sensibility" (Best Actress). When Emma won her Oscar for "Best Actress", the "Best Actor" award went to Al Pacino. Stephen claims he should have won Emma's "Adapted Screenplay" Oscar because he helped fix Emma's computer when she was writing the script, although Alan claims that Stephen probably just re-wrote it himself.

- Tangent: When "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" won the Oscar for "Best Film", they made one normal Oscar and seven little ones. David claims that "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is a boring cartoon.

- Tangent: Stephen helped to make an Oscar. They are made in a factory in Chicago. It is made of a metal called Britannium which is poured into a mould. Stephen buffed one of the statues and then dipped the statue first in nickel, then in gold. David said he would rather have an Oscar made by a professional.

- The panel are played a noise, which sounds like a ewe giving birth. The sound is made by covering the hands with paint, rubbing them together and then dropping a towel on leaves. The panel are played other sounds effects and try to identify them. These include a guillotine cutting off a person's head (made by knife scratching a scaffolding pole, chopping into a lettuce and then another lettuce being dropped into a bucket); a galloping horse (hitting two coconut halves together); fire (crunching up plastic) and the doors on Star Wars (a piece of paper coming in and out of an envelope). The noises were made by Lizzie Calf, who used to do sound effects for The Archers and now does them for QI. The technical name for a person who makes sound effects is Foley Artist.

- XL: The panel are played a sound clip of a man screaming and are asked where they have heard it before. The answer is that you have probably heard lots and lots of times, because it is an old sound clip called the "Wilhelm scream", that has been used several times over the years - an estimated 140 times, including every Indiana Jones film, every Star Wars film, Madagascar, Planet of the Apes, the first two films in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Toy Story, Reservoir Dogs, Batman Returns and Poltergeist. It is now kind of used as a joke, because it is a stock scream. One man, Ben Burtt, an up-and-coming sound-effects editor (and now a very successful one), heard it in lots of films, and now he and his friends make it a point to include this scream in every film they make. On YouTube, someone has complied a feature using 23 films, all of which have the scream. QI cannot show it because it cost too much money in copyright. The clip is believed to be a man called Sheb Wooley singing, starting on a C note, descending through 4 semitones, down to G sharp. It was first in a film called Distant Drums in 1951.

- XL Tangent: The most ubiquitous line of film dialogue is, "Let's get outta here". According to a study of 150 American feature films between 1938-74, it was used in 84% of Hollywood productions, and 17% of those used it more than once. Emma suggests it might be, "Why are you telling me this?" which Stephen says is an annoying Hollywood cliche, others being, "Don't you die on me!", "I've got a bad feeling about this!", whenever soldiers are going on an operation and one of the soldiers says, "Showtime!", "Gentlemen, we have a situation here." and "I'm getting too old for this shit!"

- The good thing about an English accent in Hollywood is that it is more often than not used for villains. Peter Cushing played The Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars, Steven Berkoff played Victor Maitland in Beverly Hills Cop, and also played Lt. Col. Podovsky in Rambo II, and Christopher Lee played Saruman in The Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku in Star Wars.

- Tangent: John claims that the best kind of villain is to get an Englishman to play a German villain, like Alan Rickman in "Die Hard". Lines include: "Mr Takagi, I will count to three, there will not be a four" and "Mr Takagi will not be joining us for the rest of his life." John claims that Rickman is able to talk without his lips touching his teeth.

- XL Tangent: The two most famous Robin Hood films, the one starring Errol Flynn and other with Kevin Costner (co-starring Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham), both feature a Robin Hood played by an American. David says it would not be better if Costner had been attempting an English accent, similar to Dick Van Dyke's rubbish cockney in "Mary Poppins". Stephen wonders if British people are too polite to complain about the historical representation of British people by Americans. British people tend not to complain about being made the villain. There is also the possibility that they are getting their own back after defeating Britain during the War of Independence. Emma goes onto talk about the bad teeth, which is referenced in "The Simpsons" with "The Big Book of British Smiles".

- XL Tangent: According to John, Alan Rickman hates being good at playing villains. In "Sense and Sensibility" (Emma's version) he played Colonel Brandon. Rickman was at a party once, and a child once said to him, "Alan? Why do you always play villains?". Alan said, "I don't play villains, I play very interesting people."

- Tangent: Christopher Plummer is a Canadian actor. A friend of Stephen's once played alongside him in a film and was asked not to mention "The Sound of Music" to him. Half-an-hour after Plummer entered the hotel; Plummer was playing Edelweiss on the piano. Alan wonders what Plummer's character in "The Sound of Music" saw in the Baroness, claiming she was vile. Alan claims that instead, she should have been replaced with Mary Poppins and then you could have fight between her and Maria. David claims that the one thing that is not mentioned in the film is that Plummer's character is an old naval captain, but is now living in a country which has no coastline.

- XL Tangent: John claims that "The Sound of Music" would be the sort of picture that Hitler would have liked, if only people had not been running away from the Nazis. Stephen once did a film with Julie Andrews around the time of the total eclipse in Cornwall, but they were filming on the Isle of Man. They watched the eclipse on a hill, and half the population of the Isle of Man, while this was going on, were looking at Andrews instead of the eclipse, just because she was famous. Alan was watching the eclipse on Sky News, and they showed a replay of the eclipse, with the anchorman saying, "And there's our old friend the Moon, very much getting in the way."

XL: If an Englishman spells his name with a double-F at the front, it does not mean they are posh. It was in fact a mistake made in the 18th century, by people looking at their family records. The way that the letter "F" was written in family records looks like two small Fs. It is just a mistranslation.

XL: The panel are played a sound clip of a woman singing and playing the piano. The clip is of Florence Foster Jenkins, a rich heiress who wanted to be an opera singer, but seemed to have a lack of talent. She would rent out Carnegie Hall to do recitations, doing so till the age of 76, and became a cult hit. At one show, 2,000 people were turned away at the door because she had already sold the seats. Cole Porter wrote a song for her. Maureen Lipman did a show about her. Jenkins said of herself: "Some say I couldn't sing, but no-one can say I DIDN'T sing." Jenkins also did her own costumes and would change them regularly, telling the audience not to go away while she changed.

- XL Tangent: Emma claims that she did not let Stephen leave while she was getting changed. She also claimed that she has a method of making Stephen scream with terror by appearing nude on top of his stairs, locking all the doors at the bottom, and then she would dance naked in front of him.

- The Ancient Greeks did not cover the genitals on their statues. It was not until the Reformation, the Counter Reformation and later the Victorians who cut them off or covered them with fig leaves. There is a room in the Vatican which contains all of the cut-off genitals.

- XL Tangent: A statue of naked Greek man and a woman reminds Emma of the story of Victorian art critic Ruskin, who married a woman called Effie Gray. When he first saw her nude, which was the first time ever he had seen a live nude woman, he was shocked at seeing her pubic hair. This was because all art of nude women showed women without pubic hair. Stephen then points out that this story is in fact a myth. The story first appeared in the 1960s, but it is believed to be true that they did not have sex for seven years. Ironically, women are now shaving their pubic hair off. This leads to talk about waxing and Stephen asks if Emma waxes her pubic region. When Emma asks if he wants to see, Stephen is shocked by the suggestion and screams. Emma then asks about whether or not people bleach their bumholes, which is believed to happen in LA.

- The panel are shown some film from 1903 featuring lots of tiny creatures moving around in a certain substance and are asked what is upsetting about it. The upsetting thing about it is that it showed for the first time the cheese mites in cheese. The cheese industry tried to get the film banned due to lost sales however, on the other hand, the film did increase the sales of microscopes. The mites do not harm you.

- Tangent: Emma's father Eric narrated a documentary called "The Life That Lives in Man" which is about all of the creatures that live inside the human body. This leads to David talking about adverts for bleaches that claim there are more germs on your chopping board than there are on a toilet seat. David points out that if the chopping board is fine, the products are pointless. If anything, we are dying by bleaching because the bacteria are becoming resistant to the bleaches.

- Michelangelo was lying when he painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel... because in the picture of God and Adam, God is in front of some fabric, which according to at least four professors (including neuroscientists and neurosurgeons) looks like a cross section of the brain. If this is true, it may be a reference that Michelangelo secretly attended illegal dissections, and Michelangelo might have painted it because he thought that the human brain was one of God's great miracles. He did not lie down to paint the ceiling, as was depicted in the film The Agony and the Ecstasy, in which Michelangelo is played by Charlton Heston.

- Tangent: In Oregon, there is a museum dedicated to replications of the brain using fabrics. The website includes a message on one of their pieces saying: "While our artists make every effort to ensure accuracy, we cannot accept responsibility for the consequences of using fabric brain art as a guide for functional magnetic resonance imaging."

General Ignorance

- If you remove the fleas on a hedgehog, the hedgehog will continue living. A hedgehog might however die if it is covered in flea powder. The myth that hedgehogs die if their fleas are removed was claimed as fact on David's BBC Radio 4 panel game The Unbelievable Truth. (Forfeit: It dies)

- Tangent: You should not give a hedgehog bread and milk because it gives it diarrhoea. Alan claims that no-one should feed bread and milk to any mammal including humans, leading David to rant about how that idea is stupid.

- Shakespeare mentions 'cricket' three times in his plays, although it is not a reference to the game but to the creature. Cricket was played during his time and is mentioned in 1550. He also mentions football twice. Again, the myth that cricket did not exist during Shakespeare's time was another 'fact' repeated on David's show, The Unbelievable Truth. (Forfeit: Never)

- Head lice prefer the hair on a living person, whether it is clean or dirty. So long as there is an adequate blood supply, they will live there. Nits are the egg cases of lice, which can takes weeks to get rid of. (Forfeit: Clean)

- A flu jab works by remaining dormant in the body. People think that it gives them a mild version of flu, this is often because they get the jab around the time flu enters the country. (Forfeit: By giving you 'flu)

XL: The most depressing day of the week is Wednesday. While most people say Monday, if you carried out a long enough study and asked how depressed people were on each day, Wednesday comes out top. There is a French joke which goes: "Why should you never arrange a meeting with an Englishman on a Wednesday? Because you'll screw up TWO weekends of his." This is a joke based on the French belief that the English are lazy. (Forfeit: Monday)

XL: The popular film by the British multinational Innovia Films Ltd which made more than £360 million in 2008 and the same amount the year before is Cellophane. Cellophane is a British product and the most successful British 'film' ever made.

- XL Tangent: Emma asks Stephen about his view on the word "Luvvie". His view is that actors do go over-the-top when they are called this, but he hates it when the tabloids like The Daily Mail use the term to attack actors. Emma then tells Stephen the first citation of the word in the OED. Which results in the...

- Luvvie alarm: Stephen invented the word some time in the 1980s.


- Alan Davies: 4 points (Seventh victory)
- John Sessions: 1 point
- Emma Thompson: -10 points
- David Mitchell: -15 points

Broadcast details

Friday 6th March 2009
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
John Sessions Guest
David Mitchell Guest
Emma Thompson Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
Piers Fletcher Producer
Lorraine Heggessey Executive Producer
Katie Taylor Executive Producer


David Mitchell's Bread and Milk Rant

David Mitchell finds himself on the defense during a discussion on bread and milk.

Featuring: Alan Davies, Stephen Fry, John Sessions, David Mitchell, Emma Thompson.


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