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Series 7, Episode 5

Transcript by: Glenn Campbell
Notes: This transcript has not been edited for style or content, but I'm sure it's jolly good. All text in rose font is from the extended version, QI XL.

TRANSCRIPT

Stephen
Oh! Waaaassap wassap wassap wassap, it's the office Christmas party at QI and we're ready to get down with a ‘G' for "Groovy" show. So let's hang loose, boogie woogie and put a donk on some awesome anecdotes and funky facts with tonight's guests… the well wicked Lee Mack… the well safe Bill Bailey… the well cool David Tennant… and the "Well I never", it's Alan Davies.

We were slightly afraid that you may not have heard enough Christmas songs in the shops this week, so Lee goes:

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"]

Stephen
Bill goes:

Bill
[presses buzzer, which plays the song "Merry Xmas Everybody" by Slade]

Stephen
David goes:

David
[presses buzzer, which plays the song "Last Christmas" by Wham!]

Stephen
And Alan goes:

Alan
[presses buzzer, which plays "Hava Nagila"]

Stephen
Excellent. Well, later on we're going to put the photocopying machine to some really imaginative use, but first a bit of bad news. This is Panto season; we had hoped to bring you Buttercup, the QI cow, but I'm afraid she's gone missing. If you see her, you will let me know, won't you boys and girls?

[Buttercup appears behind Stephen, stage right]

Audience
She's behind you!

Stephen
Is she? [turns and looks stage left]

Audience
No, the other side!

Stephen [turns around to find Buttercup right there; he does a take]
Wah! Oh. Boys and girls, I wish you'd warned me earlier. [to Buttercup] Erm, Hello Buttercup, great to see you. What I'd like you to do is to do a demonstration for the boys and girls. Can you do that? Would you like to go round the front and do… [as Buttercup makes her way to centre stage, pantomime-style oboe music adds some comedic effect to her gait] Now what Buttercup is going to do… Buttercup does impressions, alright? And Buttercup is going to do an impression and you have to try and guess what she's doing an impression of. [he cues the impression] Off you go, Buttercup darling.

[Buttercup demonstrates a walk with both left legs moving, then both right]

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the clip "Christmas"]
Is it, er, two out-of-work actors?

[Buttercup reacts to the comment by stamping her feet]

Stephen
Oh! Whoa. They're stamping their tiny… there we go… and -

Alan
Is it a way of walking?

Stephen
Ah, brilliant Alan, yes.

David
Is it not the legs being… in opposition or the, something like that?

Stephen
Yes. Because cows don't normally walk like that. So she's doing an impression of…?

Bill
Of a freak.

Alan
A cow with an inner ear problem.

Stephen
Or of an animal that does walk in that way, left-right-left-right-left-right…

Bill
Er, oh, a weasel.

Stephen
Lovely idea but not a weasel I'm afraid. There are a couple, actually.

Alan
Rhino?

Bill
A carp… a tapir.

Stephen
Ooh… the other one in… you're in Africa, you're on safari -

Lee
Dormouse.

Bill
Giraffe.

Stephen
Dormouse! [points to Bill] Giraffe is the right idea. That was Buttercup… yes, Buttercup's very proud of herself. That was a very fine… that was a very fine imitation of a giraffe. Because giraffes and camels, in fact, do that left-right walk. Cows, like horses… [to Buttercup] Would you like to do how you normally walk, Buttercup?

[Buttercup carefully walks with opposing gait across the set, to musical accompaniment]

Stephen
You see?

David
Slightly drunk.

Bill
Is that a cow creeping up on someone? [he gets up and stalks Buttercup with hands raised like a squirrel]

Stephen
Ladies and gentlemen, a big thank you to Buttercup!

[Buttercup dances off]

Stephen
Never, ever, in the history of show business, has the phrase "Don't milk it, love" been more appropriate. But you're right, I mean, you've got to have points, Alan, because the whole question was about the gait of four-legged animals.

Viewscreens : Video of a small group of giraffe, one of which is walking across frame.

Stephen
And, do you know when it was decided, for example… [points to viewscreens] … there's how a giraffe actually walks… that's how…

Alan
Whoa, there it goes.

Stephen
… but who was it, do you know, for extra points – extra Christmas bonuses available – if you can tell me who the man was who was responsible for basically demonstrating to the world how horses, for example, ran… progressed…

Alan
Is it something to do with cinema, moving images?

Stephen
Yeah. It was…

Bill
A French, er… cinematographer or something?

Stephen
He was not French… His name was Eadweard Muybridge.

Bill
Awww.

Stephen
Yep. Aii? No, he's quite well-known and I bet lots of people in the audience, you knew, didn't you, ladies and gentlemen?

Audience
Yes!

Viewscreens : Stills from Muybridge's motion study of a horse.

 

Stephen
Yes. And these are… some of these pictures…

Bill [to audience ]
You lying toads.

Stephen
His book was Animal Locomotion and he demonstrates the difference between walking, galloping, cantering and trotting in horses. He not only did horses – he's best known for how horses gallop – but he also did humans and he was no stranger to controversy. He murdered his love rival in cold blood.

Alan
What?

Stephen
Yeah.

David
Did he take photos of that as well?

Stephen
He might've done because he was the first person in American legal/forensic history, as a murderer, to claim… what excuse?

David
Insanity.

Stephen
Yes! Points for David Tennant, absolutely. Anyway, the point is, our lovely Buttercup, the QI cow, was giving us her giraffe impression. And speaking of giraffes, what use is a giraffe bicycle?

Viewscreens : Image of Alan riding a wheeled giraffe.

 

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the clip "Christmas"]

Stephen
Lee?

Lee
Sorry, I was thinking of the hedgehog skateboard. Sorry. Different… different thing, I know.

Stephen
Any thoughts?

Alan
I'd like to point out that on the day I went giraffe riding we didn't actually put pram wheels on the giraffe.

Stephen
No. Fair point, you don't want…

Alan
They've been added in.

Stephen
… you don't want letters. Yeah.

Lee
You mean a giraffe that's been fashioned into a bicycle as opposed to a bicycle for a giraffe?

Alan
A bicycle with a long neck?

Stephen
We've been seasonally silly and Alan is right, it is in fact a big bicycle. And it was called a giraffe bicycle, that was it's official name, it had a little badge on it saying Giraffe Bicycle and it had a specific function. You may know that all bicycles in the beginning were very big, I mean…

Viewscreens : Photograph of a giraffe bicycle.

Stephen
… there it is, there is the giraffe bicycle.

Alan
That looks lethal. What happens when you get to the traffic lights? Oh, there weren't traffic lights then.

Bill
Delivering papers to giant mailboxes.

Stephen
You're thinking and that's good.

Bill
Okay, thank you.

David
For lighting lamps.

Stephen
Yes! David Tennant, more points.

David
Thank you.

Alan
With all the time travelling he does, he knows something about every era.

Stephen
[coughs] He's acting. Er, so,

Bill
What? What do you mean?

David [to Bill]
Don't…

Bill
What do you mean?

Stephen
Sorry.

Bill [huddles with David]
Don't tell me… it's all real isn't it?

David [to Bill]
Don't listen to him. Don't listen to the bad man.

Bill [to David]
I know, it's a documentary, I know.

David [to Bill]
Exactly.

Alan
Cybermen are real. Saw one in the corridor upstairs looking for you. [knocks on desk] "Mister Tennant!" Like that.

Stephen
Yeah.

Lee
If they are for lighting lamps, you must have to do it on the move. You must go [pretends to light a lamp very quickly] "Woo!". because you'll fall over when you stop.

Stephen
You get to the lamp, you lean against the lamp – you've got a torch and you've got an assistant – and you raise your lit torch to light… these are gas lamps we're talking about, obviously…

Lee
Ah, you're holding on to…

Stephen
Then when you get home or back to the depot, your assistant dismounts you.

David
Wouldn't it be quite funny…

Stephen [to audience, laughing at his innuendo]
Now…

Lee
What if you're leaning… what if you're leaning on the lamp…

Stephen
We've got a very Christmassy audience.

Lee
If you were leaning on the lamppost and a buck-toothed man with a ukulele walked past, would there be anything you could…

Alan
Just lean down and set light to him.

Lee [acting out his imaginary foe catching fire from above]
Ow!

Alan [strumming]
Burning! Aah!

David
But if you'd got a leg up, you could use the post to swing around, you could do like a figure of eight between them all.

Stephen
That would be brilliant, and you've got a TV show, basically. Giraffe Biking on Ice.

David
Celebrity…

Stephen and David
Celebrity Giraffe Biking on Ice.

Stephen
So, the thing is, early bicycles were all very tall, what was the first, you know, classic, sort of, bicycle?

Alan
Penny Farthing.

Stephen
Penny Farthing, and that was actually known as an ordinary bicycle, mmm.

Viewscreens : Photo of 3 men riding Penny Farthings.

Alan
This looks lethal.

Stephen
It does, doesn't it? But amazingly, the first bicycle which is the kind we would know, i.e. with a chain that drove the back wheel from pedals, was known as a Dwarf Safety . And that was considered a really tiny bike. So it just shows, most bicycles over a long time were like this.

Lee
I always wonder, how do they get on those things?

Stephen
I guess it was a leany thing, like horses, I guess, they used to…

Alan [acting out the action]
Get out of a first floor window. Get down onto it.

Stephen
There were novelty big bicycles and the Clark brothers built ‘flood bikes' which were to go above flood waters, so that you could get around…

Alan
See, now, that's what I thought the other one was.

Stephen
Yes, that would have been a good guess.

Alan
I thought that was going to be something like that.

Lee
What, higher than the Penny Farthing?

Stephen
I guess it was.

Lee
How high did the flooding used to get?

Alan
"Higher than a Penny Farthing you say?"

Bill
Then of course there was the cross-channel bike. It was, er, a mile up into the sky.

Stephen
But, er, there are people on tall bikes to this day who re-enact, sort of, tourneys – you know, like jousting with lances on bikes.

Alan
It really does look dangerous.

Stephen
Yeah. Highly. We used to do it at school, we used to do what was called ‘quad hockey' which is like polo, only on bikes. You use a hockey stick and a ball, and you just go round on…

Bill
On quad bikes?

Stephen
No, not on quad bikes. In a quad, in a quadrangle.

Bill
In a quadrangle? You were playing hockey in a quadrangle?

Stephen
But yeah, like…

Bill
You had a very different, sort of, schooling to…

Stephen
Why? How is that different?

Lee
In my school we used to set fire to cars. In an octangle.

Bill
We were in a gravel pit with a dead bat.

Alan
We just played quiddich.

Stephen
There you are.

Alan
It was alright I suppose.

Stephen
Giraffe bicycles were a boon to the weary lamp lighter.

Now, how do you react – team – to queue bargers?

Alan
Oh, very unfavourably.

Bill
Very badly.

Stephen
Very unfavourably?

Bill
They are… yes… it goes against the very bedrock of Western Society. And also, when the lane merges… You know, in lanes, when you turn on the motorway and there's a coned-off lane, and you think "Well I'd better conscientiously merge, now" and somebody will go right the way down the end and then get inside there. [indicates with his hand a rapid left turn]

Alan
[nods]

Lee
Worse than that…

Bill [pointing at Alan]
You!! You do that!

Alan
[nods and smiles]

Bill
Curse you late-merger Davies.

Lee
To be fair, though, Alan's a qualified ambulance driver.

Stephen
Do you know, in America, in some states, they have – when two lanes have to merge like that – they go "Like a Zip!" – exclamation mark – because that's… one-one-one-one. It's rather brilliant that, isn't it?

Lee
I hate the late mergers in the bar queue, that's worse. When you're six deep at the bar and they just get in on the edge…

Alan
Or I… you're at the bar, someone at the back taps the bloke next to you and says "Get us a couple of pints, will you?"

Stephen
Ah. Or when you're at the bar and someone leans forward with money and they get served first just because they're on television. [suddenly gets sheepish look]

Bill
Mister Fry, go away Sir.

Alan
"Make way! Make way! Lord Fry wants a couple of ports."

Bill
"Hear hear! On his bicycle with his hockey stick, make way, make way I say!"

Alan
"Here's your bottle here, Mister Fry" [pretends to pop a cork and pour a drink]
"Clear that table! Get up, get out!" [pretends to shoot the patrons and toss them out]

Bill
"Can anyone here sing the Lord's prayer in Latin? No? Get out, all of you!"

Alan
"Throw that man on the fire…"

Stephen
Pater noster qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum, adveniat regnum tuum… It just so happens I do know that…

Bill
There you go…

Stephen
… I don't know why. Um… queue jumping, queue jumping, queue jumping… it is despicable and you would think most people reacted very badly if someone were to walk in and just simply barge in front of a queue. But… do you know the name… you're probably familiar with the experiments done by a behavioural psychologist in which members of the public were given white coats and asked to inflict pain. Stanley Milgram is the one best known for it.

Bill
He asked people to do things that were against what they considered to be right, and yet, because they were told to do it…

Stephen
And the person doing it had apparent authority, had a white coat, but the less well-known experiments he did were in queues and he would – or "lines" as he would say, as an American – 129 different times he tried, in betting shops, railway stations, elsewhere… Betting shops, you'd think, where people would not be afraid to show their opinion if someone barged in.

And what the experimenters had to do was: One entered the queue between the third and fourth person in line, say in a neutral tone "Excuse me, I'd like to get in here", step into the queue, face forward and only leave the queue when someone admonished them or after one minute, whichever was sooner. And on only 10% of occasions was the queue jumper forced to leave the line because they were admonished. And in only 50% did anyone so much as tut. That's extraordinary, isn't it?

Bill
Where was this though, in…?

Stephen
This was in America.

Bill
In America.

Alan
Not in Tunbridge.

Bill
No.

Stephen
Not in Tunbridge, no.

Bill
Or in Peckham.

Stephen
No.

Alan
Very very high tut ratio.

David
I'll tell you what annoys me.

Stephen
Yeah?

David
If it's five items or fewer then it's five items or fewer. Don't come in with six and stand in front of me.

Lee
Yeah but that's confusing because sometimes you get…

Stephen
Do you count them in the bag? Do you look in the basket?

David
You bet I do, yeah. And then say absolutely nothing about it.

Lee
What if there's "Three for Two"?

David
I'll give you one of those items off.

Lee
So you'll give me two?

David
I'll give you… two for three. But if there's not a special offer on, and I'm checking.

Lee
You're Scottish, I know you're checking for the special offers.

Stephen
Ooh, careful.

David
That was low.

Stephen
Go on… go on, take him. Get his… sonic thing out.

Bill
What… hedgehog?

David [brandishes a pen]
In the First World War…

Lee [pointing at the pen]
Is that it?

Bill
Don't let me be the biro…

David
It's not working.

Lee
It's not working? Help!

David
In the First World War they toured, er, they toured… [his pen swivels in his hand and as it points to Bill, Bill mimes a blast as if struck by Dr. Who's sonic pen] … a tank…

Bill
[his arms shoot up] Boom!

David
… around Britain. [the pen swivels around and ‘strikes' Bill again]

Bill
[mimes the explosion] Boom!

David
[realises the scenario and this time deliberately swings the pen around slowly]

Bill
[as the pen points at him, his arms shoot upward again] Boom!

Lee
Don't wave it around!

Bill
Easy with that! Woah!

David
In the First World War they toured a tank around Britain, erm, and it went to all the major city centres in the country, and people were encouraged – for, you know, to raise money for the war – to chuck any spare change they had into the tank. Where did it get the most money? Glasgow!

Lee
Yeah because they thought it was a big fruit machine.

Stephen
Ooh! He's bad. No, that's… he's bad.

Lee
[Scottish accent] "Look! I've won a soldier mummy! I won a soldier!"

Bill
He thought it was a one-armed bandit. [pretends to pull down a large lever] Ker-ching!

Lee [pretends to pull on the barrel of a tank as if a huge slot machine, his face red with exertion]
[Scottish accent] "Ah cannae do this! Ah cannae…" "You'll win a prize." "Ah can do it!"

Bill
[Scottish accent] "Put a chain around it."

Stephen
[Scottish accent] Oh dear, oh dear.

Lee [to David]
That's not a Scottish accent, by the way.

Stephen
Well there we are. Anyway…

David
Not a Scottish accent? Oh, I see…

Stephen
So the fact is we're more tolerant of queue jumpers than they deserve, it seems.

Now, until 2008, it was legal to smoke… what I'm talking about… in Dutch coffee shops, but now they've changed the law.

Alan
[presses buzzer, which plays a short clip from "Hava Nagila"]
Tobacco.

Stephen
He's clever. He's right. We thought you were going to say cannabis but you're too smart for us.

Alan
No, they don't mind you smoking that. They encourage it.

Lee
I went to Amsterdam when I was nineteen years old and, er, I don't do drugs, I'd never done drugs. But I sat in this café and everyone was smoking and, genuinely, I said, "Nah, I'm not going to touch that, I'll just have a piece of cake."

Stephen
Aah.

Lee
And I ate this cake and someone said, "You know what…"

Stephen
It's a hash brownie.

Lee
But I thought, yeah, but I thought that was the same as… you have, like, brandy and trifle or something. I thought it's not going to get you drunk, it's just a little jokey thing they say. So I had one, I said "It's going to have no effect so I'll have another one". So I ate another one and then, two o'clock in the morning, I accused a taxi driver of trying to kill me.

Stephen
No you're right. But the point is, it leads to rather bizarre situations. If you mixed your cannabis with tobacco in a coffee shop, you would be fined.

Alan
That's what they used to sell… sell you mix or…

Stephen
So you can only have pure… not since July 2008. Now you have to smoke your cannabis as pure cannabis in grass or hashish form I suppose.

Lee
So you can't get passive smoking from pure…?

Alan
No, it's fantastically carcinogenic, it's miles more carcinogenic than tobacco.

Stephen
Is it?

Alan
Yeah.

Stephen
Oh dear.

Alan
It's seven times more or something.

Lee [singing]
"So here it is, Merry…"

Alan
Three joints, that's twenty fags.

Stephen
Oh my goodness. But in the street, if you were to smoke… you could smoke tobacco in the street, but if you were to mix it with cannabis you'd be breaking the law by doing that. So it's a very complicated system.

Alan
Yeah you're supposed to know what you're doing, whether you go indoors or out.

David
Magic mushrooms…

Stephen
Ah, magic mushrooms.

David
Or a version of magic mushrooms, since you're talking about drugs, the fly agaric , which is that… which is that, sort of, like the mushroom you get in a fairy tale…

Bill
Toastie, like a big cheese toastie.

David
… sort of, red with white spots on it. A fly agaric in Siberia was eaten by the reindeer. And so the reindeer would eat this fly agaric and they'd bounce around…

Bill
Off their face.

David
… and that is where they reckon the legend of flying reindeer came from.

Stephen
Oh! What a Christmassy story, thank you David.

David
For your Christmas edition of QI.

Bill
Ah, the drug-addled reindeer of Siberia.

David
And then, because it's highly toxic to humans, so they would collect the reindeer urine and drink it and get a secondary…

Stephen
Buzz.

Bill
Hit.

Lee
And then you could drink the wee of the man who drunk it. Just a mild sort of… just a nice feeling.

David
Just a lovely little buzz.

Bill
Eventually it would come down to just a tiny little, just a, cube. A cube, wouldn't it, and you could put it, probably, in a drink. And it would be like a, sort of, pro plus.

Stephen
Thank you. We're actually going to move on to various forms of narcotic in a moment…

David
Are we?

Alan [rubbing hands]
Alright!

Stephen
… but I'm just going to just finish off this smoking business. Right, tell me when smoking bans were first introduced into Europe?

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the clip "Christmas"]

Stephen
Yes?

Lee
Three years ago? Four years ago?

Stephen
No, it's earlier than that.

Lee
Five years ago.

Stephen
Much earlier, you're thinking…

Lee
I'm not an idiot. Ten years ago. What the hell, fifteen years ago.

Stephen
Try 79 years ago, almost 79, 76 I think.

Lee
I've got an idea. 79 years ago.

Stephen
Almost 79 years ago.

Lee
But you were the one who said it! You can't say that. "Try 79 years ago" "79 years ago" "No, almost 79 years ago". I mean, it's my first time on the show, cut me some slack.

Stephen
Ah but if you rewind you'll find I then corrected myself and said "Nah, actually make it 76 years ago". But that's alright.

Lee
If only I could rewind.

Alan
[presses buzzer, which plays a short clip from "Hava Nagila" ]
76 years ago.

Stephen
Well done Alan! Very good.

Lee
I hate this game.

Stephen
He's experienced. Um, it was the Nazis… it was the Nazis…

Alan
The Nazis banned smoking?

Stephen
The Nazis, yeah, they had very strong anti-smoking…

Bill
The more I hear about them, the less I like them.

Alan
"Well that's the final straw!"

Stephen
"Up until this point, I've been prepared to listen…"

Alan
Oh, I can rationalise everything else, but that … What's wrong with them?

Stephen
Bans on smoking in public places, smoking advertising, restrictions on rations for women and linking tobacco use with lung cancer. Hitler called tobacco "The wrath of the Red Indian Man against the White Man for having been given hard liquor". He even suggested that Nazism might never have worked if he hadn't given up smoking.

Alan
Is that crazy or what.

Lee [making a Nazi salute]
It's true because if you're doing that and you've got a fag in your hand, it has less impact isn't it?

Alan [placing pen in mouth]
You've got to put your fag in your mouth, like that.

Lee
Maybe that's how that started, he didn't like the smoke. [pretends to light a cigarette, then, bothered by the ‘smoke', moves the imaginary cigarette away in a Nazi salute]

Stephen
The first smoking ban we can find, 1640, Czar Michael of Russia declared smoking a "deadly sin". Smokers were flogged, had their lips slit.

[groans from the everyone]

Stephen
Woah! Your lips slit.

Alan
When you lick an envelope. Paper cut.

Panellists in General
[groans]

Alan
Or what about, in Jackass, with the paper cuts between the toes?

[louder groans from everyone]

Alan
I was kneeling, in the cinema, on my seat facing the other way, saying "Tell me when it stops!" I couldn't look at it.

Lee
Sorry, did you go to see Jackass at the cinema?

Alan
Yeah.

Lee
That's commitment! I don't mind watching it like that [pretends to use a remote control] when I'm coming back from the pub, I wouldn't go to a cinema.

Stephen
It was a movie.

Alan
Jackass the Movie is the funniest film ever made.

Bill
I preferred Jackass , the novel.

Stephen
Jackass the ballet, for me.

Bill
[places a pen in his mouth and strikes the ‘academic smoking a pipe' pose] "Yes, indeed. Oh very amusing. A champion in a trolley I believe… "

Stephen
But it was James I of England and VI of Scotland who was the first real anti-smoking tyrant, he wrote a pamphlet called A Counterblaste to Tobacco in which he damned it and damned it and double-damned it.

Alan
He wasn't wrong.

Bill
Fair enough.

Stephen
Yup, for being injurious to the eyes and the lungs and the nose and everything. He kind of spotted that it wasn't a good thing to do.

Lee
I don't want to pick you up and be semantic… not semantic… but you can't damn it and damn it and double-damn it, can you? You can damn it and damn it and triple-damn it.

Stephen
Yeah. That was his mistake, obviously.

Bill
Chairman of the Pedantic Society.

Lee
Vice-chairman, actually.

Stephen
You know… very good.

Lee
God bless you, you knew that.

Stephen
The smoking ban in the Netherlands means you can smoke cannabis but not tobacco in a coffee shop, and tobacco but not cannabis on the streets. So you can't smoke tobacco in Dutch coffee shops or libraries, come to that matter, but do you get a kick out of book-sniffing?

Bill
Book sniffing?

Stephen
Yeah. Why would you sniff a book?

David
Is it a form of glue sniffing, is it… and get the adhesive?

Stephen
It's not the adhesive. It's, when a book ages enough, what would form around it's…

David
Mildew.

Stephen
Mildew and mould and general fungal matter and what…

Lee
Mushrooms are growing on books.

Stephen
Yeah. One of the fung… well, fungus, yeah. One of the fungi that grows is a hallucinogenic fungus. And it seems, maybe has been responsible for affecting quite a lot of scholars and antiquarians. One of the leading mycologists of Europe, he's actually said "The source of inspiration for many great literary figures may be nothing more than a quick sniff of the bouquet of mouldy books."

Viewscreens: Photo of some mouldy books.

 

Lee [pointing at viewscreens]
Who's buying books that look like that?

Stephen
Well, they'd be in libraries. All books are rotting. They rot faster and faster, there's a real problem with books because the paper breaks down into an acid which makes them rot even faster.

Bill [demonstrating with a book]
So you have to get quite close to it.

Stephen
You get quite close and you have to do it for a long time.

Bill
It's a rather unusual way of… [voice muffles as he presses the book to his face] … Seems extraordinary.

Lee
You know when you go… When I go to the dentist, right, and there's a magazine from, like, three years ago, and I'm having a look through and they've got one of those after-shave things that you…

Stephen
Oh yeah, a little scratch ‘n sniff.

Lee
I always have a little [sniff sniff] and I always think ‘cos if it smells after three years it must be a good one. Because I always have a problem that after-shave stops smelling after three or four hours, so I think if it's survived three years, I'll buy it. Yeah, you can't buy class, can you?

Stephen
Well the fact is, it would take along time to get truly high on one of them but it is a real fungus and it is truly hallucinogenic like the one you mentioned, shrooms . What's the proper name for shrooms ? The magic mushrooms? The hallucinogenic ones… you mentioned fly agaric, which is like that one, really.

Viewscreens: Illustration of a mushroom and pixies.

Stephen
But the magic mushroom… psilocybin. Said with silent ‘P', psilocybin. Interesting experiments have been done with magic mushrooms, encouraging some to believe that religious experiences all told are based on some sort of hallucinogenic experience. It's an interesting thought.

Bill
Is there some sort of theory in America that there's a kind of a religiosity, there's a kind of a ‘God spot' in the brain, there's some kind of point, there's some part of the brain which actually induces some sort of spiritual…

Stephen
Which may be accessed by things like magic mushrooms. Do you know who it was rediscovered the magic mushroom? Albert Hoffman is his name, he was the first person to…

Bill
To take out… to formalise acid.

Stephen
Acid, L.S.D. That was his even more famous thing. And do you know where he got L.S.D. from as it were? Do you know…

Bill
It was, erm, it was a by-product of something, wasn't it? It was a…

Lee
Marmite.

Stephen
Oddly… oddly not that far off.

Lee
Vegemite.

Stephen
Well, no. I mean, a little further than that. A kind of bread. Bread would have a mould which cause hallucinations…

Lee
Yeast.. the yeast of, er… a bat.

Stephen
It was called ergot

Bill
Ergot, yes.

Stephen
You've heard of that?

Bill
Yes, it grows on, er, wheat.

Stephen
And rye.

Bill
And rye.

Stephen
Rye in particular, and ergot has lysergic acid in it. And it was while looking at this that Hoffman basically absorbed some in through his skin without knowing it and has these extraordinary hallucinations. And so he thought… three days later he took what he thought was a tiny dose, having basically synthesized the lysergic acid diethylamide and it proved to be a thousand times more potent than he expected.

He had a terrible trip and he wrote, " A demon had invaded me, it had taken possession of my body, mind and soul. I jumped up and screamed to try to free myself from it, sat down again, helpless on the sofa, the substance which I had wanted to experiment upon had vanquished me, I was seized by the dreadful fear of going insane."

Bill
But wasn't it the fact that he, actually, he was funded by the C.I.A. because the C.I.A. got wind of it and they thought that it was some sort of drug that could enhance performance, or, you know…

Stephen
Or truth drug.

Bill
… or truth drug.

Stephen
It was known as project MK-Ultra.

Bill
That's it, yeah. Mostly they were responsible for the psychedelic movement, so the C.I.A. basically, eventually led to Jimi Hendrix.

Stephen
Yes, essentially.

Bill
Thank God for the C.I.A.

Stephen
Then we wouldn't have had Purple Haze .

Bill
Exactly.

Stephen
Anyway, old books give off a mixture of inert gases and hallucinogenic fungus spores, a combination much beloved of book sniffers.

Now, who is the coolest, grooviest, hippest cat on the show tonight?

Alan
David Tennant, I would have thought.

Bill
Yeah.

Lee
I'm with the Bill.

Stephen
Could be. What do we know about these words?

Alan
They're jazz words.

Stephen
Ah. Many of them are jazz words. How old are they?

Alan
Since the twenties, thirties?

Bill
Early…

Alan
Forties?

Bill
No, no… earlier. Stone Age.

Stephen
Let's take the word "Cool". When did it first mean, like, "fashionable" do you think?

Lee
Sixties Poet Beatnik era.

Bill
Hitler. Hitler!

Stephen
Oddly enough, it was the year that Hitler came to power, 1933, but I don't think that's quite relevant.

Bill
[German accent] "Zese new uniforms are cool." [sings] "So this is Christmas…"

Alan
[German accent] "I joined ze Nazi party. Zey're cool, daddi-o."

Bill
[German accent] "Cool, daddi-o."

Stephen
Bizarrely, it was 1933…

Alan
[German accent ] "Besides, I had no choice."

Bill
[German accent ] "I burned down ze reichseignt . Cool."
[Normal voice ] Jazz Nazis... [snaps his fingers to an imagined beat for a short while before snapping into the Nazi salute]

Stephen
It was the West Coast school of… but it was the West Coast -

Lee [striking alternating Nazi salutes with both arms]
The Jazz Nazis would use both arms.

Stephen
It was the West Coast School of Relaxed Jazz , led by Miles Davis and his album The Birth of the Cool, which was 1957. Which, oddly enough, was the year I was born.

Alan
How extraordinary.

Stephen
So maybe I am cool.

Lee
I'd love it if you said all that as a chat-up line in a nightclub. [as Stephen] "Do you know who the coolest person in the room is tonight? No? Well, let me explain…"

David
[as Stephen] "In 1933…"

Lee
And two hours later, [as Stephen] "And that, madam, is why I am cool."

Stephen
[as himself] "Where's she gone?"

Lee
[as Stephen] "Would you like a bit of Vermouth?"

Bill
[as Stephen] "No… don't go…"

Stephen
What about "Groovy"? What about "Groovy"? When did the term "Groovy" first arise?

Alan
[as Austin Powers ] "Groovy baby, yeah"

Bill
Groovy… ploughing. Ploughing in the seventeenth century.

David
It's gotta be records, isn't it?

Stephen
You're right. In the 1930's again, black jazz is, in the 1930's, "In the Groove" because the needle is in the groove of the record, exactly. There we are. So what about "Hip" or "Hep"? When did that come? A "Hip cat" or "Hep cat"…

Bill
"Hip" or "Hep"?

Stephen
Both words are used.

Lee
"Hep"? I've never heard "Hep" before. I've heard "Hip cat", yeah.

Stephen
Not heard "Hep"?

Alan
"Hep" – 1940's, I've read on the road.

David
"Hep Hop"

Lee
My mum just had a hep operation.

Stephen
Well, but it's "Hip" or "Hop". "Hip, Hop, Hep".

Alan
Or a hop operation, they just cut your leg off.

Stephen
It first came into black American slang in 1904, hip.

David
Is it a bit more sexual, maybe?

Stephen
Well they so often are, I'm afraid. There is a theory that "In the Groove" is also a sexual reference to the, er, little shape of the lady piece.

David
Ooh hello.

Lee
I want you to do that in your chat-up line as well. [as Stephen] "Come back! I have something else to tell you!"

Stephen
What about "Cat" meaning "fellow" or "chap"?

Lee
Well that's gotta come from Top Cat , innit? He was the coolest cat in town.

Stephen
He was the coolest cat, Top Cat .

Lee
He always got one over on Officer Dibble.

Stephen
He did.

Bill
"Cats"… from the musical Cats .

Lee
That's not cool.

Stephen
Give me a year when as to when "Cat" meaning "fellow" was first spotted.

Alan
1920.

Stephen
Exactly right, to the year! Brilliant. More points. Get ready with the year to shout: "Chick" meaning "a girl"?

Lee
"Chick"?

Bill
Spanish, "Chica".

Stephen
[Spanish intonation] "Chiquita"

Bill
[Spanish intonation, pitched high] "Chiquita e… have a cigarette?"

Stephen
Wey hey. 1907.

David
Well that's in… that's in Shakespeare.

Stephen
Chick?

Bill
Is it?

David
"All my little chicks".

Stephen
Oh, one fell swoop, you're right. In Mac – as you don't say – beth . Erm, what about "Dude"? "Dude", meaning "a person".

Bill
Erm, the Amish.

Stephen
When?

Bill
1702. [as an Amish man] "Why, let us build barn, dude".

Stephen
Any other thoughts?

Bill
1703. 1704.

Stephen
1883.

Alan
1883? "Dude"?

Stephen
"Foxy"…

Alan and Lee
Pardon?

Stephen
"Foxy", 1895. "Wicked", meaning "good", meaning "splendid"?

Alan
2001.

Bill
Erm, the Salem Witch Trials.

Stephen
[to Alan] Your favourite year, 1920.

Lee
1920? What, meaning… meaning…

Stephen
F. Scott Fitzgerald uses it in that sense. I know, these are all surprises.

Lee
… you don't mean "Wicked" in the "Burn her, she's a witch" sense?

Stephen
No, no no, of course not, that's much older.

Lee
You wouldn't do that in the 1920's, surely.

Stephen
No, no, "Wicked" in the sense of "good", "cool", "excellent".

Lee
Be awful, actually, if you said that in the fourteenth century, thinking you're being cool, "I'm wicked" and they'd just set fire to you.

Bill
Have to kill you.

Stephen
So much of the youth slang we associate with the sixties and seventies is actually American jazz speak from the thirties or even earlier.

Now, polygamy. Polygamy would be fairly groovy. If you were Mormons, how many wives would you have?

Bill
[presses buzzer, which plays the Slade clip "Christmas"]
Er, up to nine.

Stephen
Up to nine?

Bill
Yes.

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

Stephen
Well, that counts as "many" I'm afraid. Sorry.

Bill
Oh does it? Up to nine?

Stephen
Yeah that counts as "many".

Bill
Beyond nine… it's "several" after nine.

Stephen
There's no point in discussing it, er, yeah.

Lee
So if a policeman stops you and says "Have you been drinking tonight, sir?" you can't go "No, I've only had up to nine". "You've had many, haven't you?" "No, not many, I had between one and nine, officer. What do you mean, ‘I can't drive a tractor at four in the morning through a shopping centre'? I've only had many".

Bill
"I was just after some shoes".

Stephen
But, um, as you… well, you probably know that, obviously, Mormons are associated with plural marriages. Joseph Smith, the founder, had a divine revelation, apparently, telling him that he could have as many wives as he liked. But, er, they were stopped by the American government because they basically said "You can believe what you like but you can't do what you like". So you can believe you can have as many wives as you like but you can't have it as a practice….

Alan
But you can't actually…

Stephen
… you can have it as a belief. And then…

David
Does this mean it happens but there's just no legal, er…

Stephen
No, it means it doesn't happen because they go to prison, but incredi…

David
But if people live together in groups of up to nine, would that actually…?

Stephen
They do. This is the weird thing about polygamy. We all treat it as if it's some terrible thing, like incest, but actually, the weird thing is… If you deceive someone by having a mistress and a whole family, it's not against the law. But if you said to two women, "Look, I love you both, you absolutely splendid, how would it be if I married both of you?" and they said "Okay", that would be breaking the law. It's kind of odd. Or, if a woman said that to two men.

Bill
It's a tricky time to bring it up, at Christmas though, isn't it?

Stephen
No, I just don't see why it's quite so illegal if people are on for it, if they willingly enter it. If it's a deception I think it should be wrong.

Lee
Should it be capped at a certain number?

Bill
Up to nine, yeah.

Stephen
Up to nine?

Lee
Yeah.

Stephen
"Ten? I'm not a slag!"

Bill
Was it… are they saying you can't actually do it, then, they don't condone polygamy at all?

Stephen
No, it's against the law. It's against the law. Fortunately, the head of the Mormon church - just as it was being announced as illegal - had a convenient divine revelation, telling him that the practice should stop. So, God came in at the last minute.

Viewscreens : Picture of The Osmonds in performance.

 

David
That's good.

Stephen
Handy when that happens, yeah. There are, of course, the lovely Osmonds. Aren't they lovely?

David
Are they all married to each other?

Stephen
No, they're Mormons.

David
Ah, right.

Stephen
They're members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints , I think they're called. What teeth!

Alan
They were rubbish.

Stephen
They were, were they?

Alan
Apart from little Jimmy Osmond, he was a Long-haired Lover from Liverpool .

Stephen
… from Liverpool, yeah.

Bill
And of course there was big Graham Osmond, the one they kept in the attic. [pretends to be an idiot savant] Hey…

Stephen
Who had terrible teeth… yellow teeth.

Bill
And one massive claw.

Alan
He wrote all the songs.

[Bill acts out the Frankenstein-esque character he just made up, groaning loudly and unintelligibly, pretending to fiercely scribble song words. From this point on, Graham becomes an established character.]

Alan
He'd groan them into a tin can that was connected by a piece of string.

[Alan joins Bill's loud groaning with his own, pretending to shout into a tin can . Bill ‘finishes' his song and pushes the imaginary paper on]

Alan [as Graham ]
Amazing… horses…

Stephen
You're very bad and you…

[Lee joins the groaning foray, Alan moves his imaginary can to his ear]

Lee [as Graham]
Amazing… horses …

Alan
What was that, Graham? [as Graham, into imaginary can] Amazing…

Lee [as Graham]
Bring me another wife!

Stephen
Now…

David [as Graham]
My wife…

Lee [as Graham]
I'm allowed up to nine, Bill Bailey said. Bring her before I've only got eight. I'm allowed to have many.

Stephen
Behave. Pull yourselves together at once. The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints

[Bill, as Graham, crawls toward Stephen]

Lee
What a great idea!

Alan [as Graham]
I'm a long-haired lover from Liverpool… Liverpool!

Lee
That's a great idea for an episode of Doctor Who , isn't it? Doctor Who goes into the attic and finds the elderly secret brother of the Osmonds. And that's how they kill off David Tennant. Imagine that! Played by Bill Bailey!

[David is unimpressed. Lee pretends to be Graham strangling someone, as David would like to do to Lee. Bill, acting as Graham, drapes himself on David by way of consolation and proceeds to eat David's buttonhole holly]

Stephen
Ooh… argh. You're all sick puppies. Very ashamed of you.

The church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints , the Mormons to you and me, has forbidden polygamy for 120 years, as it happens, which brings us neatly to the magical mystery tour that we call general ignorance. So, if my fab four are ready, put your fingers on your buzzers…

What are these gentlemen spelling out in Semaphore?

Viewscreens : A picture of The Beatles gesturing in Semaphore, from the cover of the album "Help".

 

 

David
[presses buzzer which does not work. He beats it a few times until it alights and plays the Wham! clip "Christmas"]

Stephen
Yes?

David
Help!

Stephen
Oh! You'd think, wouldn't you?

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

David
One of the three… Paul McCartney died and there's a replacement or something.

Stephen
You're not quite there but you, you're… you see….

David
I am a walrus ?

Stephen
No.

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the clip "Christmas "]

Stephen
Yeah?

Lee [pointing to viewscreens]
"We" is George, John is "All", Paul is "Live" and Ringo is "Yellow Submarine"

Stephen
But not in one?

Lee
Not in, no.

Stephen
No, well, okay.

Lee
That's, er, the elderly brother of The Beatles who's not allowed to be seen.

Stephen
Oh, don't start…

Lee [as Graham, scarlet-faced and bellowing]
WEALLLIVEINAYELLOWSUBMARINE!

Bill [as Graham]
[shouts] HELP! [groans] A yellow submarine. [points to his head, groaning urgently] Yellow submarine!

David
Ooh, I'll write that down.

Bill
That was very good. Well done.

Stephen
As it happened, the photographer who was commissioned to do the cover of Help! did ask them to do it but for some reason no-one liked the outcome graphically.

The panellists struggle to recover from the skit, Alan and Bill wiping away tears of laughter.

Stephen
So instead they positioned their arms in a pleasing arrangement, which ended up spelling N-U-J-V.

 

Viewscreens : Diagram of figures showing the letters N U J V in Semaphore.

Stephen
Like so. Which…

Alan
It probably meant something to them.

Stephen
Ah, well, no, it gave rise to the first, as David intimated, the first of the great conspiracy theories. This was "New Unknown John Vocalist", people said.

Alan
Oh for crying out loud.

Stephen
I know, isn't it tragic? Claiming that John had therefore died…

Alan
It's always the fans that ruin the band.

Stephen
… died and been replaced, apparently.

Lee
So John had died and been replaced and they said "We need a way of telling this thing, so let's get John back out, stuff him, doing that." Surely even conspiracy theorists would know that if John's in it, he's not dead?

Stephen
I know. Actually, "help" would have looked like:

Viewscreens : Diagram of figures showing the letters H E L P in Semaphore.

 .

Stephen
That seems perfectly acceptable to me. There you are. And so it wasn't "help", it was N U J V. So what are the other famous – if they are – or infamous Beatles…?

David
The bare foot on the Abbey Road cover.

Stephen
The bare foot on the Abbey Road cover is the absolute classic, isn't it? And what did that indicate?

Viewscreens : The Beatles crossing the road, from the "Abbey Road" cover.

Bill
Dead.

David
It's something… it's… it's…

Stephen
Well, supposedly John is said to be dressed as a preacher, Ringo as an undertaker, George as a gravedigger – why a gravedigger in denim – Paul, with the suit but no shoes, is a corpse. You might also notice that he's carrying a cigarette, but if you were to buy a modern copy of it, you'd find that cigarette had disappeared.

Viewscreens : Paul's cigarette is circled, then disappears.

 

Lee
Where's it gone?

Stephen
There. Look, it's gone!

Lee
Wow.

Stephen
Disappeared. Was there, it's gone. Anyway, photographer Robert Freeman wanted to arrange the Beatles to spell out "help" in Semaphore, didn't like the way it looked so they went for N U J V instead.

What does Puff, the Magic Dragon have in common with Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds ?

Lee
[presses buzzer, which plays the clip "Christmas "]

Stephen
Lee?

Lee
Are they both about drugs?

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

Stephen
Oh, no they're not. You think they are but neither is. [to David and Bill] Do you know Puff, the Magic Dragon ? The song?

David and Bill [singing]
Puff the magic dragon, lived by the sea… [they simultaneously taper off quickly but keep humming and mumbling to the end of the verse]

Stephen
Oh, very good.

Bill
Is that right?

Stephen
No, very good, that's excellent. Yup, that's the song, yeah. Based on the Ogden Nash rhyme called The Realio Trulio Dragon and there was a Cornell student, Leonard Lipton, and he gave it to his friend Peter Yarrow, who wrote the song. Peter Yarrow tells us quite specifically, "Even if I had had the intention of writing a song about drugs, which I may have had at a later time. I was twenty years old at Cornell in 1959, I was so square as was everyone else, drugs had not emerged. I know Puff was a good dragon, would never have had drugs around him. Now you've heard that from the mouth of the dragon's daddy, it is not about drugs".

Alan
He thinks he's the dragon's daddy. It was going well until the very end.

Stephen
Do you know the official story of Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds ?

David
Yeah. Didn't Julian come home from playgroup with a picture? – Julian Lennon, that is – and he said "What's this?" and he said "It's Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

Stephen
Brilliant. Absolutely right. The very ti…

Lee
He'd written the whole song. Bloke upstairs is going [loudly, as Graham] "That's my job!"

David [as Graham]
"They've stolen my painting!"

Lee [as Graham]
"Get me a pen!"

Stephen
Oh Christ. No, he'd done… he'd done a… ha ha ha… Little Julian…

David [as Graham]
"I've got Lucy up here!"

Stephen
Oh, God. Little Julian had painted a picture of a girl surrounded by stars and it was his friend Lucy, at playgroup. And John said [Liverpool accent] "What's that, then?" [normal voice] And he said, "That's Lucy in the sky with diamonds."

Lee
It's like the older brother, this whole line, we've been through this.

Alan [thick Liverpool accent]
"What's that, Julian, what's that?"

Stephen
According to interviews, Lennon and the other Beatles… they didn't notice that the initials spelled out…?

Bill
L.S.D.

Stephen
… L.S.D., yeah … until after the record was released.

Good. Now, finally, something seasonal at last. A man goes to the doctor, right? "Doctor doctor I can't stop singing Auld Lang Syne." So the doctor says, "I'll have to send you to the Burns unit."

Alan
Very good.

Stephen
Now, what's wrong with that joke?

Lee
Is it… absolutely terrible?

Forfeit : Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words "IT ISN'T FUNNY" .

Stephen
You see? Yeah, any other thoughts? What is Auld…

Bill
Well, no, of course it's not because Burns Night is not on New Year's Eve, is it? It's in, er, when is it?

David
25 th of January.

Bill
Twenty… yes.

Stephen
Yes.

Bill
So, of course, you wouldn't be singing Auld Land Syne on Burns Night, you'd be singing it on New Year's Eve.

Stephen
That's true…

Bill
So you'd be waiting three weeks.

Stephen
… but most people think that Auld Lang Syne was written by Robbie Burns.

Alan
[presses buzzer, which plays a short clip from "Hava Nagila"]
Auld Lang Syne wasn't even written by Burns.

Stephen
Yay! That's right. But, er… Although a lot of members of the Burns Society believe he wrote it and say that it's nonsense that he didn't, he himself said he didn't. He said he… it was a traditional song that he wrote down.

David
Really?

Stephen
Yeah, Auld Lang Syne first comes up in 1724, we see it… and that was 35 years before Burns was born. It's a very popular song, though, in all kinds of places, especially in the Far East. In Japan it's played daily to mark closing time in most large department stores. So, how did Burns sign himself? What was his name, what did he call himself?

David
Rabbie.

Stephen
Not Rabbie, funnily enough…

David
Robin.

Stephen
Robin, he did, yes, Robin and Rab and Robert but never Robbie or Rabbie, oddly enough, although everyone calls him Rabbie or Robbie Burns. And there you go. What does it mean, Auld Lang Syne ?

David
Old, long, remembrance?

Bill [mumbling]
Long… signs…

Stephen [to David]
Yeah, kind of "Old Long Since", it means "In the Old Days"… "Long time ago". And how do the words go? Anyone who can give me the lyrics gets points…

Panellists in General [singing]
Should old acquaintance be forgot… [the words fade to mumbling, then reappear] …for the sake of Auld Lang Syne [the chorus besomes very loud, even Graham's voice can be heard] For Auld Lang Syne my dear, for Auld Lang Syne …

[the panellists suddenly cease singing, leaving David to continue solo]

David [singing]
We'll take a cup ‘o kindness yet, for the sake of Auld Lang Syne.

Stephen
Oh yes, full points, full points. There we go, excellent. With all that sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll brings us the end of the QI office party and before we tell the boss what we really think of him, let's see if everyone has scored and what they have scored.

Well bless my blimey. With minus twenty-nine points, I'm afraid out last place loser tonight is Lee Mack… In third place with minus six, it's Bill Bailey… Woah, this is getting close… First appearance, second place, minus four, David Tennant! Which can only mean it's not only Christmas, it's a Blue Moon, with plus five, Alan Davies is the winner! Yes! Wow!

So we are bidding a cool Yule and a gear New Year to you all, from David, Bill, Lee, Alan and me. And tonight, for some reason, I thought I'd leave you with a joke about doctors and time travel. "Doctor, doctor, I keep seeing into the future." "And when did this start?" "Next Tuesday afternoon."

Good night and happy Christmas.

 


 

The Lord's Prayer in Latin: transcriber's note: The Lord's Prayer was read, in Latin, before each assembly at my high school. Five years of that and it's burnt in there for good.

Marmite: Not far off at all as Marmite has very high levels of Tryptophan, a precursor to Serotonin. Serotonin is a regulated endorphin, the release of which makes you feel happy. The drug M.D.M.A. ("ecstasy") overrides this regulation and allows the full release of Serotonin to the brain.

Funded by the C.I.A.: Hoffman was working for Sandoz Labs in Switzerland, looking for a drug to stimulate the circulation, so the discovery was not so much accident as occupational hazard. First synthesized in 1938, L.S.D. was experienced by Hoffman in 1943; it reached the newly-formed C.I.A. in 1947 at the start of the cold war and was researched as a tool to gather intelligence in the 1950's.

Robbie Burns' name was also discussed in 2x04.