Series G, Episode 11 - Gifts
- This is one of the "General" shows in Series G, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "G".
- The panel are each given a Hessian bag full of items and are asked which item is the most confiscated by United States customs. The bags contain Cuban cigars, tins of spam, chocolate eggs, used handkerchiefs, shoes with soil on them, counterfeit money, lottery tickets and seeds. The answer is the chocolate eggs, in particular those with toys inside them such as Kinder Eggs, because the small parts in the toys are a chocking risk. All of the items in the bag are confiscated too - including the bag which is made of hemp. Cuban cigars are the second most confiscated item. All imports from Cuba are banned by the USA, despite the fact that all UN nations except Israel and Palau have declared the American boycott of Cuban products illegal for 17 years in a row. You can go to prison for two years for smuggling lottery tickets into the USA.
- XL: The thing that happened to the box of chocolates Gordon Brown gave to George W. Bush was that it was destroyed by burning. Under Secret Service rules, any gifts of food or drink are destroyed upon receipt no matter who gives them. Amongst the things given to President Bush include a £150 box of Charbonnel et Walker chocolates from Gordon Brown, a £650 box of chocolates from the Prime Minister of Qatar, an assortment of nut pasties from the President of Iraq, and 3lbs of live shamrocks from former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to celebrate St. Patrick's Day. When QI phoned Downing Street to ask why it was destroyed, they refused to answer. The reason why they give gifts is protocol.
- XL: The world's cheapest cheapskate is probably rhamphomyia sulcata, a species of dance fly. In order to mate, the male catches an insect, sucks out the innards, wraps the outer body with silk and gives it to the female. By the time the female discovers it is empty, the male has spawned with her and fled. Other insects also give gifts to their mates in order to avoid being killed when mating. Some for example have males which pretend to be female, and steal their mate's gift.
- Someone who never laughs is known as an "agelastic". Famous agelastics include Sir Isaac Newton, who is said to have laughed only once during his entire life when someone asked what was the point of studying Euclid; Joseph Stalin, according to Marshal Zhukov; Jonathan Swift and William Gladstone. While it might seem odd that Swift was agelastic being a humorous writer, there are many comedians who do not laugh and are miserable in private. On the other hand, Anthony Trollop laughed a lot. In fact he died laughing.
- The people responsible for the oldest joke in the world are the Sumerians in 1900 BC. It reads: "Something that has never occurred since time immemorial - a young woman did not fart on her husband's lap." Another old joke is a Greek joke about an absent-minded professor on a sea voyage when a storm occurs and his slaves start to panic. The professor says, "Don't cry, I have freed you all in my will." One group of people mocked by the Greeks were the Abderites, who they said were stupid. Joke 114 in the Philogelos says that an Abderite asks a eunuch how many children he has, to which the eunuch says he has none because he is a eunuch. The Abderite says something in return, but no-one knows what it is. Clive suggests: "How many grandchildren then?" An old English joke says the cleanest leaf is the holly leaf because no-one will wipe their arse with them.
- The panel are shown a metal device used to gag someone. It is known as a "scold's bridal". While it is commonly believed by people to punish gossipy women, there are no real records of these being used. A more common punishment was to be ducked in water using a cucking stool (not ducking stool). The male version of the scold's bridal was a barrator. There are 50 scold's bridals in Britain, and one in the studio is a replica from Walton-on-Thames.
- If you cross a caterpillar with a butterfly you may end up with an entirely different animal according to one theory. According to Donald Williamson, formerly of the University of Liverpool, caterpillars and butterflies are different species, in his theory of hybridogenesis. Williamson examined a species of starfish called Luidia sarsi which starts life as a small larva with a tiny starfish inside it. As the larva grows, the starfish migrates to the outside, they separate and the larva settles on the seabed which is normal. However, the larva did not degenerate. The larva swims off and lives for several months as an independent animal. He claims that for millions of years, especially in the sea, hundred of thousands of different species of sperm and seed have mixed, and just once every million years of so they create a double species. (Forfeit: Butterpillar; Caterfly)
- XL: Luigi from Bologna galvanised his frog to show that the nervous system worked using electricity. Luigi Galvani, from whom we get the word "galvanisation", found this and his nephew showed this in England and over the rest of Europe. He impressed the Royal College of Surgeons in 1803 where he convulsed the body of murderer George Foster. He placed rods on Foster's ears and his jaw moved and an eye opened. When the rod was moved to Foster's rectum, the whole body convulsed as if the body was coming back to live. This experiment was read by Mary Shelley who used it as inspiration for her novel Frankenstein, although no mention of electricity is given in the novel. Galvanised iron and buckets are made by coating them in zinc and thus resisting corrosion - it is an entirely different thing.
- One percent of American adults are in jail (spelt gaol in British English). 2,300,000 Americans are behind bars. Their proportion is twice as much as South Africa, more than three times as much as Iran, and more than six times as much as China. No society on Earth has imprisoned more of its people than the Americans. Part of the problem is their "Three strikes" rule, in which if you commit two serious crimes you are given life imprisonment if you commit a third crime no matter how trivial it is, which lasts at least 25 years. For example, Leandro Andrade is serving two life sentences for shoplifting nine videotapes. Another, Kevin Weber, is serving 26 years for stealing four chocolate chip cookies. One in thirty men between the ages of 20-34 is in jail, but for black males it is one in nine. There are more 17-year-old black people in jail than in college. 5% of the world's population are American. 25% of the world's prison population are American.
- XL: The Emperor of China did not like pigeons because they stole his rice. People flew pigeons into granaries which then ate as much rice as they could. They then flew back home, were fed water and alum, and then they regurgitated the rice which was washed. 100 pigeons would steal 50lbs of rice a day.
- There is no evidence that Cornish people lured ships onto rocks to steal their cargo. No contemporary sources mention the practice. There was one accusation in Anglesey, but that turned out to be false. The only records of it happening are in novels like Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier (who was the subject of Jan specialist subject on Celebrity Mastermind). The myth may have been invented by Methodist preachers who wanted to portray the Cornish as barbarous people in need of chapel. It was also repeated by Rev. Sabine Baring-Gould, who wrote the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers". (Forfeit: Lured ships onto the rocks)
- Archimedes could have lifted the Earth more by jumping up and down than using a lever. Archimedes once said: "Give me a place to stand and I will move the Earth." While he discovered the power of levers, the QI elves have calculated that if he weighted 100kg, and he placed his fulcrum a kilometre away from the bottom of the Earth, in order to balance the planet he would need a lever 6.5 billion light years long. Assuming he could find a lever that long, if he moved his lever by one metre, the Earth would move less than the distance of the diameter of a proton. (Forfeit: With a lever)
- Friday 5th February 2010
- BBC One
- 30 minutes
Cast & crew
|Stephen Fry||Host / Presenter|
|Alan Davies||Regular Panellist|
|John Mitchinson||Question Writer|
|Justin Pollard||Question Writer|
|James Harkin||Question Writer|
|Molly Oldfield||Question Writer|
|Katie Taylor||Executive Producer|
|David Morley (as Dave Morley)||Executive Producer|
|Jonathan Paul Green||Production Designer|