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Series 6, Episode 8

Transcript by: Sarah Falk

TRANSCRIPT

Stephen
Gooood . . . evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, and welcome to QI, where tonight, we are victims of "fashion" and prey to every passing fad. And sashaying up the catwalk this evening are . . . the daringly see-through Clive Anderson . . . the beautifully-cut Rich Hall . . . the topless and strapless Reginald D. Hunter . . . and an old pair of corduroys we found in the potting shed, Alan Davies.

Of course, fashion is – [laughs ruefully] – something that goes in one year and out the other. Ha! And predictably . . . predictably, ladies and gentlemen, our buzzers tonight are about as fashionable as a saber-toothed tiger wearing flared trousers. Clive goes:

Clive
[presses buzzer, which sings "Always True To You (In My Fashion)"]

Stephen
Rich goes:

Rich
[presses buzzer, which sings The Kinks' "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"]

Stephen
Reg goes:

Reginald
[presses buzzer, which sings Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"]
You know, I can't complain.

Stephen
And Alan goes:

Alan
[presses buzzer, which sings Lonnie Donegan's "My Old Man's a Dustman"]

Stephen
Oy! Oh, well, excellent. Your challenge tonight, gentlemen, is to start a trend, as it's fashion week on QI. After six years' struggle, this show has never managed to instigate any kind of a catch phrase. And we think it's time we changed that. So you have in front of you, I hope, a list of 19th century catch phrases, as it is QI. You can use one of those, if you like. They are genuine 19th century catch phrases.

Alan
"Has your mother sold her mangle?"

Stephen
Say that again?

Alan
"Has your mother sold her mangle?"

Stephen
"Has your mother sold her mangle?" That was a genuine catch phrase.

Clive
"Who are you?"

Stephen
Ah! That's your catch phrase.

Clive
Yes, it is.

Stephen
This is one of the biggest catch phrases of the 19th century, was "Who are you?".

Clive
Yeah. I thought "Who are you?" would be a nice, easy catch phrase to get going. "Who are you?" It's quite a . . . 

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
"Has your mother sold her mangle?"

Stephen
It was used in all circumstances, apparently. If someone walked into a pub, for example. If you caught someone picking your pocket, you'd go, "Who are you?"

Alan
It's catching on!

Clive
But it's still a catch phrase. At football grounds, er, if you support, as I do, sort of a big club, and you're playing a slightly smaller club, you often say . . . It's not "Who are you?"; it's sort of, "Who are you? Who are you?" You're so inferior.

Stephen
When Norwich, famously . . . 

Clive
Norwich, exactly.

Stephen
For example, when Norwich went up to the premiership – it's said we were sold out for every game . . . and the die hard fans would point to the new fans who had suddenly arrived, and said, er, "Where was you when we was crap?" Which was a reasonable . . . 

Clive
Well. They'd get the answer again, now, can't they?

Alan
I remember going to Norwich as an away fan, and then we sang a song about sheep-shagging or something –

Stephen
[scoffs]

Alan
– and they responded with a kind of nine-verse spectacular about sheep-shagging.

Stephen
Well! We aim to please.

Alan
Which really, really put us in our place. We all went – [starts clapping admiringly].

Stephen
The best one I ever heard is when I was in Brighton, in the days when there was a Brighton and Hove Albion. and Norwich were playing, and I just happened to be there so I thought I'd go watch them. And the Brighton fans had a brilliant chant, which was, "You're better than us! You're better than us! We're crap, we're crap, we're crap-crap-crap." And the Norwich fans were going, "How do we respond to that?"

Clive
"Thank you!"

Stephen
"'No . . . No, we're not?' Oh no, that doesn't work . . . "

Clive
Thank you very much, please. Not much, surely.

Stephen
Now, let's turn to our American friends. Are catch phrases a big thing in America?

Rich
Oh, of course.

Stephen
Yeah.

Rich
My grandfather used to say, er, "You're dumber than a bag of wet mice."

Stephen
That's very good. Very good.

Rich
It was funny the first time I heard it, but you know. Not my whole life.

Reginald
I didn't see anything on the list that was appropriate for me, but, uh, I have one, um . . . "Do what you do best." And that comes from, um, I was back home recently and I was visiting my cousin: 40, he's got four or five kids – that we know of – from different people. And we were watching TV, and there was a woman from Washington, D.C., talking about women's rights and, I guess, a woman's right to be able to have children without having a man, and, in fact, they don't need men to be around. They just sire a child and leave. And I looked at him and I said, "Get to D.C. and do what you do best!"

Stephen
Excellent. So we've got "Do what you do best", "Dumber than a bag of wet mice" . . . 

Alan
"Has your mother sold her mangle?" I'm losing . . . I'm losing enthusiasm for it!

Stephen
"Has your mother sold her mangle?", and . . . 

Clive
"Who are you?"

Stephen
"Who are you?" All right. If you can work these intelligently, charmingly, and brilliantly into the show, I will be awarding huge bonuses –

Alan
You're asking for it.

Stephen
– at the end. So, let's start at the very top. What was the most disastrous haircut ever?

Viewscreens: Three pictures of Alan, with different Photoshopped hairstyles.

Clive
[presses buzzer, which sings "Always True To You (In My Fashion)"]

Stephen
Yes. There are some examples for you there.

Clive
Er, I've got two answers that'll get the scream going, there. One is my last haircut . . . No? Or, Sampson's haircut. Sampson's haircut.

Stephen
No, Sampson's haircut is a very good answer, actually.

Alan [at viewscreens]
That's me!

Stephen
Yes! You've just noticed!

Clive
Well, you must have remembered posing for these. Or has this been . . . 

Alan
I remember the one in the middle. The other two I have no memory of.

Rich
I know for a fact that, uh, in 1928 the New England, uh, Tool and Dime manufacturing company, uh, was looking for, uh, a new screw that wouldn't slip out of the notch. And a man named Phillips worked for them. Who had one of the most disastrous haircuts ever; it was parted in four different directions.

Stephen
That would be an example of a disastrous haircut that went good. This one . . . Well, of course, there are many candidates, and Sampson is one. But do you know anything about Louis VII of France? There he is on the left. We're talking about 13th century. His queen became queen of a more famous king, to us, being British.

Clive
Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Stephen
She was Eleanor of Aquitaine. The point is, Louis VII was very religious, and the monks got to him, and he cut that hair off. It looks rather good there, but apparently he cut all his hair off. And she was furious at it. So cross, that eventually she divorced him. I mean, there were other things too, probably. But the hair is mentioned by historians . . . 

Alan
He also cut his cock off.

Stephen
It may be . . . I don't know, maybe his mother may have sold her . . . 

Alan
"Has your mother sold her mangle?"

Stephen
Maybe! Maybe that happened, yeah.

Alan
"I divorce you!"

Stephen
But the consequences of the divorce were enormous, because she then went over . . . She was incredibly rich. Took her kingdoms with her, married Henry II, and it began the 100 Years War. So it was essentially that haircut that began the 100 Years War.

Reginald
Yeah, but that's just something you say in polite company. When you're telling people you're breaking up with your partner, you go, "Yeah, I didn't like what he did with his hair, so I left." You can't really say about the king, "He keep farting in bed . . . " I just don't like his haircut!

Stephen
You're right. What is interesting about this poor king is, he definitely wouldn't have had sexual relations with Eleanor's mother, because he was very abstinent indeed. And he became ill, and the courtiers suggested it was because he hadn't had sex. And so he consented to have the queen sent for, and they said, "No, no, she is too far away. If you don't have sex immediately, you will die." But genuinely being told that he would have to have sex or he would die, he actually said he would rather die chaste than live an adulterer.

Reginald
See, that leads you to believe that he had a bad sexual experience as a child.

Stephen
Yes . . . 

Reginald
And, yes, you know, most men would rather not face death than have sex, so something happened when he was a kid, maybe a teenager . . . Maybe his wee-wee got caught in a zipper, or . . . or the mangle, or, uh . . . 

Stephen
Hey! Yes, the mangle.

Reginald
Or he said, "I'm not ready for this yet. Let me lick your elbow." And the woman just said, "Do what you do best!" And, um . . . 

Stephen
Very good.

The Simpsons make a reference to the 100 Years War.

Alan
Oh, do they?

Stephen
Do you know what they call it? "Operation Speedy Resolution."

Anyway, so. We've all had bad hair days, but the one which helped start the 100 Years War takes a beating. Louis VII's haircut seems to have been a bit of a faux pas. So what's the worst faux pas that you can think of?

Rich
[presses buzzer, which]
I reckon if you wore Calvin Klein to Yves Saint-Laurent's funeral . . . 

Stephen
Whoa!

Rich
That would be a faux pas.

Stephen
It would.

Clive
There's a famous one. There's the Queen and some other king or potentate in a carriage being driven along. And, er, so the horses are in front of them, and there's this ghastly sound – [blows raspberry] – from this horse. And the Queen sort of says, "Oh, I'm terribly sorry," or something like that. And whoever this king or potentate there said, "Oh, never mind, ma'am. I thought it was the horse!" And that's, er . . . So . . . So that's a famous, er, faux pas.

Stephen
No, this was an engagement faux pas. It's a very famous one. It was in the Guinness Book of Records. It was, up until a few years ago . . . It was the Worst – if there is such a category – Worst Engagement Faux Pas.

Clive
Get engaged to the wrong person?

Stephen
No, it wasn't that. It was a man called James Gordon Bennett. He was a . . . 

Clive
Oh, the? The James Gordon Bennett?

Stephen
Actually, he . . . Yeah. The phrase "Gordon Bennett" was named after, I think, his father, who owned a lot of newspapers. Anyway, this one was very rich, this young Gordon Bennett, and he was engaged to a young New York socialite. And one night, he was very, very drunk, and he went to the house of his fiancé, where there was a full party of stiff New York socialites. And he went into the room, with an enormous fireplace, and he went into the fireplace and peed in it, thinking it was a lavatory, and walked out again. And it ended his engagement; it was a huge scandal, and the brother of the girl fought a duel with him, which he lost. And he went to . . . had to spend the rest of his life in Europe, almost.

Clive
Just because he peed in the fireplace?

Stephen
Because he peed in the fireplace. Seems rather . . . 

Alan
I mean, in Europe, it's positively encouraged!

Stephen
I would say.

This man, Gordon Bennett, was extraordinary. He was one of the most profligate men of his age, in terms of his money. He once tipped a railway porter £341,000. And he pulled out a huge sheaf of money that he had, because he . . . 

Clive
If he'd only gone on a Super Saver, off-peak, he'd have got that for a fiver, wouldn't he?

Reginald
He probably lit it on fire and says, "I can piss on that and put that out. Can you?"

Stephen
Yes, exactly. No, he would burn money, because it made . . . It was uncomfortable in his pocket, he'd say. I mean, he was obviously –

Alan
An idiot.

Stephen
– a complete twat, yeah. But there were other, er, faux pas. Who said this: "We also do cut-glass sherry decanters, complete with six glasses, on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, 'How can you sell this for such a low price?' I say, 'Because . . . '"?

Clive
"It's crap."

Stephen
Yes.

Clive
That's Gerald Ratner.

Stephen
It was Gerald Ratner, yes.

Clive
Destroyed his company, didn't he?

Stephen
£500 million was wiped off the value of his shares after that remark.

Clive
He was trying to be amusing. The jewelry he was selling he said was cheaper than a . . . a Marks and Spencer sandwich. It was rubbish. And that's why . . . 

Stephen
Yeah, he said, "These earrings were cheaper than and M&S prawn sandwich, and probably won't last as long."

As they say, half a billion pounds wiped off his . . . [exhales and winces].

Reginald
Yeah, he was caught doing a [English accent] "funny". His "funny" didn't turn out well.

Stephen
Many faux pas, er, are just Freudian slits. Slips! Erm, er . . . But, er, what outrageous item of clothing got the Duke of Wellington thrown out of a club?

Clive
[presses buzzer, which sings "Always True To You (In My Fashion)"]

Stephen
Yes?

Clive
I am going to suggest he wore his Wellington boots at the club.

Stephen
Oh!

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "WELLINGTON BOOTS".

Clive
I think it's . . . I think it's so fantastic, the career he had, because not only was he a great, er, general, winning the . . . one of the most important battles of all time, and a few others . . . Plus, he was Prime Minister, and he had, er, Wellington boots named after him!

Stephen
Pretty astounding, isn't it?

Clive
And they were . . . 

Reginald
[presses buzzer, which sings Right Said Fred's "I'm Too Sexy"]

Stephen
Yeah?

Reginald
I think I know.

Stephen
Yes, go on.

Reginald
I know exactly what happened. Now, he showed up at this situation, and it was supposed to be all formal and nice. But he was a bit of a cook, and he came in and said, "Now look at this wonderful dish I made with beef." And it was inappropriate to be trying to introduce your cooking at a kind of social occasion like that, and . . . His wife tried to say, "Don't do it! Just, you know, save it, and invite some people back! And we can eat, have a smoke, and then, it'll all be good." But he was like, "No, I know this is good food!" And so he took it there, and he was just . . . The people was like, "Oh, we're just drinking here. Oh, he's a general; he should know better." And just . . . This is what I believe happened. I might have read it somewhere; I can't remember.

Stephen
You've reminded us of another thing to chalk up to Wellington. Not just the boots . . . 

Clive
The food . . . 

Stephen
Not just the battle, but the pastry.

Clive
Putting beef in a pastry.

Stephen
Yeah. Erm, this happens to be just about my favourite club. If you were to ask me if I could get a time machine and go anywhere, this is one of the places I would go. It was called Almack's. It was the club that determined whether or not you were "in" society. It was run by these fierce women, the Lady Patronesses. And it didn't matter who you were: If you didn't get a voucher from them, you couldn't enter Almack's.

Clive
So we're looking for an item of clothing that Wellington turned up in . . . 

Stephen
Yeah, because what must a properly-attired gentleman in the evening . . . What should he wear?

Alan
A hat.

Stephen
He'd have that, but what would he have down – [gestures toward his legs] – here?

Rich
Hot pants.

Stephen
Close! Inasmuch as . . . 

Clive
Breeches.

Stephen
Knee breeches.

Clive
Yeah.

Stephen
Knee breeches. And Wellington wore . . . ?

Clive
Long trousers.

Stephen
Trousers!

Clive
Trousers!

Alan
A rah-rah skirt.

Stephen
He wore trousers.

Clive
Yeah.

Stephen
He wore trousers. And so, he was . . . 

Clive
So . . . But he said, "But I won the Peninsular War, for goodness' sake. I can wear any trousers I like."

Stephen
You'd think.

Clive
Or did they make him roll them up . . . ?

Stephen
[suddenly] That's my catch phrase! "I can come in any trousers I like." Erm, sorry. But, er . . . It's . . . Sorry. I do apologize.

Reginald
I sure enjoyed that long winding story so we could get to that. That was . . . 

Stephen
The trouser was considered absolutely shocking and, er, and not to be . . . not to be worn in smart society.

Clive
"Breeches" of etiquette.

Stephen
Exactly! "Breeches" . . . That's good! Nobody liked it.

Reginald
I bet when they told him he couldn't come in, he looked at them and he went, "Pants to you!"

Stephen
Ah! The point is, the Duke of Wellington was thrown out of a club for wearing trousers. On the subject of trousers, as a matter of fact, what's the best way of dealing with a wartime shortage of trousering?

Viewscreens: Black and white picture of soldiers with Photoshopped bright boxer shorts.

Rich
Wow.

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
They ran out of trousers?

Stephen
That . . . I think that's just a serving suggestion, there. I don't think that's . . . 

Alan
They . . . They ran out of trousers?

Stephen
Well, they . . . Obviously, in . . . in the War, there was a shortage of material.

Clive
Yeah.

Stephen
And how did they deal with it? What's the first thing you would do to save material with trousers?

Rich
Put 'em in trenches.

Clive
You're trying to use less cloth in each trouser?

Stephen
Yeah, exactly.

Alan
Wear lady-trousers!

Clive
In Scotland, you wear kilts, to erm . . . 

Reginald
Or you take 'em off dead guys. I mean . . . the enemy! [rolls eyes at himself]

Stephen
Yeah. But, no . . . Generally, the first thing that they banned . . . 

Clive
Pleats, and things like that?

Stephen
Turn-ups.

Clive
Turn-ups? That saves about an inch of . . . 

Stephen
Out of a million? It's a lot of material.

Clive
Yes . . . 

Stephen
And they were so serious about this. And if a tailor sold someone extra-long trousers, longer than they needed, knowingly, really, so that the wife would then make him turn-ups –

Alan
What about . . . 

Stephen
– the tailor would then go to prison.

Alan
What about older gentlemen who pull their trousers right up past their nipples . . . ?

Stephen
Yes! Right up to the nipples.

Alan
Right up to the nipples, there. First of all, what's going on there? Why don't they stop somewhere on the way . . . ?

Stephen
They've got no pleasure in life left except to give themselves a wedgie every time they . . . 

Alan
Why don't they pull their trousers right, right up to just under their eyes?

Stephen
They then would save . . . They would save on shirtings.

Alan
They could have a really long fly, like that. They must have an enormous fly, and the fly must be about two feet long.

Clive
By the time you've undone it, you've forgotten where you were going.

Alan
You just zip there – "Oh . . . ".

Stephen
Stop it.

Alan
"Nurse!"

Stephen
Also, boys under twelve couldn't have long trousers. They had to have shorts. And of course, women couldn't wear stockings, so they . . . What did they used to do?

Clive
Oh, they used to draw a seam on the back . . . 

Viewscreens: Woman drawing a seam down her leg.

Clive
Oh, there you are. Draw a seam on the back of their leg.

Stephen
'Cause they thought if their legs were bare, it was considered it made them look available.

Reginald
What?

Stephen
I don't know if the boys in the shorts thought the same. It was, er . . . Firstly, they would stain their legs to make them look tanned, with gravy browning and things like that. And then they would draw a line down the back, which looked like the seam on nylons. I mean, it seems crazy, but . . . 

Rich
Why didn't the soldiers just draw pictures of trousers on their . . . ?

Stephen
Exactly!

Rich
"I'm in pinstripes!"

Stephen
Pinstripes . . . All kinds of things like that. Well, anyway, during World War II, it became acceptable for women to wear trousers, but men weren't allowed turn-ups and boys were made to wear shorts.

Now, as a fashion accessory, what would you rather have on you head? Would it be a cauliflower, a rhinoceros, or a pigeon's wing?

Clive
[presses buzzer, which sings "Always True To You (In My Fashion)"]

Stephen
Clive.

Clive
Now, I have some friends in Scotland, and this was their expression for older women with, sort of, white hair, that sort of curly, you know, very tight perm. They used to call them "cauliflowers", because they thought their hair looked like a cauliflower. So, working from that, I'm saying that's a hairstyle, a cauliflower style. Pigeon wing could be a sort of swept back look . . . 

Stephen
Yes.

Clive
Er, I can't work out why the rhinoceros. The rhinoceros is only famous because of the huge horn, so I can't quite make that into a hairstyle.

Stephen
Well, not a hairstyle exactly, but you're very close. In the 18th century, all your clothes put together, the expense of them, wouldn't add up to what you spent on this part of your fashion.

Clive
Well, your sort of . . . Your wig?

Stephen
"Wig" is the right answer, in fact. So it is your hair. But . . . They used to have ships. I mean, literally, their hair done into huge sailing ships.

Clive
You could have a rhinoceros horn.

Viewscreens: Picture of some rather extreme wig hairstyles.

Stephen
And a rhinoceros horn, and pigeon wings. You see there, these preposterous creations people had. Where do you think the idea came from?

Clive
Because they got nasty hair lice and things like that, so they turned it . . . Unless you happened to lose your hair naturally, and effectively . . . You used to chop your hair off anyway, so . . . And then replace it with, erm, fake hair, false hair, a wig.

Stephen
An element of that. Generally speaking, it became enormously fashionable in the reign of Louis XIII . . . And what was it you were saying about trouser turn-ups?

Clive
Oh, it was set by, er, the Prince of Wales, so this king must have decided to wear a wig, so everybody else . . . 

Stephen
Why did he wear a wig?

Clive
Because he was bald!

Stephen
Exactly. He went bald quite early on, and was annoyed by it. So he wore this expensive wig, and the rest of the Court used to flatter him and imitate him. They wore wigs too, and from then on, for the next 200 years, almost, wigs became more and more . . . It was really the French Revolution that ended wig-wearing.

Clive
Well, once you had your head chopped off, there was no real need for a wig, was there?

Stephen
Basically!

Clive
It's a wasted accessory.

Stephen
It's a pretty drastic haircut.

Clive
Well, it still hasn't gone away, quite, in the, er, law courts. Everywhere, apart from criminal courts, they're gonna get rid of, er, wigs for judges and barristers. But in the criminal courts, they decided to stick with wigs on the basis that the judges are more anonymous if they wear a . . . a wig, which . . . 

Reginald
So why not just have the judges wear a mask? In fact, that would be kind of cool, really.

Stephen
Wouldn't it? I think they wouldn't want to look stupid, is the answer. They don't want to look silly.

Alan
Why can't they be concealed bashfully behind a fan? [uses his hand to fan his face] "I sentence you to 25 years in prison. When you come out, you'll never find me."

Clive
Of course, everyone assumes that in court, people wear long wigs, but they don't. They always wear little . . . little wigs, as do the barristers and QCs, but, er, in their sort of formal, becoming a QC, all those formal processions, you wear this, sort of, long wig. But they never wear them in court.

Stephen
And they have to wear two . . . two pairs of tights?

Clive
You don't have to, but it's a . . . It's a . . . It's an option, you know.

Stephen
But apparently . . . Apparently it's a tradition, because Queen Victoria was offended by seeing the hairs poke out, so they were told to put two on so there were no hairs.

Clive
And they're black because the court went into mourning when Queen Anne died, and they never quite got 'round to changing it. So that's why barristers' robes and judges' are all . . . 

Stephen
What kind of a country do we live in?

Reginald
A wig-wearing, faux-pas worrying-about, tea-drinking . . . 

Rich
Fireplace . . . 

Stephen
[laughs] You said it! You said it.

Reginald
I was at a party here, and this guy was telling me this story about when he wore corduroy. And he says, "You're American. Do . . . Do . . . Do you know what corduroy is?" And I said, "Nooo . . . " And then he went in and was trying to explain it. And eventually, four or five people were around me, drunk, trying to explain to me . . . what corduroy was. And eventually, this girl who we didn't know just left the room, and she went upstairs to her apartment. And she just dashed in the room with a corduroy jacket. "Here! This is what it is! This is what it is!" And, you know, it's just . . . I went along with it, because –

Stephen
That's very sporting of you.

Reginald
– there's nothing like the warm look on white people's face when they feel like they teaching you something.

Stephen
Oh! Dear me.

Clive
You used to be a king, once upon a time, to wear corduroy. You used to . . . It was restricted to kings.

Stephen
"Cord of the king."

Clive
Yes.

Stephen
"Corde du roi."

Clive
Sumptuary. Rules of.

Stephen
Yeah. Then there's . . . Now we have needle cord, and . . . [to Reginald, exaggeratedly] Jumbo cord, we have needle cord, we have all kinds!

Reginald
[nods as though impressed]

Stephen
Yeah. Yeah. Anyway . . . 

Reginald
Look how pleased he looks!

Stephen
Well, this is my normal look. It's my QI look.

Er, the cauliflower, the rhinoceros, and the pigeon's wing were all 18th century wigs. All very good form, no doubt, but here is the most interesting form I have played with. I just wanted to show you this. [pulls out a shaped metal ball, a gömböc, from under the desk, and places it above the desk] This item here is a very extraordinary item. It's the only mono-monostatic item in the world. [begins to pick up the gömböc and place upon different angles on the desk] It's self-righting. Whichever way you put it, it will always right itself, like this. And . . . 

Alan
What about Weebles?

Stephen
Yeah, it's like a Weeble.

Alan
[picks up the gömböc and pretends to drop it] Oh! Heavy!

Stephen
And there's a glass one, here. [pulls out a glass gömböc] Here's one made of transparent material to show that it's not weighted in any way. It's much more extraordinary than it looks, as it were, when you get the hang of it. It always ends up like this.

Alan
[exaggeratedly tries to make the metal gömböc stay upright in various ways]

Stephen
Be careful with it, because it's so . . . It's . . . Well, it's . . . 

Alan
Is it extremely valuable?

Stephen
We're very honoured because we actually . . . 

Alan
[discretely puts the gömböc under the hat on his desk, and pretends to look around as though he's lost it]

Stephen
We actually have . . . Have you dropped it?! You haven't.

Alan
[looks chagrined]

Stephen
You put it under your hat. Lift your hat.

Alan
[lifts his hat up] Oh, you're cunning.

Stephen
Ah.

Alan
God, it was like Kingdom there, for a minute.

Stephen
No, listen. We are actually very . . . 

Alan
You were way ahead of me.

Stephen
Oy. We have Gábor Domokos, the inventor, here with us. Gábor?

Domokos
[from the audience, lifts his hand in greeting]

Stephen
Good evening.

Domokos
Hi.

Stephen
It's very good to see you. He's from Hungary, and he and his colleague Péter Várkonyi invented this. Can you explain to me exactly what it is?

Domokos
Well, this is, er, like a Weeble, without the weight.

Stephen
This is like a Weeble! [to Alan] You get a point. You see?

Domokos
It is just the shape. But you have to get it right. The tolerance of the shape –

Stephen
Yeah.

Domokos
– is about one-hundredth of a millimetre.

Stephen
Do you mean to say, if this . . . these edges here were one-hundredth of a millimetre out, it wouldn't right itself.

Domokos
It wouldn't.

Stephen
You'd actually be able to keep it in one position.

Domokos
Right. That's correct.

Rich
Hey, Gábor.

Stephen
It always goes back to its own . . . 

Rich
Have you thought about making these into salt and pepper shakers?

Stephen
That's a brilliant idea, Gábor!

Rich
Then you might make some money off of it.

Alan
Yeah, Gábor! Dragon's Den! Come on!

Stephen
You're actually scientists, mathematicians, yeah?

Domokos
Engineers, yeah.

Stephen
Engineers.

Domokos
Yeah, sort of.

Clive
[while playing with the gömböc, almost drops it off the desk, moves to catch it and cringes, putting it back as though nothing had happened]

Stephen
And did . . . How . . . How did you come to build it? What gave you the idea that this could be done?

Domokos
Well, we got the question first. First we got the question from a mathematician, we thought about it, and then we thought we should build it. And after we built it, we realised it's already there.

Stephen
In what way is it already there?

Domokos
Well, some turtles seem to have similar shapes.

Stephen
So, you're saying evolution got there first?

Domokos
Evolution got there a couple of million years earlier, yeah.

Rich
So do you feel like you've wasted your life?

Stephen
[laughs] You so have not! Well, Gábor, thank you very much for coming all the way from Hungary to explain. Thank you very much indeed. Köszönöm.

It's called . . . It's called a "gomboc", or a "gömböc". It's a rather beautiful object.

Rich
Does it have any practical application?

Stephen
I d– . . . No, I don't think it does have a practical application. That's what's so beautiful about it.

Alan
Didn't they invent the . . . the Rubik's Cube in Hungary as well?

Stephen
Rubik's Cube is a . . . a Hungarian invention. Absolutely.

Clive
And the Biro.

Stephen
The Biro.

Clive
László Bíró invented the Biro, didn't he.

Stephen
Absolutely. My grandfather was a Hungarian Jew. He said, [Hungarian accent] "A Hungarian is the only man who can follow you into a revolving door and come out first."

So there you are! It's the gömböc. It's the world's first mono-monostatic shape. It isn't weighted in any way, but whichever way you place it, it will always turn itself up the right way.

Now, I'm not a great follower of fashion myself, as you can probably tell.

Alan
Oh, Stephen.

Stephen
No, I'm something of an old fossil, as it happens. But what would you say if I told you that this was the first fossil ever identified?

Viewscreens: Picture of the thighbone of a Megalosaur.

Alan
I . . . Well. Er. Is it? I'd say, "Is it?"

Stephen
Thank you for not falling into our trap, and . . . You wouldn't say, "Bollocks."

Alan
Oh, "bollocks".

Stephen
It does look like a handsome pair of human plums, but it isn't. Robert Plot who was the first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford . . . He recognized it to be a thigh bone. But it's huge. You can't quite tell its scale here. So he assumed it was the thigh bone of a Roman elephant, or of a giant race of humans. But he also, as I say, recognizing its shape being as it is, called it "Scrotum humanum". 'Cause that's pretty much what it looks like, let's be honest. Erm . . . But it turned out to be a Megalosaur.

Viewscreens: Picture of a Megalosaur.

Stephen
There is one. A real one.

Alan
It's a shame they're not still about . . . 

Stephen
It is, isn't it?

Alan
Up and down the M1.

Stephen
It's very hard to try and get a grip on how old life on Earth is. But if life on Earth began on January 1st, and we are now literally the very end of the year, when did the dinosaurs appear?

Clive
Hang on, I've got lost there.

Alan
Tuesday.

Stephen
That's no good.

Alan
The dinosaurs are 200 million years ago . . . About mid-November.

Stephen
Not bad. A little later; December 5th.

Alan
Yeah, not bad!

Stephen
It's a very . . . Very good.

Clive
So we . . . And we come in at sort of five to midnight on December 31st, do we? Is that . . . 

Stephen
We come in a few minutes before midnight on December 31st. But they became extinct on December 24th, on Christmas Eve. So December 5th to December 24th.

Reginald
They became extinct on December 24.

Stephen
Yeah.

Reginald
Then that's saying the human race got, what, about six days before, you know . . . clocks go back, or something? What . . . What . . . What . . . ?

Stephen
[extends his arms on the desk] Here's a year.

Reginald
Okay.

Stephen
And that year represents the totality of time there's been life on Earth.

Reginald
Totality of time.

Stephen
[raises his right arm] That's the beginning –

Reginald
That's beginning, over there.

Stephen
– [raises his left arm] – and this is now.

Reginald
Uh huh.

Alan
Assuming that time is a linear . . . 

Stephen
Assuming that . . . Exactly, yeah. Thank you. So . . . Let's suppose – [mimes pulling his trousers up to his neck] – that it's a long pair of trousers, time. Man appeared at the top of the fly . . . 

Alan
You unzip your trousers and a dinosaur comes out.

Stephen
Yeah, basically. That's sort of what happens, isn't it. Oddly enough, "sauros" was ancient Greek slang for "penis".

Alan
Was it?

Stephen
"Sauros" means "lizard", yeah. And they would call it your "lizard". Your knob. Just thought you'd like to know that.

Alan
I do. I'm pleased to know that. Why is "thesaurus", then? Is that Latin? That's not ancient . . . 

Stephen
That's a different word. "Thesaurus" means a "treasure house", or "repository". In this case, a treasure house of words.

Alan
So you might refer to your backside as a "thesaurus".

Stephen
I'd like to think my bottom is a treasure house, yes, Alan! Erm . . . 

Alan
"My bottom is a treasure house" is a really good catch phrase.

Stephen
I'll be . . . That's be on my post.

Stephen
"My Bottom is a Treasure House" Fry. Yeah. I could go with that. All right.

So, the Megalosaurus. It's deader than the dodo, but . . . Name a living fossil. Name a living . . . 

Clive
[presses buzzer, which sings "Always True To You (In My Fashion)"]

Stephen
Yes.

Clive
The ginkgo tree is a living fossil.

Stephen
Ahh . . . 

Clive
The ginkgo is a type of tree tree which is a very . . . There's only one type of ginkgo. It belongs to its own, er, family of trees, and they used to rule the Earth, like the dinosaurs. They used to be, er . . .  About a hundred million, maybe two hundred million years ago, ginkgos lived everywhere. Now they're down to these, er . . . 

Reginald
So you're saying that there was a time that these trees just walked around the countryside –

Clive
They . . . They might . . . 

Reginald
 – drinking gin, and killing . . . 

Clive
I think so. I don't think they walked around much. They just stayed where they were. But there were lots of them.

Stephen
As in ginkgo biloba?

Clive
Yes, and that's it. That's the . . . the . . . And I don't think you can find it in the wild anymore. It's planted a lot; it's quite an attractive tree. But it's a very ancient type of tree.

Stephen
It's used enormously and extensively by herbalists, isn't it, as a . . . supposedly as a memory-enhancer, ginkgo biloba.

Clive
I'd forgotten that, but, er . . . 

Stephen
Hey!

Clive
How can anything be a living fossil? Because a fossil has to be dead, doesn't it?

Stephen
Well, it's a phrase termed by Darwin, reference to the duckbill platypus. And it's applied to crocodiles and coelacanths and things like that. But there are very few species that are identical to their fossilised predecessors. Literally identical.

Clive
And you're not going with me; I'm . . . 

Stephen
I'm going with Lomatia tasmanica.

Rich
Tasmanian devil.

Stephen
Not the T– . . . No, the "King's Holly". It is from Tasmania, and it's a plant. It is a very extraordinary plant. We've got a picture of it.

Viewscreens: Picture of the Lomatia tasmanica.

Clive
It looks a bit like a crocod– . . . Oh, no, it doesn't.

Stephen
It doesn't look extraordinary, but that plant there –

Clive
Yes?

Stephen
– is 43,600 years old. And it is genetically identical to a fossil that is near it, a genuine fossil, which is Pleistocene. Which is millions and millions of years old. And it is exactly the same.

Clive
So it just stuck to the . . . You know, it decided on a design that worked for it. It has a good look.

Stephen
It has three . . . Exactly right. It has three X-chromosomes.

Clive
It's a bit spiky.

Stephen
It is sterile. It just, basically, doesn't do what other life forms do, which is, you know, try and vary itself and, er, change. It just stays like that.

Alan
All the other plants are going, "Look at us, we've got oranges now. You've got nothing."

Stephen
But they might . . . They might provide the answer to eternal life. You might think, well . . . 'Cause they . . . They virtually have it, 'cause they've got no need to age.

Alan
Is that a good idea, though, eternal life? It depends when it starts, doesn't it? Because if you get to the point where your trousers are just under your nipples, and then you live forever from there . . . 

Stephen
Yeah.

Alan
[groans]

Stephen
The point is, this is simultaneously a fossil and a living thing, which is pretty astounding.

Now, how did the canals on Mars get there?

Viewscreens: Video of a quiet canal running alongside a street.

Clive
Ooh, that's one of the canals on Mars now!

Stephen
No, that actually isn't, to be honest.

Clive
They've sent that probe up there.

Stephen
I think that's in, er . . . 

Clive
That's Little Mars, in the west of London, isn't it?

Er, this is when, if they ever had, erm, temperature changes, the . . . the . . . the . . . the surface has expanded and contracted and left, sort of, little ridges like that.

Stephen
I mean, the short answer is, there aren't any canals on Mars.

Clive
Oh.

Alan
There's no water on Mars.

Stephen
There's . . . 

Reginald
They discovered some water recently on Mars. They was happy as hell about that, too.

Alan
And there's a bottle of Evian that no one can explain.

Stephen
Well . . . Well, the . . . the point of it is, it was most fashionable to believe in life on Mars, erm, well over a hundred years ago. Er, there was an Italian astronomer called Schiaparelli, who called these things "canalli", that he saw. He thought he saw a number of long, straight lines on Mars, which . . . He named them after rivers on Earth. But then, one of the greatest astronomers of his age, Percival Lowell, after whom an observatory telescope is named . . . and actually, after whom Pluto is named, because they chose that planet because it begins with P-L. But he drew amazing maps of Mars, looking through his powerful telescope, showing all these straight lines and connecting these things.

Clive
But you're saying they're not there?

Stephen
They're not there.

Clive
So was the original Italian . . . Was he looking through a . . . fishnet stockings, or something, at the time?

Stephen
Well, you've almost got it. He . . . 'Cause was a great astronomer. He was not an idiot.

Alan
He had a dirty lens.

Stephen
He kind of had that, but in his head.

Clive
Ah.

Stephen
He had a condition which is named after him – it's called Lowell's Syndrome – in which the various blood vessels and things, and the . . . and the nodes where the blood vessels meet, seem to become straight lines. It's a thing that comes and goes, but particularly on the small surface of Mars . . . On the big surface of the Moon, you'd see that it didn't make sense. And he'd draw all of this, and it's all absolute nonsense.

And so we arrive, fashionably late, at the bring-a-bottle staircase party of General Ignorance. Fingers on buzzers, please. In deference to our two American guests this week . . . Yankee Doodle put a feather in his cap to look fashionable. But why did he call it "Macaroni"?

Rich
[presses buzzer, which sings The Kinks' "Dedicated Follower of Fashion"]
He was "dumber than a bag of wet mice".

Stephen
Yay! [laughs] Well, oddly enough . . . Strangely enough, you're kind of right.

Rich
Well, it's about, erm, a kid traveling to see General Washington's troops. The song. There was General Washington upon a silver stallion / Giving orders to his men; there must have been a million. That's the next verse. So I think he was conscripted, and he was purposely trying to look insane.

Stephen
Well, it was a British song. It was an insult to the Yankee. The idea . . . Because a Macaroni . . . 

Clive
It was . . . Just to be Italian. Just to be fashionably Italian, wasn't it?

Stephen
Well, there was a Macaroni Club in London at the time, which was full of dandies. A "Macaroni" was another name for "dandy", for someone who took exquisite trouble over their dress.

Rich [indignantly]
So you're telling me that a Brit wrote "Yankee Doodle"?

Stephen
Yeah. The idea was that the Yankees were so dumb . . . "Dumber than a . . . "

Rich
Well, I guess we are, because we play it all the time!

Stephen
No . . . No, you . . . You take something that's supposed to be an insult, and you make a virtue of it. You throw it back in the oppressor's face.

Reginald
That's how you show 'em that they can't hurt you!

Stephen
Exactly! Exactly!

Reginald
My mama taught me that one. "Just look at 'em and just laugh at 'em. Just take they . . . Take . . . Take . . . Take they insults, and don't show them your pain." [to Stephen, delightedly] That's what we did. That's why we beat you.

Stephen
Yes! So. The point is, at the end of the 18th century, the "Macaroni" was a dandy. The song was a British attempt to make fun of unsophisticated Yankees.

What rhymes with "month"?

Alan
Month. Dunth . . . Yunth . . . 

Stephen
This word, I would have to say, is probably not known to you.

Alan
Junth!

Stephen
It's Sikhism. It's, er, what the Qur'an . . . 

Clive
"Sikhism" does not rhyme with "month"!

Stephen
No . . . I'm telling you . . . I'm taking you into the world of Sikhism. What the Qur'an is to the Islamic faith, this thing is to the Sikh faith. It's their text. And it's called the Granth.

Alan
[groans]

Stephen
There, you see!

Clive
But we should know . . . 

Alan
I did every bloody letter except "gunth"!

Stephen
Yeah.

Clive
But we should know that. I mean, that's not . . . It's not that obscure.

Stephen
No, it isn't. That's what I mean. It's a perfectly reasonable word.

Clive
So loads of Sikhs watching this programme have been screaming . . . 

Alan
"Gunth! Gunth!"

Clive
"You idiot! Gunth! Gunth!"

Stephen
No, it's a "Gr-anth".

Alan
Ah.

Clive
A "Garr-anth".

Stephen
Not "Garr-anth". Just "Granth". There are a lot that supposedly don't have rhymes, and "month" was one such word. There you are. So, the holy text of Sikhism is the Guru Granth Sahib.

Er, which city has the most Michelin stars?

Reginald
Paris. Oh. [presses his buzzer]

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

Stephen
Oh! I'm sorry.

Reginald
Wait, wait! That don't count. I said "Paris" . . . before I pushed the button. So I get a free . . . I get a free guess! Hey, I'm . . . I'm . . . I'm black.

Stephen
Oh! Don't you try that.

Reginald
I know for a fact it ain't London.

Stephen
It's not in France.

Clive
New York, then.

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "NEW YORK", then "LONDON".

Clive
[reading] London. Oh, that's . . . 

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

Stephen
Who said "London"?

Clive
Alan said "London".

Alan [to Clive, outraged]
I didn't say "London"! You did!

Clive
Oh, I said "London". Sorry. Sorry.

Stephen
Or Rich said "London"!

Rich
I didn't say anything.

Reginald
He didn't say a word! And frankly, you should be glad.

Stephen
Wait a second. [to Reginald] You said "London".

Reginald [vehemently]
No, I would never say "London". No, what I did say . . . I said, "Definitely not London." That's what I said.

Stephen
Oh, he's . . . [shakes his head disbelievingly].

Reginald
No, I did! I actually said . . . I did! What?

Stephen
I will believe you. I will believe you.

Reginald
Okay, let me tell you why I said "definitely not London". And I'm not just trying to offend London. Um, I'm trying to offend the UK in general. But I feel like any country that can produce Marmite . . . They . . . They started later than everybody else in trying to make food taste good. Um . . . 

Stephen
This, from the country that has spray-on cheese! Audience in General [roars and claps]

Stephen
But you're right. It isn't Britain.

Reginald
No, man, you can't cut me off! You gotta give me a chance to insult you back!

Stephen
Oh, right. Sorry.

Reginald
Marmite tastes like there's a naked man with hairy legs in your kitchen –

Clive
Yeah.

Reginald
– and every now and again, you take a plate with some toast and you walk under his butt and you go, "Okay, Fred! 'Do what you do best!'"

Stephen
Very good. No, the place that has the most Michelin stars is –

Alan
Germany. Holland. Belgium.

Clive
Tokyo.

Stephen
– Tokyo, is the right answer.

Reginald
Oh, yeah, man. Yeah. I should have thought of that. I should have thought of that.

Stephen
It went straight to number 1. It was only put in in 2007. And it leapt to the front with 150 stars amongst its different restaurants –

Clive
Yes.

Stephen
– which is two more than London and Paris combined.

Reginald
I could also point out to you that if you put spray-on cheese on top of Marmite . . . you still get something that tastes fucked-up. That's all I want to say. In fact, you can take your favourite food. And if you put Marmite on it, it's all fucked up.

Clive
Why don't you just keep away from Marmite?!

Reginald
Hey, look, man! When you was talking earlier, I didn't say, "Hey, why don't you stay away from ginkgo trees? I ain't say nothing!" I just . . . I just let you talk about trees, man! Weren't nobody else talking about trees but you.

Clive
That's the way it works on this programme.

Stephen
To be fair, Clive . . . 

Clive
"Who . . . Who are you?"

Stephen
All right, moving on! Tokyo has the most Michelin stars, twice as many as Paris, and three times as many as New York.

What colour is a nicotine stain?

Alan
Sort of yellowy-brown.

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

Stephen
Yellowy-brown, eh?

Alan
Yellowy-brown, yes. Not "yellow". Just . . . 

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

Alan
[pouts]

Clive
You're going to tell us that the stain comes from the tar. The yellow or brown is from the tar. Nicotine itself is green or something.

Stephen
The nicotine stain has no . . . 

Clive
Just kills you quietly on its own.

Stephen
It's very, very poisonous. But it is . . . It's colourless, odourless, and more or less invisible and untracable. It's a brilliant poison. Do you know why it's called nicotine?

Alan
"Nicotine. Just one puff, and you're mine."

Stephen
I remember that at school!

Alan
Yeah.

Stephen
He was. He was the cigarette devil. He was like an Irish cigarette devil.

Clive
Why is it called "nicotine" . . . ?

Stephen
Oh, it was a Frenchman called Nicot . . . Was the, sort of, Walter Raleigh of France, who introduced tobacco to the French.

Clive
Ah, Nicot.

Stephen
N - I - C - O - T.

Reginald
I sure didn't know that.

Stephen
Well, now you do!

Which dictator definitely only had one ball?

Clive
It's not the . . . Well, I'm not going to give my points away on that. 'Cause I know that was, er . . . It was made up about the one we mustn't say. So we're looking for another dictator.

Stephen
Yes, you're quite right. It wasn't Adolf Hitler.

Alan
Pol Pot.

Stephen
It wasn't Pol . . . 

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "POL POT".

Alan
Stalin. You haven't got "Stalin" up . . . ?

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

Stephen
Oh, yes.

Alan
Chairman Mao?

Stephen
"Chairman Mao" is the right answer!

Alan
He's only got one ball?

Stephen
Yeah.

Clive
But he used to have lots of girls.

Rich
He looks proud of it.

Stephen
Monorchidism, it's called. One orchid.

Clive
Yes. Yes. Only one flower display, and also . . . 

Stephen
Exactly. Orchid is the same root, is the same word. It's the Greek for "testicle".

Clive
Whose "testimony"? Another word which derives from the same source.

Stephen
His doctor. Yes, "testimony". Yes. Dr. Li Zhisui was his doctor. In his memoirs, he describes how Mao had an undescended testicle, and was infertile. Had venereal disease from the late '50s, and then in the, er, '60s, he contracted herpes. '67. He never brushed his teeth; he rinsed his mouth with tea. So his teeth were . . . green. He also slept on a wooden bed and used a bed pan.

Reginald
That's just convenient, though. That's just convenient. Yeah.

Stephen
Yes. No, Hitler's reputation for being uni-globular is, erm, is . . . apparently has no justification at all.

Clive
Yes.

Stephen
But, er, Mao most certainly was.

And that . . . that, ladies and gentlemen, brings us to the scores. And first – [laughs] – after a "fashion", with a plus score . . . four points, Rich Hall! In second place, with minus five, only slightly passé, Clive Anderson.

Clive
I was playing to lose! Damn! I can't even . . . I'm rubbish at losing.

Stephen
Oh, and doing what he did well, with minus six, Reg D. Hunter, ladies and gentlemen. And positively paleontological in his outmodedness is tonight's living fossil, on minus thirty-five, Alan Davies.

And so, it's good night from Rich, Reg, Clive, Alan, and me, and we leave you with this thought from Oscar Wilde. "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months." My name is Stephen "My Bottom is a Treasure House" Fry; thank you, and good night.