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


BBC Two and BBC One panel show about quite interesting facts. 266 episodes (pilot + 18 series), 2003 - 2020. Stars Sandi Toksvig, Stephen Fry and Alan Davies.

Returns Wednesday 23rd December at 9pm. Episode Guide
Series N, Christmas Special is repeated today at 10pm.

Series I, Episode 8 - Inequality

Further details


- Stephen first claims that the theme of the show is: "inattention and ineptitude". He then asks Alan what the theme is and Alan repeats what Stephen said. He then gets an unfair forfeit because the actual theme is injustice. Stephen then decides to announce the scores already, meaning that the entire show is unfair from the very start. (Forfeit: Inattention and ineptitude)


- Sandi Toksvig: -54 points (she is unfairly the winner)
- Clive Anderson: 7 points
- Henning Wehn: -60 points
- Alan Davies: Minus one gazillion.


- Sandi is asked what she can tell about the man depicted in a particular statue called "The Puritan". The answer is that he looks like the typical 19th Century depiction of Puritans, which is still rife today but totally wrong. During the 1600s they wore the same clothes as everyone else, but when they had their portraits done they wore their Sunday best, which tended to be black. (Forfeit: He's a puritan)

- Tangent: The story of the American Pilgrim Fathers is a complete fabrication. They did not land on Plymouth Rock, but in Provincetown, Massachusetts; they did not sail on the Mayflower; and they did not flee from religious persecution. In fact, they wanted to carry out religious persecution, and create a country in which there could be no dissent from Puritanism. They hated the religious freedoms in England. In 1660 Puritans hanged a woman, Mary Dyer, for being a Quaker.

- Tangent: Sandi once took a trip sailing all the way around Britain. When she got to Northumbria she saw a house with a painted sign saying: "Bed and breakfast, hot and cold water." Sandi thought: "Only in this country would you feel you need to advertise you have both."

- The key role that a Puritan pig played in the trial of George Spencer in 1641 was that it was a victim and a witness. Spencer was an ugly man who was bald and had one eye, living in New Haven, Connecticut, home of the Puritans in America. He was accused of breaking Leviticus 20:15; "If a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death, and ye shall slay the beast." One day a sow farrowed a litter of piglets, one of whom looked very similar to Spencer. He was brought to court and accused of lying with the pig. He denied it, but then the court said, "There shall be mercy shown, should you be open and honest." Spencer then thought he should pretend to confess and he did, but the court said that it would be God who would show mercy, not them, and they took his confession seriously. However, in order for him to be executed the court needed two witnesses. One was Spencer, the other was the pig itself, who they brought into court and they claimed the pig confessed to the crime. As a result, both were executed.

- Tangent: Legend has it that during the Napoleonic Wars the people of Hartlepool hanged a monkey thinking it was a French spy. The reason normally given is that in cartoons at the time Frenchmen were depicted as monkeys and the locals had never seen a monkey before, so they assumed it was a Frenchman.

- XL Tangent: In France in the year 1710, a man was spotted having sex with a donkey. Several character witnesses were brought in to testify on behalf of the donkey saying that the donkey was good and a victim of the crime, so the donkey was left off and just the man who mated with it was executed.

- The New Haven Puritans abolished trial by jury because juries are not mentioned in the Bible. Thus they thought they had no place in life.

- XL Tangent: Sandi claims that in Alabama it is illegal to wear a fake moustache in a church that causes laughter.

- XL Tangent: The former Lord Chancellor Lord Mackay of Clashfern was a member of the Wee Frees, an extreme Scottish Presbyterian sect. He was thrown out of the church after going to the funeral of a judge who happened to be Catholic. He was also once holding a tea party for some lawyers at which he served toast and a tiny pot of honey. One of lawyers looked at it and said: "I see Your Lordship keeps a bee."

- XL Tangent: Alan claims that people still have odd flashes of Puritanism today. He tells the story of a woman actress who played Lara Croft who did a BBC Radio 5 Live interview. She was in the news because the film's poster had her nipples airbrushed out, because they were showing through the costume. The actress was complaining about the airbrushing and the presenter said: "Well, perhaps they thought they weren't suitable for children?" The actress said that was a stupid argument, seeing as how you breastfeed children and babies.

- XL Tangent: Sandi did a Channel 4 sitcom with Mike McShane in which McShane played a sex expert. It was decided that his flat should be full of sexual things and thus his coat rack should be made entirely of penises. Channel 4 said: "You can have the penises as long as they're not erect," forgetting that if they were erect you could not use them as coat hangers.

- The man who got the blame when the Prince of Wales misbehaved was the whipping boy. If the Prince of Wales did something wrong at school for example, the teachers and elders needed to punish him, but because he was royal a common teacher could not harm him physically, so they whipped another boy instead. It was a much sort after position because you got close to the heir to the throne. Charles I had a whipping boy who later became the Earl of Dysart. It has only been very recently that corporal punishment towards children has been considered a bad thing. In the Bible it is encouraged to use corporal punishment against children.

- Tangent: Corporal punishment in UK state schools was not banned until 1986. In public schools it was not banned until 1999. It was an incredibly close vote: 231 to 230. The person most instrumental in the original 1986 ban was Sarah Ferguson, albeit by accident. The day the vote was to take place was the day she was getting married to Prince Andrew. As a result the traffic the wedding caused meant that some MPs who were likely to vote against the ban could not make it to the vote in time.

- XL Tangent: A school master from Swabia, south-western Germany, kept a book logging all his punishments. Over his 51 year career he administered 911,500 canings and 121,000 floggings, at an average of 400 chastisements a week. Punishments ranged from 700 boys being made to stand with peas in their shoes and 6,000 were made to kneel on the sharp edge of a stick. There was also a headmaster at Eton called Dr. Keate, after whom Keate's Lane at Eton is named. He was known as "Flogger Keate" and he once flogged the entire Eton cricket team for losing a match to Winchester, including the scorer.

- XL Tangent: The idea of someone else baring your sins appears in religion. In Christianity it is Jesus Christ. In Judaism it is the scapegoat. On Yom Kippur the scapegoat would be sent out to carry the sins of the people.

- The wood used in corporal punishment on the Isle of Man was hazel. Up until 1976 you could be birched for crimes, but they did not use birch wood. When the ban was first suggested people defending birching suggested that people could keep their trousers on while they were punished. Birching in Britain was banned in 1948. (Forfeit: Birch)

- Tangent: In some parts of America there is the tradition of birthday spanking, where you get spanked with a paddle as a treat on your birthday at school. Some people want to ban it for being cruel but others want to keep it because it is tradition.

- Tangent: Stephen and the panel tell the old joke about a British couple who adopt a German baby, who does not talk. After several tests they find nothing wrong with the baby, but when he is five he is served apple strudel, and German child says: "This apple strudel is tepid." The parents ask the child why he had not said anything after all this time and the child says: "Up until now everything had been satisfactory."

- Tangent: Henning complains that when people talk about the war it is always World War II and not some other war. He says that everyone in Britain takes personal credit for winning it, including people who were not born at the time. Henning claims that the people who most annoy him are British people in their 70s who take personal credit for the war. He claims that at the time they would have been 10 years old, so they did not help much, and if anything were a drain on British resources and thus effectively every 70-year-old Briton today thought on the size of Nazi Germany.

- XL: A French book that could never be translated into German was written by Louis Pasteur, after whom the word "pasteurisation" is named (although he himself did not invent it). He was viciously anti-German, or to be more exact anti-Prussian, following the Franco-Prussian War. After the war, the Germans discovered a new form of yeast which allowed them to store beer extremely well. The German for "to store" is "lagen", so the beer became known as "lager". It became hugely successful and annoyed Pasteur so much that he studied the science of brewing and came up with his own yeasts which made even better beer. He took his recipes to America, Belgium, the Whitbread Company and to Denmark's Carlsberg Company, but refused to take them to Germany. He then wrote a book all about it, ordering that it should never be translated into German.

- XL Tangent: When France tried to get rid of their gold bullion when they were invaded by the Germans during World War II, all the gold went on a single ocean liner to Canada called the SS Pasteur.

- From 1875 to 1956 the next best thing to a first-class train ticket was a third-class train ticket. There was no second-class on British trains during that period. William Gladstone insisted that a third-class should be created for poorer people. The train companies hated this and thus ran useless third-class services known as Parliamentary trains just to apply to the law. Then they had a better idea which was to upgrade third-class to second-class, but still call it third-class. Train companies had other interesting ideas, such as using chimney sweeps to cover the inside of the carriages with soot to make people wanting to travel in third-class upgrade to first-class to avoid getting dirty. (Forfeit: A second-class train ticket)

- XL Tangent: The train system had an influence on London suburban housing. Train companies would not sell third-class tickets in the outer suburbs because they did not want the trains to be full of poor people who did not pay as much to go on. As such there are bigger houses on the outside of London and smaller houses on the inside.

- In 1771 cricketer Thomas White invented a bat that was wider than the wicket. He noticed that there were no rules defining how big a bat could be, so he turned up with a huge one in a match between Chertsey and Hambledon which today would be Surrey v Hampshire. In 1774 a new law was brought in limiting the width of cricket bats to 4.5 inches. (Forfeit: The Googly)

- XL Tangent: During World War II there were new laws brought into golf which included: "If a players stroke is interrupted by the simultaneous explosion of a bomb or by machine gunfire they may take the stroke again, but there is a penalty of one stroke."

- XL Tangent: Stephen once did a play with Paul Eddington. Eddington kept with him a sign from a Bristol hotel room dating from the war, which was a card with a bit of cord. The card read: "Please hang outside your room if you wish to be awoken during an air-raid."

- XL Tangent: During a game of cricket on St. Helena a man ran back to catch the ball. He did catch it, but then fell of the edge of cliff. The result was put down as: "caught (dead)". During late summer in a village cricket match in Norfolk a fielder dived in to catch the ball but instead caught a swallow.

- Tangent: Other sportsmen have also exploited the rules. One was American footballer Lester Hayes, who played for the Oakland Raiders. He was defensive player of the year during the late 1970s, but this was due to the fact he covered his hands and gloves in an adhesive called Stickum. Hayes said: "Without Stickum I couldn't catch a cold in Antarctica." Another was a jockey in Belmont, New York in 1923 who won a race even though he died of a heart attack while he was on the horse. Although there was a rule saying that the jockey had to be in the saddle there was no rule saying the player had to be alive, so the bookies were forced to pay up.

- XL Tangent: There is a P.G. Wodehouse story about cheating in boxing. An American boxer was fighting someone who was stone deaf. The deaf boxer asked the American if he could tell him when the bell went because he could not hear it. The American agreed and during the match he told the deaf boxer the bell had gone when it had not. When the deaf boxer heard the lie he let his guard down and the American knocked him out.

- XL Tangent: A further example of actual sporting cheating with regards to exploiting the rules came from the 1951 St Louis Browns baseball team, who brought in a 3'7" tall player called Eddie Gaedel out to bat. He crouched over the plate, and thus the strike zone the pitcher had to hit was one-and-a-half inches high. The pitcher could not get anywhere near it so he pitched four balls, after which he walked to first base and was subbed.

General Ignorance

- The statue of Justice at the top of the Old Bailey is looking out. There are several different statues of Justice, some of which are blindfolded, some of which are not. (Forfeit: She's blindfolded)

- XL: If you come across a Welshman in Chester after sunset you cannot kill him. The idea that all these silly laws still exist such as this one is nonsense. This wartime command came into pass under Henry V at the time of Owain Glyndwr. However, any other laws covering manslaughter or murder cancel out the old law. The actual principle of this is called "leges posteriores priores contrarias abrogant". The same is true with the silly American laws, including the one that Sally mentioned earlier on, which actually do not exist. Stephen had planned as part of his American documentary series to break a supposedly silly law in each state, but he was always told the law did not exist.

- XL Tangent: Sandi read law at university and was taught under Lord Denning. She helped to compile the index of his last book and Sandi asked him: "Why is it so complicated to look up legal cases?" Denning looked over his glasses and said to her: "Well, we don't want just anyone doing it."

- Lepers carried bells to attract people and to collect alms. It was not until after the Black Death when people viewed it as a warning and stayed away. Leprosy is not as infectious as people think it is. 90% of people are immune to it and limbs do not fall off. (Forfeit: To keep people away)

- Out of the panel, no-one has fewer hairs than any other member. According to Dr. George Cotsarelis of the department of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania, bald people have the same number of hairs on the scalp as everyone else; it is just that they are microscopically small. We may look less hairy than chimps, but we have the same number of hair follicles on our bodies as them, about 5 million. (Forfeit: Me)

Broadcast details

Friday 28th October 2011
30 minutes

Cast & crew

Regular cast
Stephen Fry Host / Presenter
Alan Davies Regular Panellist
Guest cast
Clive Anderson Guest
Sandi Toksvig Guest
Henning Wehn Guest
Writing team
John Mitchinson Question Writer
Justin Pollard Question Writer
James Harkin Question Writer
Molly Oldfield Question Writer
Andrew Hunter Murray Question Writer
Production team
Ian Lorimer Director
David Morley (as Dave Morley) Executive Producer
Ruby Kuraishe Executive Producer



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