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Series 5, Episode 2

Transcript by: Sarah Falk

TRANSCRIPT

Stephen
Well, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, and welcome to QI, for another reckless poke of the screwdriver into the fusebox of the unknown. Joining me in the cupboard under the stairs tonight are the slightly shocking Sean Lock . . . 

Sean
Thank you.

Stephen
The very "current" Rich Hall . . . the positively electromagnetic Jo Brand . . . and the wiry young shaver socket, Alan Davies!

Tonight, we cast an eclectic light on the subject of electricity. Let's complete the circuit. Sean goes:

Sean
[presses buzzer, which plays the sound of crackling electricity]

Stephen
Jo goes:

Jo
[presses buzzer, which plays the sound of a thunderstrike]

Stephen
Rich goes:

Rich
[presses buzzer, which plays the sound of a mad scientist laughing and shouting, "He's alive!"]

Stephen
And Alan goes:

Alan
[presses buzzer, which plays the sound of a switch being thrown]

The whole studio, except for minimal lighting of the viewscreens and QI logo, is thrown into darkness.
   


Stephen
Oh, Alan. Thank you, Alan.

Now, don't forget: Each edition in the "E" series encloses an elephant. All right? The first to spot it by waving your Elephant card will win our generous "Elephant in the Room" bonus--

Viewscreens: The Elephant in the Room card displays and trumpets.

Stephen
--like so. Otherwise, simply electrify me with interestingness. Anyway, the atmosphere is already absolutely, erm--[snaps distractedly, searching for the word].

Alan
Electric.

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the word "ELECTRIC".

Stephen
Oh! Oh, Alan. Oh-h, Alan. Oh, you'll have to do better than that.

Now. Question one, I think. I'm naked. It's . . . it's . . . 

Alan
[furtively glances below the desk at Stephen]

Stephen
It's pouring with rain. Can you give me a good reason why I should crouch down with my bottom in the air?

Jo
[presses buzzer, which thunderstrikes]

Stephen
Jo.

Jo
Stephen, I wouldn't have thought you'd need a good reason.

Stephen
[hides his face in both fists] Thank you very much. Thank you for that.

Rich
I don't think you need a good reason 'cause I don't think anybody's even gonna approach you to ask you what you're doing. It's a clear signal you want some time alone.

Sean
I'm just . . . picturing that image.

Stephen
Yes.

Sean
It's one of the most erotic I've ever . . . 

Stephen
It's--

Sean
I think it'd make a great "Athena" poster. Your buttocks in the rain, dripping rain. Put it on bedroom walls up and down the country.

Alan
I think it's because your bottom is the least likely part of you to be struck by lightning.

Stephen
You're . . . sort of in the right . . . right area. Yeah.

Alan
I'm going . . . I'm going with the "electric" thing.

Stephen
You're absolutely right. It is to do with lightning. Apparently, it's a very good stance to adopt if you're caught in a lightning storm.

Alan
Or can you just drop your trousers and moon?

Stephen
Yeah. That might work.

Alan
[standing up and pretending to moon] "Lighting, everyone!"

Stephen
What should you not do?

Alan
Go and, erm, climb to the top of a pylon, or something like that . . . Hold a 40-foot metal pole . . . [to the heavens] "Come on!"

Rich
Don't put on a metal hat on the golf course.

Alan
Don't stand under a tree.

Stephen
What is the problem with being under a tree? Why . . . Why is that bad?

Alan
Because they're more likely to be struck by lightning.

Stephen
And what happens when they are?

Alan
There's a big flash, a lot of flame . . . 

Sean
And all . . . all the squirrels fall on your head; knock you out.

Alan
You might get burned . . . 

Stephen
Yeah, well, the sap boils in an instantaneous way, and the tree explodes.

Sean
Wow.

Stephen
And you'll get covered in splinters. The best thing to do would be to get into a car.

Alan
Really?

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
And drive . . . away from the rain.

Stephen
Just close the door and stay in the car. It acts as what's called a Faraday cage. It bars, if you like, electromagnetic fielda. It's actually thirteen million volts you can get in a bolt of lightning.

Alan
[breathlessly] Why can't we harness that power, Stephen?

Stephen
Well . . . Do you think you're more likely to be struck if you're a man or a woman?

Sean
Man. Well, men are out and about a lot more, aren't they?

Stephen
You are, actually, six times more likely to be struck if you're a man.

Alan
A man always has to hold the umbrella, because if the woman holds the umbrella, it keeps jabbing the man in the eye. And that's why he's more likely to be struck.

Jo
Is it because women wear more rubber than men? It just, kind of, conducts through them? 'Cause a lot of women wear rubber pants.

Stephen
Do they, now?

Jo
Did you not know that?

Stephen
No. No. Not really my area. The . . . The . . . The wire . . . Do you have wire in bras?

Jo
[looks over her shoulder]

Stephen
Do you? [chortles at Jo's reaction] I mean, does one?

Jo
You do if you have massive knockers that are in danger of injuring people--

Stephen
Right. And they need--

Jo
--and I do fall into that category.

Stephen
You're not doing badly, I have to say. You're very . . . 

Jo
Thank you, yes. A lot--

Stephen
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.

Alan
[to Jo] But it wasn't, though, was it.

Jo
[laughs and shakes her head]

Stephen
No. No. Erm . . . 

Sean
I'd like to hear you whisper that when you're bent over, naked, in the rain. "A fulsome pair of funbags!"

Alan
While people around you are getting struck by lightning.

Stephen
The . . . The . . . The wire won't attract the lightning, but it will superheat when you're struck. You could burn yourself.

Jo
So your bosoms . . . blow up!

Stephen
Yeah.

Jo
How exciting. I’m gonna have a go.

Alan
There's an actor I worked with, and he was once walking along the street, and a manhole cover right next to him got struck by lightning, and it flew up in the air and landed on his head.

Stephen
Instead of being hit by a manhole, he should have been showing his manhole to the lightning.

Alan
Yeah!

Stephen
But, erm . . . Anyway.

But the quite interesting thing is: How often does lightning strike the earth? On an average day.

Jo
Four.

Stephen
"Four." [patronisingly] So we've got "four". I can say that it's more than four. Anybody would like to--

Jo
Is it five?

Rich
How could you--

Stephen
It's 17 million times a day.

Alan
No way.

Jo
No way.

Stephen
It means about 200 times a second.

Alan
Why can't we harness that power, Stephen?

Stephen
[laughing] We . . . Perhaps we should . . . 

How many people in Britain each year do you imagine are killed by lightning strikes?

Alan
Twelve.

Sean
None.

Jo
Thirty.

Alan
Two.

Stephen
It's between three and six, actually. It's not very many.

Alan
[waggles his hand to show an estimate] Four or five.

Stephen
Yes. "Four or five" would do it! [to Rich] In America?

Rich
Probably a lot more--

Stephen
Yeah.

Rich
--because, uh, there's more of us.

Stephen
400 Americans a year die of it, and, er, about a thousand are injured. There was one American: seven times he was struck. Er, he . . . he was a park ranger at the Shenandoah National Park.

Rich
I know that guy.

Stephen
Well . . . he did die in 1983.

Rich
[pause] I knew him in 1982, the last time he got hit.

Stephen
Do you know how he died?

Rich
He was very testy. Very irritable.

Stephen
His name was Roy Sullivan. He actually--

Rich
That's not what they called him, though.

Stephen
No. No.

Rich
They called him "Burnie"!

Stephen
He shot himself in 1983.

Rich
Aw, jeez.

Alan
He should have just crouched down with his manhole in the air!

Stephen
Exactly. The point is, if you're caught in an electrical storm, you don't want to shelter under a tree. The best thing to do is to get into your car, but failing that, crouch down into a ball with your head down to your knees and, er, hands clasped behind your head.

Now, I have a conundrum for you. Can horses catch eels?

Viewscreens: Picture of a horse next to a picture of an eel.



Stephen
That's a rather attractive horse, actually, isn't it?

Alan
[raises his eyebrows and looks at Jo]

Sean
Yeah. But personally--

Stephen
It's a very beautiful horse!

Sean
Yes.

Rich
Not a bad looking eel, either.

Stephen
You prefer the eel.

Sean
I like the eel.

Stephen
There's more you can do with the eel, possibly. But the, erm . . . The horse--

Rich
Oh, boy. Oh, God.

Sean
It's very hard to get a horse down your pants!

Stephen
Oh! That genuinely is a very attractive horse.

[Silence for several seconds.]

Sean
Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen
Mm. Nice hair. No.

Sean
I bet he's a wanker, that horse! I bet he runs around going, "Look at me." [purses his lips]

Stephen
But anyway, can horses catch eels? That's the question.

Sean
I . . . I think they can.

Stephen
How would they go about it?

Alan
A net.

Stephen
There was this German who observed, in South America, the way humans used horses to catch eels. A very particular kind of eel--

Jo
Was it an electric eel?

Stephen
It was, because that's our theme of the day.

Jo
Yes.

Stephen
It was an electric eel. How would you use a horse to catch an electric eel? Why can't you catch an electric eel in the water?

Jo
Did they get it to get, sort of, like, hold out a fork with a bit of bread on it and try and get the eels to toast it with their electricity?

Stephen
Well . . . 

Alan
You have to be on horseback, because otherwise, you get electrocuted? Something like that?

Stephen
Well, the problem with catching an electric eel is that, yes, you would get a very nasty shock. 650 volts in a . . . in a . . . 

Alan
Put you right off it!

Stephen
So I'm afraid the horses were sent into the water, where the electric eels went crazy, and discharged all their electricity, until all their batteries were flat, and then they could be safely harvested. And the poor horses, of course, often had heart attacks and died of fright or drowned, and got very upset, so it was rather mean--

Jo
"Got very upset"?

Stephen
Yes. "Distressed" is the word we use of animals.

Alan
[with arms folded, petulantly] "I don't like it in the water. The eels! Oww-ww!"

Stephen
They wouldn't do it to that nice, pretty one, I hope.

Sean
Yeah.

Stephen
But, erm--

Alan
You like the tousseled hair look.

Stephen
I have to--

Alan
There are boys all over England doing themselves, and you're . . . They're gonna send you horse-y photos.

Stephen
[clears his throat pointedly] So, erm . . . 

Half an electric eel's whole physiology is devoted to creating electricity, so they've got quite a powerful kick, but once it's used up, they're . . . then they're easy to catch. They're not actually eels, oddly enough. They're a sort of knife fish. Sixty-nine species there are of electric fish, including the torpedo fish. And the torpedo fish comes from the Latin "torpore", meaning "to numb". It was used as an anesthetic by the Romans, and from that, the underwater missile was named.

Now, here's a big question. In 1903, Thomas Alva Edison released a movie whose title consisted of three words, two of which begin with "E". What was it, and who starred in it?

Jo
[holds up her Elephant cutout] I know! We've nearly forgotten them--

Stephen
Ah!

Jo
--but here it is!

Viewscreens: The "Elephant in the Room" card displays and trumpets.

Stephen
Oh, Elephant in the Room. Well, you are absolutely right. It was, actually, called "Electrocuting an Elephant". He made a film in which an elephant--

Jo
[waves her Elephant cutout from side to side]

Stephen
--was electrocuted . . . [notices Jo]. Hurray! You win those points.

Jo
How many points?

Stephen
Ten points.

Jo
Oh, ten points!

Stephen
Now, why would Edison want to electrocute an elephant?

Alan
He wanted to electrocute the biggest thing he could find, to show that he was the best at electrocuting.

Stephen
Well, actually, it was the reverse, you see. He believed that his direct current was safe, and wouldn't hurt people, and didn't electrocute. He wanted to destroy the reputation of alternating current, which was owned by Westinghouse, so he used the word "westinghoused" to mean "electrocuted". And this elephant, Topsy, was sentenced to death on Coney Island, because Topsy had killed three human beings and was going to be hanged, or was going to be poisoned; was going to happen to Topsy--

Alan
"Hanged"!

Stephen
I know! It's . . . It's . . . It's quite a picture, isn't it?

Alan
[groans hoarsely as though he were an elephant being hanged]
[slams his hands heavily on the table]

[At the impact, Alan's Elephant cutout, which had been suspended over the side of the desk, very appropriately falls to the floor.]

Stephen
And . . . Oh-h! Poor elephant!

Alan
[picks up his cutout]

Stephen
So, Edison won the right to electrocute him in public to show how dangerous it was. [American accent] "This thing you're letting into your homes will kill an elephant!" And he filmed it, as . . . as a PR film, to show that--

Rich
Yeah. It's like a snuff film.

Stephen
A snuff film! Exactly. Yeah. He gave it 460 grams of cyanide and potassium, in carrots; he had wooden sandals lined with copper put on her feet--it's a she elephant, I should say--and then a current of 6,600 volts sent through her body. "She died without a trumpet or a groan," apparently. And he filmed the event; tried to persuade people to refer to electrocution as being "westinghoused".

Rich
He . . . He trampled . . . He trampled . . . He just went nuts and trampled the . . . 

Sean
No, no, he hid in their rooms when they came home. He jumped out; strangled them . . .  And he got away with it for months!

Stephen
Wearing a Jason mask.

Sean
Nobody would have caught him if . . . but for a few tell--

Alan
A cunning disguise!

Sean
A few telltale signs around the flat.

Alan
A big elephant-shaped hole in the wall.

Sean
Yeah.

Stephen
The first murder on Topsy's hands was killing a trainer who, frankly, deserved to die, because this trainer gave her a lit cigarette to eat.

Alan
[laughs shortly] It killed him?

Stephan
Yeah! Quite right, yeah.

Alan
[spits out an imaginary cigarette and furiously pounds the table as though stomping on the trainer]

Stephen
"Don't do that again!" Yeah.

Alan
I like the sound of Topsy.

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
Don't mess with her. She's a bit
. . .

Sean
Do you know that some elephants are evolving now that don't have tusks? Did you know that? Because . . . Because they're . . . The . . . The ones with tusks get poached, right? Get shot. So the ones that . . . with smaller tusks--right--

Stephen
Yes.

Sean
--don't get shot, so that gene, of the small tusk gene, lives on more frequently, and eventually, elephants are gonna . . . and there's elephants being born now that don't grow tusks. [pauses to complete silence]

Stephen
I like that . . . 

Sean
[pretends to shoot two guns in the air before holstering them proudly]

Stephen
I like it.

Sean
There's some . . . There's some tigers now that are being made of axminster.

Stephen
[laughs] Now, stop it! [muttering] Nice animals, really. Not as sexy as certain horses, but . . . [growls]. Anyway!

Let's . . . Let's raise the stakes, now, with something a little more technical. How fast do the electrons move along an electric wire?

Alan
[shaking his head] They don't. They just--

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "THEY DON'T".

Stephen
Oh, dear. They do move. The very words we thought you might use.

Sean
Really?

Stephen
Yeah.

Sean
I would have . . . I would have said something--

Alan
Really fast.

Sean
--that's very, very, very, very fast, but also--

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "VERY FAST".

Sean
I said I would have said that! I would have said that! I would . . . I said I didn't say that!

I would have actually, probably, said something . . . thirty, forty miles an hour. Something deceptively slow.

Jo
I would have said it's a bit of a crap question, really.

Stephen
Why is that?

Jo
Well, because modern physicists see electrons as something you would call probability density functions.

Stephen
That is an absolutely precise description of what quantum physics does call an electron, and I am immensely impressed, and I have to give you five points for that, if not ten!

Jo
[does a dance of honour in her seat]

Stephen
That's astounding! They are exactly that. They do call them that.

They are dimensionless entities that are quite hard to understand, but they do travel along electrical wires. But the interesting thing is, you're right to say "slow"; they're actually point-naught-three miles per hour. Snail's pace along the wire. But electricity itself is incredibly quick. You have to think of . . . of waves. If you had a tube full of marbles, and you . . . you pushed a marble in one end, another marble would come out the other end almost instantaneously. But the marbles inside are traveling very, very slowly. It's the wavefront that moves very, very fast. And that's how the electrons travel along. Literally at a snail's pace. About the same speed as a snail, each one.

Alan
Does that work if you get ten snails together? If you push the end snail . . . 

Stephen
We'll . . . We'll try that in my dressing room later.

Alan
The other one's gonna go, "Whoa!" [looks behind him in surprise]

Stephen
It's a lovely . . . It's a lovely experiment. It must be done.

And now, we come onto our experimental round. What is the most interesting thing you can do with the objects on the trays beneath your desks?

[The panellists reach under their desks to pull out a tray holding a lasagne in a metal container, a black electrical wire, and a gherkin.]

Rich
Oh!

Stephen
Tell the boys and girls what you have.

Alan
I have a lasagne . . . 

Stephen
You have a lasagne . . . 

Alan
 . . . a gherkin, which I'm liable to eat, 'cause I'm raveous . . . 

Stephen
A gherkin . . . 

Alan
I've got a bit of a cable . . . You can heat it up? You can heat the gherkin. You can heat the lasagne.

Stephen
[makes indistinct whistling and clicking sounds of dissent]

Sean
No, you plug it in--

Alan
You plug the thing into the thing . . . With the tiny little--

Sean
I think this is how Alan Sugar started Amstrad. [attaches the wire to the gherkin and the lasagne] That's one of his first computers. "There you go, thirty quid."

Stephen
You're absolutely right; you've . . . you've done the right thing . . . 

Sean
It's a . . . It's some kind of a . . . Gherkins, because they're pickled . . . and then, I don't know anything. [smiles happily]

Alan
[pretends to be electrocuted by the gherkin]

Stephen
That's honest. If nothing else, that's pretty honest.

Alan
[pretends to pull away from the current] Jesus!

Stephen
But, yes--

Jo
[holds up her contraption so that the wire is vertical]
This is part of Kate Moss's new range at Top Shop.



Stephen
[French accent] Size zéro!

It's . . . 

Alan
[crying] Nothing's happening!

Stephen
No, but, the gherkin will behave as a lightbulb. If you put a charge through a gherkin, it will glow. The lasagne can provide the power. Because it's salty, and salt is an electrolyte, the two types of metal in the lid and in the pan, as long as they're not touching each other and shorting out . . . 

One of our Elves experimented over the weekend, demonstrating how a gherkin lightbulb works, and you can see a lit gherkin. This is one of our Elves. Just the other day.

Viewscreens: Video of someone plugging in a wire that is attached to a gherkin suspended between two wooden slats.
After a few seconds, the gherkin starts to spark and light up.


Sean
Wow!

Stephen
Isn't that great?

Sean
It's like kids TV in the '70s, isn't it?

Stephen
Yeah!

Sean
Where's the lasagne?

Viewscreens: The wire is unplugged.

Stephen
There we are, and then we . . . unplug.

Well, the lasagne . . . Unfortunately, you would need a lasagne, perhaps appropariately, the size of the floorplan of the Gherkin building--

Jo
I'm having one of those when I get home tonight.

Stephen
--which is about five football pitches worth of lasagne.

Sean
So if I'm cycling home tonight, I shouldn't put a lasagne on my crossbar like that. "No, I've got lights, officer! . . . Careful, it's hot!"

[holding up his lasagne/gherkin contraption] These'll be in the shops soon.

Stephen
Yeah.

Sean
The lasagnePod. [sticks the gherkin in his ear and pretends to bop his head to music]

Stephen
Erm, as far as trying this at home goes, wiring a gherkin to the electric lights, erm . . . Don't obviously. I mean, obviously, be sensible, and erm . . . 

Alan
Eat it.

Stephen
 . . . don't do anything because I tell you to or tell you not to. Erm . . . [suddenly, to camera] Live your own lives! Er, essentially. Try and do that if you can.

Alan
Shag horses!

Stephen
Yeah!

Alan
Come on!

Stephen
Yeah. Well, now, in an abrupt volte-face, er, we turn face to face with the ghastly spectre of General Ignorance, so fingers on electrical devices, if you would. What is the difference between a ship and a boat?

Jo
[presses buzzer, which thunderstrikes]

Stephen
Yes, Jo.

Jo
Has a ship got curtains?

Stephen
[laughs into his closed fist]

Sean
Yeah.

Stephen
That's just about the oddest answer I've ever heard to any question.

Jo
No?

Stephen
I . . . A ship may have curtains, but so may a boat.

Alan
Ships are bigger!

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "SHIPS ARE BIGGER".

Jo
[waves her arms happily from side to side]

Stephen
Oh! Oh, Alany, Alany, Walany.

Alan
They are bigger. [with sudden inspiration] Ships have lifeboats; boats don't have lifeboats; they're already a boat.

Stephen
Well, we're talking navy, here. We're talking navy. In the navy, a ship is any vessel which is . . . ?

Rich
Named.

Stephen
No . . . Surface. I.e., ships, frigates, destroyers: anything like that. Except little dinghys and lifeboats, which are boats, I grant you.

Alan
A boat is a submarine?

Stephen
But a boat is a submarine. And some submarines are bigger than three frigates put together.

Jo
So what's the difference? I'm afraid I've failed to--

Stephen
A boat is a submarine.

Alan
[as though speaking to a child] Submarine goes underwater. [poises his hands as though explaining something difficult]

Jo
But what about--

Sean
--one that doesn't?

Alan
[to Stephen] Sorry, Stephen. [turns back to Jo]

Jo
What about a--[breaks off and laughs at Alan's "explaining face"].

Alan
A ship is on the surface . . . 

Jo
A rowing boat. Is that a ship, then?

Alan
You don't have them in the navy!

Jo
Yes, you do!

Alan
They're not that shit! [turns in his chair] Stephen, they don't have rowing boats in the navy, do they.

Stephen
They might have oars on a lifeboat, which is a boat, I grant you.

Alan
[folds his arms, slightly defeated]

Stephen
But it . . . But there's not a vessel of the line.

Jo
Is it a "rowing ship", then? So are--

Alan
If it's in the navy, yes! It is. It's a rowing ship.

Jo
So the only boats in the navy are submarines.

Stephen
All . . . Yes.

Jo
That's complete bollocks.

Stephen
It's true. The only vessels of the line that are called a boat are submarines, in the navy.

Jo
I don't . . . I . . . I fail to agree.

Rich
That's right. And I'll tell you something else. There's not two moons.

Stephen
A ship . . . In German, there's der Schiff and there's das Boot. I don't know which is which.

Jo
Das Boot.

Stephen
It's spelt with two Os, but pronounced "boat".

Jo
No, it isn't!

Stephen
Yes, it is.

Jo
It's pronounced Boot.

Stephen
It's not pronounced Boot--

Jo
Yes, it is!

Stephen
--unless you're in . . . from Newcastle.

Alan
I was in Germany once, for the World Cup, and these two lads came up and said, "Do you know where a Jumphaus is?" Jumphaus.

Stephen
"Jumphaus."

Alan
"Jump house" is a--

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
--slang term for a brothel, turns out!

Stephen
Yeah. Modern German--

Alan
And as soon as they said it--

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
--I immediately knew it.

Stephen
You knew it? "Jumphaus." Hey!

Alan
"There." [points up to his right]

Stephen
[vague German accent] There's something so camp about modern German, though. [starting to pat himself down] You know, they . . . [normal accent] Do you know what they call a mobile phone? [shakes his head] It's just so typically camp.

Jo
A "Handy".

Stephen
"Mein Handy.  . . . [with great fluttering of wrists and delicate patting of his suit] Oh, wo ist mein Handy? Ich habe mein Handy verloren! Oh! Where is my Handy?"

Alan
Are you hosting . . . Are you hosting . . . Are you hosting the BAFTAs this year?

Stephen
[laughs] Not . . . No.

Alan
No? Aw, it's a shame, 'cause I was gonna say, you should do it in that voice.

Stephen
[laughs]
[camp German accent] "Hello, and welcome to the BAFTAs. Stop it! No."

Anyway! Anyway, yes. It's a purely naval tradition. It's no . . . In true English, you could call it a ship or a boat, and who could say "nay"? But that was the nature of our question, and a foolish one it was.

As well as inventing the battery, Alessandro Volta, after whom the volt is named, also discovered methane. Which animal contributes most methane to the atmosphere?

Jo
[presses buzzer, which thunderstrikes]

Stephen
Yes.

Jo
Cow.

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the word "COW".

Stephen
Oh! No, no.

Alan
[presses buzzer, which buzzes]

Stephen
Oh! Yes.

Alan
[confidently] Ants. No! No. Termites!

Stephen
--is the right answer! [drums on the desk] Well done.

Alan
I only . . . I only know that because I had a swanky showbiz lunch with the producer the other day and he let it slip.

Stephen
[gasps] Aww! What do I do, ladies and gentlemen? For the honesty, I'm inclined to let you keep your points.

Sean
What sort . . . What sort of showbiz lunch do you talk about termite farts?

Alan
Well . . . 

Sean
Where's your career going?

Alan
This is my career, mate. You're in it!

Jo
Can I just say, I was there--

Alan
Did you--

Jo
--and I completely ignored it!

Stephen
Methane is a much worse, er, greenhouse gas than CO2; in fact, it's about twenty-three times worse. They are staggeringly populous.

Sean
Well, why don't we feed them on something like a clear soup? A nice broth that hasn't got any, sort of, you know, pungent vegetable matter in. Just--[pretends to slurp at a broth].

Alan
You could never make that many little termite bowls!

Sean
You . . . Yeah, you--

Stephen
How do cows produce methane? What do cows do to get--

Alan
Farting.

Stephen
They don't fart it. They burp it, oddly enough, cows.

Alan
Jesus.

Stephen
I mean, they--

Alan
So if you went around with a lighter, and they went--[burps] . . . [mimes shooting flames out of his mouth].

Stephen
Presumably, yes!

Alan
Maybe that's where the dragon myth came from.

Stephen
Very good.

Alan
They burped a little methane; set light . . . "Ahh, the dragon!"

Rich
How did you two end up having a dinner with the producer?

Stephen
Uh-oh! You weren't invited?

Rich
Who bought you lunch?

Stephen
Were you not invited?

Rich
No.

Stephen
I wasn't invited.

Rich
You want to see what I've got? [unceremoniously slams his lasagne on the desk]
[gestures to Sean, who's presumably in the same boat, and then accusingly at Jo and Alan]

Stephen
Anyway, back to termites.

Sean
Yes.

Stephen
They have suicide bombers. Termites have suicide bombers--

Alan
Really?

Stephen
--who guard the hill. Yeah. And when predators approach, they explode and produce a sticky mess, which glues the place up. Prevents ants from attacking them.

All righty. Now. Why do thousands of Americans call the emergency services on Christmas day?

Jo
[presses buzzer, which thunderstrikes]
'Cause they haven't got any friends?

Rich
Yeah, if you're lonely and drunk, and, uh . . . They get . . . They get a touch tone phone and go--[to the tune of "Jingle Bells"]--911, 911, 64324 . . . 

Stephen
Very good.

Sean
Is it because they eat so much that their fingers chub up, and they get all--

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "THEY'VE EATEN TOO MUCH".

Stephen
Oh! That is not the reason. What happens on Christmas day that's particular to that day?

Alan
Presents in the morning . . . 

Stephen
Presents.

Sean
So they phone up . . . They thank the fire brigade for their presents.

Stephen
What--

Alan
They get things that, you know, they hurt themselves with.

Stephen
Or make calls with. Suppose somebody gave you--

Jo
Is it a Handy?

Stephen
--a mobile phone, ein Handy--

Jo
Ein Handy!

Stephen
--für Weihnacht. And it was your first mobile phone, you're very excited by it--

Alan
They'd say, "Have you got the receipt?"

Jo
And you slipped and went up your arse or something.

Stephen
Well . . . 

Sean
Yeah, so you phone up the emergency service just to see if it's worked.

Stephen
Because you can't call anybody else up because you haven't got a network yet. All phones in America, whether they've got a SIM card in them or not, have to, by law, be able to call 911, the emergency services.

Jo
Does that annoy the emergency services?

Stephen
I would imagine it drives them batty! Yeah!

Lastly, we've come to the end of our quizlet, and we have one more question. And it's on the subject of electricity, our favourite subject. Why wouldn't a Russian family call their son "Powerstation" or "Industrialisation"?

Alan
'Cause they're not names, are they. It would be stupid.

Stephen
'Cause they're not names?

Alan
They're not names.

Sean
No. They're not names.

Stephen
They are. They are. They were.

Alan
[presses buzzer, which buzzes]

Stephen
Whoop. Yeah.

Alan
They are names! [narrows his eyes]

Stephen
So why wouldn't they call their son--

Alan
They're unpopular names.

Sean
Because they're girls' names.

Stephen
"Because they're girls' names" is the right answer!

Alan
Girls names!

Jo
Well done.

Stephen
Well done. "Powerstation" is "Elektrostanciya" . . . is a girls' name, and "Industrializaciya" is also a girls' name, but, if you had a boy, you could call him "Kombain", which is "combine harvester", or you could call him "Dvatcat' Tret'e Fevralya", which is "the 23rd of February".

But this is actually a tradition in the . . . the rustic area, if you like. In Ukraine, there are names like "Ne Vbui, Bat'ku": "Don't kill me, Father". Would you believe.

Sean
Is it like the, you know, the . . . I don't know if it's a red Indian thing where they . . . You come out of the wigwam, and the first thing you'd see . . . 

Stephen
Right.

Sean
So they'd come out and see a power station.

Stephen
Well--

Jo
Do you know what my husband's, er, Native American name is?

Sean
What?

Jo
"Sits In Front of Telly Farting."

Sean
I imagine if you said it quickly, it sounds quite nice.

Stephen
Yeah.

Jo
It does.

Stephen
You call him Sitzie.

Sean
Sits-in-telly-farting.

Alan
If you say it in a Russian accent.

Stephen
Yeah. [Russian accent] "Sits in front of telly, farting."

Alan
[Russian accent] Sits-in-telly-farting.

Jo
I like your . . . I like your sort of camp German accent the best.

Stephen
[camp German accent] Oh, shut up.

Jo
And I would like you to . . . Can you just do "Handy" again for me?

Stephen
I . . . [breaks off in laughter and starts patting himself]. [camp German accent] "Wo ist mein Handy?" . . .

I'm being very bad.

Alan
Before we close, Stephen: The horse is actually here!

Stephen
[overjoyed] Wey-hey!!

Now, then! Well, I don't know actually. I think we've reached--

Alan
[flips his head from side to side like a prim horse]
[neighs alluringly]

Stephen
I have reached the end of my fuse, and it's time to look at the scores. With her name in lights . . . !

Jo
[leans forward expectantly] Surely not!

Stephen
With ten points is Jo Brand!

Jo
[looks skyward and pretends to be overcome with joy]

Stephen
In second place, with one point, Rich Hall!

Rich
[narrows his eyes and shakes his head]

Stephen
In third place, with minus twelve points, it's Sean Lock!

Sean
Thank you!

Stephen
And finally, with minus twenty-one points is Alan Davies!

So, with our duties electrically discharged, that's "good bye" from Rich, Sean, Jo, Alan, and me. Good night.



Transcription Notes
  • Elektrostanciya. The English transliteration of the Russian words and phrases was offered to me by a friend, a native Ukranian. Any quibbles/corrections can be taken up with me.
  • One of our Elves. That is to say, Christopher Gray. He remarked later:
    "My cellar still smells of over-excited gherkins. I'm thinking of calling it 'Aire de Cornichon' and selling it to Airwick..."

  • Two moons. QI's most infamous piece of information, introduced in 1x02 and amended in 2x06, has stuck in Rich's craw for years. In the episode where it was first brought up, he brought the house down with his cocky "Which moon are we talkin' about?" when Stephen later attempted to talk about "the moon" itself. In the recording following this one (an episode that subsequently became 5x04), a question arose about the buttes of Montana. When Stephen started to offer a piece of information about "two buttes", Rich immediately countered with, "Here we go with the moon shit again! There is one moon and one butte!" Very unfortunately, this didn't make it to the final cut.

  • Pronounced. As fabulous as Stephen's German usually is, the unanimous consensus is that he got the wrong end of the stick somewhere along the line. "Das Boot" is pronounced roughly, as Jo Brand said, with the vowel sound of "ooe", and not especially like the English word "boat".

  • Jumphaus. While there's no reason to doubt that the anecdote is true, Alan's memory of the very word used is most likely inaccurate, because there is no evidence of "Jumphaus" being a slang term for "brothel" in German.
  • Fulsome pair of funbags.
    • The Liar - written by Stephen Fry - published 1991
      The protagonist, Adrian Healey, forges a library authorisation note so that he can be issued various pornographic publications.
      "'I'd like,' he said in ringing tones, 'A Fulsome Pair of Funbags and Fleshy Dimpled Botts please, and Davina's Fun with Donkeys if it's not already out . . . oh and Wheelchair Fellatio I think . . . And Brownies and Cubs on Camp, Fido Laps it Up, Drink My Piss, Bitch and A Crocodile of Choirboys. I believe that's all. Oh, The Diary of Maryanne, too. That's a Victorian one. Here's an authorisation slip for you."

    • Have I Got News for You - 19x01 - originally aired 14 April 2000
      In the "Missing Words" round, Stephen was given the headline, "Eat your way to ______. "

      • Stephen Fry: "Better breasts."
      • Angus Deayton: How did you know that? "Busty bliss"!
      • Stephen Fry: Hey! Well.
      • Angus Deayton: So you were pretending that you'd never heard of transgendered community news, then? That featured in rather largely.
      • Paul Merton: "Nosh your way to better knockers." "Chomp for charlies."
      • Stephen Fry: Absolutely. "Feed yourself for fulsome funbags."

    • Interview with Michael Parkinson - originally aired 5 October 2002 on BBC 1
      The subject at hand is Robin Williams' past cocaine habit and the euphemisms used for such drugs.
      • Stephen Fry: This talk of "Peruvian dancing powder" brings us, very neatly, to my book, which is set in Peru! A Peruvian Diary.
      • Robin Williams: And if you could close in and see the lovely teats on this bear.
      • Stephen Fry: Look at that.
      • Robin Williams: She's, right now, in Playbear. "Who wants to hibernate? Who's your Alpha?"
      • Stephen Fry: But certainly, a fulsome pair of funbags, as you say.

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  • Electrocuting an Elephant. The original film can be seen here.

  • Swanky showbiz lunch. The producer, John Lloyd, has this to say of the event:
         "It was entirely accidental I assure you! Alan and Jo and Phill and I were having a jolly lunch to talk about the QI Annual. I'd just found out about the farting termites and had spent an entire weekend checking and rechecking the fact to be quite sure it was as accurate as possible. Whenever you come up with one of these delicious and hard-won pieces of information, the first thing you want to do is tell someone. So I did. I told all three of them. And (for about a week afterwards) anyone else who'd listen.
         A couple of weeks later we were short of a General Ignorance question and I bunged it in, having completely forgotten I'd told half the panel who would be on that week. This sounds weird, but I always tell friends QI stuff I've recently found out - because it's such a joy to share it - but I never ever normally see any of the guests (or Stephen) 'off set' as it were during the series. Naturally I felt a total arse when Alan let slip that I'd told him. (It is, of course, by the bye, a tribute to both Alan's exceptionally good memory and his total honesty)."

  • One point. Rich's one point came out of a question about Edison and where the phonograph was invented. After some prompting, Rich offered the answer "Menlo Park", for which he was granted a point, even though the question was taken out of the episode's final cut. When the recording was over and the panel remained behind to do pickup shots, Rich started griping about his score, asking, "What did I even get a point for?" I called out, "Menlo," but wasn't heard. My friend whispered, "Say it louder," just as Jo said suddenly, "Oh, didn't you know the name of some American . . . " So I called out again, "Menlo!" and Rich, hearing, rolled his eyes in remembrance. "Menlo!" said Stephen. "The audience is really on the ball tonight." "You mean Sarah's on the ball," I told my friend. Meanwhile, Rich continued to moan. "I got one point because I've been to Menlo Park," he deadpanned, and threw up his hands in exasperation.