BBC 2 comedy Panel Show. Debuted in 2003 and currently broadcasting its tenth series. Each series is named for a letter of the alphabet and the topics for each episode begin with that letter ("J" being the theme for the current series).Standing for "Quite Interesting", the show is hosted by Stephen Fry and always includes Alan Davies on the panel. Apart from Davies, the panel varies from week to week, but there are a number of recurring guests on (including Jo Brand, Rich Hall, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Clarkson, Dara Ó Briain, Phill Jupitus, Sean Lock, David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Clive Anderson, Jack Dee, Sandi Toksvig and Ross Noble).Fry asks questions on the topic of the week — the first few series had no specific theme per week, and their episode titles have been applied retroactively; it was not until Series D that the "topic of the week" really came to the fore. The guiding principle, as indicated by the show's name, is that knowledge should be interesting, and a sufficiently interesting answer will be awarded points even if it's completely wrong. Conversely, an answer that is both incorrect and uninteresting (i.e., if it's the answer anybody would have given) will cause a klaxon to sound and the contestant will lose points. There are, consequently, two major types of question in QI: obscure questions that give the contestants an opportunity to make interesting guesses before Fry reveals the real answer, and questions whose answers seem obvious but are not, such as "How many moons does the Earth have?". As panellists have been getting wise to the latter type of question, there has arisen a third type of question: the "double bluff", where the seemingly-obvious answer actually is the correct one, though not always for the reasons one would expect.Davies is the butt of a lot of the jokes on the show (last on the introductions and getting a funny comment, last on the buzzer sounds and getting a corny buzzer sound, being more likely than the others to get the klaxon and usually coming last, although he has the record for most show wins), and acts as a sort of foil for the concept by getting the more obvious answers (i.e. the ones the audiences at home are likely hollering at the TV) out into the open to be trounced.As with all good Panel Shows the points are almost entirely irrelevant and merely provide the Framing Device for the comedy. The researchers ("QI Elves") nonetheless check that everything is as correct as it can be, often sending messages to Fry about things they've discovered while the programme is recording (especially if the guests have sent things onto a very distant tangent to what the question was actually about, which happens quite often).This show can lead onto some amusing tangents. It's also very educational. One of the interesting things is how much comedians turn out to know about obscure subjects — for instance, Rory McGrath spouting the Latin names of birds, or Vic Reeves turning out to be an expert on pirates. Also, this is a post-Watershed show, and things have a tendency to get very "naughty" very quickly.Some series have a once-(or twice)-an-episode feature with a name linked to the series letter. These have included:
Series "E": Elephant in the Room - A bonus for identifying where the elephant is in this week's questions.
Series "F": Fanfare - particularly clever answers are heralded with a fanfare sound effect and bonus points. This ended up only appearing in two episodes.
Series "G": Guest appearance - Stephen would announce that if the panellists wished to argue some unlikely-sounding piece of information, they could do so with [an expert on the subject] who just happened to be sitting in the studio audience.
Series "I": Ignorance - Or as expressed in the show "Nobody Knows." Bonus points for identifying the question to which nobody knows the answer.
Series "J": Two semi-regular features - the "Jolly Jape", as Stephen performs a sciencey trick; and the "Jubious Theory", where Steven discusses an "out-there" theory about a topic.
Individual episodes sometimes have a bonus related to the episode's theme: For example, in the episode "Hoaxes", the panelists could get a bonus for spotting the "quite interesting" fact that was, in fact, a hoax and not a true fact. Others have special forfeit rules: panelists were deducted points for mentioning "the war" in "Germany" or for dropping F-bombs in "Fingers and Fumbs".The show has spawned several books (including four QI Annuals), two DVD games (A Quite Interesting Game and Strictly Come Duncing), an Oxford club an iPhone app and most recently The Board Game. There's also an official Twitter account, maintained by the elves (note the location), which provides trivia and links to Quite Interesting things.It returned for Series F in January 2009 on BBC One (having previously been on BBC 2) after it managed to be the highest-rated show on BBC 4 and Dave. It returned to BBC 2 for the current "J" series.
Alan: I look like the character, I'm not actually him.
And of course, when Daniel Radcliffe guest-starred, they made the whole episode about "Hocus-Pocus" and made quite a few references to Harry Potter. As Daniel had apparently done some research into real-life tricks and the history thereof, the net effect was to rig the game in Radcliffe's favor.
And Robert Webb who, on his appearance in season H, called a helix a spiral (despite knowing the correct answer) just so he could set off the klaxon. When it inevitably went off in response to his incorrect answer he threw his arms in the air, bounced up and down in his seat and giggled, beaming all the while. He then did the same thing ten minutes later while discussing Molotov cocktails.
Whenever someone steels themself for the klaxon... and actually gets it right.
Stephen: Where does the saying "saved by the bell" come from?
Jack Dee: Oh no, I know what's going to happen now, it's gonna be... I'm gonna get the klaxon for this, is it boxing? Is it a boxing reference?
Stephen: ...Yes. note The klaxon answer was people putting bells on graves in case they were buried alive
Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: Non-sequitur answers and strange associations abound. Alan is usually good for these, e.g. observing that sperm can survive for several hours outside the body — "so you should leave the telly on if you're going out."
And, of course, there have been several accidental subversions, in which the insane non-sequitur has been the right answer, or very close to it.
Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Alan, frequently, but there's also Stephen's example of something not to say in answer to the interview question "what is your greatest weakness" - "I just can't conce- oh look, a squirrel!"
Beam Me Up, Scotty!: Setting up the question so that reciting one of these is the obvious answer is a common means of tripping up the panellists in the "General Ignorance" round.
David Mitchell: Why do these films always forget to put their most famous lines in?
It happens in the actual series as well: Alan quotes the song about Peter Cushing (namely "Peter Cushing Lives in Whitstable" by The Jellybottys) as "Peter Cushing lives in Whitstable, I have seen him on his bicycle, I have seen him buying vegetables, Peter Cushing lives in Whitstable", when it's actually "Peter Cushing lives in Whitstable, he goes shopping on his bicycle, you can meet him buying vegetables".
After the popularity of the song grew, thanks to its mention in the series, the Jellybottys released a synth remake with Alan's lyrics.
The Bechdel Test: After being criticised for having too few women on the show in early seasons, later ones seem to have made an effort to be more egalitarian, with some episodes having women in all the non-regular guest slots. An episode on "Girls and Boys" lampshaded the tendency, featuring two girls and two boys and a question on why QI has fewer female guests than male (after a long and very interesting discussion between Ronni Ancona and Sandi Toksvig of the relationship between gender and professional comedy, Jack Dee buzzed in and suggested it was "because once you get them started they don't shut up").
Berserk Button: Stephen can't stand willful or apathetic ignorance. Naturally, Alan Davies pushes this button whenever he thinks it might be funny.Lee Mack not only found it in Series H but practically danced on it, leading to the exchange under "Beware The Nice Ones" below.
David Mitchell is a man of many berserk buttons. Stephen tread on one with a double-bluff question about "The Man with Two Brains" — leading to an increase in double bluffs and other provocations whenever David is on the panel.
Phill Jupitus refuses to believe that the sun sets before we actually see it set.
Phill: I hate this show!.
Rich Hall flat out denies the notion that there is another moon.
Sean Lock generally develops a strange kind of annoyance whenever there is a "genius" panel member on board with him, like Rory McGrath or Ben Miller.
While he will not say who, Stephen has gone on record to say that one guest actually asked for the answers before filming to keep from looking stupid.
Beware the Nice Ones: Stephen is generally a Gentleman Snarker, who only gently ribs on panellists when they miss the point, then repeats the answer and explains patiently. Unless you go too over-the-top in Epic Point Missing, and he pulls out the big guns. See: explaining the 'i before e' rule to Lee Mack in "Hocus Pocus":
[Stephen has been asking for words that break the 'i before e' rule and Lee has been suggesting "ceiling" for some time, twisting Stephen's words every time he tries to explain it doesn't fit:]
Stephen: Are you completely incapable of rational thought?! You cannot be that stupid. You cannot be that stupid!
Bilingual Bonus: When Stephen introduces the host of the Swedish version of the show, he says he knows "Enough Swedish to order from a hotel room." Then, he sends a message to all Swedish QI fans:
Stephen: Ursäkta, den get ni sände till mitt rum har spruckit, och ni glömde vispgrädden. Gräsklippare! note "Sorry, but the goats you sent to my hotel room have exploded, and you forgot the whipped cream. Lawnmower!"
Brand X: "As you can see, here we have some ordinary green washing-up liquid. We're not allowed to mention it's Fairy... uh, its name."
Stephen gives a home recipe for waterproof sand which mentions applying "a very well known spray which you're recommended to apply to suede shoes, and which might be named something like GotchScard..." In a straighter example of the trope, he manages to entirely avoid mentioning Magic Sand, which is a trademark itself.
Alan Davies: Is it an elephant?note There was a famous elephant-shaped building at Coney Island; it served as a hotel and later a brothel, and it (not the Statute of Liberty) was the first thing immigrants saw on their way into New York while it stood, but it only existed for about 11 years—1885-1896—before burning down. Stephen Fry: No. Dave Gorman: A bearded woman, or— Stephen Fry: No. Lee Mack: Was it a bearded elephant?
Brick Joke: Happens very often. Fry or the panellists will discuss a topic, then move on, and later, someone will mention it again.
"Cashier number four, please."
And the Call Back in a later episode, with "Cashier number one, please." "Cashier number two, please." "Cashier number three, please." "I am very sorry for the severe delay to the 8:17 service (rest inaudible due to laughter)"
In one of his early appearances on the show, Dara O'Briain impresses Stephen by quoting a fact about the triple-point of water (water can exist at 0°C in all three states of matter, as ice, water or water vapor). One series later, Stephen asks Dara to repeat the fact, but this time it earns him a forfeit; members of the audience had written in because the triple-point fact had been revised since Dara had studied physics at school, and is no longer a scientifically accepted truth.
Dara: How many members of your audience were sat at home thinking "It's just a comedy quiz show, but I'm not letting that fecker get away with it!"
In series F, we hear part of "My Old Man's a dustman" in the episode about Families, and then in the episode about fashion, we hear it continue from where it left off.
In the France episode, when the designs of a large elephant-shaped building originally meant for the site of the Arc de Triomphe, Alan somehow pulls out the "Elephant in the Room" joker from the prior E-shaped series, much to the surprise of Stephen.
Rich is in such disbelief at hearing the earth has two moons that in every appearance he has made since, when a question about THE moon comes up, he automatically asks "Which moon we talkin' about here?"
When Rich turns up in the I series, a question about the moon arises and he asks his trademark question once more. It set the klaxon off.
A two-way brick, depending on whether one goes by order of recording or order of airing. In the series E episode "England", immediately after introductions, Alan swaps the English flag in front of him for a Welsh flag, to Stephen's dismay. In the "Europe" episode (which was recorded later but ended up airing before the England episode), Alan reveals that he has no actual Welsh roots, and he and David Mitchell trade flags (swapping Alan's Welsh flag for David's English flag).
A shorter one-episode one: In "Gravity", Stephen mentioned people betting to be the first to have sexual intercourse on a balloon. Later when he discussed shooting bullets vertically to the air, Alan imagined one of them hitting a couple suspended in the air.
In "Intelligence", Stephen mentions that job interviewers would ask odd questions, like, "How many piano tuners are there in Britain?" Near the end of the episode, he asks the question to the panellists.
Similarly, in the "Jargon" episode, Victoria Coren reveals she had an anxiety dream about appearing on the show, in which Stephen asked her the question, "Why was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?" Stephen laughs it off, but then asks it as the final question.
And even more hilariously, he gives her an answer that makes some sense, and accuses Victoria of being a witch.
Brief Accent Imitation: Stephen does this frequently (and utterly uncannily) with a multitude of accents and regional dialects from all over the world. Some of the other panellists dip into this as well, notably Rob Brydon.
Alan Davies does a Mexican Spanish accent... badly. The cartoonish manner is hilarious and deliberate though, and he does pretty much the same accent for his German, this being his Stock Foreign Accent.
"Ello I'm from Meghikooh."
"Ze pink Polenta, I lav eet!."
They sometimes try Scottish, too.
Lee Mack: Do you like my Scottish accent by the way? David Tennant: Oh, that was a Scottish accent?
A very Camp German accent by Stephen Fry for the ridiculousness "Mein Handy!"
Stephen briefly does a Russian accent when he talks about the space race between the U.S. and Soviet Union. "And not once did [the Soviet Union] make the suggestion that they thought America hadn't done it. They never said, 'No, we know this was hoax.' "
Dara O'Briain calls Stephen out on his attempt at an Irish accent while discussing the proper way to serve a pint of Guinness.
"The town I was in wasn't actually set in a movie from the 1950s."
Bury Me Not On The Lone Prairie: A Ghanaian funeral custom (being buried in coffins that can look like anything you want) was discussed in the Series G episode "Gothic":
Jack Dee: It's just one final chance to be a bloody nuisance to everyone, isn't it? "I want to be buried in a 15-foot fish." Oh yeah, great. That's so easy to achieve. You've always been a pain when you're alive, and now you're dead you're worse.
In one second-series episode, Stephen posed the question "What was quite interesting about the birth of Julius Caesar?", demolished Alan when he gave the obvious-but-incorrect answer, and then admitted that as far as the question-setters knew the correct answer was "Nothing at all", and he'd only posed the question to see if Alan would fall for it.
The same thing happened again in Series E with a question about getting impressed into the army.
Even the one time Alan had control of the questions, turning the tables on Stephen, he couldn't escape this; Stephen actually got the first question right, prompting the most crushed expression of disappointment you've ever seen from anyone on the part of Alan Davies.
"They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is..."
Call Back: Becoming more regular as the series becomes longer. Alan often repeats things that have been covered in earlier episodes (as if to prove to Stephen that he has been listening). Rob Brydon made mention of his long socks in the H series, something he'd introduced the previous series.
Early in the J-series the panellists are discussing "minced oaths", with Bill Bailey giving the example of "Shut the front door!". Later in the series, he exclaims this in disbelief at Stephen's claim to be able to produce a square bubble.
Sean Lock: What they've said turns out not to be true.
Stephen: Do you know the difference between a frog and a toad?
Or just for humour:
Stephen: What's the ideal way to kiss a Frenchman?
Alan: [uncertainly] With their... consent?
Stephen: What can you teach an oyster?
David: ...Not to get its hopes up?
On the subject of pilots' lunches:
Stephen: Now, why do I say lunches?
Bill: Because there's more than one...
More than just avoiding the forfeits, because these answers generally get acclaim from the audience, they probably earn some points as well.
Catch Phrase: As yet, averted. This was noted on Series F, which looked at some other famous catchphrases, including "Has your mother sold her mangle?". Stephen noted that they themselves didn't have a catchphrase, and gave the panellists the task of coming up with one, eventually landing on "My bottom is a treasure house."
A case can be made for Stephen's "good evening good evening good evening..." spiel, his "and I use the word <x> quite wrongly", "Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear" or a loud cry of "Ohhhhhh!" in response to the buzzer, or Alan guessing the blue whale.
Phill: [as Stephen] "What one's the odd one out? None of them! Baa. Baa. Baaaa."
Stephen: Hey. Is that me?
Phill: That's you.
Stephen: Oh, bugger you. I don't sound like that. (sounding exactly like that) "Baaaaaa. Baaa."
Alan's demanding cry of "Points!" combined with arms thrown in the air whenever he gets something right.
Alan guessing "Dave" for any person's name, regardless of gender.
Stephen: What I'm looking forward to is when we have a blue whale named Dave and you don't get it.
Catchphrase Interruptus: Stephen opens episode eight of the G series, "Germany," with "Goooooo... ten Abend! Guten Abend, guten Abend, guten Abend und Willkommen to QI..."
Chekhov's Gun: The panelists' buzzers have often been used as the punchline of a joke. Alan's "'ELLO DARLIN'" to answer the question "how do you get a girl?" in "Girls and Boys", Rob Brydon uses his to go back in time after a terrible pun in "Holidays" and Brian Cox's "All rise" in "Justice" in response to an innuendo.
Christmas Episode: Once every series, except for Series C where they apparently just forgot.
Cloudcuckoolander: Jo Brand. Nearly all the smart-ass answers to the question get buzzed, except hers, which no one could have thought of. More recently however, she has been getting the klaxon. When the panel were asked, "What was the Great Disappointment?", Jo answered, "Have you been speaking to my husband?" This was the forfeit answer, word for word.
Similarly, Rich Hall has won a lot of games by barely saying anything except to crack the occasional joke, which earns him a couple of bonus points while everyone else wallows in huge negative numbers accumulated in earnest attempts to answer the questions.
Johnny Vegas regularly gives complete non-sequitur answers. Of course, on this show, he is sometimes pretty close to the right answer anyway.
As evidenced by the time he suggested that Kellogg's invented cornflakes to prevent masturbation - and was astonished to discover he was right.
Sean Lock has recently been starting to become one.
Phill Jupitus has his moments, too.
Sandi Toksvig subverts this from time to time, by giving answers that at first glance seem like it's drug-fuelled, but actually make sense and often correct. Examples would be when she answered "What use is a goose?" with "Is it toilet paper?" * François Rabelais indeed wrote in Gargantua and Pantagruel that the best thing to wipe your behind is a goose's neck. And it is the answer Stephen was looking for. and "What's the best way to get a [baby] girl?" with "Swimming badges." * What she meant was, sperms are like swimmers, and "boy sperms" are fast but die quickly while "girl sperms" are slow but can endure. No points there though; the answer is diet.
Comedic Sociopathy: Stephen has had his moments, including provoking wary panellists into accidentally giving the forfeit answer or giving Alan, a vegetarian, sweets coloured with carmine, a red pigment produced from cochineal insects.
Continuity Nod: Rich Hall still resents the "How many moons does the Earth have?" (Two) question from Series A and has made reference to it as late as Series I: "Which moon are we talkin' about?" It is unsure as to whether he will continue with it as he received a forfeit for it. See Brick Joke above.
In one episode Dara Ó Briain was awarded points for telling Stephen that the triple point of water is 0°C. In fact, as a physicist wrote in to the show to point out, the triple point of water is 0.01°C. The next time Dara was on the show, he was asked the triple point of water and triggered the klaxon when he gave the same answer.
In a series I episode, Dara is given points back because in a series H episode he said fishes don't have tongues and was told otherwise, only for it to turn out that he was right. Sandi Toksvig then complains that this is unfair, whereupon Dara relates the "triple point" incident above.
Contractual Genre Blindness: It's often Alan's job to deliberately give the obvious-but-wrong answer, just to get it out of the way. There have been some occasions where another panellist fell into this by deliberately giving forfeit answers—sometimes because they've already racked up a high negative score, and sometimes (as with Robert Webb) just for the heck of it.
Country Matters: Sarah Millican complained that her spellchecker corrected the C-word to "Cynthia", which happens to be her mother-in-law's name ("you're lucky it's not the other way around"). Stephen pointed out that as Greek doesn't have a 'Y', and upsilon is pronounced 'u', the correct pronunciation of the Greek name would be a lot closer than you might think...
Exaggerated in series B when Stephen asks Rich to explain the American concept of biscuits and gravy.
Dara: Oh, traveler from an arcane land...
Creator Cameo: John Lloyd, the show's creator and original producer, made an appearance on the panel for the 100th-Episode Special in Series H.
Crossover: The show's eagerness to correct past mistakes apparently reaches to other shows. In an episode in season F, helpless David Mitchell can only sit and listen as Stephen debunks several of his facts from The Unbelievable Truth. Stephen, Alan and the producer John Lloyd later participated in a New Year special of TUT.
Also, Stephen told the audience to sing the German national anthem. They sang the opening bars of the German national anthem as Deutschland Uber Alles, but since the contemporary German anthem's lyrics are only the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied, this got them a penalty of -100 points.
Although at the original recording, the audience genuinely didn't know the incorrect version (or the correct version, come to that), and those who did were too shy to speak up, but the forfeit flashed up anyway and they recorded the audience singing the song in the retakes.
Reginald D. Hunter: I'm not just trying to offend London, I'm trying to offend the UK in general, but I feel that any country that can produce Marmite, they started later than everybody else in trying to make food taste good.
Stephen Fry: This from the country that has spray-on cheese?
Cutting the Knot: Done by Alan Davies to the interlaced telephone directories in the 2011 Christmas special.
Cruithne is identified as a terran satellite, which even at the time, astronomers did not believe it to be, but a "quasisatellite," a solar body with a close orbit, but distant enough to only weakly feel our gravity. It's also mispronounced, and corrected on-air to a slightly better mispronunciation.
Alan is told there's no Welsh word for blue. There is, and it corresponds exactly, unlike such words in many languages.
Stephen at one point "corrects" Jimmy Carr (in a rather patronising manner) for saying that marsupials are mammals, which they absolutely are.
Stephen, describing three-strike laws, implies that the California law he describes applies across the US, and says a crime constitutes the third strike "no matter how trivial," even though, trivial as these crimes often seem, it must be a felony. (In fairness, there is another law that makes any theft by a convicted thief a felony, so some people have been sentenced to 25-to-life for what would we a petty theft (less than a year) anywhere else.)
The show at one point addresses a letter calling them out for spreading an urban legend about the Flowerpot Men.
Stephen says of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon iiis, that there are no straight lines. He corrects this in a later episode; while curving pillars to make them look straight from certain vantage points is seen in some ancient buildings, the Parthenon is not one of them.
Discussed in "Jingle Bells" when Stephen claims the twelve days of Christmas end on January 6th and is corrected by Danny Baker.
Phill Jupitus: Oh, the chatrooms will be ablaze now...
Daydream Believer: Bill Bailey, during David Tennant's guest appearance, jokingly insisted Doctor Who was a documentary when Stephen called it a work of fiction. Tennant played along and confirmed that it was all real. "Don't listen to the bad man." And then (at Stephen's prompting) he started waving his pen around like a sonic screwdriver.
In "Birth", the Christmas episode of its series, Stephen allowed Alan to ask the General Ignorance questions while he attempted to answer them.
Prior to "Holidays", three of the panelists took a trip to an H-named place at Stephen's expense. For the first part of the episode, they presented quite interesting facts about their destinations while Stephen commented passively. Alan didn't go anywhere; he was in detention.
Stephen: What's eight poles wide and forty poles long?
Sean Lock: "A regiment in the Polish Army?"
Reached The Tape Knew You Would Say That levels in the XL version of the "Greats" episode, when Jo Brand uttered a particularly long forfeit phrase word for word:
Stephen: Now, tell me about the Great Disappointment. Jo Brand:[buzzes] Have you been talking to my husband? *KLAXON*"have you been talking to my husband?"
Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: After Sean Lock's suggestion that you could put cheese in your pants when entering a sauna and "re-shape" it when you leave...
Stephen: [trying to get his attention] Sean... Sean. Sean, you're not alone; there are people here.
Alan: You're saying it out loud, you're not thinking it.
Die Laughing: Discussed in the XL version of "Happiness"; the only person they could come up with who'd died laughing was the man who laughed for 25 minutes and had a heart attack at an episode of The Goodies.
Dirty Old Man: In "H-Anatomy", Gyles Brandreth kept coming up with excuses to take Sue Perkins' hand, by "demonstrating" various ways to shake hands etc. She quickly grew both irritated and creeped out by it.
And many panellists (including, eventually, Bill Bailey himself) have produced real pipes from under the table, using them much the same way.
The Ditz: Alan Davies, dear God, Alan Davies! This is likely at least partly an act, as he has noted on his Twitter that the producers like it when he plays the idiot, though he also notes this isn't difficult to do.
Jimmy Carr: How can you get it wrong after he's got it right? That is extraordinary. You were literally saved by the bell! He buzzed it and got it right, you couldn't say the stupid thing, and you went there anyway! You were amazing!
This is especially true in the first three series; in series D Alan wised up a bit and started performing better (though still below the "expected" average). Alan reached a peak in Series G, when he won three shows in a row (Episodes 4-6), tied for first place in a further two (Episodes 12-13), and to finish up won Episode 16 with the highest score (21) all series, and indeed the highest score since Series D.
All of them play at it sometimes, though, just for laughs. Or at the very least throw out completely nonsensical answers that are still somehow related.
Stephen: What should you not drink if you're dehydrated...?
Stephen Fry: In 1819, a German travel guide to London said, "The kiss of friendship between men is strictly avoided in Britain, as inclining towards the sin regarded in England as more abominable than any other." (beat) Queue-barging, presumably. (general laughter) That, or sodomy.
"Dictionaries" has an Overly Long Gag of this type which Stephen uses to run an unsuccessful joke of Rory Bremner's into the ground and stomp on it repeatedly, effectively making it funny again.
Stephen: 'Eyyy, no, no, when I said "eye," I meant "e-y-e," and you thought, possibly for comic effect, but if so, disastrously, that I was saying "I," and that wasn't what was happening at all! It was completely something else! It was one of those laughable misunderstandings! And I use the word "laughable" quite wrongly. So, erm, anyway...
In "Jolly", the panel are presented with a variety of joke shop items to play with; Alan goes on an extended tangent with a fake dog turd (including putting it into his mouth and slowly revealing it) before Rob Brydon says (pretending to have an earpiece) "Hold on, Alan, I'm just being told there's been a bit of a mix-up". After the audience reaction, somebody else then says "It's a real dog turd..."
In Series G, this warning accompanied a demonstration of the correct pronunciation of "Van Gogh".
In "Electricity", Stephen attempted to give this warning after demonstrating that gherkins glow when a large electric current is passed through them, but went off on a tangent and ended up saying that you should live your own life and not do things (or avoid doing things) just because some person on the TV told you to.
Inverted when discussing custard as a non-Newtonian fluid.
Stephen: Children, whatever you do, please, please, try to walk on as much custard as you can.
In "Jeopardy", the following exchange preceded a demonstration of how to produce hydrogen gas by pouring hydrochloric acid on galvanised nails:
Stephen: I'm supposed to tell you not to try this at home.
Alan: "Cock" is not his penis. Stephen: You're right. It's a cockerel; it's a rooster. He was an extraordinary man, John Napier. He... he wore black, and a lot of his neighbors thought that he was somehow in league with the devil. And he had this jet-black cock as his constant companion. Jimmy: Did he do that purely for double-entendre? ... "Have you seen my massive black cock?" Etcetera. A hit at dinner parties in Edinburgh.
Dramatic Thunder: Near the beginning of an episode in Series D, as Stephen announces the theme of the night — Death.
Rich: (after half an episode of silence) Ever since the Clangers I've been lost.
Early Installment Weirdness: The show was initially split into rounds of questions on various subjects. The B series changed this so there were two rounds, one on one subject and 'General Ignorance', but the show didn't take its current format until around series D.
Epic Fail: Sean Lock's final score of -76 in the 'Germany' episode was singled out by Stephen as "possibly a record". It still stands as the lowest score achieved by a guest panellist.
The actual record is the "Children in Need" special in Series D, where Stephen Fry multiples all the scores by a million as a gesture of generosity to mark the occasion. The upshot of this is that Alan Davies finishes the show with -29,000,000 points.
Alan also got -84 in Series C, in the episode Cleve Crudgington.
Not to mention -144 in the Differences episode, after a -150 point penalty for suggesting "Randy" as Gandhi's first name.
Assuming Alan's above score of -29,000,000 was actually just -29, for the entire series, Alan is currently on a score of -2180.
Exact Words: Rich Hall tries to use this to score points in one of his first appearances.
Rich: So, wait, we get points for being interesting?
Foreign Queasine: In "Invertebrates", Stephen presents the panel with a variety of insect-based candies, including a lollipop with ants in it, scorpion brittle ("like peanut brittle but with a scorpion in it"), and chocolate-covered ants. In an attempt to show the panel that they are the way forward, he tries a chocolate-covered ant, but soon has cause to regret it.
Played with in the Series I Christmas episode "Ice": After eating some ice cream, which they speculate might be made from breast milk, the panel is told that it's fox testicle ice cream... and they continue to eat it. Then, when they're told that it's not actually made from fox testicles, Ross Noble feigns disgust.
Genre Savvy: Witness any moment when Stephen Fry asks a seemingly straightforward question... only for an awkward pause to ensue as no one wants to give the obvious answer, because they think it's a trap.
Also, players comment on how the obvious answer is often the wrong answer.
Clive Anderson: Even I can work out that when you know the answer, never give it, 'cause it's always the one, it's the one they're hoping we'll say.
A related phenomenon is people spotting the trap, but giving the wrong answer anyway, just to get it out of the way. Also, it's not unknown for people to give a "wrong" answer, expecting the klaxon, only to find out their answer is the correct one.
In the Series G episode "Greats", Sean Lock deliberately gave an answer he knows cannot possibly be correct (or rather, not obvious-but-wrong, but inobvious and definitely wrong) to avoid setting off the klaxon.
Stephen Fry: What was the lingua franca of ancient Rome?
Sean Lock: Eh, Dutch.
The contestants themselves wonder how far they need to take this trope, as one Series G episode had Stephen asking the team how old they were. Cue silence and an exasperated Dara Ó Briain wondering how the obvious answer could possibly be wrong. The correct answer, by the way, is between seven and ten years, as the body's cells are in a state of constant regeneration.
Defied to hell and back by Robert Webb in "Hypnosis, Hallucinations and Hysteria", where he repeatedly trips the klaxon with utterly delighted childish glee.
A contestant who's already taken a number of forfeits may also defy this, if they feel they have nothing else to lose. Jo Brand has, in a couple episodes, given answers specifically to trigger the klaxon after racking up a huge negative score.
In series H and onward, the contestants would sometimes spot the obvious answer, with one announcing that they'll take the hit and get it out of the way.
The klaxon gets in on this when it starts predicting what the panellists will say if they've said the same thing a few times. Namely, Rich Hall triggering it by answering, "which moon are we talking about?", and Jo Brand triggering it by answering, "my husband" (a Running Gag through her whole career).
The time she triggered it by saying "Michael Winner" (a Running Gagthat episode) is not an example of the klaxon predicting contestant tendencies, however; the forfeits are set up before the episode begins. The reason it got triggered is because Winner had gotten food poisoning a few years back, and her answer that time was in reference to that incident.
And sometimes, the panellists will question whether the question itself is valid. Sometimes, this will even be the case.
Fry: What do you suffer from if you're afraid of heights? Alan Davies: Vertigo. *KLAXON* Fry: No. It's all Alfred Hitchcock's fault, but vertigo is not a fear of heights; it's a specific condition of dizziness... most people who have a fear of heights have a particular phobia. What's the name for it? Alan Davies: Heightaphobia. Fry: Yes — usually we use Greek, don't we, though?
Godwin's Law: Itself discussed in the episode on Germany. Stephen describes the law as stating that as every internet discussion or argument continues, the probability of somebody comparing something or someone to Hitler or the Nazis will reach 1, after which the argument is over. Rob Brydon asked whether this law applied to threads where Hitler himself was the topic.
Hitler Ate Sugar: Discussed as a common result of the above. As Stephen argues, claiming that things Hitler liked or disliked are automatically bad or good is "a mad argument", whether it be fox-hunting or wearing long socks.
Golden Snitch: A few episodes have had certain questions or challenges that would give 100 or even 200 points if done correctly.
Inverted by giving certain "obvious but wrong" answers which are deemed incredibly stupid; answering "carbon dioxide" to the question "What is the main ingredient of air?" would have given a deduction of 3,000 points.
Heroic BSOD: In Geometry, Stephen explains that the pillars of the Parthenon look straight because they are straight. But poor Johnny Vegas. Poor, poor Johnny Vegas:
Johnny: That's not a question! "Why does this man look thin? Because he is." That has taken me on a whole circle... This is why I struggled in school! "If a train travels at 40 miles an hour and leaves at 9 o'clock and arrives in Glasgow at 12 o'clock, how did it get there?" And you're going, "'Cause it did!" ... IT'S VERY CONFUSING! [holds up his notebook with a squiggly line drawn on it] "Why does that look straight?" "Because it's not!" That could have been a question. [draws a straight line] "Why does that look straight? Because it IS! Because it is..." [breaks down sobbing]
Homoerotic Subtext: Quite a bit, and all played for laughs of course. Aside from the unsubtle flirting between Alan and Stephen, there's a lot among other contestants as well. Most notably, Rob Brydon and Ben Miller kissing in the 'Future' episode of "F" series. And there's the endless innuendo...
David Mitchell: I like the expression "sleep in with the bananas". It implies that the bananas are asleep as well. Nothing nicer than being woken up by a friendly banana!
Stephen Fry (brightly): Well, quite.
On the subject of Alan and Stephen flirting there was the episode where, if a member of the panel guessed their score exactly right, they would get a prize. Alan's answer, towards the end of the show, to Stephen's question of what that prize was was "We'd have sex." Fry simply made a remark about Alan's wishful thinking.
Stephen and Professor Brian Cox. Good Lord. Stephen was probably just happy to have someone on the show who was smarter than him.
Stephen Fry: Well it's very interesting, I could tell you, but then I'd have to eat myself.
Ignore the Disability: In one episode of Series F, the guests were penalized for saying a swear word beginning with F, and in the Series G episode on Germany a similar ban was placed on mentioning "the War" (although the Franco-Prussian War was still fair game).
However, Sean Lock was chastised for mentioning Evelyn Waugh.
"Double bluffs" get steadily more ridiculous, until hitting critical mass in the Comic Relief special, which opens with "how many sides - sides, S-I-D-E-S - does a right isosceles triangle have?" Two forfeits ("4" and "6") are hit before the correct answer, and it just keeps going like that, with questions like "How many legs does a spider have?" and "What is the capital of France?"
David Mitchell on wearing vertical or horizontal stripes:
David: I think it just alternates, doesn't it? Because for ages you think, "Okay, vertical stripes make people look thinner." Then you say, "Oh, she's wearing vertical stripes, therefore she must be fatter than she looks." Therefore you start thinking, "Oh, she looks fat because she's wearing vertical stripes," so suddenly, horizontal stripes start making you look thinner, because "oh, she must be thin, otherwise she'd never dare wear horizontal stripes." Then you go, "Horizontal stripes make you look thinner; oh, she must be fat, she's wearing horizontal stripes..."
In the "Holiday" episode, Rob Brydon's joke about stamp collecting earned pained reactions from the panel and an expression of abject shame from Brydon himself.
Rob: I collected stamps for a very brief period like you in my early teens and I gave it up. I thought to myself: philately will get me nowhere.
Stephen even gets in on the action from time to time, as seen in "Indecision":
Stephen: [John Lenahan is] out of the Magic Circle for life, 'cause he appeared on Des Lyman's How Do They Do That? and revealed one of the classic card scams that is used on the street corners to make money.
Phill: Oh, Find the Lady.
Stephen: Find the Lady, or as they call it in America, Three Card Monte.
Jimmy: 'Cause Find the Lady… I prefer Three Card Monte, 'cause Find the Lady, I had a really bad experience in Thailand once.
Stephen: Did you feel a bit of a dick?
Inverted in "Jungles". When Stephen asks for something that runs forty miles per hour and smells like curry, David O'Doherty offers "Usain Balti", which impresses him to the point that he suggests that points be awarded.
Episode 10 of the 'F' series had a pun so bad it was a forfeit answer.
Stephen: Now, how does a ferret build an airliner? Jo Brand: Really weasily. **KLAXON**
In "Groovy", pointing out that a joke was bad was enough to earn a forfeit.
Stephen: A man goes to the doctor, right. "Doctor, Doctor, I can't stop singing Auld Lang Syne." So the doctor says, "I'll have to send you to the Burns unit." (cue groans) Now, what's wrong with that joke?
Lee Mack: Is it absolutely terrible?
**KLAXON**(it isn't funny)
Informed Ability: One episode brought up "Little Tich", a music-hall performer who inspired Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and whom Stephen Fry proclaimed a comic genius whose name would be remembered when every other comedian on the show would be long forgotten. The panel were unimpressed, pointing out that his name had already been forgotten — neither they nor the audience had ever heard of him — and when a surviving clip of his act was shown, they didn't even think it was all that funny.
Insufferable Genius: When panellists get onto a subject they actually know something about, they can sometimes forget to be funny and take the qui part a bit too seriously — unwilling or unable to follow other panellists (Alan Davies especially) and feign stupidity to a certain degree for the sake of entertainment. True enough, bantermeisters that often do provide intelligent answers can avoid appearing as this by actually providing jokes (e.g. Sandi Toksvig, Dara Ó Briain).
Rory McGrath came off as awfully show-offy to many people during his first appearance, to the point where Sean Lock got annoyed with him and started to mock him relentlessly. "You're doing atomic number wheelies, aren't you?" Even Stephen eventually gets fed up with him, smiling and stating "You are just beginning to try my patience now."
John Sessions was so frequent an offender that he was given a buzzer that consisted of an over-eager child saying "Sir, Sir! I know Sir!" in a series B episode—his third or fourth taping.
Poor, poor Brian Cox.
Sue Perkins:(taking notes) How do you spell 'electron'?
Ross Noble: Is it a wine glass, or more of a tumbler? (Brian was talking about causality using smashing a glass as an allegory.)
In an episode in the first series, Alan tells an anecdote about being given a chocolate bar by a nice old lady that turned out (after he'd eaten it) to be well past its use-by date, and "tasted like old ladies' cupboards". One of the other panellists requests reassurance that this isn't a euphemism.
Jeremy Clarkson once talked about eating a seal flipper, and described the taste as "Exactly like licking a hot Turkish urinal."
Also with the 'hoax cards' in the episode on Hoaxes, which had to be played when the panellists thought they'd spotted a hoax:
Sean Lock: I don't know about you, but I'm just going to do it on the first question, then none of us can lose out. We all do it on the first question, we all lose points, and then it's just done. We don't have to worry about it, spend the rest of the show going, "oh, damn, already used my hoax card"... what you reckon, guys, you in for that?
Danny Baker: We're all gonna say yes, but we're all going to not really do it!
Alan: I might use it, but when I use it, it might be a hoax!
Kick the Dog: Quite literally, in response to the question "What can't remember anything?":
Sean Lock: My neighbor's dog can't remember when I kick it. It still comes up to me.
Large Ham: Well, BRIAN BLESSED was involved. Whereas everyone else's buzzers were little Christmas bells (with the obvious exception of Alan Davies), his was big massive church bells. And everyone cheered!
Stephen (introducing the panel as "four people who look a bit like other people"): Please welcome Tony Blair (Rory Bremner)... Tommy Cooper (Phill Jupitus)... Ruby Wax (Ronni Ancona)... and... Alan Davies.
Stephen: "I never stand on Bovril. It's a stupid thing to do. But I quite like the taste of it, I have to say."
Loads and Loads of Characters: Averted. Of all the BBC Panel Games, possibly bar Mock the Week, this one draws from one of the smallest pools of repeat guests. This is probably due to not having any fixed "theme" to the show, so they're unable to pluck participants from the worlds of politics and media, music, or sport, and mostly makes do with a limited number of comedians. On the plus side this gives the show something of a dinner-party feel, with the old favourites who banter well together making regular appearances.
Stephen: Real Chinese inventions include the abacus, chess, the decimal system, drilling for oil, fireworks, the fishing reel, the flamethrower, the helicopter, the horse collar, the iron plow, lacquer, the mechanical clock, hot-air balloons, negative numbers, the parachute, print-making, relief maps, rubber, the seismograph, stirrups, the suspension bridge, the umbrella, the water bomb, and whiskey.
The best example was when he listed everything the Scottish had invented. He got a round of applause at the end of it.
Long Runner: Based on the theme naming, it would appear they expect the show to be on for at least 26 series. Given that they do one letter a year, by the time they get to Z, Stephen will be 71, and Alan 62.
Stephen: Sometime in the future, when we're all in our dotage, we'll get on to 'R' and then we can talk about Rasputin.
Loophole Abuse: Several Real Life examples are discussed on "Inequality", including a cricketer who noticed that there Aint No Rule you can't use a bat wider than the wicket (there is now), and a baseball team that fielded a dwarf to exploit the rules regarding strike zones.
Malaproper: Jeremy Clarkson made a probably-intentional one in the "Green" episode when he referred to the RSPB as the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds" instead of "Protection", "accidentally" getting it mixed up with the RSPCA which stands for "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals". (He is known to be fond of using deliberate malapropisms to express apathy or contempt toward something; indeed, he used the aforementioned gag on Top Gear as well.)
Memetic Mutation: Invoked and referenced by in "International", when Stephen puts on a false moustache and Bill Bailey claims that there'll be a website devoted to it by the time the show finishes airing. (There was one put up a day later, apparently.)
In an older episode, after Stephen's infamous line about "length and thickness", Alan remarks, "That'll be snipped out, straight on YouTube." He was right, too.
Missing Episode: The episode "Idleness" was in limbo because the week before its broadcast panellist Jeremy Clarkson made controversial comments on The One Show about strikers that led to over 30,000 complaints. It was, however, accidentally uploaded to the iPlayer, and somebody managed to get it on YouTube before the BBC realised their mistake. It ultimately aired in May 2012, one week after the Shakespeare special.
Mood Whiplash: There's been more than a few instances where the topic turns a bit grim and somber. Of course, the panellists always point this out and make up for it right afterwards.
[Following a discussion on the state funeral of the Unknown Soldier with full military honours, in the presence of a guard made up of 100 VCs and 100 women each of whom had lost their husband and all their sons during the Great War]
Jack Dee: That was a very funny round, I think.
Sue Perkins: Be interesting to see if we can pick it up from there!
Monochrome Casting: Has had a grand whopping total of three comedians of colour on in all its ten seasons so far (Meera Syal in "Aquatic Animals", Reg D. Hunter in "Fashion" and Shappi Khorsandi in "Journalism").
Moral Dissonance: Invoked and Played for Laughs by Jimmy Carr in the XL version of "I-Spy", where he berates the audience for first laughing at a tale of a murder attempt, and then at a certain point going "aaawww".
Most Annoying Sound: Invoked in "Imbroglio"; the buzzers were all purposefully annoying sounds. John got a loud buzzing insect, Frank got a yapping dog, Sean got a crying infant, and Alan, of course, got the forfeit klaxon.
Most Wonderful Sound: Invoked; according to Rich Hall, it's the sound of a prairie dog being sucked through a tube at eighty miles per hour. According to the panel, it's the sound of one of the other panellists getting a forfeit.
When Ross Noble said that the idea of a 'rounded triangle' gave him hope for a "Toblerone-Rolo combo", Phill Jupitus commented that those three words in a Geordie accent were his new favorite sound.
The Napoleon: Set up and then debunked in one General Ignorance round: political leaders tend to be above average height at the very least, and some are much taller.
Never Heard That One Before: Setting Bill Bailey's buzzer to, yes, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home". Alan provides the obligatory Lampshading.
Even more amusing given that Bill (real name Mark) was given the nickname by his music teacher for being able to play the song very well on the guitar. Using it as his buzzer wasn't just an amusing reference, but a throwback to the reason he's even called that.
Nintendo Hard: It's explicitly stated that the guests are not expected to know the answers to any of the questions.
Although sometimes someone will know, and sometimes they won't know the answer but will know some sort of interesting relevant information. See Smart Ball, below.
No Export for You: The cost of clearing the rear-projected images for international showing has put paid to no fewer than four attempts to bring the programme stateside. However, Series F has been broadcast in New Zealand, and Australia broadcast Series F and G, then looped back to Series A - E before resuming with Series H. Also, the show has been remade for the Dutch market at least; the host of the Dutch version made a guest appearance during Series G to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of "Van Gogh".
Noodle Incident: When Stephen mentions in episode C01 that he would love to finally get some fanmail:
Stephen: Apart from the, um... well you know who you are, don't you? [beat] And, I tried it, and it was a disaster.
Not so Above It All: Stephen Fry, whose main role is to rein in the panel when they go too far. When he loses his composure, it's often the funniest moment of the show.
A spectacular example occurred in Series E, where he deftly disarmed Rob Brydon (who had been repeating the last few words of everything he said) and then bungled his very next line, which was of course "They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is..."
Now You Tell Me: After Alan Davies destroys part of his desk with a saw in the Series G episode "Gardens", David Mitchell comments that "I really wish they hadn't made this set out of asbestos."
Bill Bailey claimed that once he went into an enclosure with a jaguar after the handler advised: "Always approach from the front." When he was almost within striking distance the handler suddenly corrected himself: "Oh no, sorry, 'Never.'"
Alan has a bad habit of destroying historical artefacts, just before Stephen says how priceless they are. This has gotten to the point where museums that loan items to QI include a proviso that Alan must not touch them.
Obfuscating Stupidity: Several guests such as Johnny Vegas, Lee Mack and Robert Webb have played with the format of the show by being as obtuse as possible, usually just to drive Stephen up the wall and derail the show. More to the point, this is how Alan Davies fulfills his role of The Fool on a consistent basis. When he wised up to his situation in series D, he started playing seriously and actually won four episodes in a row. But as his buffoonery is a cornerstone of the show's popularity, he was soon set straight.
Obligatory Joke: Giving an obvious but incorrect answer or an obvious joke usually gets the player the klaxon. For example, Jimmy Carr lost points for answering "Piers Morgan" to a question about the world's most poisonous snake.
Off on a Technicality: Subverted when Lee Mack triggered the klaxon by saying "First of December" and the words December the 1st appeared on the screens; he tried to argue he shouldn't lose points as that wasn't what he said, but was informed "you don't get off that easily".
Subverted—or perhaps even inverted—when David Mitchell gave "After 1939" as an answer to "When was the first World War named as such?" After the forfeit "1939" came up, David tried to argue his case, since he'd said "after 1939"... eventually resulting in him getting two more forfeits in addition to the first. See Rage Against the Author below.
Off the Rails: All the time, but only because it's usually the game's entire point. Sometimes, it doesn't just go off the rails but upside down, in a ditch, and on fire. Notably, in the "Gardens" episode when Stephen asks about the best place to find a new species, which somehow led to an "interesting, fierce, and, I think, productive" debate on what to do with a starving honeybee.
Another one started with the origin of the word "vegetarian" and moved on to a debate about motorised monster truck-esque turtles — unsurprisingly, Jeremy Clarkson was involved.
Or the Christmas XL special, in which they started talking about Mormon polygamy and went through the Osmonds to figure out that the Tenth Doctor would be killed off by the secret brother Big Graham Osmond ("played by Bill Bailey!"), who lived in the attic and wrote all their songs. Bill Bailey ends up chewing the holly sprig in David Tennant's lapel.
One of Us: Jonathan Ross is a comic book fan, which gave him a chance to do a lengthy Motor Mouth gag in the Series D Children In Need episode about the origins of Wonder Woman, the private life of William Moulton Marston, and the evolution of EC Comics and its subsequent demise at the hands of the Comics Code Authority (albeit with a repetition of the myth that the word "FLICK" was banned in case it looked like "FUCK").
Stephen: Fabulous. I love that. That is brilliant. And to think that almost everyone I know thinks you're a coarse, vain, loudmouthed...
Bill Bailey wears a Dragon Ball T-shirt in one of the H series episodes. In the following series he sports a Naruto t-shirt.
The panel's Christmas crackers in "Jingle Bells" had these, and the panel were asked to make the joke for it.
In "Gifts", Stephen describes an ancient joke to which the punchline has been lost.
Stephen: It's joke 114 in the Philogelos, an ancient joke book – This Abderite asks a eunuch how many children he has. And the eunuch goes, 'Duh – none. I'm a eunuch.' So the Abderite says... and the fragment is missing. So we don't have the punchline. So I'm inviting you to provide the punch line. Okay, "How many children have you got, eunuch?" and the eunuch says "I don't have any, I'm a eunuch." And the Abderite, who's thick, says...? Clive: "How many grandchildren, then?"
Overly Long Gag: During Series E, there was an episode centered around "endings". The buzzers for the first three included the sound of a church gong signifying death, the sound of a guillotine sliding down, and the final strums of a banjo tune. Alan's is what seems to be the last frantic chords of a piano... which then keep continuing on for another 30 seconds before stopping. During this, Stephen keeps trying to continue with the show, before the piano starts up again. He does this about three times.
The scary part is that the second one actually exists now.
Paranoia Fuel: Invoked several times as the panellists become more and more Genre Savvy about "obvious but wrong" answers; David Mitchell noted how worried the panel were to give an answer they were certain of for fear of the klaxon sounding, and after Jack Dee had finished a very long, rambling answer Ross Noble brought up the idea that the klaxon would go off and the screens would display everything Jack had just said, word for word.
Parody Names: While discussing a question about defamation, Stephen brought up a hypothetical novel about a quiz show called KI, hosted by "Simon Dry", with a curly-haired regular on the show called "Andrew Devons", and in it, the latter had a small penis.
People's Republic of Tyranny: Invoked by Jimmy Carr in a discussion about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If they called themselves 'The Fascist Junta' we might at least respect their honesty.
Alan Davies: Then you'd better come through to the sleeping module.
Placebo Effect: One of the questions on 'Illness' asks why this works (it turns out that nobody knows).
The Points Mean Nothing: Even the show's creators don't know how the scoring works — they apparently hire a man to sit in a room and work it out, and no-one knows how he decides it. The placings can actually be quite important, especially if you're a fan of Alan Davies.
That's true of the points related to the questions, but Stephen gives points for things that are "quite interesting". There is, supposedly, an actual formula or line-of-thought he uses to do so when awarding points, but no one has managed to figure out how exactly it works.
The klaxon, at least, is a uniform -10 unless it's an incredibly stupid answer (like saying carbon dioxide makes up the bulk of the atmosphere, or thinking modern Germany still sings "Deutschland,DeutschlandUber Alles").
A lot of this is due to things being cut in the edit, but the points still affecting the end result. It explains why in some episodes people have apparently done well but still lost — they left a number of forfeits on the editing-room floor. And, of course, they can't re-record the ending to only include points scored in the edited version.
In the 'International' episode of Series I, Bill Bailey used his 'Nobody knows' sign after a discussion of the points. The point-scorer agreed, and awarded him 3 points for it.
Parodied on "Inequality"; the points were (unfairly) assigned before the game started (where Stephen said Sandi Toksvig had won despite having a lower score than Clive Anderson), and even more unfairly not announced at the end.
Stephen (cutting off Johnny Vegas after a rambling non-answer): The short answer to that is "No". The long answer is "Fuck, no".
Not to mention:
Stephen: Does anyone know why the Royal Family celebrate Christmas on the 24th?
Jo Brand: Because they're all fucking mad!
Stephen: No, because they're all fucking German.
In the episode "Fingers and Fumbs", there was a special forfeit revolving around use of the word "fuck" where whoever said it had to play Rock/Paper/Scissors with Stephen to decide if they would lose points. It was a double bluff, as Stephen said, the contestants were expected to think that "fuck" was such an obvious word to choose as a forbidden word, they would think that the makers would never pick it as such. It came up no fewer than six times (three of them Phill's), and Stephen didn't win any games. (He kept playing scissors, having claimed it was the best opening move; see Kansas City Shuffle.)
In Series A, Stephen cut off a discussion on why there aren't any romantic songs that mention the "second moon" (technically a resonant body) Cruithne.
Stephen: Because it was discovered in nineteen-ninety-fucking-FOUR!!
Actually, it was discovered to be a "moon" in 1997, but Fry was so keyed up by that point...
Psmith Psyndrome: The very first penalty of the series, in the pilot. Alan guesses that Adolf is the 6th most popular boy's name in Germany, and Stephen holds up a card that says "Adolph", claiming the intern didn't fact-check the spelling. Alan then tries to claim he shouldn't be penalized because he pronounced it with an F. Stephen relents and reduces the forfeit to 8 points.
Psycho Strings: The "F*#@" forfeit in "Fingers and Fumbs" was accompanied by its own sound effect featuring these, rather than the usual klaxon.
Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: At the end of the infamous "They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is" incident, Stephen eventually manages to spit out "That there are... No! Straight! Lines!"
After a long argument with Rich Hall about the existence of a second moon, when Rich asked why there are no songs about the second moon yet, an exasperated Stephen replies "Because it was discovered in nineteen! Ninety! Fucking! FOUR!"
Sometimes this shows up at the expense of Graham Norton, Sandi Toksvig, or Sue Perkins, but not usually. However, one imagines that now they are all semi-regulars... (incidentally, all made their first appearances in the "G" series.)
Rage Against the Author: David Mitchell in the "International" episode, leaving Stephen and the audience in stitches:
Stephen: When was the First World War first named as such?
David: ... It's gonna be some point after 1939, isn't it.
David: Excuse me! I think I said, I think what I said, people in the box, is "after 1939". Which may contain 1939, but does not mean it.
*KLAXON*(after the Second World War)
David: Okay! [waving finger] No no no! I think... "After 1939" and "After the Second World War" are not synonymous, now this is just giving you time to type "After 1939"!
*KLAXON*(during the Second World War)
David: ... Why don't you just type "Mitchell is a cock"?
Stephen:[warningly] I wouldn't put it past them.
Rant Inducing Slight: David Mitchell is prone to these. The producers have picked up on this, and tend to use more double-bluffs and other tricks when he's on the show. In the Geometry episode, for example, they "targeted" him with a double-bluff regarding the pillars of the Parthenon, which appear straight because they actually are. Strangely, it wasn't David Mitchell who launched into an epic rant after that one, but Johnny Vegas.
Stephen: Why might I put my finger up your bottom if you couldn't name seven bald men apart from Yul Brynner? [Beat] That is possibly one of the oddest questions I've ever asked on this show...
Stephen: I never thought that I'd see the day when Bill Bailey force fed Gérard de Nerval's pet lobster with Jerusalem artichokes.
Recut: QI XL, a 40-minute version of the show, broadcast the following day.
Something of an inversion of Edited for Syndication — a lot of the apparent points meaning nothing (see below) is ironed out in some episodes by massive forfeits and/or correct answers which were dropped in the edit down to a half-hour; the long edit still drops points, however, and at least once dropped a forfeit (in "Health & Safety," when Alan says "you big gorilla, you," the klaxon can be heard coming in, but is not shown). One presumes that even more than this is normally cut. The repeats on Dave for Series F are exclusively showing QI XL and not the normal version (and in a few cases even got to air the XL version first because the BBC never bothered).
Although this might be because it allows them to stretch it to a full hour of broadcasting with three internal ad breaks and a more traditional scheduling pattern, as opposed to other BBC shows the channel broadcasts, which remain unedited (save for a straight cut in the middle for one ad break), but as such take up a forty-minute slot. That being said, they're not doing the same for Have I Got A Bit More News For You
Released To Elsewhere: Phill Jupitus gets off an extended riff on this theme in the context of a discussion of Russian dogs carrying bombs which were trained to destroy tanks.
Phill: Don't worry, that one didn't blow up. He lives on a farm now... they really love him; they stroke him a lot.
Alan: His back's broken, but...
Running Gag: Everything involving Alan Davies, from his comical buzzer noise to finishing last almost every time. Although since he's the only panellist who is on every show, even though he usually loses he's still won more games than any other panellist...
Bill Bailey refusing to believe that various sci-fi/fantasy TV shows or movies aren't documentaries.
Phill Jupitus is liable to start these off, even if they only run for that episode. In particular, one episode where they discussed hunters dying because they only ate rabbit.
Also him standing up with an awestruck look on his face whenever someone's buzzer is set to a national anthem.
Kestrels. (This is actually one of Phill's personal running gags, popping up on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and other places, but it seems to have originated on QI, on the episode 'Drinks'.)
*Buzzer* The Blue whale. *KLAXON*
This has become enough of a running gag that it's become another running gag for Stephen to ask a question to which the answer actually is the blue whale... he's never gotten it.
Pliny the Elder and his crazy "scientific facts" also qualify.
Stephen Fry being portrayed as a posh, out-of-touch upper-class gentlemen, with servants attending to his every whim. Phill Jupitus usually starts those, but others have as well.
Stephen's utter inability to understand Geordie accents has come up more than once.
The panellists claiming that the forfeit answers couldn't possibly have been predicted in advance, and that the QI Elves are frantically typing them in as they say them. Stephen carried cards with the forfeit answers on them in the first series to forestall this, but has since lost the habit, resulting in mild accusations of cheating. See Rage Against the Author above.
David Mitchell, after three consecutive forfeits on the same question: Why don't you just type, "MITCHELL IS A COCK"?
Stephen: I wouldn't put it past them.
Rich Hall and Jimmy Carr answering moon- and Christianity-related questions, respectively, with "which moon?" and "it didn't happen," until the Elves started docking them for it.
In the episode "Differences" in Series D, Dara was asked a question beginning "Suppose you got into bed with your wife...". Once the answer to the question had been settled, Dara pointed out that he didn't in fact have a wife, and Stephen explained that they'd bought him one from Amazon but she hadn't arrived yet. Dara's mail-order bride became a running joke for the remainder of the episode.
The episode "Imbruglio" from Series I featured Stephen Fry mentioning that it's easier to perform a headstand in the shower than to get a bidet in your room while in France. Handstand jokes ran through the rest of the episode.
The episode "Illness" from Series I featured two running gags: Jo Brand giving answers which included insults to director Michael Winner, and Stephen Fry concluding discussions of how to treat or avoid various conditions with "And avoid fatty or spicy foods".
Throughout "J-Places", Bill Bailey mimes several activities that fit the discussion that all look suspiciously like playing a keyboard.
Schmuck Bait: The obvious answers. Since the A series, the show has evolved from heading full throttle into these types of questions to warily circling the answers to find where the obvious answer is correct.
Serious Business: In the episode on "Hoaxes", the panel were informed that they had to guess which question was a hoax and, in fact, not true by playing their "Joker cards". At the end, it turned out that the idea of a hoax fact was itself a hoax, and everything had been true. This prompted Sean Lock and Alan to throw their Joker cards across the room in anger, and Danny Baker to say "This is an outrage, this is like the end of LOST!" When Sean was then announced as the winner, one of the other panellists claimed it was now a "discredited" show anyway.
Stephen: It's endearing how much it matters to them.
Shaggy Dog Story: In "Hanatomy", Gyles Brandreth spends over a minute laying out a possible answer to a question about Marcel Proust, before suddenly realising that he's got confused and the event at the heart of his theory didn't happen to Proust but to a different French writer entirely.
Stephen: "I think there's a current advert on for some skin preparation for men, it goes on about how your skin can get 'stronger'."
Sean: "Obviously they don't want to market 'moisturiser' to men, so they call it 'face protection'. Like, it's stopping bullets hitting your face! *mimics a man being shot in the face, shrugging it off* Put this on! It's not to do with making me all soft and lovely, it's actually *BANG* and *BASH* it away. People are throwing kettles at me, I'm going *BING*!"
Smart Ball: Half the fun of the show is when it turns out that one of the panellists happens to be a massive nerd with regard to a particular subject, the more obscure the better. Examples include:
Vic Reeves' expertise on pirates.
Jonathan Ross being an expert on comic books.
Rory McGrath knowing the Latin names of most birds as well as the atomic masses of every element.
John Sessions being able to name the birth and death year of many famous artists.
Jo Brand being a psychology expert, although this is helped by the fact she used to be a psychiatric nurse. Surprisingly, she also identified an electron as a probability density function and explained what that means.
Daniel Radcliffe's appearance in "Hocus Pocus", where he knew of the oldest magic trick in the book (but of course) but also showed quite reasonable knowledge in the Harrying of the North, to the other panellists' surprise.
Clare Balding, who was an accomplished horsewoman on an episode all about horses.
The times where Bill Bailey has turned out to actually be something of an expert on the issue have been so common nobody is surprised when this happens with him anymore.
Smart People Know Latin: Alan makes a joke about Stephen knowing the Lord's Prayer in Latin, to which Stephen responds by quoting the first line of such at high speed.
Smite Me, O Mighty Smiter: After David Mitchell's long and futile argument with the klaxon (yes, the klaxon), in which he inevitably loses:
David: Why don't you just write "Mitchell is a cock".
Sophisticated as Hell: The show can swing from very academic to completely filthy, sometimes in mid-sentence. Once Stephen gave a long, detailed, nerdy description of how woodpeckers' tongues work, before suddenly ending with "If the pecker's got wood, why go for tongue, you may ask!" — resulting in a lot of stares and Jo Brand asking, "Could we maybe have an offshoot of this programme called Quite Unnecessary?"
Alan: We had a Jimmy Glascok at school. You could always see when he was coming.
Stephen: Oh, yes! Quality!
Also, Rob Brydon's anecdote about his father's choice of swearing:
Rob: He would say, "Hell's bells and buckets of blood".
Stephen: It's a good phrase, "Hell's bells and buckets of blood". Sounds good. Good for getting it out of your system. [Beat] I say "f**k".
"The short answer is 'no'. The long answer is 'fuck no'."
Special Guest: The roster of panellists is so small and unvariant that any new face probably counts. The ones with the biggest profile are probably Emma Thompson, David Tennant, Daniel Radcliffe, and BRIAN BLESSED.
Series I has included a few non-comedian guests based on that week's theme (Professor Brian Cox on 'Incomprehensible' and Dr Ben Goldacre on 'Illness').
Series G has an interesting one in that John Hodgman went on...and they decided to make the panel five players to accomodate him. Hodgman (as one might expect) has been very vocal in his anger that the series is not distributed in the US (copyright issues on the images, who would've guessed...).
Squick: In-Universe. In "Idleness", Stephen describes how a man can fake tuberculosis, and the panellists and audience react with disgust.
Do not watch any of the "Horrible" episode if you have a weak stomach.
Frank Skinner: I had a friend who- he read somewhere if you slept upside down, it made you more intelligent because the blood went to your brain. I became obsessed with the idea that he would have a wet dream and die. Stephen: Oh, that's so... in so many ways a horrific image.
Jo Brand managed to squick the entire studio (audience + guests) several times in the episode 'Jumble'. The story involving a medical school prank was stopped midway through by Alan, who thought he was being Genre Savvy. He wasn't savvy enough for Jo Brand.
The Stinger: Stephen usually gets one final joke or funny quote after the scores are read.
After the credits of the eighth season episode "Hocus Pocus", which ended with Graham Norton decapitating Daniel Radcliffe, there's a shot of Radcliffe's head in the basket turning to the camera and smiling, just to assure everyone that he's okay.
Strange Minds Think Alike: The producers obviously have fun trying to predict the more obvious joke answers so they can be forfeited. Highlights include catching Jimmy Carr out on "the world's most poisonous snake" being Piers Morgan, and Bill Bailey on "what has huge teeth and only one facial expression" being Janet Street-Porter.
Subliminal Advertising: Debunked in the H series episode on "Hypnosis, Hallucinations and Hysteria". STEPHEN FRY FOR POPE
Take That: On the question "Name a poisonous snake", Jimmy Carr buzzed in with "Piers Morgan" which was the forfeit answer.
When asked to name the commonest material in the world, Clive Anderson suggested "Jim Davidson's".
Alan's buzzer in the "Horrible" episode: "Hello, I'm Piers Morgan."
When asked "what is the biggest load of rubbish in the world?", an audience member yells, "France!"
In "Invertebrates", the question "name a spineless vertebrate", Jimmy answered Nick Clegg, to great applause.
In "Incomprehensible", Stephen tells the panel about a woman who deliberately put herself through the most debasing and degrading experiences she could think of. Alan says, "But did she go on Mock the Week?"
In "J-Places", when the subject turns to Juneau, Alaska, Stephen mentions that there are no roads leading to the city; you can only get there by air or water.
Sandi Toksvig: Sarah Palin can get there by walking on the water. (laughter) Stephen:(going into the next question) Can you tell me the biggest joke ever to come out of Alaska? (panel winces, anticipating the obvious forfeit) Sandi: Sarah Palin. (her picture appears, to great applause) Stephen: We're not forfeiting you there, it was so obvious. Sandi: If I had forfeited, I would have refudiated.
In "Jeopardy", Julia Zemiro's answer to the "Australia's deadliest creature": Rupert Murdoch.
Stephen: Excluding a member of the human race, which I'm not sure that does or not, but anyway...
In "Illness", Jo Brand makes a Running Gag out of insulting Michael Winner. Eventually one of the questions is about what you would call a man who eats everything in sight, to which she answers "Winner"... which happens to be the forfeit (Winner having suffered near-fatal food poisoning in 2007).
Stephen Fry (about a very tall bicycle used by lamplighters): You lean against the lamp... you've got a torch, you've got an assistant ... And when you get home, or back to the depot, your assistant dismounts you.
In the first episode of Series C, Stephen describes an interesting feature of custard (it's a dilatant fluid, which means it becomes more solid the harder or more suddenly you press on it):
Stephen: You can slowly put your finger through it— (audience laughs) Stephen:(facepalms) This is raising images. "Your finger slips in smoothly..." No, please, help me out here. But if you slap it hard— no. (buries face in hands) Oh dear.
And in one episode, Stephen explains that you can't get margarine as a substitute for butter anymore.
Stephen: You can't palm me off with margarine, I was about to say, but that sounds rather...
One of the outtakes from C series has Stephen discussing the unpleasantness of kissing stubbly men unless they've recently shaved, which is why if you ever kiss boys its best if they're 15 or younger... Oh I didn't just say that!
From "Incomprehensible", talking about a picture of a ground squirrel:
Ross Noble: He's only making the face because he's got Philip Scofield's hand up his bottom.
Stephen: Oh that takes me back a bit. (laughter)
Ross: Is that with the squeaking noise, is it?
Stephen: No, when I say, that takes me back a bit (franticly trying to speak over the audience laughter) I don't mean there was a time...! (resigned look) It's all gone wrong.
Season G in particular, where Alan took first or second place more times than anyone else, including winning three episodes in a row.
In "France," Stephen finally asks Alan a question to which the answer is "blue whale": "Name a marine mammal that couldn't swallow anything larger than a grapefruit." However, an utterly confused Alan misses his chance to answer correctly, because the question is asked in French.
Too Dumb to Fool: As the panellists get more Genre Savvy and double bluffs become more common, Alan Davies has been earning points by plunging in with the obvious answer while the others sit back and try to decide what the writers are really asking.
Took a Level in Badass: Alan Davies in series D. In series A-C, Alan had a grand total of one win and one second-place finish. In series D alone, Alan had two wins, one sole second-place finish, and one shared second-place finish. Alan's overall performance has stayed around this level since then, though it has fluctuated a bit (series G was his best ever, while series H was his worst since series C).
Totally Radical: The Series G episode "Groovy" is naturally full of this. But being QI, it includes a lot of discussion on what era various slang words actually hail from, a lot of them being Older Than They Think.
Treasure Chest Cavity: A certain pre-industrial travel guide recommended that travelers prepare for potential theft by making an incision in one arm and hiding a jewel inside the wound, then sewing it up and allowing it to heal. Thus one would have some emergency wealth that robbers wouldn't be able to find.
Translation By Volume: Done jokingly when discussing the differences between British and American cuisine:
Stephen: "WHAT... DO YOUR PEOPLE... EAT?" Rich Hall: EVERYTHING!
Unusual Euphemism: At every opportunity, including in the F series with naval semaphore flags. Alan describing a stale chocolate bar as tasting like "old ladies' cupboards" was not a euphemism, although everyone tried to make it one.
Up to Eleven: Series G found Stephen Fry attempting to say "Gooooooooooood evening" even longer each episode.
Uranus Is Showing: An episode in Series D has a question about the discovery of the rings around Uranus. The panel avoids making any of the obvious jokes — not that they need to, since the audience laughs every time the word is said anyway — until Stephen deliberately provokes them by innocently remarking that he's just noticed the word might be misunderstood.
Used for the buzzer sounds in a first-series episode — Dave Gorman's buzzer chimed mi, Jeremy Hardy's chimed do, Jo Brand's chimed re, and Alan's made a noise like a pneumatic drill.
Again in a second-series episode — each of the first three contestants had a four-note chime, and Alan had a cuckoo clock.
What Could Have Been: At one point the intention was to have Michael Palin as the host, with Stephen and Alan as team captains.
What Did I Do Last Night?: Alan told a story about seeing some pictures from a party he'd been at that showed people playing with sparklers, and he thought he must have been in the bathroom or something since he didn't remember sparklers being there. The next few pictures showed him lighting them and handing them around.
Whammy: The forfeits are a downplayed example, but still valid, given how difficult it is to score positive points—it's more common to finish with a negative score than a positive score, and some panellists have won with a negative score. Most forfeits subtract 10 points from the score, but some (for particularly stupid answers) subtract even more, like giving "carbon dioxide" as the main component of Earth's atmosphere (300-point deduction).
It gets discussed in full in the "Film and Fame" episode.
Worth It: Often expressed when a joke answer gets the klaxon, such as when Bill Bailey suggested "Janet Street-Porter" for the question "What has large teeth and only one facial expression?", or Sue Perkins said "Iceberg" for "What type of lettuce was served on the Titanic?"
It reaches the point in "Jungles" where Stephen asks Alan to hit his buzzer at one point, and Alan resists. Given that in three previous episodes, his buzzer had been hooked to the klaxon, his reluctance was understandable.