British Comedy Guide
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.

  • Due to return for Series V
  • Series G, Episode 13 repeated at 9pm on U&Dave
  • JustWatch Streaming rank this week: 1,248


Episode menu

Series I, Episode 3 - Imbroglio

Preview clips


- This is a "General" show in Series I, covering a wide range of different topics beginning with "I".

- The buzzers are all meant to be intentionally irritating. Alan's buzzer is the klaxon and thus he gets a forfeit straight away. (Forfeit: Wrong again!)


- The French for "innuendo" is "double entente" or "double sens". "Double entendre" is an example of a French phrase which the French do not use but the English do. Other examples include "encore" (the French use the Latin word "bis"), "cause celebre", "en-suite" and "decolletage" (the French is "décolleté"). (Forfeit: Double entendre)

- Tangent: Frank had a friend who read somewhere that if you slept upside-down you would become more intelligent because the blood would flow to your brain. Frank became obsessed with the idea that he would have a wet dream and die.

- XL Tangent: The same friend also told Frank that in China, a Chinese burn was a form of torture. John was also told the same thing when he was at school.

- Tangent: The Greeks have a phrase which is, "Katatraya stayeftika" which means, "Who gives a shit?", but translates literally as, "There is trouble in the gypsy village."

- Some iTunes: The songs "I'm Leaning on a Lamppost" and "When I'm Cleaning Windows" were not written by George Formby, but his wife and manager Beryl insisted that he was credited as a co-creator so that he could get royalties. Many of Formby's songs were ridden with innuendo. Lyrics in "When I'm Cleaning Windows" include: "The blushing bride, she looks divine. The bridegroom, he is doing fine. I'd rather have his job than mine, when I'm cleaning windows." Frank performs some more lyrics on a banjolele, the instrument that Formby played. He sings the lines: "Eight o'clock a girl awakes, at ten past eight a bath she takes, at quarter past my ladder breaks, when I'm cleaning windows," and: "Now there's a famous talkie queen, she looks a flapper on the screen, she's more like 80 than 18, when I'm cleaning windows. She takes her hair down all behind, then takes down her never mind, and finally takes down the blind, when I'm cleaning windows." The BBC banned the song for being too rude, but when Formby performed for the Royal Family in 1941, the Queen Mother insisted that he should play the original version. She liked it so much that she asked for it to played two or three times.

- XL Tangent: Frank's favourite George Formby double entendre is: "I wonder who's under her balcony now, who's kissing my girl. Does he kiss her on the nose or underneath the archway where the Sweet William grows?"

- XL Tangent: Frank went to George Formby's grave, which is a massive great white stone with a big face on it, with the words "George Formby" on it. However, he realised that this was actually the grave of Formby's father, George Formby Sr., who was himself a huge music hall star. Formby Jr. is only mentioned at the bottom of it.

- XL Tangent: George Formby's wife Beryl was hugely jealous of any woman who got close too George and would insist on any woman getting remotely close to George should be sacked. George used to claim that Beryl would only give him 5 shillings worth of pocket money a week, but his brother claimed that this was a trick so that he would not have to pay for drinks in a pub.

- XL Tangent: The British tradition of innuendo and double entendre does not appear to exist in other nations. Many have phallic ideas but are usually depressing, such as Ibsen's play The Master Builder's in which a man tries to build a huge skyscraper.

- XL Tangent: Another example of an innuendo ridden show was Round the Horne, which used gay Polari slang to push the boundaries even further, especially with the camp characters Julian and Sandy, played by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick.

- XL: An initiative test: Stephens gets both the panel and the studio audience to shout out their favourite colour at the same time, and then gets the panel to ask what the favourite colour of the panel member sitting next to them was. The problem is that it is very difficult to listen to someone else talking when you yourself are also talking. This is an example of an exercise done by management consultants.

- XL Tangent: John used to do similar courses during his normal working life before he became a comic. He did training days, and at times he thought it might help, but then they would get everyone to draw a random drawing for seemingly no reason.

- XL: An interrobang is a punctuation mark which is a mixture of a question mark and an exclamation mark (?), but is normally represented by the two marks following one after the other. This was popular in the 1960s and still exists in the ASCII code. In Spanish there is an upside-down one called a gnaborretni (which is "interrobang" spelt backwards). Other marks included the sarcastrophe, which uses the caret accent around the word or phrase ^like so^.

- XL Tangent: Frank thinks that on a keyboard the colon should have greater importance than the semicolon.

- How Ironic is That?: A series of situations are given and the panel are asked how ironic they are and why. People often get irony confused and there are various kinds of irony. These include verbal irony, which include phrases like, "As clear as mud"; comic irony, like the famous line in the Peter Sellers film Dr. Strangelove, "Gentlemen, you can't fight in here, this is the War Room"; dramatic irony, in which the audience knows what is going to happen but the characters do not; and Socratic irony in which you are pretending to be dumber than you really are. Examples given are:

- John Kendrick, an American sea captain, pulled into Honolulu Harbour in 1794 and was killed by the cannon that was fired to salute him - is comedic irony.

- Clement Vallandigham, an Ohio lawyer, died in 1871 while defending a man who was accused of murder during a barroom brawl. In order to show the jury how his pistol might have gone off accidentally, Vallandigham took a gun, put it in his pocket and re-enacted how the event may have occurred. During the re-enactment he fired the pistol, shot himself and died of his wounds. The defendant was acquitted before Vallandigham passed away - an example of situational irony.

- Abraham Lincoln was shot in Ford's Theatre while John F. Kennedy was shot in a Ford Lincoln - not ironic, just a coincidence.

- The panel are shown a picture of a sheep which has been sheared and is now wearing a woolly jumper - is ironic.

- In 1989 convicted murderer Michael Godwin had his sentenced reduced from death to life imprisonment, after waiting five years to go to the electric chair. He died after being accidentally electrocuted by sitting naked on his steel lavatory seat. He was trying to fix his TV set and bit into a wire - is ironic.

- Tangent: Frank quotes an example of dramatic irony from Richard III: "Dive, thoughts, down to my soul. Here Clarence comes."

- Tangent: An example of Socratic irony is Lieutenant Columbo. Stephen argues that the TV series Columbo is the greatest ever made. Frank once had an argument with David Baddiel about the series. The actor who played Columbo, Peter Falk, had only one eye. Frank and David debated whether or not Columbo's fake eye was playing a real eye or not.

- XL Tangent: Sean once saw an advert for a meat supplier which read: "Caring for pork, from farm to fork."

- Some inside information: Stephen shows the panel a nut and asks what is inside it. The answer is Brazil nuts, although they are actually a type of seed. The actual nut looks similar to coconuts and can kill you if it lands on your head. Brazil nut trees cannot be cultivated, so only wild trees give nuts. Brazil nuts have a complicated system of reproduction. They can only be pollinated by a particular bee, and the bee will only be able to pollinate it if there is a particular orchid in the area. The Brazil nut also has a unique feature, in that it is the only nut that can be transmitted sexually. If a man makes love with someone the nut could pass onto the partner they inseminated, so if he has eaten nuts and then makes love to someone with a nut allergy, he might provoke their allergy.

- Nobody Knows: No-one knows why in a packet of mixed nuts the Brazil nuts always rise to the top. Alan gets the bonus.

- Nobody Knows: The signal bars on your phone mean nothing. Different networks use different frequencies. No-one gets the bonus.

General Ignorance

- An inflatable anchor is used when you wish to anchor in sand. Liquid is inflated into the anchor and it lodges into the sand.

- The animals which Richard I had three of on his shirt were leopards. At the time they were not aware of the difference between lions and leopards. In heraldry, a leopard is always sideways on and in that particular shape you now see on England football shirts in what is known as passant gardant. This means that Frank Skinner and David Baddiel's song "Three Lions" is totally wrong. In Scotland they use a rampant lion which is standing on two legs.

- Tangent: The song "Three Lions" has appeared in the charts in 1996, 1998, 2002, 2006 and 2010. The song also got into the top ten in Germany. After the Germans won Euro 96 they felt that they won the song as well. John claims that this is ironic.

- Tangent: It costs £4,255 to get a coat of arms. Sir Christopher Frayling, former Chairman of the Arts Council, who is an expert on Clint Eastwood, has as his motto: "Perge Scellus Diem Perficias", which means, "Go ahead, punk, make my day," or to be more exact, "Proceed, varlet, and render perfect the day."

- The only animal in the world whose taxonomical name is exactly the same as its common name is the boa constrictor. The scientific name for a gorilla is "gorilla gorilla" and is not the same as it is repeated twice. Several plants also have the exact same common and taxonomical names such as aloe vera. (Forfeit: Gorilla)

- The panel are shown a picture of some bananas and are asked what is wrong with them. The answer is that they are upside-down. Bananas grow pointing upwards, not downwards as we usually see the in shops. Bananas are faintly radioactive, as are Brazil nuts. Luckily the isotope in bananas is present in our bodies and is harmless. The half-life of the radioactive element of a banana is 1.25 billion years. Brazil nuts contain radium and are 1,000 times more radioactive than other foods. If you walk into a nuclear power plant with a pocket full of Brazil nuts you are likely to set of the radiation leak alarm.

- XL: The country which produces the most Brazil nuts is Bolivia. (Forfeit: Brazil)


- John Bishop and Frank Skinner: 4 points
- Sean Lock: -14 points
- Alan Davies: -21 points

Broadcast details

Friday 23rd September 2011
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Sean Lock Guest
Frank Skinner Guest
John Bishop Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Mat Coward Researcher
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Will Bowen Researcher
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer
Nick King Editor
Jonathan Paul Green Production Designer
Howard Goodall Composer



A guide to QI. Series I, episode 3 'Imbroglio'

The research for this episode of QI was, due to some of the subjects, somewhat simpler than the previous two.

James Harkin,, 26th September 2011

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