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Mystery Biscuits!

This is The Technical Difficulties, we're playing Citation front of me I've got an article from Wikipedia and these folks can't see it, every fact they get right is a point and a ding and there's a special prize for particularly good answers which is...MYSTERY BISCUITS!

Citation Needed is a Web Video Series produced by The Technical Difficulties, with Tom Scott acting as the host and moderator while the other members — Chris Joel, Matt Gray, and Gary Brannan — act as contestants. It is an episodic Panel Game along the lines of QI, where Tom "almost-randomly" selects an article from That Other Wiki (keeping the article hidden from the others) and asks questions related to it while the other three try to answer them. Correct answers earn points and a ding, while particularly good answers are awarded MYSTERY BISCUITS!.

Jokes, puns, and divergences abound as Tom tries to get through the article in some semblance of time while awarding points and MYSTERY BISCUITS! to the panelists.

The final episode, The Sweater Curse and Clothing Controversies, was uploaded on November 29, 2018.


Not to be confused with the the blog of the same name, and definitely not the much more serious "Citations Needed" podcast.

Tropes found in this series:

  • Absentee Actor:
    • For season 6 episodes 3 & 4, Matt Gray was absent. Filling in for him was Will Seaward.
    • Matt was also absent for season 7 episodes 3 & 4. This time however, Matt Parker (occasional Tom Scott collaborator) filled in for him.
      Parker: Pleasure to be your replace-Matt.
  • Accidental Pun: Matt's kind of prone to this...
    • On the topic of cello scrotum, which early on was revealed to be a made-up medical condition that was submitted by Dr. Elaine Murphy:
      Tom: (It) was published in the British Medical Journal without someone pointing out what rather obvious thing?
      Matt: That it was bollocks? (everyone golf-claps, Matt suddenly laughs as he realizes) I didn't even know I was making a joke 'til I had done it!
    • Advertisement:
    • On the topic of Charles Blondin, a tightrope walker who did a pantomime production. Gary has just joked about him being the front half of a panto horse.
      Matt: It's like you have to put some tightrope walking in there because this guy's a one-trick pony.
      [audience groans]
      Gary: Oh f*ck off!
      Matt: That wasn't a joke. [beat] Oh, horse! Panto horse! [shrugs] I must just be naturally funny...
    • And of course, the glorious example from the episode on time-teller Ruth Belville.
      [Matt starts corpsing at a bad joke he's just come up with]
      Tom: That's the look that means this is about to hit the cutting room floor.
      Gary: Everybody, roll up your sleeves, this one's coming!
      Audience: [cued by Gary, crescendoing] Oooooooooh...
      Gary: Go!
      Matt: [still corpsing] This is terrible! [composes himself] Did she meet her untimely death at the third stroke?
      [A mix of cheering and groaning from both the panel and audience erupts when Matt says "untimely death]
      Matt: Oh no! No!
      [Tom awards MYSTERY BISCUITS!]
      Matt: That wasn't even the joke! I hadn't noticed that! That was better! I was going to say, "Did she die at the third stroke?"
  • All of Them: Matt's response to the question "Roughly how many calories does the fool's gold loafnote  have?"
  • Alone Among the Couples: Inverted. Several jokes have been made about Gary being the one married person on the panel.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The rapid-fire guesses for what substances a marathon runner might have been given are "Cocaine!" "Ketamine!" "Margarine!"
  • Aroused by Their Voice: Will Seaward's guest appearance in Season 6 Episode 3 inspires quite a few jokes about his voice, particularly whenever he says "Panthers."
    Gary: Can you make anything not sound kinky?!
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: They are quite prone to getting distracted if it's interesting enough. From the Thomas Midgley Jr. episode...
    Tom: We are now three diversions deep, but keep going!
  • Audience Participation: Starting with the special at the tail end of Season 5, the show was filmed in front of live audiences. This naturally leads to the audience getting in on the fun.
    • On one occasion in the "Ice Block Expedition" episode, Tom asks for mathematicians in the audience to judge whether Chris or Gary was closer to the answer of how much arctic ice had melted when the expedition reached Algiers - the answer was four liters, and Chris' answer was zeronote  while Gary had said "an nth" (1/n), which is undefinable. Chris won the point.
    • Series 6 Episode 3 saw Tom bring back the "Chris Joel, ornithologist" Running Gag from the podcast days using for the gag; Tom said "Ornith," the audience said "ologist!"
    • In the same episode, Tom asks the question "what pest eats the Stephen's Island Wren?", and an audience member calls out "Bill Oddie!"
    • Before Season 7 Episode 3 started taping, Gary orchestrated a call-and-response with the audience. This lead to Audience Participation Failure in both episodes 4 and 6, where the audience jumped the gun, and a glorious reprise of the gag in Series 8 Episode 3.
  • Badass Beard: Chris sports one (as well as a Badass Moustache to go with it), which got longer as the show progressed. In series 1 and 2, it was more or less a rather large goatee. By series 6, it had grown to cover the lower half of his face, and by series 8, it could rival Ned Kelly's. Sometimes the camera will catch him smoothing out or otherwise fiddling with his beard.
  • Big Fun: Gary, which is lampshaded many times.
  • Buffy Speak: In the episode about Charles Blondin, Tom asks the others about what specific acrobatic act he was famous for. Matt answers with "the windy-windy-falling-fabric thing", Chris says "the flat-o-mer-boing-a-mi-thing", and Gary says "the high-rope-walky-longy". Matt seems like he had been unable to come up with the formal term of "aerial silks", but Chris and Gary's answers for "trampoline" and "tightrope walking" appear to have been just made for comedy.
    • Matt Gray is prone to Buffy Speak in other episodes as well, but this is the funniest example.
  • Catchphrase: Tom often says "Quite the opposite" in response to answers, which the others usually then interpret very literally.
  • Censored for Comedy: Very rarely, one of the panelists will say something in the studio that could get them in legal trouble, so Tom censors it out with the title "CENSORED FOR LEGAL REASONS." In the Sidney Weltmer episode, it led to this:
    Gary: For those of you in the "Abroads" part of the world, Derek Acorah's professional title is—
    [Series of three bleeps over a black screen with "REMOVED FOR LEGAL REASONS"]
    • The third experiment, The Format Laboratory had a running gag proposed by Chris where everyone keeps making jokes until one of them needs to be cut, and the last one made before the cut is "the nth degree". Eventually Tom of all people hits it.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: France is the country the gang mock most frequently.
  • Couch Gag: Every episode begins with Tom introducing the panel, leaving gaps after their names for them to improvise. What they say is different each episode, but they usually use this template:
    • Chris says a short variant of "hello."
    • Gary ad-libs a silly sentence.
    • Matt usually ends it with a variant of "Hello, YouTube!"
      • Often in different languages, such as Swedish ("Hej hej"), French ("Bienvenue"), German ("Guten abend") and Arabic ("Marhaba").
  • Deadpan Snarker: Everyone gets their turn as this, but Chris does so the most.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Series 1 is noticeably different than the following series in a couple of ways:
    • There were "sponsorship" jokes at the beginning of each show, a carryover from the group's previous podcast series.
    • Tom didn't introduce the other panelists with their now-familiar titles.
    • Tom clearly didn't curate the articles; he had them picked at random using Wikipedia's random article feature, which led to far looser banter, as the pages he dredged up were often far less educational and interesting.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: Sometimes, the panelists get the gist of the article's topic and come up with something plausible(-ish), but untrue. Tom occasionally gives MYSTERY BISCUITS for such answers. The Jack Churchill episode gives us a particularly epic example from Chris.
    Tom: [Churchill] was captured-
    Chris: Yes. Was he?
    Tom: Do you know the story there?
    Chris: Oh, I can only presume that he was captured, went along willingly, beat all the guards at chess and poker, drank the camp commandant's rum, then dug his way out with his teeth while the commandant was passed out, chewing on broken glass and spitting it at guards, before having relations with the entire female population of the nearest town, lighting a cigarette on the ground, not even using a match, flipping the V and then walking into camp and saying, "What have you f***ers been doing?"
    [audience applauds, Tom awards MYSTERY BISCUITS]
  • Expository Hairstyle Change/Power Copying: Discussed in S6 E3. After Will Seawardnote  makes a terrible pun:
    Tom: Will, you have slotted into Matt's seat just perfectly.
    Will: Well, when I ate him I stole his powers! That's how it works.
    Chris: You actually had a buzz cut didn't you, before you went in? (mimicks hair shooting out of head)
    Gary: The man was clean shaven and five-foot one.
  • Expospeak Gag: In the vein of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue, most of the prizes for a given episode's winner is basically Tom giving a long description then pausing before repeating it in simpler terms that just so happen to rhyme. For example:
    Tom: You've won a holiday to a French resort with Sulu from Star Trek and the director of Transformers. It's George Takei and Michael Bay's week away in St Tropez.
  • Four-Temperament Ensemble: Matt (sanguine), Gary (choleric), Chris (phlegmatic), and Tom (melancholic).
  • Fun T-Shirt: Well, hoodie, actually, but same effect; For the entirety of series 8, Gary wore a black hoodie with "SATIRE" written in green on the front. It then became a small running gag throughout the series up until the end.
  • Fun with Subtitles:
    • 5x01, Hydraulic Telegraph, features a subtitle track completely in Latin, inspired by a joke from Matt.
    • 8x02, The Norwegian Butter Crisis, has a one-off example when the subtitles change to English-with-Swedish-vowels to match Gary's Swedish accent.
    • 8x03, Juan Pujol Garcia, gives us this after Gary claims Pujol was "a shepherd spy":
      [Subtitler's note: Gary's joke is a pun on "shepherd's pie", but for the first time in the show's history, this pun is entirely untranslatable to text.]
  • Grand Finale: 8x06 plays this for laughs: Tom makes it clear from the get-go that Citation Needed will end with that episode, and the finale nature of the episode is used as joke material throughout the episode.
    Tom: This is the final episode, and I'm feeling a bit like a teacher on the last day of school, but nevertheless, we are talking about "The Sweater Curse."
    Gary: F*** off! That's no way we're ending this on jumpers!
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Tons of it, typically involving Gary.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Many of the jokes Matt makes. The others are prone to this as well, but Matt's are particularly infamous to the point where on several occasions Gary's response is a mock "Get Out!" at their lameness.
  • I Take Offense to That Last One!: After learning that Reverend M. Bishop called Sidney Abram Weltmer a "miserable charlatan", Gary quips that he was offended by the "miserable" part.
    Chris: (as Weltmer) "I throw the very best of parties. I just don't understand!"
    Gary: (also as Weltmer) "I'm not having 'miserable'!"
  • Joke and Receive: Occasionally the panelists will make jokes about the subject only for it to be completely right.
    Chris: I've just realized, we've not actually touched on telegraphs yet, and we have to do that at least once or twice a seas—
    Chris: oh, f*** off!
  • Later Installment Weirdness: The eighth series contains noticeably more ribald and raunchy jokes, often forgoing innuendo entirely for outright smut. Presumably because it's the last series so the lads can be more unfettered.
  • Late to the Punchline: On a couple of occasions Tom has visibly needed several seconds for a joke made by one of the others to sink in, usually resulting in a Face Palm on his part when he eventually gets it.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase:
    • Starting with Series 4, the group have taken to using the phrase "And the wheel spins and lands on [offended country]!" after a joke by Brannan about getting a wheel that points to various countries that they'll offend that episode.
    • From the beginning, there was "As we [workers in specialized field] call it," usually spoken after Tom corrects the gang's Buffy Speak description of a real thing.
  • Magic A Is Magic A: Discussed in 3x02: "The Boobrie and Conservative Pandas" in which Gary mentions that "If you're gonna make something up, at least you make it up consistently!"
  • Motor Mouth: Tom's spiel at the start of every episode. At one point he said it so rapid-fire that he actually said "I think I've set a new personal best there!"
  • Not So Above It All: Despite being the Straight Man of the TechDif crew, Tom's not above jumping on the joke bandwagon himself. During the Turra Coo episode (S7 E3) he also does this unintentionally.
    Tom: There's a full circle to this story.
    Gary: Did it become a cow again?
    Tom: (looks at audience as they're laughing) It was never not a cow, Gary.
    Tom: That doesn't mean it still can't be... (realises what he's saying) For God's...! (Face Palms)
  • Only Sane Man: Tom is usually the last remaining member of the show who tries to move the episode along even as the others get caught along in whatever zany antics pop up.
  • Oop North:
    • All four members met at the University of York, and three of them are native to the areanote . Tom, as the odd one out, hails from the East Midlands, specifically Nottinghamshire. Out of the group, Gary has the most prominent Yorkshire accent and has also worn a hoodie labelled "Professional Yorkshireman" on set.
    • Lampshaded in S6 E4 with Will Seaward replacing Matt:
      Tom: And standing in for Matt Gray, the mouth from the South, Will Seaward!
      Will: Hello! I'm not from Yorkshire.
      Gary: (recoils in his seat, away from Will) Get him out!
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: Gary is introduced as "Everybody's favourite Gary Brannan: Gary Brannan."
  • A Rare Sentence: In the "Thomas Trueblood" episode, Matt blurts out "How can I run in these marrow-y clogs?" Gary and Chris promptly joke about how great the sentence is.
    Gary: Nowhere else in the world today is anyone going to say "how do I run in these marrow-y clogs?" Now, we need a smash cut, somewhere in the Netherlands. [puts on cartoonish Dutch accent] "How do I run in these marrow-y clogs?" "No one else say that today."
  • Running Gag:
    • Three series in a row Gary references Tinder. This despite the fact, as Tom points out the third time this happens, that Gary is the only one at the table who is married.
    • The repeated invocation of National Stereotypes:
      Chris: Broad guess at the country we're insulting today...Italy!
      Gary: (in mock Italian accent, upon the mention of Stefania Follini) Hold-a onto your pasta pizza lasagna!
      • The amount of times they insult France when the subject of the episode is a French person, led to this exchange in Series 7:
      Gary: The wheel spins and lands on France!
      Chris: It's not a wheel! It's just a piece of cardboard with an arrow saying "France"!
    • Whenever one of them mentions the Chuckle Brothers, somebody else will implore the American segment of their audience not to look them up on Google, sometimes followed up by another member imploring they do and also look up any of the Chuckle Brothers' more recent segments.
    • Gary has been asked to do his goose and train horn impressions 3 times in the series so far. They invariably end with him doing an impression of a goose being hit by a train.
    • Later on in the series (and carrying into the group's other videos), Chris has a penchant for saying strange things that may or may not be related to the subject at hand, then shrugging it off (usually with the phrase "Sorry, wrong meeting").
    • Some episodes have a downplayed, self-contained version, where for one episode the panel will latch onto a particular funny phrase, gag, or what-have-you. A few examples of these include...
      • "Magnetic healing" and its related bullshit from 3x04.
      • The 'rabbit conspiracy' from 3x06.
      • The many unfavorable backpackers stereotypes from 5x05.
      • The way Will Seaward says 'PANTHERS?' in 6x03.
      • Matt Gray's hovercraft enthusiasm from 7x02.
      • The many careers of the Turra Coo from 7x03.
      • The mules in the minecart from 7x04.
      • The show's imminent conclusion in 8x06.
  • Shout-Out: Frequently, especially to British pop culture.
    • In "Neckarwestheim and the End of the World", Chris talks about touring a decommissioned nuclear bunker, and mentions that as he left the bunker, he saw a group of people standing outside the chain-link fence, looking in, which gives Gary an unpleasant flashback.
      Gary: Aaah! Aaah! Aaah! It's like Threads! It's like Threads happened!
      Chris: Oh, it's Threads turned Up to Eleven. If you guys are around on a different Sunday, because we're busy tomorrow, you'll - well, you'll hate it, but you'll all love it, I'm sure, it's great.
      Gary: No! No! No! Because it'll make me think of Threads!
    • Two episodes (1x05 "Neckarwestheim and the End of the World", and 6x05 "Acoustic Kitty and Bat Bombs") have ended by quoting Jeremy Clarkson's "on that bombshell..." Catchphrase from Top Gear, as a pun.
    • Because Chris reads books, y'know, he'll sometimes throw in references to authors he reads. Take this example from the "Benjamin Rush" episode:
      Gary: Why aren't all expeditions done on opiates? Strong opiates! Ranulph Fiennes, off his tits at the North Pole, I'd gladly watch that!
      Chris: Have you read any Hunter S. Thompson?
  • Smart Ball: for all their joking around, the three panellists all have subjects where they are very well-informed, such as history for Garynote , engineering for Mattnote , and birds and literature for Chrisnote . This is actually a Running Gag for Gary and Chris, as whenever the subjects of ornithologynote  or history come up, it's cue for a chant of "When I say 'ornith-', you say '-ologist'!" or "When I say Brannan, you say archivist!" respectively.
  • Speak in Unison: In "Hail Cannons and Operation Popeye", this happened twice in the same episode! The first time it was when Matt suggests that a hail cannon allows one to create hail, Chris and Gary say “Why Would You Want That?” in the exact same rhythm and cadence. The second time was Gary and Matt referencing Bohemian Rhapsody after Chris says "thunderbolts and lightning". Both got applause and biscuits were had!
  • Straight Man: Tom is this to the other three and their shenanigans, such as in the episode about the hydraulic telegraph where the others mock him relentlessly for saying "There are flags and there is water", leading him to throw his hands up in defeat and say in exasperation, "Are you done?" Many jokes have been made playing off his (relatively) serious demeanor in his quest to finish an episode.
  • Toilet Humour: a fair bit of it, especially back in the podcast episodes.
  • Verbal Tic: Gary says "Let's face it!" a lot.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Downplayed, but the lads do enjoy roasting each other and, as old friends tend to do, often end up bickering with each other.

So, with that, we say thank you to Chris Joel, to Gary Brannan, to Matt Gray, I've been Tom Scott and we'll see you next time!


Video Example(s):


Citation Needed

The panel discusses seeding clouds with hail.
Their answer can best be described as "in stereo".

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (18 votes)

Example of:

Main / SpeakInUnison

Media sources:

Main / SpeakInUnison