BBC2 comedy Panel Show. Debuted in 2003 and has aired 15 complete series as of 2018. Each series is named for a letter of the alphabet and the topics for all the episodes within a series begin with that letter. The "P" series is currently airing.
Standing for "Quite Interesting", the show is hosted by Sandi Toksvig (currently also hosting the revival of the quiz show Fifteen to One), who replaced original host Stephen Fry at the start of the "N" series. Each episode features four panelists, one of whom is always Alan Davies. The other panelists vary from week to week, but a number of recurring guests have appeared over the years. The pool of frequent guests has changed over time, but currently includes Bill Bailey, Aisling Bea, Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr, Phill Jupitus, Cariad Lloyd, Sarah Millican, David Mitchell, Ross Noble, Sara Pascoe, Holly Walsh and Josh Widdicombe. While the panel is mainly composed of comedians, famous names in other fields have turned up, such as Sir Terry Wogan, John Hodgman, BRIAN BLESSED, Greg Proops, David Tennant, Daniel Radcliffe, Dr. Ben Goldacre, and Carrie Fisher.
The host 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 forfeit 10 points, with a few exceptions (for example, Fry stated that claiming carbon dioxide makes up most of the air we breathe would have cost 3000 points). There are, consequently, two major types of question in QI: obscure questions that give the contestants an opportunity to make interesting guesses before the host reveals the real answer, and questions whose answers seem obvious but are not, such as "How many moons does the Earth have?". As panelists 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 the host 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 (that is, one question would have an answer somehow involving an elephant).
- Series "F": Fanfare - particularly clever answers are heralded with a fanfare sound effect and bonus points. This ended up only appearing in one episode (it was edited out of all the others).
- 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 Stephen discusses an "out-there" theory about a topic.
- Series "K": The "Knick Knack" which is basically the "Jolly Jape" from series "J".
- Series "L": "Spend a Penny" - Where at least one answer will be "lavatorial" and the guests must use their penny to guess which one it is; and the "Last Words", where Stephen closes the program by recounting interesting last words spoken by historical figures. Also, occasionally, a "Laboratory Lark" appears; a science demonstration like the "Jolly Jape or "Knick Knack".
- Series "M": "Magic Trick" - Stephen Fry performs a difficult magic trick on the rest of the panel. This culminated in him receiving a membership to the Magic Circle at the end of episode M08, "Merriment." Ironically, most of the tricks shown in the subsequent montage hadn't actually aired yet, as "Merriment" was shot towards the end of the series but shown earlier (out of necessity as it was that year's Christmas Episode).
- Series "N": "Nerds" - While not in every episode, Sandi has frequently brought in guests from the Festival of the Spoken Nerd troupe to demonstrate various scientific concepts; she has also frequently included a random Scandinavian-themed fact (the "Randi Scandi" for short) to go along with the episode's topic.
- Series "O": "Objectionable Objects" - Sandi gives a prize at the end of each episode to the winner, which has so far included knock-off watches and a pair of earrings made out of penis bones.
- Series "P": "Pig" - A joker similar to "Elephant in the Room", but instead of an animal-shaped card, there is a stuffed pig which the panelist must throw in order to claim the bonus. (This only appeared in three episodes, suggesting it was either edited out of the rest or only intended to be an occasional feature.)
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". Still others play with the set design (such as "Denial and Deprivation"; the set was stripped down almost to the bare walls) or have the participants show up in unusual clothing (such as "Night"; Sandi and the panelists wore pajamas and bathrobes).
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. The first three series are also available on DVD in the UK.
Researchers for the show host a spinoff podcast called No Such Thing As A Fish, which got its own televised spinoff in No Such Thing as the News (which is basically the same as the podcast except there's a camera and the facts under discussion are at least tangentially related to current events).
The show originally ran for the first five series on BBC4, with repeats on BBC2. It was then moved to BBC One starting with Series F in January 2009, after its repeat airings on BBC4 and & Dave became those 2 channels' highest-rated shows. However, the show then moved to BBC2 beginning with Series I. The latest five episodes are also available via BBC's iPlayer.
In February of 2015, BBC America aired episodes 4, 3, and 9 of the "J" series', then it disappeared from the schedule as quickly as it appeared. Series I, J & K are currently available to stream on Hulu, in the half-hour format only. Netflix also streams the show in the 45 minute format.
On 14 October 2015, it was announced that Stephen Fry was stepping down as the host, now that filming for Series M had completed. Regular panelist Sandi Toksvig replaces him for subsequent series. Alan Davies will continue to be a permanent panelist (and resident fall guy) on the show.
Vote on the best episode here.
This show contains examples of
- Accidental Misnaming:
Alan: No one noticed, Hugh.
- Stephen accidentally called Sue Perkins "Mel" in the Gothic episode, leading to much embarrassment and the panellists giving him grief about it the rest of the episode.
- The Ace: Sandi Toksvig, who wins virtually every time she's on the show and still manages to be very interesting and humorous. Perhaps that's why she was the choice to take over the show.
- Daniel Radcliffe, who discussed Hardy novels and the Harrying of the North, all the while apologising in a very British fashion.
- Robert Webb who, on his appearance in series H, answered "spiral" when the question was about the circular staircase, when he knew that it technically wasn't a spiral but a helix 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.
- The term itself is discussed in "Naming Names".
- Aerith and Bob:Stephen: The names of the ravens that live in the Tower of London are Gwillem, Thor, Hugin, Munin, Branwen, Bran, Gandalf and Baldrick.Alan: And Dave.
- All Gays Are Paedophiles: Guests poking fun at Stephen's homosexuality will often do so on the premise that he seduces pubescent boys, in true Ancient Greek fashion. Stephen has even made such jokes himself.
Stephen Fry: They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is... that there are no straight lines!Jimmy Carr (uninterested): Do they? Hm.Alan Davies: What-ever!
- Stephen gets tripped up....
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
- Whenever someone steels themself for the klaxon... and actually gets it right.
- In the I series episode "Immortal Bard", one question was "Can you name the Scottish Play?" After much hedging Bill Bailey shouted "Macbeth!". Stephen simply answered, "Yes," adding that the klaxon would have sounded if they suggested that you shouldn't say the name "Macbeth" on stage.
- 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.
- Aroused by Their Voice: Stephen gets a case of this after hearing Trevor Noah engaging in some Xhosa tongue-clicks.Stephen Fry: You've seduced me. Not that you wanted to, I'm sure.Sandi Toksvig: (After Trevor finishes singing) See, you don't know me well, Trevor, but I'm on the turn, I'm telling you.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:(on using horses to catch electric eels)Stephen Fry: And the poor horses, of course, often had heart attacks and died of fright and drowned and got very upset, so it was rather mean.Jo Brand: "Got very upset"?Stephen Fry: Yes. "Distressed" is the word we use with animals.Alan Davies: "I don't like it in the water w' the eels! Oowwwwwwwwwwwwww!"
- Ascended Meme: The buttered cat paradox is discussed in series H's Hypothetical.
- A-Team Firing: Discussed in "Military", with Jeremy Clarkson claiming that AK-47s are so horrendously inaccurate that two groups firing at each other would never hit anything they were aiming at.
- 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!"
- BANG Flag Gun: Used as props in the "Games" episode, during a question about applying game theory to a three-way duel.
- Bathe Him And Bring Him To Me: Joked with when Alan tries on the scold's bridle:Alan (imitating Stephen): Have him scrubbed and brought to my room.Stephen: Actually, don't bother to have him scrubbed.
- Batman Gambit: In "Ologies" the panelists were asked to put blindfolds on, taste a wine and then say what type of wine it was (red or white). Alan lifted his blindfold and said 'Red' to a red-coloured wine, only to get a klaxon - the producers had deliberately put red food coloring in a white wine because they thought he'd peek.
- Beam Me Up, Scotty!: In-Universe use of this trope
David Mitchell: Why do these films always forget to put their most famous lines in?
- Questions are set up so that reciting one of these is the obvious answer is a common means of tripping up the panelists in the "General Ignorance" round.
- 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.
- Behind the Black: Used in the "Killers" episode to introduce a "Knick Knack" that was enclosed in a sizeable box. The camera closed in on Stephen as he announced that it was time for the Knick Knack, then cut out to show that the box was now in place beside him, and he reacted as if it had suddenly appeared.
- 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.
- On one occasion, Stephen crossed over into genuine apoplexy; after enduring a seemingly endless run of stupid jokes from Alan (e.g., "What's orange and sounds like a parrot? A carrot!") Stephen countered with one of his own: "What's red and silly? A blood clot". Alan groaned in response. Stephen exploded: "OH DON'T LOOK AT ME LIKE THAT! YOU FUCKING PIG-EYED SACK OF SHIT!"
- 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. The funny thing is, Earth really does only have one moon. The 'moons' cited in the show were actually Near-Earth Asteroids - they have a 1:1 resonance with Earth and occasionally come close, but they -don't- orbit Earth. Cruithne is only occasionally affected by Earth's gravity, making it a quasi-satellite.
- 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 questions 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!
- Big "YES!": Stephen often does this when a panelist gives the right answer to a tricky question immediately.
- 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
- The Blind Leading the Blind: In "Just the Job", Sandi Toksvig points out how ridiculous it is that she and Stephen Fry are discussing the mechanics of heterosexual sex.
- Blind Shoulder Toss: Alan occasionally does this when the guests are given cards to interact with. In particular, he threw away his diagram of a tongue map after learning that its theory is now discredited, and did the same with a silhouette of an elephant after incorrectly labeling its knees (the joints of an elephant's front legs are considered elbows).
- Blue and Orange Morality: When Stephen concludes the story of "the durable Mike Malloy", Jimmy Carr notes that the audience expressed sympathy when Mike Malloy was ultimately killed by sticking a gas hose down his throat, but all the other murder attempts were apparently fine. He concludes that the audience members have an "interesting morality".
- Blunt "Yes": Prone to happen when a panelist guesses the right answer in a flippant or joking manner.
- Borrowed Catch Phrase: In "Lucky Losers", after explaining that this week the winner will be the person with the lowest score, Stephen borrows and mangles a catchphrase from I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, noting that answering correctly means points, and "points mean bad surprises".
- Brand Name Takeover: In "Knees and Knockers", Stephen discusses a couple of examples, namely the Klaxon brand of car horns (an error this show has made often) and Velcro, which is referred to as a "hook and loop fastener" by the company. That said, as far as he's concerned, it's velcro.
- 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..." He also manages to entirely avoid mentioning Magic Sand, which is a trademark itself.
- Since Sandi Toksvig became the new host, she asked the guests to bring her a Danish gift. She received a QI "Danish interlocking children's building set."
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs:
Alan Davies: Is it an elephant?note
- In the episode "Infantile", Stephen asks what was the longest-running attraction at Coney Island.
Stephen Fry: No.
Dave Gorman: A bearded woman, or—
Stephen Fry: No.
Lee Mack: Was it a bearded elephant?
It could be a bat. Or a bird. Or some strange hybrid of bird-bat.
- In the "Film" episode, Stephen asks, "What's the good thing about having a British accent in Hollywood?"Alan: You're always a villain.John Sessions: Or gay. Or a gay villain.
- When the "Gardens" episode derails into a debate on what to do with a dying honeybee, the three options proposed are giving it honey, killing it, and killing it with honey.
- In the Series J Christmas episode, "Jingle Bells", after Alan says "Dave" for the umpteenth time, Stephen comments, "One day the answer may be 'Dave', one day it may be 'Blue whale'. I look forward to the day when we have a blue whale named Dave and you don't get it."
- Rob Brydon on what could conceivably make snails fly:
- Breathless Non Sequitur: Stephen will do this after questions, occasionally too fast for the panellists to react.
- 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 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?" And then he shows up again for the I SeriesStephen: What direction does the moon—Rich: Which moon are we talking about?Klaxon: WHICH MOONRich: This show is getting tough.
- 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—David actually is Welsh on his mother's side, and as his father was born to Scottish parents in Liverpool, he has repeatedly said he prefers to be called "British" over "English" or anything else).
- 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.
- 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.
- In the Series seven episode "Germany" Rob Brydon goes on at length about his fondness for wearing long socks. In the eighth series episode "History", when the panel discusses the Bayeux Tapestry, Rob points out one figure on the tapestry, supposedly King Harold, and says, "May I just give the seal of approval to his wonderfully long socks?"
- 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, and examples of both are below:
"Ello I'm from Meghikooh.""Ze pink Polenta, I lav eet!."
- 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.
Lee Mack: Do you like my Scottish accent by the way?
- Panelists sometimes try Scottish. "I've got to say, Stephen, it's been a bewildering array of Scottish accents!"
David Tennant: Oh, that was a Scottish accent?
Jimmy Carr: I know you think you're doing a voice, but that is how you talk.
- 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.' "
- In "Landmarks", Stephen does an "appalling Nigerian accent", and Alan tries to.
- Phill Jupitus does a rather uncanny Eddie Izzard.
- Dara Ó 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."
- In "Film and Fame", John Sessions did an uncanny impression of Alan Rickman from Die Hard: "Mister Takagi will not be joining us for the rest of his life."
- Stephen Fry once did an impressive Vincent Price impression as well.
- Alan's Australian accent is surprisingly good. Stephen's isn't too shabby either.
- In "Middle Muddle", Stephen discusses the narrow pavements of Knutsford and adopts an upper class brogue to mock the reasoning behind them, but:
- British Teeth: Subverted in the first episode of series M. According to the OECD, British children have the best teeth in the world.
- 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.
- Buffy Speak: On occasion. Notably from the Season F episode "Fingers and Fumbs":Stephen: What do we measure feet in? note
Dara: You measure them in the slidey thing.
Stephe: What is the unit?
Dara: A fraction of the slidey thing. note
David: So is this whole round just setting me straight for that show? Because radio shows don't have the same budget, so there's fewer people... if you want to kill off the medium, that's fine, but it brings a lot of people a lot of pleasure.
- Alan Davies:
Alan (deflated): This isn't going to work...
- He got a forfeit for his answer to "How do you do?"
- Many times Stephen hooked his buzzer to the klaxon.
- 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.
Jimmy Carr: "I can't wear these, he's got a mole on his face!"Stephen Fry: Oh God, help.Stephen Fry (detailing the Royal family's Christmas): At 5 PM the whole family has a cup of Earl Grey, except for the Queen, who has her own Indian blend...Jo Brand: Is it Twinings? note(Stephen head-desks)
- At the beginning of an episode in series "I", Stephen explained that the topic was "Inattentiveness and Ineptitude", and then immediately asked Alan what the show was about. Alan replied with what Stephen had just said, word for word... and then got the klaxon and a points deduction. The actual topic was, fittingly, "Inequality and Injustice". And then right afterwards, Alan was informed that he'd finished the programme in last place with minus one gazillion points.
- Also Stephen at those times when everyone gangs up on him. "Stephen doesn't have beer goggles, he has Madeira pince-nez!..." "...You're all rotters and I hate you."
- Colin Lane in 'Landmarks'. Stephen and Alan both make fun of Australian Internet speeds, and Australians in general, to Lane's annoyance. But then Colin wins the episode, and celebrates by dancing on his desk.
- On at least one occasion, David Mitchell has had to sit and receive demerits for wrong answers not just given on QI, but that were presented as true answers on the radio program The Unbelievable Truth which he hosts.
- Alan Davies:
- 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.
- The "how many moons does Earth have" question has been asked at least four times across all series, each time with a different answer.
- "Knowledge" had Stephen giving contestants points (or taking them away) based on new knowledge that had occurred since the episodes first aired. It included several callbacks to previous answers. Because Alan is on every episode, he ended up with a ridiculous score and won.
- "Lethal" had Stephen telling a story involving "that building whose name I sometimes have great difficulty pronouncing... yes, the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is..."
- In "Mildly Military", Jeremy Clarkson, to his loudly-expressed indignation, is called out on a fact he stated on the show eleven years earlier, with Stephen explaining that somebody had recently written in with a list of counterexamples after seeing a repeat of the episode.
- Call Backs are starting to appear accidentally as the series ages; increasingly, a guest will bring up an interesting fact and then realize they heard it off the show several series ago.
- In "Miscellany", they made an impressive stockpile of call backs and in jokes, as jokes made in earlier questions would reappear towards the end. By the last question, it seemed all previous ones had been referenced again.
- Camp Gay:
- Can't Believe I Said That: Stephen apologising for misidentifying the "language" the Flowerpot Men speak (which was Oddlepoddle, not flobbadob).Stephen: Flobbadob actually means 'flowerpot' in Oddlepoddle. (beat) I cannot believe I just said that.
- Captain Obvious: Many obvious types of answers can trigger the klaxon, but this method, if used creatively, can be used as a way of avoiding the klaxon:Stephen: How do you tell if someone is lying?Sean Lock: What they've said turns out not to be true.Stephen: Do you know the difference between a frog and a toad?Alan: Spelling.
Stephen: What's three times more dangerous than war?Jimmy Carr: Three wars.
- 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?
- From "Danger":
Stephen: Now, why do I say lunches?Bill: Because there's more than one...
- On the subject of pilots' lunches:
Stephen: What's the difference between a hydrogen atom and a grand piano?Jeremy: Well, size, shape...
- On the subject of atoms:
Stephen: What do bees do better than dogs?
- And another one from Jimmy:
Jimmy: Make honey?
Stephen: How big is a dwarf anteater?John: A dwarf anteater is exactly the same size as a dwarf anteater.
- On the subject of anteaters:
Stephen: How might you tell the sex of a beaver?Alan: The male would have a penis.
- On beavers:
- More than just avoiding the forfeits, because these answers generally get acclaim from the audience, they probably earn some points as well.
- Played with on one occasion when Stephen asked the panel what a Bongo was while avoiding "the obvious answer". Dave Gorman replied that, since the obvious answer would be a kind of antelope, Stephen was referring to a percussive instrument. Stephen, surprised, remarked that they'd thought the obvious answer would be the percussive instrument. Dave then pointed out that his answer was made the obvious answer since Stephen had introduced the round with "This round is all about antelopes."
- Or just for humour:
- Catch-Phrase: Series F looked at some 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.
- "Blue Whale!" (KLAXON)
- Every now and again there are Shout Outs to Stephen's character's Verbal Tic catchphrase on Blackadder, "Baaaa!" Phill Jupitus is usually the one to instigate these.Phill: What kind of a hellish quiz is this? [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.
- Although it's never actually pointed out, both Bill Bailey and Alan Davies have a habit of saying "Shut the front door" when they have trouble believing something, as a PG version of saying, "Shut the fuck up".
- In series M Stephen started saying "Oh my actual, oh my actual" when he was about to announce the scores.
- Stephen occasionally says "It's good that you're trying" in a rather patronising tone whenever a panelist gives a particularly stupid (or just downright weird) answer to a question.
- Sandi, in her tenure as host, has begun to loudly proclaim, "Moving on!" when the banter goes far off in one direction.
- 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.
- 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..."
- Cheaters Never Prosper:
- Averted in "Noel", when the panel plays "Are you there, Moriarty?", a parlor game involving attempting to hit another person whilst blindfolded. Alan cheats outrageously by taking his blindfold off, and mercilessly thrashes poor Josh Widdicombe, but Sandi still declares him the winner after the game.
- However, in "Ologies" the crew took Alan's cheating into account: the panelists were blindfolded and given wines to identify which had been tampered with in some way (such as being at an unconventional temperature). Alan's was a white wine dyed red because they expected him to peek.
- 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 purposely omitted a Christmas episode to avoid the klaxon. Since the G series the Christmas show will usually include a Special Guest: G Series was David Tennant (Doctor Who), H Series was Daniel Radcliffe (the Harry Potter Saga), I Series was BRIAN BLESSED, K Series was Brendan O'Carroll (Mrs. Brown's Boys) and to the delight of everyone L Series featured Carrie Fisher (Star Wars: The Force Awakens).note
- 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 talking 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.
- His answer to the question "What happens in the Rhubarb Triangle?"
- Ross Noble, though he stumbled accidentally onto a couple of answers just by being random.
- 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?" * and "What's the best way to get a [baby] girl?" with "Swimming badges." note
- Ronni Ancona on obscurity.
- Cluster F-Bomb: When asked about Anglo-Saxon swear words in an L series episode, Sue Perkins gets the klaxon several times in succession by firing off a bunch of curse words, most of which are bleeped out.
- 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.
- Also Sean Lock.
- Sandi also has her moments, for example in "Organisms" giving a forfeit for someone saying that otter-hunting hounds hunt otters, as otter-hunting was banned and they were retrained to hunt mink. She then asked what the otter-hunting hounds hunted again, and forfeited mink too as mink-hunting was also banned (they now hunt rats).
- Comically Missing the Point: Often, usually in the service of the Rule of Funny.Alan Davies: The red squirrel can't live with the grey squirrel.
Stephen Fry: Ebony and ivory are together on my piano key... board, so why can't they be?
Alan Davies: What, you mean a kind of squirrel-fur keyboard?
Rob Brydon: That's barbaric. Are you saying you want pianos clad in the pelt of a squirrel?
Stephen Fry: The total weight of microbes in the ocean is equivalent to 240 billion African elephants. (...) 35 elephants made out of microbes for everyone on the planet, so each of us have got 35 elephants made of microbes surrounding us.
Matt Lucas: I never knew - you learn a lot on this show - I never knew that the ocean was made out of 35 thousand billion elephants. I've really been educated.
David Mitchell: No wonder elephants are endangered, when you think of the number who've been drowned, to create a mat of them under the sea. That's probably why the trunks - they were trying to evolve snorkels.
Stephen Fry: Oh dear. I can see that I've not explained myself very well.
- Stephen once mentioned that eating a diet of only rabbit will kill you. The rest of the panel proceed to constantly misinterpret this as "if you eat rabbit, you will die", despite Stephen's many attempts to correct them that it's only if you eat nothing but rabbit.
- Compelling Voice: When Stephen wants to demonstrate the properties of miracle fruit to the other panelists, he tells them to put the pill they've been given into their mouth. Everyone does so, and Sue Perkins notices that she doesn't even question her actions when Stephen tells her to do something like that.
- Condescending Compassion: What Alan accuses the audience of in "Jobs".Stephen: There are no minus scores.Audience: Oooooh...Alan: Patronising bastards. I've had points before!
- Conspiracy Theorist: While discussing Moon Landing conspiracies, Sean Lock proposes his own theory: NASA killed Michael Jackson. NASA spent a lot of money on a literal Moonwalk, and were angry that when people hear Moonwalk, they think of Michael Jackson. Lock also mentions that the date of Michael's death was close to the 40th anniversary of the moon landing.
- 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 of his early appearances on the show, Dara Ó Briain impresses Stephen by quoting a fact about the triple-point of water (strictly speaking, the temperature at which there exists a pressure - about 612 Pa - at which water can exist as solid, liquid, or gas at both that temperature and pressure - but Dara puts it as "the lowest temperature at which water can exist in all three states," which would be true of most substances, but is false of water, since high pressures at low temperatures can cause ice to become liquid, although this he isn't called on). 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 Kelvin scale (which is defined by the distance between the triple point of water and absolute zero, so the number is exact) had been revised since Dara had studied physics at school, so that the triple point was no longer 0°C, but 0.01°C.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!"
- Actually brought back twice when, in series H, Dara says that fish surely don't really have tongues and is brushed off by Stephen. Come to find out, fish actually don't have tongues, but Dara did not get the points for saying this until series I, which sparks off an explanation to Sandi about the triple-point-of-water thing.
- In one of his early appearances on the show, Dara Ó Briain impresses Stephen by quoting a fact about the triple-point of water (strictly speaking, the temperature at which there exists a pressure - about 612 Pa - at which water can exist as solid, liquid, or gas at both that temperature and pressure - but Dara puts it as "the lowest temperature at which water can exist in all three states," which would be true of most substances, but is false of water, since high pressures at low temperatures can cause ice to become liquid, although this he isn't called on). 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 Kelvin scale (which is defined by the distance between the triple point of water and absolute zero, so the number is exact) had been revised since Dara had studied physics at school, so that the triple point was no longer 0°C, but 0.01°C.
- 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.
- Sue Perkins seems to revel in getting the klaxon.
- Conversational Troping: Occurs in Series H "History" with Stephen, Alan, David Mitchell, Sandi Toksvig, and Rob Brydon digitally edited into a photo of a combat squad. David (whose face was in a somewhat goofy expression) mused that he would be killed off early, while Sandi supposed she would be the woman brought along just to work the radio, but gets forced into flying a plane. Stephen would be the hero from the First World War, Rob gets killed off right before the end (just when you think he'll make it), and Alan survives the whole thing.
- Corpsing: "Just the Job" includes a clip of Radio 4 newsreader Charlotte Green going to pieces when a piece about the (very silly-sounding) oldest recording of the human voice was directly followed by an obituary.
- *Cough* Snark *Cough*: Stephen is very fond of this.
- In Series B, Josie Lawrence talks about how St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and guarantees he'll help you.Stephen: A-bullshit!
- And on David Tennant's appearance, after answering a historical question right:Alan: It's all the time-traveling he does, he knows something about every era.Stephen: (cough) He's acting.
- In Series B, Josie Lawrence talks about how St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and guarantees he'll help you.
- Could Say It, But...: Often attempted to avoid the klaxon... seldom works.
- 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...
- Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: Sean Lock's attempts to convince Stephen he was an expert on snakes.
- Crazy Cultural Comparison: Occasionally when Rich Hall or Reginald Hunter is on. In the Series D Children in Need special, subjects in the second half of the episode included The Clangers and Oliver Postgate; Bill & Ben, The Flowerpot Men; the "Crazy Frog" ringtone; Newcastle accents; and Terry Wogan. Right before the end, Rich, having been silent for about ten minutes, buzzed in just to say, "Ever since the Clangers I've been lost. The last picture I recognized was the KKK, and that's pretty sad."
Dara: Oh, traveler from an arcane land...
- Exaggerated in series B when Stephen asks Rich to explain the American concept of biscuits and gravy.
- 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.
- Creepy Children Singing: For unknown reasons, all the buzzers in "Middle Muddle" are of children solemnly singing children's songs. On hearing his, Jimmy Carr promptly points out that it sounds like the soundtrack of a horror film.
- Crossover: The show's eagerness to correct past mistakes apparently reaches to other shows. In an episode in Series 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.
- In "Literature", they did a round of Only Connect while its host, Victoria Coren-Mitchell, was on the panel.
- Crowd Song: They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is...
- Also, Stephen told the audience to sing the German national anthem. They sang the opening bars of the German national anthem as Deutschland Über 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.
- David Tennant leading "Auld Lang Syne".
- From "Journalism", the panel sings Gold by Spandau Ballet, to a very confused Stephen.
- Also, Stephen told the audience to sing the German national anthem. They sang the opening bars of the German national anthem as Deutschland Über 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.
- The Cuckoolander Was Right: There have been a few people on the show who, in making a purposely surreal response to a question, accidentally included the right answer:
Stephen Fry: Tell me something quite interesting about the original geishas.Jack: They were all men.Stephen: Yes!Jack [disbelieving]: Oh, God!
- Johnny Vegas, that cornflakes were originally conceived as an anti-masturbatory agent.note
- Phill Jupitus, that Iceland is Europe's biggest producer of bananas.
- Ross Noble, that a round triangle that makes a square hole is called a Reuleaux triangle. (Pronounced "rolo"—Ross proposed a "Toblerone-Rolo combo.")
- Sandi Toksvig, suggesting that Japanese War Tubas were precision hearing aids.
- Nina Conti, that a wooden sticklike device she found in her desk was a suppository.
- Jack Dee in "Illumination":
- Jo Brand saying the animal that dreams the most was the platypus.
- Sandi Toksvig again, that chainsaws were invented as childbirth aids.
- Alan Davies saying that the Gilbert's Atomic Children's Chemistry set contained Uranium.
- Cultural Posturing: This exchange: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: having been told that the friction between the pages cannot be overcome by any force a human can produce, Alan simply thrashes about with the books until they fall apart.
- When Stephen brings up a hypothetical situation of being lost in Epping Forest, as a lead-in to a discussion on pathfinding in the wilderness, Alan insists that you can just listen for nearby traffic.
- Dan Browned: As Rich said, "a lot of it's lies," especially by going too far in the direction opposite to "Common Knowledge". Sometimes they later correct themselves on-show (often by forfeiting a previously-correct answer), and sometimes they leave it for the DVD or not at all. For instance:
- 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.
- The series has re-addressed the question of how many moons the Earth has no less than three times, and if anything their answer has gotten more wrong each time.
- Sedgwick is wrongly said to have died mid-word.
- 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.
- Pretty much everything that Stephen says about Mithras in December is completely wrong.
- 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 be 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. (See entasis)
- 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...
- The show claims that the Hundred Years' War started when Eleanor of Aquitaine left Louis VII of France and married Henry II of England. Rather odd, given that the Hundred Years' War happened more than two centuries after Louis and Eleanor divorced, and was declared by the English monarch, Edward III.
- More cases and possible cases can be found here.
- Eventually, this was acknowledged in "Knowledge" when talking about the half-life of facts. In fact, the panelists were given back the number of points that would statistically be owed to them over the years. Alan was awarded 737.66 points.
- 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.
- Dark Horse Victory: In Death, the audience wins.
- 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.
- A Day in the Limelight:
- 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.note
- Deadpan Snarker: Rich Hall, most notably.Stephen: What is the only man-made artifact visible from the moon?Rich: (buzz) Which moon are we talking about, here?
- And:Stephen: What do you call a group of baboons?Rich: (buzz) A Pentagon.
- Oddly enough, he was in the right area as the answer turned out to be Congress.
- Graeme Garden, of The Goodies and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue fame.
- David Mitchell snarks a lot, too.
- Jack Dee keeps (or tries to keep) a scowl on his face at all times.
- Demonic Dummy: In "Inventive", when ventriloquist Nina Conti starts talking about "Doll Heaven", the Vent Haven Museum in Kentucky, the screens display part of its collection. Sean Lock panicks, and later wonders which one murdered the most people.
- Department of Redundancy Department:Stephen: Battology means pointlessly repeating the same thing over and over again. Battology means pointlessly repeating the same thing over and over again.
- The buzzers in "Idleness", which all used the same sound effect. Even Alan's, but his (unlike the others') didn't actually sound until it was released.
- Depth Deception: David Mitchell's bungled "giant tortoise" joke was a play on this. Probably funnier watching him screw it up than it would've been if he'd just said it.
- Derailed for Details: Dara Ó Briain's "Twelve Frenchmen and Twelve Mosquitos" story.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?:
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.
- After Sean Lock's suggestion that you could put cheese in your pants when entering a sauna and "re-shape" it when you leave...
- Sarah Millican, after enthusiastically remarking that a whale having a penis-like organ in its mouth "sounds great!"
- 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.
- Digital Head Swap: Guests will have their heads put onto various background images for humorous purposes. The most common response is "I don't remember that picture".
- 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.
- Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Repeatedly invoked by Bill Bailey, who uses his biro as a pipe whenever he's impersonating an upper-class type.
- 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...?Jimmy Carr: Jacob's crackers.
- Johnny Vegas went on record in the QI Genesis special that he was attempting to be dumber than Alan on the show. He STILL has a better win percentage than Alan.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: On being told that giant anteater "hugs," like bear hugs, are fatal to humans, Alan suggested that this was the problem.
- Don't Explain the Joke:
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.
- In Series F, "Fingers and Fumbs":
- "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) "Actually, Alan, I'm just getting a... just getting a message, there's been a bit of a mix-up, apparently." After the audience reaction, Alan then exclaims "This is a real one!"
- Don't Try This at Home:
- 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.Ross Noble: Right, try it in someone else's home.
- Inverted in "Keys". Stephen asserts that bodily reflex will protect one from damage if one attempts to walk at high speed into a wall. On being invited to demonstrate this, he declines, but suggests that the audience try it at home.
- In "Origins and Openings", Sandi asks Susan Calman if she has ever set fire to Angel Delight. The ensuing conversation establishes both how wonderful it is to see and how no one should do it at home.Josh Widdecombe: Tomorrow morning, the supermarket's gonna be like "Angel Delight suddenly got popular!"
- In "Bills" Stephen asks viewers not to try throwing cats out the window, not because it's bad but "because of the mad letters I get from f*cking cat people"
- Double Entendre: Oh so very much.
Alan: "Cock" is not his penis.
- It's not French for innuendo either, as Sean Lock found out the hard way in the episode "Imbroglio".
- Jimmy Carr lampshades the use of double entendre in the question, "Why did the inventor of the decimal point encourage his servants to stroke his cock?"
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.
- Dreaming of Things to Come: Victoria Coren, in her first appearance, admitted that she had an anxiety dream the night before airing where she was on the show and Stephen Fry asked her, "Why was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?" Flustered, she answered, "Did they worship it?" which gave her the forfeit of "Worship It". Later in the show, as the final question, Stephen gets to ask her the very question after the QI Elves did some digging, and discovered that the Aztecs worshipped rabbits, specifically jackrabbits which are a type of hare.Stephen: (pointing) Burn the witch!
- Dubtext: In "France", a picture of a French man was edited to remove his cigarette. This made it look like he was flicking the V sign at the camera for no reason.
- Eagleland: As usual, 80% of Rich Hall's gimmick.Rich: [after half an episode of silence] Ever since The Clangers I've been lost.[audience laughter]Rich: The last picture I recognized is the KKK, and that's pretty sad.
- 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.
- In early episodes, Stephen Fry had a stack of cards on his desk with the episode's forfeit answers printed on them, and when the klaxon sounded he would hold up the corresponding card to demonstrate that the question-setters had genuinely anticipated the answer. Or rather, in practice what happened was that when the klaxon sounded he would spend a chunk of valuable running time shuffling through the cards to find the right one so he could hold it up, which probably explains why the cards were abandoned.
- The show was also much more explicit in the awarding of points, and much more free about it, too.
- As Alan Davis mentioned in a documentary, panelists didn't really know how to act when the show was getting started. They didn't know if this was a serious quiz show and they should try to get the answers right, if they'd look stupid if they got it wrong, or if the points really mattered, etc. It was only later when people realized the show was more about being funny and interesting rather than being correct that it really hit its stride. Also at the start, presenter Stephen Fry was not the national figure he is now (the show itself contributing to his growth in fame).
- 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.
- Occasionally guests have epic fails relating to their props. In "Just the Job", Alan was consistently unable to make a slinky walk down some steps. In "Kinetic", Danny Baker defied Stephen's assertion that two hands brought together while holding a broom would always meet at its center of gravity; his broom kept falling over.
- Erotic Eating: Perhaps not intended when Aisling Bea was given an oyster to eat, but the implication wasn't lost on the panel (although the question was on aphrodisiacs).Aisling: It's bigger than I'm used to.Josh Widdicombe: I'm definitely taping this episode, I'll tell you that much.
- 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?Stephen: That's right.Stephen: That is interesting. Is it true?Rich: ...You said it was interesting, right?
- At the end of one episode, Stephen says, "I'll leave you with this quite interesting thought. [sits quietly for a moment, smiling to himself] ...Good night."
- Everyone Has Standards: Jeremy Clarkson found the idea of squirrel "kings", stuck together by matted tail fur so they can't move and ultimately starve to death, to be "the funniest thing I've ever heard", while the audience "aww"ed in sympathy. When he found out it usually happened to baby squirrels, that touched a nerve.
- Exotic Entree: The giant tortoise, which is currently endangered (and therefore a protected species) largely because it's so delicious.
- Expospeak Gag: But of course...Stephen Fry: What makes up more than 70% of the internet?Jimmy Carr: Phwoo... Is it... It's my personal collection, isn't it?Stephen: Of what?Jimmy: Of gentleman's special-interest literature.*KLAXON* ("porn")Stephen: I think it knows what you're talking about.
- The three men responsible for creating a QI-shaped Crop Circle for the "Hoaxes" episode were credited as 'cerealogical motif wranglers'.
- In "Imbroglio", after a discussion of Frank Skinner's song "Three Lions" and the fact that in heraldry lions are referred to as leopards, Stephen concluded that the song was named "based on a lamentable terminological inexactitude, or lie."
- Eye Remember: Discussed in "Opposites" particularly the historical origins of the trope.
- Famous Last Words: Almost all of series L's episodes have ended with some historical person's last words as a parting thought.
- Fearless Fool: Alan's role on the show, at least at first, was to jump in with obvious (or silly) answers and not be afraid of looking stupid.
- Flat "What.": Stephen (of all people) delivers one when Bill Bailey tells him that a man was caught in a machine, went through a hole the size of a CD, and survived.
- F--: In the "Nonsense" episode, Sandi Toksvig mentions how her school had three grades for swimming: A, B, and C. She was an F.
- Foil: Alan to Stephen, naturally.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: An ominous tolling bell was added to the opening music of the "Gothic" episode.
- Foregone Conclusion:
- In "Knowledge", Stephen explains that in deference to the concept of the half-life of facts, the panelists will be awarded points based on the likelihood of their seemingly erroneous answers given in previous episodes having since been proven correct. Jimmy Carr immediately congratulates Alan on winning, which proves to be an astute prediction: Alan leads the final scores by almost 700 points.
- Subverted in "Lucky Losers", where Stephen declares that the panelist with the lowest score shall win, causing Danny Baker to congratulate Alan in advance. However, thanks to the producers conjuring up a massive "Blue Whale" bonus for giving that as a right answer, Alan ends up with the highest score by a considerable amount.
- Foreign Queasine: In "Invertebrates", Stephen presents the panel with a variety of insect-based candies, including a lollipop with ants in it, scorpion brittle, 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.
- For Inconvenience, Press "1": Alan's buzzer in "Infantile":
- Full-Name Ultimatum: In "Invertebrates", Stephen admonishes Jimmy Carr by calling him "James Carr!"
- The "Fun" in "Funeral": In "Journalism" Ross Noble regales the tale of his father's epically failed Viking Funeral.Stephen: The word dignity doesn't come to mind here, does it.
- Funny Foreigner: Rich Hall, as an American comedian on a British programme is one of these by default, although he is perfectly willing to play this trope straight for laughs.
- Fun T-Shirt: After taking the reigns, Sandi appeared in a variety of jumpers, some of which were festooned with such odd phrases as "Scotland Yard", "Oh! Yeah", and "BLONDES".
- Fun with Acronyms: In her first show as presenter, Toksvig told the panellists that the first question she asked would be 'very simple', and proceeded to ask: "WHO is offended by what?". Cue panellists making it harder for themselves by failing to spot that the 'WHO' was an acronym, specifically for the World Health Organisation.
- Fun with Subtitles: A world record discussed in "Little and Large" was broken by somebody else between recording and broadcast. A subtitle was added to point out the new information, adding "Don't you hate it when that happens?"
- GASP: Alan actually says "Gasp!" on learning that the age of consent in the Vatican City is twelve. As well he might.
- Geeky Turn-On:
- When Jan Ravens gives "Diogenes the Cynic" as an answer...Jimmy Carr: Phwoar. You've seen this show before, haven't you. I think I'm slightly aroused.
- Stephen is accused of this a few times as well. After David Mitchell shows detailed knowledge of a French chef, he gets a teacher's pet fanfare:Jimmy Carr: I don't want to burst your bubble, but Stephen's pupils have gone ten times bigger.
- And after Rory and Stephen's discussion about Latin bird names:Jimmy: I believe, Rory, that you have pulled.
- Professor Brian Cox's extensive knowledge of the Large Hadron Collider.Stephen: It- it's giving me an erection.
- Phill Jupitus gets a moment that might count in the "Europe" episode.Stephen Fry: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit für das deutsche Vaterland! Danach lasst uns alle streben brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!Phill Jupitus: I have an erection.
- Trevor Noah's knowledge of the Xhosa "click" language in "Killers" manages to get this reaction from both Stephen and Sandi Toksvig.
- When Jan Ravens gives "Diogenes the Cynic" as an answer...
- Genius Ditz: Alan Davies in later series.
- 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.Stephen: What do you call a slug with a shell?(dead silence)
- By the by, apparently it's a shelled slug.
- 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: Sue Perkins is particularly fond of doing this. 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 panelists 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 Gag that 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.Stephen: Why are so many great men short?David: [skeptically] Are they really?Stephen: David... you hit the nail on the head.
- In Series J, Stephen Fry started employing a rather evil trick of sneaking in these questions into nonchalant chats with the panellists:Stephen: [casually] For evolutionary reasons, they stored the fish in their beak, assuming you believed in evolution, of course. Speaking of evolution, who was that naturalist on the Beagle?Phill: Charles Darwin, of course.*KLAXON* (What, Charles Darwin, you mean?)
- Using this, evil Alan Davies manages to trick another contestant into a penalty.Stephen: What would be the best way for Tarzan to get around the jungle?Alan: He gets around by swinging... what does he swing on, Greg?Greg Proops: Vines?*KLAXON*
- Gentleman Snarker: Mr. Fry himself, of course.Fry: What do you suffer from if you're afraid of heights?
Alan Davies: Vertigo.
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.
- 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.
- In a Series L episode, Stephen directly asks Alan what mammal has the most cells in its body, and Alan answers "blue whale" and is awarded the "Blue Whale Bonus" for getting the answer right. However, this is the "Lucky Losers" episode, and the winner that day will actually be the person with the lowest score.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Getting to the level of a Running Gag;
- "Toblerone-Rolo Combo" [to be said in a Geordie accent].
- A discussion on the most famous person to have been beaten by a machine at chess led to the statement "Jesus plays chess", which Danny Baker thought would be a good name for an indie band.
- Stephen thinks that the "Pacific Trash Vortex" sounds like a grunge band.
- "Anal Wind Expulsion"; "They were on at Download, actually..."
- When Stephen described The Da Vinci Code as "loose stool water", Alan suggested that Loose Stool Water sounded like a blues guitarist.
- Bill Bailey says this about "Crunchy Hummus" in Series L.
- In "Non Sequiturs", they got "Divine Catheter" and "The Horny Menopausal Women" out of a discussion of nuns.
- In a variant on this concept the panel decides that "wet bottom on the night bus" would make a good title for Sue Perkins' autobiography.
- Gonna Need More X: In "Kings", when Bill Bailey's crown falls over his head and gets stuck on his neck, Alan remarks that "We're gonna need a bigger king."
- Government Conspiracy: The episode on "Hoaxes" debunked a number of conspiracy theories about the Moon landings.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: The episode on Europe is full of Gratuitious European Languages.
- Gratuitous French: The episode on France, somewhat predictably.
- Gratuitous German: The episode on Germany.
- Hair Flip: Ross Noble after taking his hard hat off in Series H (Health & Safety). Alan tried to imitate, but since his hair is all in short curls...
- Halloween Episode: Has appeared in series D (Death) and H (Horrible). But not G (Gothic); despite the general themes of the episode, it first aired in February.
- Have a Gay Old Time: In "Jargon", the panel discussed the "ejaculations" in Sherlock Holmes, how Watson ejaculated twice as often as Holmes, an ejaculation once woke Watson up, Mrs. Sinclair's husband ejaculated from his second-floor window, and so on.note
- In "Justice", Stephen describes an old law forbidding sexual assault in which the actual word used for the activity in question is "meddling". Alan remarks that if the word had retained that meaning Scooby-Doo would have been very different.
- In "Messy", there's a great deal of fun had discussing what women (and men) of the 18th and 19th centuries kept in their muffs.
- Hearing Voices: Sean Lock claims he suffers from this, "but I carry on killing."
- Heh Heh, You Said "X": In "Jargon", the panel discussed the "ejaculations" in Sherlock Holmes, how Watson ejaculated twice as often as Holmes, an ejaculation once woke Watson up, Mrs. Sinclair's husband ejaculated from his second-floor window, and so on.
- 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]
- Phil Jupitus collapsed in despair in "Kris Kringle" after Brendan O'Carroll suggested that Santa Claus isn't real. Stephen managed to mollify him by pointing out that the klaxon went off because Brendan was wrong. Incidentally, the answer to the question at hand (why Forbes removed Santa Claus from their list of the richest fictional people) was that Santa Claus is, in fact, real.
- Hilarity Ensues: "They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is..."
- Hoist by His Own Petard: Said word-for-word by Stephen in "Jack and Jill" when asking how many pieces a box of Jenga contains. Alan says ninety, for which Stephen scolds him, because it has to be divisible by three. Erm....Alan: I said ninety.
- One of the Christmas episodes ended with a segment where Stephen offered Host duties to Alan, who accepted and produced from his pocket his own list of obscure, carefully-phrased questions, all of which were asked specifically of Stephen.
- 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.
Stephen Fry: You're being very flirty Jack, I quite like it.
- 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.
- Phill Jupitus went on record in the making-of documentary as saying that his unofficial role on the show is to be as shamelessly flirtatious as possible with Stephen.
- From Jumble, the subject of jactitation comes up (when you falsely say you're married to someone). "We're married in comedy, Alan. Comedy and erotic love."
- Jack Whitehall is someone else who seems to be a magnet for this with Stephen.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: Richard Osman (6'7") and Lucy Porter (4'11") in 'Little And Large'. Similarly, Osman and Sandi Toksvig (also 4'11") in "Naked Truth".
- Humans Are Bastards: Alan Davies invokes this trope here.Alan: We're bad. No, we are. As a species, we're bad. (to Stephen) Don't start giving me Shakespeare's sonnets. We're wicked!
- In "Jeopardy", Stephen asks what the deadliest creature in Australia is. Ross Noble's Large Ham answer: "Is it man, the most terrible of all the creatures?"
- Hypocritical Humor:
- "We never use euphemisms, and we think that people who do are complete front-bottoms."
- In the episode "Ologies", Claudia Winkleman pauses before attempting to answer a question to request that she be spared the klaxon even if she forfeits, because she finds the sound nerve-wracking. The producers agree to the request — by sounding the klaxon and displaying their answer on the screen where the forgeit answer usually appears.
- I Always Wanted to Say That: "We had a Jimmy Glascock at school..."
- I Ate WHAT?!: Stephen causes some consternation in the panel in "Location, Location, Location" when he asks them to test-taste bowls of what turns out to be pure horseradish. Johnny Vegas claims the unexpected sinus overload has given him superpowers.
- I Call Him "Mr. Happy": Stephen comments that the people who slept with Queen Nzinga the night before she had you executed might have found that "Mister Tiggy would probably be a bit shrivelly, wouldn't he?"
- I Can't Believe I'm Saying This:Stephen: Flobbadob actually means flowerpot in Oddlepoddle. (beat) I cannot believe I just said that.
- Also a common response to his many That Came Out Wrongs.
- I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You: Subverted.Alan: What happened to MIs 1, 2, 3 and 4?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.
- I Know You Know I Know:
- "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..."
- Also happened in "Fingers and Fumbs" and "Hoaxes" (see Kansas City Shuffle for the details).
- Improbably Predictable: Many of the forfeits come across this way.
- 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.
- Intoxication Ensues: Parodied in "Noel": after Sandi shares out a round of Humpty Dumpty, a traditional drink of ale and brandy, everyone immediately pretends to be drunk.
- Insane Troll Logic: David Mitchell's specialty is pointing these out. Other panelists also occasionally take a turn at it.
- Insufferable Genius: When panellists get onto a subject they actually know something about, they can sometimes forget to be funny and take the quiz 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. There was a question where they were asked the atomic number of a certain element, which Roy McGrath got right... and then continued to list off other atomic numbers without prompting. This was already on top of other things like listing off the Latin names of various animals. Sean Lock got annoyed with him and started to mock him relentlessly: "You're just doing atomic number wheelies now, aren't you?" Eventually even Stephen 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.
- In the F Series episode "Films and Fame", after he got the first question right immediately, Emma Thompson asked him, "Are you going to be like this all night?"
- 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.)
- Even though he's also an actor and comedian, Ben Miller decided to rely mainly on his education in quantum physicsnote in the episode "The Future", much to his fellow panelists' dismay.
- Irony: Alan is a master of Socratic irony, though Stephen tries to play it down as mere stupidity when he can.
- It Tastes Like Feet: 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."
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: Hugh Laurie appeared in the pilot episode as a favour to Stephen. Also Emma Thompson in series F.
- Jade-Colored Glasses: A few panellists, such as Jack Dee and David Mitchell, can get laughs from fairly cynical observations.Stephen: It was a public execution — the last ever public execution in Britain.David: Well, let's say, you know, 'the most recent.' We live in dark times.
- Japanese Ranguage: Richard Osman responding to Alan's imitation of a Korean accent: "That's just razy lacism and you know it."
- Jedi Mind Trick: Discussed briefly in "Hypnotism, Hallucinations and Hysteria" with a dog that's supposedly able to hypnotize people.
- Jesus: The Early Years: Stephen Fry shares a story about a confrontation between the child Jesus and a group of many dragons that had suddenly sprung from a nearby cave.
- Another episode involved the story about Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea coming to Glastonbury, the inspiration for William Blake's "And did those feet in ancient time."
- Jive Turkey: Occasionally for comic effect, as when Stephen described cheese as "the celebration of what happens when milk goes off big-time stylee."
- Kansas City Shuffle: In the Series F episode "Fingers and Fumbs", contestants lost 10 points every time they said "fuck", but could win them back by playing RockPaperScissors with Stephen. At the start of the episode, Stephen stated that you should play scissors in such a game, because your opponent expects you to play rock and will play paper. This led to a draw every time as both would play scissors, causing Alan to state "somebody play rock!". And then, in the fourth game, Phill Jupitus exchanged a significant look with Alan — and played scissors, beating Stephen who played paper. Then, in the last two games, Dara and Alan won... by playing rock, Stephen having played scissors.
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!
- Also with the 'hoax cards' in the episode on Hoaxes, which had to be played when the panellists thought they'd spotted 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.Stephen: Awwww.Stephen: Aw, stop it!
- When discussing the subject of squirrel kings (squirrels with their tails stuck together), Jeremy Clarkson takes very careful notes.
- Kneel Before Zod: Stephen Fry actually says this in a D series episode.
- Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Gyles.
- Lame Pun Reaction: In "Lumped Together", Ronni Ancona's attempts to make a pun about the inventor of the lava lamp drew pained reactions from everyone on the panel including herself.
- 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.
- 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.
- This also happened in "Gravity". In a question about using water displacement to accurately determine someone's BMI, the forfeit was "whale weigh station".
- 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)
- 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.
- 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!
- The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: Alan is always introduced this way.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.
- His buzzers will generally count as this as well, such as one Christmas episode - all the guests' buzzers were Christmas songs, his was "Hava Nagila".
- Literal-Minded: Then and again, for laughs.Clive: "Where do you stand on Bovril?"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."
- Including this gem:Stephen: What's three times more dangerous than war?Jimmy Carr: ...three wars.
- Including this gem:
- 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.
- Long List: Stephen is sometimes given these.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: As of series K, the show is 10 years old. 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 got to Z, if they maintained the original cast, Stephen would be 71. Stephen stepped down after series M, with Sandi Toksvig taking his place; if she continues to Z she'll be 70 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.
- Luvvies: A special "Luvvie Alarm" was set up alongside the usual klaxon when John Sessions was on the panel, to go off whenever he namedropped all the absolutely delightful chaps he's worked with. Stephen has set it off a few times himself.
- Emma Thompson was delighted to inform Stephen on-camera that the OED's earliest citation for the word "luvvie" is a quote from him.
- In "Groovy", following an appearance by Buttercup, a Pantomime cow:Stephen: Never ever in the history of show business has the phrase "Don't milk it, luvvie" been more appropriate.
- Major Injury Underreaction: In "Killers", the panel discusses the idea of reducing injury fatality by being drunk, leading Alan to present the concept in this way.
- 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 (UK) as well.)
- Meat Versus Veggies: When Stephen Fry asked why people who do not eat meat are called vegetarians, Jeremy Clarkson's response was "So they can be identified as fools and madmen!".
- Mile-High Club: Discussed and proved to be Older Than Radio when Stephen related the following entry from an eighteenth-century wager book:
- Milking the Giant Cow: Phill Jupitus in "Hodge Podge". "EVOLUTIOOON!"
- Mind Screw: Jimmy Carr's mind was blown by this optical illusion.
- Mood Whiplash: There's been more than a few instances where the topic turns a bit grim and sombre. 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!
Jimmy Carr: Thank God for that, I thought I was on the wrong show!
- A heavily invoked example occurs in "Military Matters" when Stephen gives a long and dreary lecture on the horrific nature of war and the harm it's done to human civilization, only to lead into the question: "Why did Hitler have such a silly moustache?"
- Moon-Landing Hoax: Discussed at one point in "Hoaxes".
- Monochrome Casting: In its first ten series, all but four guests (Meera Syal, Reg D. Hunter, Shappi Khorsandi and Trevor Noah) have been white.
- 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".
- Mundane Made Awesome: The great debate in "Garden" on how to kill a honeybee.
- My Eyes Are Up Here: In "Inventive", Nina Conti's puppet Gran draws attention to Conti's exposed cleavage, asking her if it's meant to draw people's eyes away from watching her lips.
- My God, You Are Serious: In "Location, Location, Location" Johnny Vegas asks if the sun is the center of the universe, something known to scientists to be untrue for over two hundred years. Stephen laughs at the question until he realizes that Johnny meant it.
- N-Word Privileges: Stephen manages to "reclaim" the word 'charioteer' about 2 minutes after the panel suggest it should be a euphemism for 'gay'. That's got to be some kind of record.
- Namesake Gag: Asked the identity of the famous father of Ada Lovelace, writer of the first ever piece of computer code, Alan hazarded "...Mr Software?"
- On the L season episode devoted to 'Love', Stephen mentions that there are a large number of items of clothing named after military officers; especially those involved in the Crimean War. Stephen mentions Lord Cardigan and Lord Raglan. Alan tries to list some others and his list includes 'Lord Bobble Hat'.
- 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.
Phill: What kind of a hellish quiz is this!?
- As Phill Jupitus put it after falling victim to yet another trick question:
- Non Sequitur: Occasionally done with the buzzers, particularly in the first few series where the episodes had no specific theme; in "Birds", the first three buzzers are all various birds, and Alan's is a jingle that repeats the word "fruity" over and over again.
- Nonverbal Miscommunication: In "Organisms", Cariad Lloyd attempts to indicate "taking bribes" with a hand-gesture behind the back at waist level accompanied by a Not-So-Innocent Whistle. None of the others have any idea what her intended meaning is, with guesses ranging from the flatulent to the nakedly sexual.
- 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, getting second or better three times in the first six episodes. But as his buffoonery is a cornerstone of the show's popularity, he was soon set straight. (He still performs better than he did in the first three series, though.)
- Obligatory Joke: Giving a particularly obvious joke answer usually gets the player the klaxon. (Often for them to shrug it off as Worth It.)
- Jimmy Carr lost points for answering "Piers Morgan" to a question about the world's most poisonous snake.
- Sue Perkins got it for answering "Russell Brand" to the question "What would die if it went a year without sex?"
- At least one example was tailored to a particular contestant with an overly predictable shtick; Jo Brand answered a question about the Great Disappointment with "have you been talking to my husband?", only for that exact phrase to flash up on the board.
- For the question "What was the greatest joke to come out of Alaska?", Sarah Palin was considered too obvious to even forfeit.
- 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.
- 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.
- Once a Season: At least one episode in every series will have an episode that is not about any subject in particular, but an assortment of subjects beginning with that series' letter. Examples include "Flotsam & Jetsam", "Gifts", "Hodge Podge", "Imbroglio", "Jumble", "Kit and Kaboodle", "Lumped Together", "Miscellany", "Non Sequiturs", "Omnishambles" and "Potpourri".
- Only Sane Man: Stephen, obviously. Alan sometimes slips into that role, or David Mitchell during his appearances.
- O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Occasionally Alan is knowledgeable about a question (usually because he's seen a documentary on it). Stephen is always completely astonished by this.
- Orphaned Punchline: The panel's Christmas crackers in "Jingle Bells" had these, and the panel were asked to make the joke for it.
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...?
- In "Gifts", Stephen describes an ancient joke to which the punchline has been lost.
Clive: "How many grandchildren, then?"
- Out of Order: BBC America viewers will start with episodes 4, 3, and 9 of the "J" series (that's really how they're ordered as of February 2015).
- 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.
David: Why don't you just type "Mitchell is a cock"?Stephen: I wouldn't put it past them.
- It was taken from a Dudley Moore sketch, incidentally.
- A similar buzzer trick occurs in "Landmarks", when the guests have cartoony noises for their buzzers, while Alan's is just the sound of sawing wood for twenty seconds.
- In Series 9, David Mitchell guesses when World War I was named as such. The klaxon hit him every time.
- Parallel Porn Titles: Discussed in "France". The porn version of Mary Poppins would be "Mary Popshot" or "Mary Pops-In".
- The scary part is that the second one actually exists now.
- Paranoia Fuel: Invoked several times as the panellists become more and more 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.
- Patriotic Fervor: Since becoming host, Sandi Toksvig has frequently praised her land of birth, Denmark, mainly for comic effect, of course. Questions involving Scandinavia have increased considerably.
- 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.
- Piranha Problem: In the "Killers" episode of the 'K' season, Stephen discusses the Pacu fish. From Papua New Guinea and a relative to the piranha, it eats seeds and nuts. It also goes for a different kind of nut, hence its nick name of the "Ball-cutter fish", which goes for the gonads if you are swimming naked near it. There are two recorded deaths by castration from this fish.
- Pixellation: One episode of the J series on BBC America had a klaxon-triggering swear word pixellated.
- Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Invoked when the panel were discussing the problems of sex in space. Bill Bailey and Alan Davies started musing about what a porno set in space would be like:Bill Bailey: I'm here to fix the turbo-thrusters.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 for the questions 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. Stephen also awards points himself for things that are "quite interesting". There is, supposedly, an actual formula or line-of-thought he uses to do so, but no one has managed to figure out how exactly it works. 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.
David Mitchell: Why three?Bill: (Pointing at each other guest in turn) Better than you, better than you and better than you!
- 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.
- At the end of "Jumble", Stephen awarded himself a monstrously large number of pointsnote pertaining to the probability against shuffling a pack of cards the same way twice (as he had demonstrated) and proceeded to declare himself the winner.
- All in all, it is extremely telling that the episode with the record for the lowest 'winning' score, "Fingers and Fumbs" with -24, is widely regarded as the funniest episode so far.
- Political Correctness Gone Mad: "You can't even mutilate a tortoise anymore!"
- Porn Names: "Grant Wood?"
- Power Perversion Potential: If Sean Lock had the ability to stop time, he'd use it to win money from roulette at a casino... and adjust the underwear of the other patrons.
- Precision F-Strike: Unfortunately bleeped out, but Phill Jupitus loves using these.
- Also Fry himself, as part of his Sophisticated as Hell humor.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...
- In one of the outtakes from Series 1, Stephen turns a fluffed line into a Funny Moment:Stephen: Piss and arse and wank!
- In the "Jeopardy" episode, Stephen attempts to make hydrogen by pouring hydrochloric acid onto nails. Just before starting, he makes a mistake, resulting in this:Stephen: Oh, hello... Made a mistake, sorry. Man in my ear furious with me.Alan: [pretending to be the man inside Stephen's ear] WHAT'S HE FUCKING DOING? PUT THE WATER DOWN! DO THIS PROPERLY OR YOU WILL DIE, DO YOU UNDERSTAND? START AGAIN, FOR FUCK'S SAKE![a minute later]Alan: When are you going to put on the safety goggles, Stephen?Stephen: I'm going to put on the safety goggles now because I'm about to open the bottle of acid.Alan: PUT THE FUCKING SAFETY GOGGLES ON!
- Gets a Call-Back in the episode "Jobs", where Stephen's popping balloons with a laser pen.Stephen: I'm deliberately obviously- they keep shouting in my ear, "don't point it at people's eyes!" I'm not!Alan: DON'T POINT IT AT THEIR FUCKING EYES! IT'S FUCKING DANGEROUS!
- Also Fry himself, as part of his Sophisticated as Hell humor.
- Preemptive "Shut Up": Stephen doesn't care for cheap shots.Stephen: I'm talking about Neptune and Uranus. (looks at audience.) No. No.
- Product Placement: Not allowed on the BBC, or course (to the point of it being a network-wide Running Gag to offer a disclaimer every time a trademark brand is so much as mentioned), but a discussion of Ear Worm advertising jingles veered perilously close to it, as lampshaded by Stephen.Alan: Ho ho ho...
Audience: Green Giant!
Stephen: There we go, free advertising on the BBC.
- 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!"
- Put on a Bus: Sean Lock was a regular panellist from Series A until Series J, when he decided to retire from panel shows. Rich Hall (another of the few guests to have appeared on every series until that point) also stopped appearing on the show that year, although in his case The Bus Came Back for one appearance in Series O.
- Queer People Are Funny: Stephen Fry's sexuality gets joked about frequently. Usually by himself.
- Sometimes this shows up at the expense of Graham Norton, Sandi Toksvig, or Sue Perkins, but not usually. However, one imagines that now Sandi is hosting the show and the other two are now semi-regulars... (incidentally, all made their first appearances in the "G" series.)
- Averted with the Rev. Richard Coles, whose sexuality has not been brought up once, and Russell Tovey, who was on the 24-hour special version.
- 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.*KLAXON* (1939)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. On the QI channel, there is a compilation of David's rants from series A-G.
- A Rare Sentence: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.Stephen: I can usually predict almost everything that's going to be said on the show, but 'There's an iceberg like your clitoris.' is a new one.
- Rat King: Discussed, along with Squirrel Kings, in "Kings".
- 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.
- 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...
- Right for the Wrong Reasons: Johnny Vegas correctly guesses that cornflakes were originally conceived as an anti-masturbatory agent, supposing that it was for stuffing in mattresses, and the crunching would alert the monks. The real reason is that Kellogg believed that masturbation caused moral corruption among other things, and that by eating healthily, one would avoid the urge to masturbate.
- The Rival: Has what is now a two-way rivalry with Radio 4 panel show The Unbelievable Truth, which is also in the habit of discussing obscure, counter-intuitive facts because they're the easiest to convince people are lies. Both shows have disputed facts put forward by the other (both regarding monkeys): QI said that Descartes believed monkeys could talk, but TUT corrected that he merely reported (disdainfully) other people believing this; TUT went on to assert that the monkey wrench was invented by a Charles Moncky, with QI pointing out that it was already so-named before he was born.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: The buzzers for "Non Sequiturs" made the sound of scissors because according to Sandi, a researcher misspelt the episode's theme as "non secateurs".
- Running Gag:
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.
- "How many moons does the Earth have?"
- 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.
- And trying to headbang if his buzzer is a clip of music or singing, no matter what style.
- Kestrels. (This is actually one of Phill's personal running gags, popping up on Nevermind 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, except in "Lucky Losers", for a huge bonus... when the objective for the day was to have the lowest score.
Sandi: And, Alan, what is this? [holding an origami whale]
- Sandi Toksvig's tenure as host continues this trend. In "Origins and Openings" after a discussion on origami, during which she presents the panelists with pieces of origami:
Alan: That's a blue whale.
Sandi: No, THIS, is a blue whale. [produces a different blue origami whale]
Alan: Oh, of course.
- Pliny the Elder and his crazy "scientific facts" also qualify.
- Stephen Fry being portrayed as a posh, out-of-touch upper-class gentleman, 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.
- The show has gotten a lot of mileage out of "Vehicle Reversing."
- 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.
- Any time Adolf Hitler is mentioned during the show, odds are better than good that someone will say, "The more I hear about this guy, the less I like him!"
- In "North Norse", after Welshman Rhod Gilbert accidentally refers to Sandi's country of origin as Norway rather than Denmark, she acerbically states that it's the same as confusing the Scottish with the Welsh. For the rest of the show, Sandi and others persistently identify Rhod as Scottish.
- Science Marches On: The K series episode "Knowledge" is based on this concept. After the panel is asked the infamous question "How many moons does the Earth have?", they discuss the issue that what we believe to be true at this point in time can be proven false by new data in several years time. Stephen then revealed that the scores would be adjusted for this episode to make up for the theoretically now correct answers the panelists had given in prior years. Jimmy Carr gets 43.58 points, Jo Brand gets 84.73, the Audience gets 23.24, while Alan is awarded 737.66 points. Graham Lineham, who made his first appearance in the show that episode, doesn't get any points, at which he feigns offense. Predictably, Alan wins that day...with a score of 689.66.note
- In the L series episode "Little and Large", as Felix Baumgartner's world record skydiving attempt is being discussed by the panel, a note from the show's editors appears on screen explaining that Alan Eustace had broken Baumgartner's height record in the time between the episode's taping and its air date."Don't you just hate it when that happens?"
- In the L series episode "Little and Large", as Felix Baumgartner's world record skydiving attempt is being discussed by the panel, a note from the show's editors appears on screen explaining that Alan Eustace had broken Baumgartner's height record in the time between the episode's taping and its air date.
- 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.
- Stephen too at the beginning of Series B, when Alan deliberately pressed his Berserk Button.Alan: What are we doing [on Mars], what's the fucking point?Stephen: You... you are just unbelievable—(Alan mimes fishing)
- Subverted by the occasional double bluff though, such as "How many brains did The Man with Two Brains have?" Two, duh. David Mitchell was not pleased by this:David: This is the technique of the bully! You hit us, and then you go "Oh! You think I was going to hit you? No, this is my hand to stroke you!" And you hear me go "AHHHH! HE'S STROKING ME!".
- And in the XL version of Series F episode "Fingers and Fumbs"...Stephen: Now, we have a special forfeit word. If you use a particular "f" word at any stage of this evening—Jo Brand: [unimpressed] Oh, fuck off.Stephen: It was almost like a subtle double bluff, that it couldn't possibly be that word, and it was.[the panellists go on merrily dropping f-bombs for the rest of the show, the upshot of which is that the winning score is -24]
- Or this one:Stephen: Now, welcome to the General Ignorance round, in which we ask Alan: is this a rhetorical question?Alan: (hesitantly) ... No.Stephen: *pause* Quite right.Alan: Whew... I got a headache there.
- They even did one in the first episode. Specifically, why does Edward Woodward have four 'D's in his name? Because that's his name.
- Also in "Dogs": "What is Rattus rattus?" a rat. Followed by several similar examples in a row (Gorilla gorilla, Iguana iguana). Then they show "Puffinus puffinus", which is not the scientific name for a puffin (it's a Manx shearwater).
- Second Place Is for Winners: Discussed when Colin Lane and Noel Fielding were on, having been (along with Alan) contenders for the most recent Perrier Awards. Both agreed that the Best Newcomer trophy, which Noel got, was better than the main trophy that Colin won.
- Self-Deprecation: They're British, so lots of this. In one of the early episodes, Stephen awarded points to a panelist giving a specifically bad example "for being British".
- Serial Escalation:
Stephen Fry: Santa gives good gifts to children, good children, Krampus' punishments for naughty ones include pulling hair-
- In the episode "Kris Kringle", Stephen describes what punishments the Krampus has in store for naughty children.
Jo Brand: It's not that bad.
Stephen Fry: -swatting with chains...
Jo Brand: Quite bad.
Stephen Fry: ...leading naughty children off a cliff.
- 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.
- Shaving Is Science: Stephen and Sean discussed the marketing of skin products for men.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*!"
- "Indecision", with Never Mind the Buzzcocks regular Phill Jupitus as one of the panelists, borrows the Buzzcocks "Identity Parade" round as one of the questions.
- After a particularly foreseeable forfeit, Sue puts out her wrists and screams "FOR YOOOOOOOOU!"
- At the beginning of the "Germany" episode, Stephen Fry warns everyone "Don't mention the war". This turns into a Running Gag where anyone who mentions World War II gets the klaxon.
- On the "Literature" episode, which featured Victoria Coren-Mitchell, one round is based on her quiz show Only Connect.
- "No L", featuring Carrie Fisher, naturally was replete with Star Wars references, though probably not as many as she expected.
- In "Military Matters", one of the questions involves the best way to obtain a medical discharge from the trenches of World War I; one of the panelists immediately offers the method described in Blackadder Goes Forth, and gets the klaxon.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: A running gag in series J is Alan's impression of a very tense and beleaguered Health and Safety guy barking in Stephen's ear as he sets up the "Jolly Jape" of the week.
- Alan: You fucking doing? Put the water down. Do this properly or you will die. Do you understand? Start again, for fuck's sake. [...] Put the fucking safety goggles on! [...] PUT THE CAP BACK ON!Alan: STOP POINTING IN THEIR FUCKING EYES! FUCKING DANGEROUS!
- Skyward Scream: Phill Jupitus in "Hodge Podge". "EVOLUTIOOON!"
- 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, helped by the fact she used to be a psychiatric nurse. More 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.
- Alan himself is experienced in SCUBA diving and mountaineering, which occasionally comes into play (for instance, he knows the exact height of mount Everest). And occasionally he'll know something about geography or nature because of having seen a documentary on it.
- Smart People Know Latin: Bill Bailey 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. (This is a bit like testing someone's French expertise by asking them to sing Frere Jacques, but still...)
- 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".Stephen: I wouldn't put it past them.
- 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!
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".
- Also, Rob Brydon's anecdote about his father's choice of swearing:
- "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 accommodate himnote . 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...).
- Carrie Fisher appeared in the Christmas special of Series L. Yes, THAT Carrie Fisher.
- Series N has a particularly unexpected guest for the "Noodles" episode - Jerry Springer.
- Series P had Teri Hatcher appear in "Panimals".
- Spoiler Alert: Parodied in 'Literature', when Alan spoils the ending of ....The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
- Squick: In-Universe. In "Idleness", Stephen describes how a man can fake tuberculosis, and the panellists and audience react with disgust.
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.
- Do not watch any of the "Horrible" episode if you have a weak stomach.
- In 'Imbroglio':
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. He wasn't savvy enough for Jo Brand.
- See Too Much Information, below.
- In "Films and Fames" Emma Thompson mentions one of her hobbies at university was terrifying Stephen Fry by locking the doors and descending his stairs naked and shaking her breasts. Later, when he asks if she shaves her pubic hair, she asks if he wants to see, causing him to recoil in horror.
- The Stinger: Stephen usually gets one final joke or funny quote after the scores are read.
- After the credits of the eighth-series 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.
- Stuck on Band-Aid Brand: Discussed in the K series with specific regard to Velcro and the notorious Klaxon, which is not technically a Klaxon at all!
- Studio Audience: Notably, the audience are capable of winning and losing points (and have occasionally actually been declared the winners) by individual members shouting out the answers. This arose in a case of Throw It In! the first time it happened and the elves decided to mark it on Fry's scoreboard.
- Stunned Silence: In "Indecision", after a game of "find the lady" with fake money, an (apparent) audience member runs by and grabs the bills out of Stephen's hand, leaving the entire panel stunned for a few seconds. It turns out to be a set-up for a segment about the unreliability of identity parades.
- Stupid Sexy Flanders: The horse from the "electricity" episode.
- Also the giraffes from the "Ganimals" episode.Stephen: So there you are, they're these beautiful animals. And they are graceful and sweet and long-eyelashed and sexy and rather desirable in many ways...(Sandi Toksvig looks at Stephen)Stephen: ... but they use their necks, it seems, as weapons of war.Sandi Toksvig: Good job you're tall.
- Also, Stephen once found himself admiring Jo Brand's breasts:Jo: You do if you have massive knockers that are in danger of injuring people, and I do fall into that category.Stephen: You're not doing badly, I have to say. You're very . . . A fulsome pair of funbags, there. . . . But, erm—Jo: You know what? That was almost heterosexual.Stephen: [makes a noise of consent] I may be on the turn.
- Also the giraffes from the "Ganimals" episode.
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: A rare real-time example. Within moments of Stephen messing up the "They say of the Acropolis..." line, the others have already created a song around it.
- Not to mention "Peter Cushing lives in Whitstable."
- Subliminal Advertising: Debunked in the H series episode on "Hypnosis, Hallucinations and Hysteria". STEPHEN FRY FOR POPE
- Symbol Swearing: In an L series episode, Sue Perkins gets the klaxon for an answer which is bleeped out, and appears on the forfeit card as "*%$#".
- Take That!: On the question "Name a poisonous snake", Jimmy Carr buzzed in with "Piers Morgan" which was the forfeit answer.
Stephen: What is the most boring location in the UK?Jo: *buzzes* Is it the Big Brother house?
- In "Atoms", Stephen asks the panelists what the most boring location in the UK is. The actual answer has to do with in incredibly barren stretch of land in the countryside, but Jo Brand has a different idea...
- She keeps the insults going by refuting Stephen's claim that one of the housemates brought a copy of his book into the house, saying "they can't read!"
Stephen: Excluding a member of the human race, which I'm not sure that does or not, but anyway...
- When asked to name the commonest material in the world, Clive Anderson suggested "Jim Davidson's".
- When discussing game theory in "Games", Stephen brings up John Nash, who won a Nobel Prize for his work in that field before suffering the terrible tragedy of being played by Russell Crowe.
- 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?"
- Jo's Running Gag in "Illness" of insulting Michael Winner (see The Tape Knew You Would Say That below).
- 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.
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.
- In "Kings", when asked what has twenty legs, five heads and can't reach its nutsAnswer , Jeremy Clarkson suggests Westlife. When Stephen admits how close he was to a forfeit, Jimmy Carr obliges with One Direction.
- In "Nonsense", when Sandi asks the panel to produce something nonsensical yet seemingly profound, a picture of Russel Brand appears.
- The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The klaxon, to many panellists' paranoia.
- 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).
- In "Oddballs", after getting two klaxons in rapid succession, Jimmy Carr asks, "Does someone get paid when that sound effect goes off?" Cue another klaxon and the screen flashing "YES".Jason Manford: They've been waiting fifteen years for that gag!
- Teacher's Pet: Occasionally guests suck up to Stephen, often facetiously, invoking this.
Stephen: I can't begin to tell you how much that works.
- David Mitchell received a special "Teacher's Pet" fanfare in "Food", for giving a correct answer verbatim, and commented that it didn't make him "feel that cool." He received another for his answer to the next question, too.
- Jack Whitehall gave Stephen an apple in "Joints", to the latter's glee.
- That Came Out Wrong: Most of the innuendo is deliberate, but even so...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.
Stephen: You can slowly put your finger through it—
- 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: (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.
Stephen: You can't palm me off with margarine, I was about to say, but that sounds rather...
- And in one episode, Stephen explains that you can't get margarine as a substitute for butter anymore.
Rob Brydon: So the quicker it's chirping, the hotter it is?. . . well, it makes sense now when you think about when you've been in the hot country and you're tossing at night and you can't get off [Alan gives Rob a hilariously disapproving look.] No! No, no, no, no, no. I'm simply not having it!
- 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 "Highs and Lows":
Sandi Toksvig: Sounds like it.
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.
- From "Incomprehensible", talking about a picture of a ground squirrel:
Stephen: So when a lady fainted in the street, the policeman would whip it out—
- In "Inventiveness", during a discussion of smelling salts:
(the crowd goes wild)
Stephen: There were 23 ejaculations in the Holmes Canon...''(Bill Bailey starts laughing uproariously)
- In "Jargon", when discussing the use of the word "ejaculate" (meaning "exclaim") in the Sherlock Holmes novels:
Alan: And one up the spout.
Jimmy: Who plays Hangman for money?
- Averted in the same episode, when Victoria Coren discusses betting on Hangman:
Victoria: I was about to say I've done everything for money but I know what you'd do with that.
Stephen: Wait for the bell-ends, Alan. They will come. (facepalm)
- In "Knees and Knockers", Alan is impatient to discuss the end-bulbs of Krause, which he has been mispronouncing as "the bell-ends".
- The Scottish Trope: Discussed in "Immortal Bard", where Stephen explains how that particular superstition got started. Also played for laughs.Stephen: There is a tradition, is there not? That the very saying of the name "Macbeth" in a theater is bad luck.
Sue: You have to sleep with all of your co-stars immediately.
Stephen: Is that what you were told?
Sue: Yes! Why? What?
- Thing-O-Meter: The 'Pleasure Gauge' in the episode on Happiness.
- This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: In a tangent in "Kings", Alan Davies brings up Valiant comic superhero Janus Stark and his ability to fit into any small gaps, and notes that there was always a situation where that became useful.
- Throw the Dog a Bone: The rare occasions when Alan wins or comes second.
- Series 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.
- Time-Freeze Trolling Spree: Discussed and played for laughs. Sean Lock suggested using time manipulation to cheat at casino games. He then added that while time was stopped, he'd take the opportunity to adjust the undergarments of the other casino patrons, purely for his own amusement.
- Title Drop: Guests are occasionally driven to remark that a piece of information is "quite interesting". It is of course from this reaction that the show is named.
- Toilet Humour: Often supplied by Sean Lock.
- Token Evil Teammate: Sean Lock tends to play this up.
- Tongue on the Flagpole: During "Birth," Phil Jupitus proposes that a worker may have tried to do this with the two-ton bar of metal that borders on Absolute Zero in Baton Rouge.
- Tongue Twister:
- Stephen occasionally spouts one of these, his favourite being "Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager managing an imaginary menagerie."
- In "Naming Names", Sandi's first episode as host, she reads the full version of "She sells sea-shells on the sea-shore", to a somewhat dismissive response from the audience, which Alan promptly calls out.
- Too Dumb to Fool: As the panellists get more 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.
- Too Dumb to Live: In "Kings," regarding a hypothetical airport in the shape of a spoked wheel:Alan: "Quite difficult to land on a bend, though, isn't it, like that?"Stephen: "I think you use the straight bits."[laughter]Jimmy: "That would have been an amazing pilot's last words. 'This is trickyyyyy...'"
- 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).
- Too Much Information: In a segment of "Highs and Lows":Fred MacAulay: There will be a lot of people watching who will wonder what a true Scotsman wears under his kilt, and I can tell you true Scotsmen will never tell you what he wears under his kilt. He will show you at the drop of a hat.
Stephen: I've seen dandruff on the shoes. That's a giveaway. Um. But the short kilt-
Sandi Toksvig: I don't feel well now.
Alan: [waving arms] Don't feel good with that information. ... Send me something else. Give me another image. Danish Pastries! Danish Pastries!
- Too Soon: Irish Aisling Bea pretends to get upset when Stephen mentions the Potato Famine.
- The Tooth Hurts: When discussing how the body regenerates body parts (on the cellular level), Holly Walsh mentions that gums don't. David Mitchell's response gets a collective groan of pain.David: It's probably quite good that the gums don't keep growing and growing and growing, though.Imagine having to get them trimmed.
- 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!
- Uncanny Valley: After meeting the android Asimo, the contestants discussed how the creepiest thing about it (aside from the distinct feeling that it was probably heavily weaponised and might go on a rampage) was the "attempt to be human", such as talking in a humanoid voice rather than Robo Speak.
- The Unintelligible: John Bishop, on occasion.
- The Un-Reveal: In "Ladies and Gents", Stephen says that there is a Viking swear word, rassragr, that was so horrible and insulting, it gave anybody who was called that word a license to kill the other person. Stephen then pointedly does not describe what it means as it's apparently too horrible for television. It just means a gay man who bottoms.
- Unsportsmanlike Gloating: Australian Colin Lane celebrates grandiosely when he wins, prompting Stephen to comment, "Every stereotype proven."
- 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.
- Verbal Backspace:Rob Brydon: The only thing I have knowledge of is the sheep tied to a lamp- no, sorry, I have knowledge of Cardiff.
- Victory Pose: Bill Bailey poses with his beloved pipe after winning a show in Series J.
- Viewers Are Morons:
- Phill Jupitus derides the fact that when discussing Cpt. Flint, the parrot in Treasure Island, the picture of him on Long John Silver's shoulder had the parrot circled.
- Lampshaded repeatedly whenever a picture of a common object is shown when Stephen goes, "There's a picture of a _____, in case you wanted to know what one looked like."
- Wardrobe Malfunction: After Jack Whitehall's flirting with Stephen in series J caused him to have an awkward talk with his father, he promises to tone it down when he reappears in series L. A bit later, he "accidentally" tears his shirt open when celebrating a correct answer.Stephen: You've made a happy man feel very old.
- Waxing Lyrical: In the L Series Christmas episode, Jimmy Carr proclaims his doubts about the plausibility of the Virgin Birth, and Stephen retorts, "I believe in miracles, you sexy thing! ...you may remember is a line from Hot Chocolate."
- In "Levity", when Stephen opened a discussion about lightning, Sue Perkins commented, "I do know that thunderbolt and lightning is very very frightening."
- We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: Used in the "Justice" episode where Stephen and the entire panel ask the audience to join them in dropping their trousers to stare at each other's crotches.
- We Named the Monkey "Jack": Alan the QI Goldfish, introduced in "L-Animals".
- Westminster Chimes:
- 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 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.
- What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Jimmy Carr brings this up in "Flora and Fauna".
- 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 (which would have resulted in a 3,000-point deduction).
- Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Cariad Lloyd and Phil Jupitus are both strong arachnophobes, something that wasn't considered before video of a tarantula was shown on the screens. Cariad had a considerable freak-out, and after talking her down (and making spidery movements with his hand in the corner of her vision) Phil said he'd be the same "if not for all the therapy".
- Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him?:Stephen: Do you know the best way to escape a charging polar bear?Jeremy Clarkson: SHOOT IT IN THE FACE.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Stephen loves to show off historical artifacts, but has to be careful not to leave them with Alan unattended, because he will destroy them if given the chance. Eventually the museums and other sources of such items caught on and left "specific Alan-not-to-touch instructions".Ross Noble: I love the fact that somewhere there's a memo that says "Machine gun: For Stephen Fry's use only".
- However, in the L Series Christmas Special, Stephen himself knocks over the world's oldest artificial Christmas tree.
- Wilhelm Scream: Sue Perkins's buzzer in episode G13, "Goths".
- 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?"
- Wrong Genre Savvy: Once the panellists started getting wise to the Schmuck Bait questions, the producers began adding "double bluff" questions that looked like obvious traps, but where the most obvious answer turned out to be correct. Other times, the producers have set up questions with several forfeit answers, usually one blatantly obvious and at least one less-obvious. It's not uncommon to see contestants give a less-obvious answer only to get the forfeit, or else steel themselves for a forfeit only to be told their answer was actually correct.
- 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.
- In "Organisms", Sandi asks what animal is the most effective hunter, and the panelists, knowing it's the O series, immediately start naming animals with names beginning with O, all of which get the klaxon. The correct answer is considerable stretch of the format: dragonflies, which belong to the order Odonata.
- Your Mom:Stephen: They do that in the streets of New York with "Yo mama", don't they?
Lee Mack: They do what with my mama?!
- Zero-G Spot: Stephen discusses the drawbacks to this. Alan and Bill are undeterred and go on to describe a Pizza Boy Special Delivery scene.