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Series 8, Episode 2

Transcript by: Tai Craven
Notes: This transcript has not been edited for style or content, but I'm sure it's jolly good.

TRANSCRIPT

Two life-size human skeleton models stand in the background on either side of Stephen.

Stephen

Hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey hey, and welcome to the QI H-anatomy lesson, where we’re discussing heads, hands, hips, hearts, and indeed any other part of the body beginning with “H”

And joining me with scalpels at the ready are four prime specimens of the human body, so give a big hand for Sue Perkins [Audience: applause]

And a hearty cheer for Bill Bailey [Audience: Hooray!]

And a hip hip hip-replacement hooray for Gyles Brandreth [Audience: hip-hip hooray!]

Wa-hey, very good, and a hair-raising scream for Alan Davis [Audience: screams]

Alan [covers his ears]

Stephen

Wow!

Alan

Love the way it stopped dead.

Stephen

Woo! That was good. And now thanks to the handiwork of my audio elves, your buzzers should be ready and Sue goes:

Sue

[presses buzzer, which plays the recorded burst of applause] Ooh!

Stephen

I don’t know, I think it was a round of applause. And Bill goes:

Bill

[presses buzzer, which plays the recorded “Hooray!” from the audience] 

Stephen

And Gyles goes:

Gyles

[presses buzzer, which plays the audience shouting “Hip-hip hooray!”] 

Stephen

And Alan goes:

Alan

[presses buzzer, which plays the audiences piercing scream] 

Stephen

Oh, we recorded, cleverly, the audience. Isn’t that brilliant?

Sue

Yeah.

Bill

Clever.

Stephen

So, let’s start with “H”…

Bill

It’s already one of the weirdest shows I’ve ever been on.

Stephen

[laughs] Yeah, we try and do our best.

Sue

This sounds like a pensioner sitting on a, on a bag of Rice Krispies.

[presses buzzer] 

[mimes crunching in her seat]

[presses buzzer again] 

Stephen

You’re right. It’s certainly not someone under 65 sitting on a bag of Rice Krispies is it.

Gyles

Or somebody putting their fingers in the socket, do it again?

Sue [presses buzzer again] 

Gyles

[mimes being electrocuted]

Slow way to go, but nice.

Stephen

Yeah, ooh, lovely.

Sue

Easy, tiger. Easy.

Stephen

Careful.

Sue

Pleasure delay, remember?

Stephen

Well, let’s start with “H” for hands. What can you tell about someone from their palms?

Viewscreens:  Photo of palms and a finger-painted background.

Alan

Oh, how long they’re going to live, whether they’re going to get married…

Bill

The future.

Alan

… how many children they’re going to have.

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words “THE FUTURE".

Alan [pointing to Bill]

He said future, I didn’t say future, he said future.

Bill [pointing to Alan]

Hey! He started it! I just joined in.

Stephen

Maybe we’ll halve the forfeit between you.

Alan

Ohh! Can’t believe I get a forfeit for his!

Stephen

But no, empirically and obviously it’s never been proven that any such thing could ever be demonstrated by looking at your palms. But, there are things you can tell.

 Gyles

Forgive me…

Stephen

Yes?

Gyles

Did you say it’s never been proved?

Stephen

Yeah.

Gyles

But there are people who feel they have done it.

Stephen

Yeah, feeling you’ve done something is not quite the same as empirical scientific… thank god you’re out of government.

Gyle

[laughs]

Stephen

Woo!

Alan [holds up palm]

They sweat, that’s all they do.

Stephen

Well…

Alan

To varying degrees.

Stephen

But they have ridges. We’ll ignore the lines of palmistry for the moment, but there is such a thing as palm diagnosis, there is a way of finding out predispositions towards rather important and life threatening…

Gyles

Good god.

Stephen

… happiness threatening illnesses.

Bill

Oh. So it actually will spell something?

Stephen

Alphabetti…

Bill

You’re going to d… hmm?

Stephen

[laughs] you’re going to d…

Gyles

 Where do we see this? Where does this happen?

Sue

Do they swell up? Do they go red?

Stephen

The ridges of the palms. Who was responsible for discovering fingerprints? He was a very famous scientist called Francis Galton, whose name was rather ruined by the fact that he believed in eugenics, which was rather discredited. But…

 Sue

That’s always a shame.

Stephen

It is a bit, yes. But he also noted the ridges and the whorls on the palm. And then 30 years later in the 1920’s it was discovered that those with Down’s Syndrome have completely different palms from anyone else. And then by the 1960’s at least 20 conditions were shown to present themselves on the palms.

[Everyone inspects their palms]

Sue

How gullible are we, like this, Gyles and I like that. Heal us!

[Gyles and Sue, both with palms upturned and arms outstretched, lean towards Stephen]

Sue

Make us whole again.

Gyles

Tip us!

Sue

We work for food.

Stephen

[laughs]

Viewscreens:  An illustration of a palm.

Gyles

But going back if I may to the palmistry, all I will say is this, that you dismiss palmistry but there were people a hundred years ago, perhaps the wisest people of the time, who consulted palmists.

Stephen

Indeed there were, including of course, our mutual hero…

Gyles

Our mutual friend Oscar Wilde, but Mark Twain did…

Stephen

Mark Twain, yeah.

Gyles

Queen Victoria, I think did, Edward the Seventh…

Stephen

Gladstone.

Gyles

And they…

Stephen

Who was the palmist they consulted, do you know?

Gyles

They consulted a man; Oscar Wilde certainly consulted a man called Cheiro.

Stephen

That was, well, Cheiro…

Gyles

Cheiro from the Greek meaning hair.

Stephen

But his real name was?

Gyles

His real name was William Warner.

Stephen

You’re right, there he is.

Viewscreens:  Photo of William Warner.

Stephen

He was Irish.

Gyles

He was Irish, and his great-great-grandson’s brother married Elizabeth Taylor. Senator Warner. But that’s just incidental.

Stephen

That’s good to know. He also called himself Count Von Hamon.

But no, that’s a really good answer on William Warner and it’s superb to hear. Splendid answers, all round. Thank you very much. The fact is palmistry won’t tell you your future,

[One of the skeletons behind Stephen appears to reach towards him. Stephen is unaware.]

but it can tell you your past in the form of genetic markers that were set down

[The skeleton leans closer and appears to tickle Stephen. The audience starts to laugh.]

while you were in the… womb. [looks at Alan, suspiciously]

Somebody playing with me [he puts his cards down and turns around]

There is a piece of… wire [pulls on a wire connecting Alan to the skeletons hand]

Stephen

I’ve been goosed by the palm of a skeleton.

Alan [wiggles skeleton hand back and forth]

I’ve been sitting here for ten minutes thinking, when shall I do it, when shall I do it?

Stephen

Thank you.

Alan

They’re talking about palms, it should be now, it should be now! Ha-hey!

[Alan yanks on the wire and the skeleton topples over. He jumps up to go and fix it]

Stephen

You see, it had to end… oh dear. Oh dear.

Alan [ventriloquizing with the skeletons disembodied skull] Sorry!

Bill

Keith, Keith, man. Me head’s come off.

Alan [putting the skull back onto the skeleton]

Stephen

Oh my heavens.

Alan

Just… carry on, carry on.

Sue

They actually look a little bit like The Cheeky Girls.

Stephen [after a thoughtful pause]

They do. Yes.

Answer me another question. Marcel Proust.

Bill

À la recherche du temps perdu.

Stephen

Very good. Now, why did Marcel Proust have such a limp handshake?

Viewscreens:  Photo of Marcel Proust.

.

Stephen

There he is. There’s Marcel.

Alan

He hasn’t slept for about five years.

Sue [presses buzzer, mimes sitting on Rice Krispies]

See, I feel bad saying this but I know he, he was a known homosexual.

Stephen

He was well gay.

Sue

He was well gay. But like, I don’t want to say that he had the limp handshake because he was gay. It’s like saying he loved to buy scatter cushions and just throw them around the gaff of a weekend.

Stephen

[laughs]

Sue

I mean it seems a really, you know, reductive thing to say. But I don’t know if it’s relate…

Stephen

There are, there are  types of gay who go round in muscle vests and are very butch, and there are types of gay, like Marcel, who are limp wristed and who like ornament and design. He famously wrote only in a cork-lined room, he was very sensitive and so on. But…

Bill

What, he was very buoyant?

Stephen

Buoyant [laughs] highly buoyant. He was very buoyant.

Sue

Anytime, he could set sail.

Bill

He could write anywhere in the world. Oceans, anywhere.

Gyles [presses buzzer]

I’m going to offer a thought. Ok?

Bill

Right.

Gyles

He, being gay, spent a lot of time in North Africa.

Sue [imitates Gyles]

North Africahh.

Gyles [with his index finger raised in mid-air]

One of the things I discovered when I spent time in Africa…

Sue

Are you coming out? Is this a coming out speech?

Cause if it is that that’ll be the picture [raises her finger and points in imitation] so just watch out.

Gyles

Why not, tonight could be the night, you’re right.

Bill

It could be the night.

Sue

I know your party is behind you.

Stephen

[laughs]

Yes, Gyles?

Gyles

I’m going to suggest this, when I went to Africa I was quite disconcerted to find that traditionally the African handshake is not simply very soft, but it lingers.

[to Sue] Shake my hand.

Sue

Ohh, it’s just an excuse… again.

Gyles

No, no.

Sue

The injunction Gyles, the injunction.

Bill

Don’t touch him!

Gyles We shake hands like this, [shaking Sue’s hand] in Europe we shake hands like that. I think in Africa we shake hands like this [lightly holds Sue’s fingertips] and we hold the hand.

Sue

Stop

Gyles

I have a lot of experience of this.

Sue

Stop it

Gyles

In Africa…

Sue

He’s glued me, I can’t get out.

Gyles

I don’t wish to name drop but I went to interview Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and he held my hand like this for a long, long time.

Sue [struggling to get free]

Did he?

Bill

And he was saying to his aide, who is this again?

Gyles

I’m thinking that Marcel Proust spent time in North Africa and rather liked this tradition and brought it back with him to Paris.

Sue [is finally released from the handshake; exaggeratedly swings her arm away in relief]

Stephen

It’s an interesting idea, I have no evidence that Proust went; I know that André Gide went to Northern Africa.

Gyles

Oh, that’s who I’m thinking of. Oh. [puts his head in his hand]

Stephen

You’re thinking of André Gide.

Sue

You sweated on my hand for that!

Stephen

André Gide was out and proud. He was probably the man who invented the word homosexual; as it were, in his book Corydon. And he was out. Marcel as not out. Marcel was embarrassed and ashamed of being gay, and indeed he went to brothels to try and cure himself of his…

Gyles

Oh, we’ve all tried that.

Stephen

[laughs] You heard it here first, folks.

Sue [imitates Gyles]

“The North Africans hold hands like that, my darling.”

Stephen

It was a sort of double bluff is the only way I can explain it. He had a friend; a Romanian count who said to him, look, I can teach you how to do a more manly handshake, then people won’t think that you’re an ‘invert’, as the word was, then.

Alan

Invert.

Stephen

Invert, yeah.

Alan

That was a gayer?

Stephen

A ‘gayer’, yeah. And Marcel Proust said no, if I do that people will think I’m trying to look straight. Whereas if I confidently am all limp. 

Gyles

It’s a double bluff.

Stephen

It’s a double bluff.

Bill

Good lord. Do you know I’ve been spending too much time just drinking cider and… I should have been reading the novels of Proust. I feel I’ve missed out.

Stephen

Well he’s a famous, it’s famous for people never actually having read him, isn’t he.

Gyles

Has anybody finished it?

Sue

Never.

Stephen

It’s enormously long. There’s a famous scene that opens in Du côté de chez Swann. What scene?

Gyles

The biscuit scene.

Stephen

Describe it?

Gyles

I can’t describe it. But it is to do with…

Sue

Does it involve touching? [hold hands up defensively]

Gyles

It could. 

Bill

Don’t touch him!

Gyles

If you want to be the little biscuit?

Sue [crosses arms over her chest]

I don’t want to be your little biscuit.

Gyles

Madeleine.

Sue [panicky]

I don’t want to be your madeleine.

Gyles

The little madeleine.

Sue

No, I don’t want to.

Gyles

The smell of the madeleine evokes for him always, it takes him back to the past.

Stephen

Yeah, the whole book springs from one moment, it’s an epiphanic moment where he’s, the narrator has a cup of tea, and he dips a biscuit in it, a little madeleine, you know the scallop shaped biscuits?

Bill

Ohh…

Stephen

He dips it in and he’s just bringing the tea and the biscuit to his lips, he gets the smell of the tea and the biscuit, and the entire world of this seven volume novel comes into his head, it evokes a memory, you know the way smells do, you get a smell and it takes you…

Bill

Wait a minute, are you trying to say this whole thing is based on a dunking incident?

Stephen

Yes, exactly. That is, you will find often, people referring to, that was my ‘madeleine moment’. Where they suddenly something triggered a whole series of memories they never knew they had.

Gyles

The joy is you don’t need to read the book, you just need to buy the biscuit, dunk [sniffs] Ah! Yes the whole thing is…

Stephen

That worked for him because he, as a child, sat with his aunt and had biscuits.

 Sue

So we can do it with a Hobnob?

Stephen

It might be a Hobnob for you; it might be the smell of who knows what for you, Bill.

Bill

Oh right, the inside of a tennis ball, or something.

Stephen

Yeah, absolutely.

Alan

Inside of a tennis ball?

Bill

Inside of a tennis ball.

Stephen

It’s got a very rubbery smell.

Sue

Can you just slit it and [mimes sniffing the opened tennis ball] work it. It’s good.

Bill

Oh-ho! [mimes puffing on a tennis ball]

Alan

Why Don't You...? [mimes tennis ball puppets] Just bringing it back to my level for a moment. Talking tennis balls and Why Don't You...? was a highlight of my childhood. I may write a seven volume novel about it.

Stephen

To handshakes, we said that palms don’t reveal personality, do handshakes?

Viewscreens:  Various photos of handshakes.

Alan

I don’t like a feeble handshake, gives me the creeps.

Bill

No, that’s not right, is it.

Sue

I don’t like a sweaty hand, that’s the worst.

Alan

I don’t like it when there’s something left on your hand after you’ve...

Sue

Residue.

Stephen

I don’t like the other hand coming in to clasp either. The second thing…

Bill

Oh, the clasper.

Sue

That’s a power thing. Isn’t that like a dominance thing?

Gyles

It is, totally.

Sue [gruff]

Me, man.

Gyles

But when you see people holding hands, the dominant figure, if you see them walking down the street, the dominant figure is the figure with the hand on the outside.

[to Sue] Hold my hand. Close your eyes and hold my hand.

Sue

Not again, Gyles.

Bill

Don’t do it!

Gyles

This is over in a moment, just take my hand. [holds out his hand]

Sue

[turns her head away from Gyles]

I’m looking away.

[puts hand toward his, limply, but does not hold it]

Gyles

No you do it, you’ve got to take my hand.

Sue

[reluctantly takes his hand, placing it under his]

Gyles

You let me dominate you. You chose, you chose.

Stephen

Whoa! Sue you’ve let the sisters down!

Gyles

[still holding Sue’s hand]

You chose, you chose, you chose.

Sue

What do you want! Do you want me to be submissive, or dominant, I mean with…

Stop stroking the under-thing of it! [smacks Gyles hand and reels away]

Stephen

[laughs]

Sue

Who does that? [tickles the underneath of her hand]

He did the inverted crab.

Gyles [defensively]

You said you liked it. Earlier you said you liked it.

Sue

No. That was the inverted…

Stephen

Oh god. Oh god, they’re having a row.

Sue

I’ve now got two…

Bill

Did it tickle? The crazy spider?

Sue

It did. He did do the crazy spider.

Stephen

Well, though handshakes do tell us a lot, don’t they, I mean individually we instinctively respond, as we’ve just shown, to handshakes that repel us.

Alan

I don’t like a cruncher.

Stephen

Exactly, well Paul Flynn the labour MP in Wales actually suggested that people who gave really strong handshakes should be charged for assault.

Sue

He’s not a busy man is he.

Stephen

No. So anyway Marcel Proust used a limp handshake because he wanted to conceal the fact that he was gay in an elaborate kind of double bluff. Now I want you to imagine you’ve been transported to the 19th century and the trip has given you a banging headache. You want to have a hole drilled in your head to get rid of the pain and the pressure, so where’s the best place to have it?

Viewscreens:  Illustration ’Dr Syntax with a Blue Stocking Beauty’ by Thomas Rowlandson

Bill

Um.

Sue

A trepanning?

Alan

[pointing to top of head]

Bill

Germany?

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words “JUST HERE".

Alan

[laughing, still pointing to the top of his head]

I’m slightly worried they can now read my mind, these people.

Stephen

[laughing]

Exactly, I suppose it is.

Alan

It is the eighth series I suppose.

Stephen

It basically is. Germany you said, no Germany probably not the best place…

Alan [still pointing to the top of his head]

Don’t they trepan in the top?

Stephen

But literally where is the best place to go, you’re in the 19th century should it be Europe, should it be America?

Gyles

Harley St.

Stephen

Harley St was a very bad place to go.

Sue

Um, they would go to…

Alan

Margate.

Sue

France?

Bill

Trepanning, isn’t it in Africa they trepan.

Stephen

Africa, probably a better bet that Harley St. But it seems that Papua New Guinea would probably be the best bet. In the 19th century if you had this, what’s it called again, you used the word?

Sue

Trepanning.

Stephen

Trepanning, yeah, 78 per cent of those who had it done in London and the West died.

Sue

From blood poisoning?

Stephen

But in Papua New Guinea where… yes, from cross infections.

Alan

Why did people keep going, that’s incredible. Eight out of ten people die. I’m up for it. My head’s terrible.

Stephen

Yeah, but it wasn’t because they had a hole drilled in their head it was because they got infected.

Gyles

What was it for, the trepanning?

Stephen

Well, to relieve pressure supposedly, earlier, it’s the original form of surgery as far as we know from archaeology. The oldest form that ever there was.

Viewscreens:  Photos of skulls.

And we know that it was, well, I won’t say successful, we know there wasn’t a failure there’s a way of knowing that it didn’t kill people, which is?

Gyles

Some of them survived?

Sue

A little bit of tissue grows.

Stephen

Yeah, you see the skull has completely re-healed you see because people have lived for years afterwards.

Sue

Did they used to put coins in the hole and things like that, they used to put stuff, 'cause you’re left with a big gaping hole, you do want to seal it.

Stephen

You are, yeah.

Bill

You could put like a dispenser and turn your head in to a Pez machine.

[mimes dispensing and eating Pez from his head]

Sue

Just press your ear.

Stephen

Originally in older cultures, you’d clamp the victims head between your legs…

[leans back with legs parted and gestures towards himself]

Alan

What are you doing?

[gives Stephen a look up and down]

Stephen

Ay ay!

Alan

[laughs, shakes his head]

Stephen

You’d just get a stone, a piece of obsidian or flint, and you’d scrape onto the scalp until grooves and grooves, and you can see this obviously in old skulls, and here…

Viewscreens:  Painting ‘Head Operation’ by David Teniers the Younger.

Sue

He’s not happy about that.

Stephen

He’s not happy.

Bill [laughs at the painting]

Stephen

But, Prince Rupert, nephew of Charles the first, played by Timothy Dalton in the film Cromwell

Sue

Ah, now I remember.

Stephen

Yes, you see. Ah, yeah he had a trepanning, he had terrible headaches. But there was Prince Philip of Nassau in the 1590’s. In 1591 alone he was trepanned 27 times.

Sue

His head would look like a teabag he’d be so perforated.

Stephen

Yeah, his head would look like a colander, frankly, wouldn’t it. But it didn’t kill him. In fact he went on later to win a drinking competition against someone who died…

Sue

[mimes holding an empty glass upside down above her head]

Stephen

…from drinking too much and he carried on drinking. So the 27 trepans in one year…

Alan

It all came pouring out of his head [mimes a fountain spurting from the holes in his head]

Sue

Beer hair.

Stephen

The point is in New Guinea they used found sharp things to do the hole, and then poured coconut milk over it, which is sterile, whereas in the 19th century in Britain they were in hospitals where all kinds of cross infections were possible and it was a lot more dangerous for that reason.

Viewscreens:  Photo of surgical instrument set and skulls.

Stephen

But what about open, do you know about open craniotomies? Open brain surgery where someone is conscious? Why would you want someone to be awake while you operated? 

Sue

So you know that they can use their fingers and their senses?

Stephen

That’s right, so you know you’re not, because we still know so little about the brain that there is every chance that you’re an inch out in where you’re operating and you can ruin a speech centre or a motion centre.

Alan [says something unintelligible and laughs to himself]

Stephen

There’s a man called Adcock, Eddie Adcock, I think he’s name was, he’s quite a senior figure in the world of Bluegrass music. He had a hand tremor and they decided to do one of these conscious craniotomies on him, and we actually have film of it, he plays the banjo all the way through…

Sue

No way. [imitates sound of banjo]

Stephen

…to check that they’re no interfering with his… so can we see Mr Adcock? There he is.

Viewscreens: Video of Eddie Adcock undergoing surgery while playing his banjo.

Stephen

It’s pretty astonishing isn’t it? Excellent. 

Bill

That is mental.

Alan

I saw in Star Trek they took Spock’s brain clean out.

Stephen

Yeah.

Alan

And replaced it with another one. And they did it all, he lay on his back, and they put a kind of board over his head and the man stood behind him going [mimes fiddling] “Right, the brain’s out now.” And then the new brain’s in, and then they took the board up and his head was absolutely fine.

Stephen

The fact is trepanning is the oldest known form of surgery and in the 19th century you were better off having it done in the jungles of Papua New Guinea than in the hospitals of London.

From holey heads to holy heads, now can you tell me where the halo should go on this saint?

Viewscreens: Painting ‘St. Valerie and St. Martial’ by Giovanni Antonio Galli.

Sue

Ooh.

Stephen

See that her head is separated from her body.

Bill

Oh I see, it’s gone. She’s holding it.

Alan

Looks like the fellow with the bead’s done it by accident.

[throws arms up in horror]

“Oh god, it’s come off!”

Bill

And the little bloke behind him’s going [shrugs] “I told you, I told you.”

Stephen

She asked for half a kilo of Roquefort and he was clumsy with his cheese cutter.

Alan

“I’m so sorry.”

Gyles

Does it depend on where we think her soul was?

Stephen

Well, yes, it’s up to the artist but it’s a really moot point. Do you put it over…

Sue

The stump?

Gyles

Or maybe two? Could she have two?

Stephen

That might have been a much…

Gyles

It would have been a diplomatic solution wouldn’t it.

Stephen

Some artists depicted her with it over the stump as it were, where her head was and others, where her head is now, in a sort of ring, an aureole. There are different names for halos, do you know any others?

Sue

Nimbus.

Stephen

Nimbus is a good name.

Gyles

Gloriole.

Stephen

Glori-‘ole is one.

Sue [laughs]

Glori-‘ole.

Gyles

No, gloriole, we say gloriole.

Stephen [laughs]

Do we? It’s a shame because glori-‘ole is somehow better, I don’t know why.

Gyles

[looks into the camera, dumbfounded]

Gloriole sounds more like a biscuit.

Stephen  

Describe the pope’s glori-‘ole.

Gyles

Ah.

Sue

Ah, now I’ve seen this, as a Catholic you’re, it’s something you have to look at.

Alan

[hunched over with laughter]

I’ve seen it online.

Sue

Some are square.

Stephen  

Some do have square halos, you’re right.

Sue

Pope Gregory had a square glori-‘ole.

Stephen  

My goodness you’re getting points there.

Sue

I was a catholic.

Stephen

Yes you’re absolutely right, he was the first Pope, Gregory the Great, there are many Gregory’s obviously, to declare that he should have a nimbus, he should have a  glori-‘ole.

Gyles

Gloriole.

Stephen

But glory-‘ole is so much funnier. You don’t, you’re too innocent to know what a gloryhole is?

Gyles

Oh, I see, is it a rude joke.

Stephen

Oh, sweet, sweet boy.

Sue

So can you have any shape glory-‘ole? Can you have some square ones and…

Gyles

Triangular ones.

Stephen

Triangular ones for?

Sue

Have you got a triangular glory-‘ole?

Bill

A triangular glory-‘ole? Oh, somebody’s shoved a Toblerone through it.

Stephen

Whoa! Wow.

Gyles

If one is allowed to be a little bit rude, there is a church in Mexico that people visit to, in order to see the glory-‘ole of St Joseph, father of our Lord; nominally, where his private part has a little halo above it.

Stephen

Well, being Jewish we would have had the real halo removed so, I suppose, it makes sense.

Sue

The Moyle would have come and removed, would have taken that halo off.

Bill

It was known as the ring of confidence. How extraordinary, really, and is that common?

Gyles

It’s on his member.

Sue

So like a sort of angelic Prince Albert.

Gyles

Whatever that may be, possibly.

Stephen

One would assume that it is a local pre-Christian cult idea, I mean for example in Nigeria, there are parts where it used to be common as a kind of handshake to touch, in some tribes, to touch the penis of the person…

Sue [to Giles]

Don’t do it.

Stephen

[laughs]

Gyles

I didn’t realise that was a possibility, but how interesting.

Stephen

So I’m sure there may well have been some Mayan or Aztec thing in…

Gyles

I feel I’ve seen paintings with animals with halos.

Stephen

Oh, the oxen in the stall in the nativity for example. Or the donkey on which Christ rode into Jerusalem on.

Gyles

Yeah, donkeys can have them.

Viewscreens: Painting ‘Martyrdom of St. Denis’ by Leon Bonnat.

Sue

Ooh, who’s that fellow?

Stephen

Oh look, there we are there’s, another one.

Bill

There’s a sparkler.

Stephen

That’s St. Denis the patron saint of?

Sue

There’s a sparkler in his head.

Bill

There’s a sparkler in his head.

Stephen

He’s got a sparkler in his head as well as a halo on his decapitated head. St. Denis is the patron saint of Paris. And indeed headaches.

Alan

It’s the same fellow going [holds arms out in alarm] “I’ve done it again.”

Stephen

Yes it is. It seems to be.

Alan

“It’s come clean off! I told you.”

Stephen

“That’s the second time this week!”

Bill

It keeps happening.

Alan

“I’m so clumsy! Swinging the thing around, not thinking.” [mimes accidentally decapitating]

Bill

He’s a clumsy barber, isn’t he. “Just give you a little trim…. [mimes slitting throat] Oh, no. Oh, sorry”

Alan

“That’s why I’ve got such a long beard, I don’t trust myself.”

Sue

And there’s a member of the Chippendales, just looking on.

Stephen

Yes, exactly. Which is always nice.

Sue

Lovely. Lovely display.

Stephen [slowly, deliberately]

What’s not to like.

Sue [laughs]

Yeah.

Stephen

So, good. Excellent. When a saint has his head chopped off his main worry seems to be knowing where to put his halo.

Now how would you know if you had a shrunken head?

Viewscreens: Photo of Stephen with a tiny head on top of his normal body.

Stephen

I’m going to give you some.

[Stephen hands two shrunken heads to Alan, who hands one to Bill]

Bill [reluctant to even touch it]

Ohh!

Sue

Ohh! Is it real?

Stephen

Well, that’s my question, how can you tell whether you have an authentic shrunken head…

[tosses a head across the desk to Gyles, who catches it]

Gyles

Eurgh!

Bill  

Oh I see. How can you tell that you actually have a shrunken head yourself?

Stephen

[tosses a head to Sue, who catches it]

Sue

Does it come with a certificate?

Stephen

Well no, that you could probably tell.

Bill

That’d be easy…

Stephen [points to viewscreen]

There, like me.

Bill

‘Cause there we are.

Sue

Oh. Is one of these real?

Stephen

Ah, well, what do you know about shrunken heads? Where would you get one? There’s some real ones.

Viewscreens: Photo of authentic shrunken heads.

Sue

Ecuador. Peru.

Stephen

Ecuador is exactly right. This is brilliant, you’re on fire. That is impressive. Do you know the name of the tribe?

Sue

No. No.

Stephen

It’s the Shuar people.

Sue

Shuar.

Stephen

Shuar people, who are a clan…

Bill

Yeah. The Shrunkies.

Stephen

…of the Jívaro tribe. In exactly the area…

Sue [laughs]

The Shrunkies?

Stephen

…exactly the area.

Gyles [holds his shrunken head up by its string]

Oh look, you put this in the back of your car.

Stephen

Yay! You might.

Sue [laughs]

So you think this is an early nodding dog?

Gyles [bounces the head]

Yes.

Alan

That feels like horse hair or something to me.

Bill

Yeah, no, it doesn’t feel…

Sue

It smells.

Gyles

Are they still doing it?

Stephen

Well, no not officially it’s against the law, but in every Ripley’s Believe It Or Not museum there’s at least one. There’s 29 by our count. [to Alan] Oh, that’s lovely.

Alan [using his head as a finger puppet which skitters across the desk and jumps onto the buzzer, which makes the sound of the audiences recorded scream]

Stephen

Give me a recipe, how would you do it?

Bill

How would you actually…

Stephen

How would you shrink a head?

Alan

Put it in the washing machine on very high heat.

Sue

That would do it.

Stephen

So, I mean that is a normal human head but it’s reduced to the size of a…

Sue

You’ve got to take the skull out.

Stephen

Those are real size.

Alan

You’d have to take all the skin off someone wouldn’t you?

Stephen

 

You’d  take all the skin off in one go, right, including the hair, throw away the skull and the eyes into a river, if you’re a Shuar tribesman. So you’ve got the skin, alright, you’ve got the whole skin, then you turn it inside out and you scrape it.

Alan [Alan’s head presses the buzzer, which screams]

Bill

Nice.

Stephen

I didn’t invent this, yeah, then you get it back the right way again, keeping all the features as perfect as you can…

Alan

Much like skinning a rabbit.

Stephen

… yeah, then you bind the lips together, you sew them together, and sew the eyelids, right, then you pop in hot stones and sand, right…

Alan

To give it shape?

Stephen

Heat it up, then you simmer it.

Sue

I’m making note of this. [gets pen and notebook out] How long do you simmer it for?

Stephen

Gas mark two, my darling.

Sue

Bay leaf?

Stephen

Yeah, a Bay leaf, always. Never go wrong with that. And then you kipper it, you smoke it essentially. And then voilà.

Gyles

To what purpose?

Stephen

Well, they’re a pretty ferocious group of people, these Shuar and they’re the ones who are famous for dipping…

Viewscreens: Photo of a group of Shuar people.

Gyles

Oh! For the man with the molten lava? Are these, is this the cruel, the cruellest people in the history of the world?

Stephen

Well, they’re certainly pretty cruel.

Gyles

I remember the teacher who taught us this, he was pretty vicious himself.

Stephen

Right.

Gyles

And there was a Spanish general who tried to tame this Shuar tribe, and they had the last laugh. They took him, they pulled open his mouth, they poured molten gold down his gullet until his bowels burst.

Stephen

That is exactly right, and it sounds like a good repayment for his greed for gold.

Gyles

Indeed it was, that’s why they used gold.

Stephen

Yeah, indeed.  And…

Gyles

Why are they so unpleasant?

Stephen

…they are also the tribe famous for dipping darts in Curare, the poison beloved of detective writers.

Bill

Curare, yes. Oh.

Sue

That’s the one that gets your nervous system, central nervous system.

Stephen

Absolutely.

Sue [at viewscreens]

They’ve got lovely bobble hats.

Stephen

They’re lovely, it’s a good look.

Stephen

Yours are not human, they are goat or alpaca. And these are available in Ecuador as tourist knickknacks and are quite expensive.

 Viewscreens: Photo of imitation shrunken heads.

Bill

Oh I see, so that’s a goat’s face.  [sniffs the head closely]

Stephen

Well, at least goat skin. And you can usually tell one that’s done by either someone imitating the tribesman, is that the lips are too neatly sewn up, in the originals they’re really pretty basic.

Bill

Yeah.

Alan

And is it to preserve relatives or?

Stephen

It’s a kind of gleeful, joyous, gloating “I own you, I’ve reduced you.”

Sue

To take the spirit out.

Gyles

But it’s not a compliment, it’s not a “Granny’s gone, let’s keep her at the end of the bed.”

Viewscreens: Photo of authentic shrunken heads.

Stephen

Oh, no no.

Alan [asks his head]

“What do you really think about Uncle Bill, Grandma?”

Bill [in shrunken head voice]

“I hated him, I’ve always hated him.”

Stephen

If you hand them back I’ve got another little experiment for you to…

[Bill throws the head to Stephen]

Oh thank you so much. I’ve got something else to give you here. All we want you do here, I’m going to hand these, these blank two pound coins.

 Viewscreens: Photo of a blank two pound coin flanked by two photos of the Queen.

[Stephen hands out cardboard circles]

Just try and draw the queen’s head as she is on the coin.

Bill

The queens head, on… OK.

Stephen

Is she wearing a crown, is she, you know, just an outline.

[All put their heads down and start drawing]

Alan

Which way does she look? No one knows. Anybody else? The left…

Stephen

No, no. Don’t ask for help. Don’t… Oi! Alan Davies, I’m going to take points away if you cheat.

Alan

How do you think I got through school? I asked for help.

Stephen [laughs]

Is everyone done?

Sue

Yep.

Gyles

Yes.

Alan

She looks like Lenny Henry on mine, unfortunately.

Stephen

Well that’s alright.

Bill

OK, done.

Stephen

OK, when Alan’s done you all hold up yours.

Alan [laughs]

I like it.

Sue [holds up her coin]

Mine looks like a triceratops.

Stephen

Let’s have a look at yours, there?

[Alan and Bill hold up their coins]

Sue [laughs]

Stephen

And yours, extraordinary.

[Gyles holds up his coin]

Stephen

The point is, you’ve all, especially Bill somehow, you’ve all made the fundamental error that everybody makes in thinking she faces left. She faces right.

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash a picture of a two pound coin with the Queen facing left, and a cross through it.

Alan [points to Bill]

You said left!

[laughs]

Sorry? It’s too late now.

Stephen

Because most people think that. 88 per cent of people think the Queen faces left on her coins.

Alan [pointedly, to Bill]

88 per cent.

Stephen

On every coin that ever was stamped since she was Queen, it’s always faced the right.

Alan

Never ask for help.

Gyles

Do they take it in turns? Did her father face the other way?

Stephen

Yes, they alternate.

Gyles

And Prince Charles, should he be…

Stephen

Yes, will…

Sue

Straight. He’s full on with the ears like that. [makes Charles-like ears with her hands]

Stephen

… they alternate. They’ve alternated since Charles the Second.

Bill

Does she not face the other way on the paper money?

Stephen

No, on the stamp.

Bill

On the stamp, oh right.

Stephen

That’s one theory…

Alan [Frisbees his coin out into the audience]

Bill

Whoa!

Gyles

Hey!

Stephen

One theory as to why 88 per cent of people seem to think she faces left, is because she does on the definitive edition of the stamps, which you can, we can see here.

Viewscreens: picture of rows of stamps.

Sue

Ah, yeah.

Stephen

We’re all familiar with that image. But on the other hand that’s true in Denmark, Queen Margrethe, they also think she faces left, but on the stamp she looks out. On the coin, she looks to the right, but if you ask a Dane which way she faces on their coins they will say as most of us would, left.

It’s something to do probably with right handedness, we just picture a profile that way, it just. It’s really strange, because we handle these things every day, unless you’re Gyles, you have someone to do it for you. It’s bizarre that we just don’t notice, isn’t it.

Bill

So that’s all coins is it?

Stephen

All coins with the Queens head on, ever since…

Bill

The beginning of time?

Stephen

… she came to the throne. No, no, it alternates between monarchs. So her father faced left.

Bill

Oh, I see.

Stephen

And his father George the Fifth not counting the, because the abdication was a, was a wrinkle. But he, George the Sixth…

Bill

So if you could get all the coins of all the monarchs together, alternating monarchs and could flick through them, they’d be [mimes going through a flipbook, turning to the left and right]

Stephen

It would, it would be like a tennis match. It would be exhausting.

So, the Queen has always faced to the right on all her British coins of her reign and yet tests have shown that up to 88 per cent of people draw her facing the other way.

Now, what happens if you try and comb a hairy ball?

Sue

Ask Bill.

Stephen

Ask Bill.

Viewscreens: picture of a dandelion

 

Bill [looks bemused]

Stephen

Bill, what happens when you try and comb a hairy ball? Have a hairy ball.

[throws a ball covered in grey fur to Bill, who catches it]

Bill

You’d have to focus. You have to concentrate and your hand mustn’t slip at any time.

Stephen [throws a furry red ball to Alan, who catches it and begins combing it]

Sue

You can’t do it?

Stephen [throws Sue and Gyles each a ball]

Well you can sort of obviously have a combing action.

Bill

Why would you do this? Why are we doing this?

Stephen

Because it’s an interesting mathematical topographical…

Bill

Look at this, [fluffing little peaks into his ball] it’s Don King.

Stephen

Yay!

I just want you to comb it so that it all lies…

Bill

It’s all coming out.

Stephen

…in the same direction, perfectly combed.

Bill

[tapping shed fur out of his comb] Oh I see.

Sue

[her ball is also shedding as she combs it] Ooh!

Bill

So you can’t actually…

Alan

Keep going round and round, round and round, [turning ball and combing]

Bill

Keeps going round and round, comb a hairy ball…

Sue

So you can’t actually do it?

Stephen

The point is, there is a mathematical principal, a trichoglyph is bound to occur, which is like a cowlick, like a crown, you know where your crown sticks out…

Bill [smoothing his ball]

Oh, I see, when it all goes into one little bit, it’ll stick up like that.

Stephen

Yeah, like a, twirls. It’s actually like a cyclone, if it was the earth, it would be a cyclone.

Sue

Mine looks like Anne Robinson.

Viewscreens: picture of the crown of a person’s head.

Stephen

There it is on a man’s head.

Bill

Oh I see, right, yeah.

Sue

So this is a mathematical.

Stephen

It’s a mathematical thing that you can’t, yeah, on a, if it was a donut or bagel shape, a torus, you could comb it all the way around and facing the same direction without this twirl. But it’s because it’s a sphere you have it. And so, as it were, in theory, every planet, even if it weren’t going around, would have a cyclone in it.

Alan [methodically combing two peaks on the top of his ball]

Stephen

Which is what that sort of is, that swirl.

Gyles

Which is why there are no hairy planets.

Stephen

Why there are no hairy planets. Yeah.

Gyles

It’s an impossibility.

Stephen

Do you have…

[looks over at Alan, who is still intently styling his ball]

Very nice.

Alan [hold his ball aloft]

Bill

Look at that, wow.

Stephen

Some people have double crowns, you know, your barber will say “Oh, you’ve got a double crown.”

Alan [the fur on his ball has peeled away, revealing the inside. He looks at it, disgusted]

Bill

Eurgh!

Stephen

Oh, now, Alan!

Alan

[aims his comb at the bald part of the ball]

I’m going to do some trepanning.

Stephen

Ohh!

Alan

[drives the comb right into the centre of the ball, and holds it aloft]

Stephen

And now really, to keep thematic you’ve got to shrink it.

Alan

Yeah, turn it inside out and scrape it

Sue

I’ve got the recipe if you want it.

Stephen

Yes, you noted it down.

Now an interesting thing about this cowlick is that on most people, what do you think, clockwise or anticlockwise? Most men?

Bill

Clockwise.

Sue

Clockwise.

Stephen

Clockwise, right. Only 8 per cent of men have an anti-clockwise one. But, 30 per cent of gay men have an anti-clockwise one.

Sue

Is that a double bluff, Proustian stylie? Deliberately combing it around?

Stephen

No it’s, you can’t control it. You don’t. You’re born with it, it goes one way or it goes the other, from birth. There’s no, you can’t force it the other way. It’s almost as if it’s a physiological proof, at least of a certain percentage of gay people.

Gyles

Nature’s assigned it?

Stephen

Yeah, so you and your conservative party would go “Oh no, we mustn’t have lessons in being gay or it’ll turn everybody gay.” It’s all there in the hair.

Gyles

This is why most of my friends have got double crowns. ‘Cause they’re Tommy Two-ways.

Stephen

[laughs] Tommy Two-ways?

So the comb over we covered, what’s extraordinary about the comb over…

Viewscreens: Photo of Bobby Charlton.

Ooh, look there’s a lovely… Historically, in America it was patented.

Bill [combing his own hair]

Stephen

Patent number 4022227, for how to disguise baldness by combing over your hair. So if anybody, if Robert Robinson…

[sees Bill combing over his hair]

Yeah! You are breach of someone, you’ll be sued.

Bill [combing more and more hair onto the top of his head]

Stephen

Wow! Oh my god.

 Bill

[combing from the nape of his neck, all the way around his head]

Sue

Yeah!

Bill

Oh yeah.

Sue

That is some sexy stuff there.

Gyles

Butch, and gay.

Bill

I’m a Tommy Two-ways. [combs to the left] I can go this way. Actually I can get it to go all the way around [starts combing from the back of his head and over his ear]

Stephen

Oh, you’re a Thelma Three-ways.

Bill

I’m a Thelma… [combs hair practically onto his face]

Stephen

Oh, you’ve done it all now.

Sue

Oh that’s nice. Over the ear is lovely.

Bill

How’s that?

Sue

Delicate, delicate.

Alan

[having ripped the remaining fur off his ball, hands it to Bill, who drapes it over his head]

Bill

[Scottish accent] Hello, I’m the constituent for Stoneleigh.

Stephen

Oh, heavens above.

Bill

I’m the Tory MP and homosexuality is a disease. Can be cured by excessive combing. Out vile demon! Out vile demon! [frantically combing the fur]

Stephen

Fabulous.

Bill

It’s a terrible curse!

Stephen

Right, hand them back. Hand them back.

[All hand their fur balls back, except Bill, who flings the fur at Stephen and starts fixing his hair]

Stephen [to Alan]

You… are in trouble.

Alan

I’m always in trouble.

Stephen

Yes, you are.

Alan

All my life.

Stephen

Now what can you tell me about the Chinese hula hoopla?

Viewscreens: Picture of two girls hula hooping in front of the Chinese flag.

Alan

I know that they do massive demonstrations of it with thousands of people doing it.

Stephen

With ribbons of various kinds and so on. But there was a particular time…

Alan

Tiananmen Square.

Stephen

I mean, what is so famous about the hula hoop in our culture, or at least in the west?

Alan

Comes in four flavours.

Gyles

1958.

Stephen

1958, tell us about 1958.

Gyles

Well, 1957 I got my Davy Crockett hat,

Stephen

Right.

Gyles

And 1958 I got my first hula hoop.

Stephen

And that was the year of the hula hoop.

Gyles

It was the year of the hula hoop, and you should’ve seen me, I was called Dizzy Hips Gyles. [swings his hips in his seat]

Sue [looks at Gyles hips]

Stephen

Oh good god.

Gyles

I’m doing it.

Stephen

Yeah, but the whole thing is extraordinary because it was a one year thing, it was a huge craze, I mean there, we all remember various toy crazes perhaps…

Alan [playing with his comb, which clatters onto the desk and catches Stephen’s attention]

…and game crazes when we were younger but this one was the mother of…

Alan [lifts the lid on his desk and wedges the comb under it, trying to make it flip up. It doesn’t, and the lid just slams] Ohh…

[to Stephen] Sorry.

[crosses arms, smiles sheepishly]

Stephen

This one was the mother of them all, and the extraordinary thing about it was it disappeared as fast as it came.

Gyles

And it was a disaster, my uncle put money into it ‘cause it was so big, and lost it all. The hula hoop the greatest craze in the history of the world actually failed to make any money. Everyone on the planet owned one, and still they lost.

Stephen

Well particularly, yeah, the company Wham-O who made them.

Sue

Made them a name.

Stephen

Yeah millions, no they still exist, they’re a successful company.

Sue

They made the Frisbee didn’t they?

Stephen

That was the one year they made a loss. Because despite the fact that millions and millions and millions of people bought a hula hoop, there they are, it ended so quickly, they’d stockpiled expecting it to last until Christmas.

Viewscreens: Picture of a young woman hula hooping.

Gyles

That is my mother.

Stephen

And it just completely ended. There you are.

Bill

I suppose because the thing is they don’t really wear out do they? You know, so once you get one…

Sue

You don’t want another one.

Stephen

But what does wear out is the fun, clearly.

Sue

And your hips. Which will degenerate over time.

Bill

They should have made them out of something else, something sort of biodegradable. Made them out of cheese or something.

Alan

Cheese.

Stephen

Cheese, brilliant. Well in China they had a similar fad, in the early nineties, millions and millions of people bought them and then there was a hysteria because there were three people went to hospital with twisted intestines.

Sue

They obviously tried to eat them. They obviously, the hula hoop thing was lost in translation.

Stephen

Well, the Chinese state media said, well you should stop hula hooping because the, but actually you’re quite right, it was certainly nothing to do with hula hooping.

Bill

Even old Dizzy Hips Gyles…

Stephen

You never twisted your intestines, did you?

Gyles

I didn’t, I have to say it’s quite difficult to hula hoop, and it’s boring.

Sue

It’s not, it’s nice.

Gyles

But, actually, you can do it also on your arms. [makes twirling motion with his arms]

Sue

That’s a skipping rope.

Gyles

Oh is it, you’re right.

Viewscreens: Film of women Hula dancing to a band.

Bill

Here we go, here we go, cut live to the hula party.

Sue

Oh, that’s the hula.

Gyles

This is the home of the hula. This is Hawaii.

Stephen

The dance itself called the hula.

Sue

She knows what she’s doing doesn’t she. Yeah, yeah.

Stephen

And a hula is a whole celebratory thing, you have a…

Sue [points to viewscreens]

That guy’s having brain surgery playing the guitar.

Alan

I do love the band they’re great, they’re thinking “This is the best gig ever.”

Stephen

They look very happy.

Alan

“Since I’ve joined this band I’ve never stopped smiling.”

Stephen

Can you suggest a theory as to why the hula was so big in ’58, the hula hoop?

Bill

Uh, post war optimism.

Stephen

Mm hmm.

Sue

End of rationing. Oh, rationing ended mid-‘50’s.

Stephen

There’s a thought maybe it was that Elvis, it made you kind of do things with your hips. [swings his hips]

Gyles

Gyrating.

Stephen

It was a gyrate-y, a gyratory pelvic thing.

Sue

And there was the whole Hawaiian thing through him as well.

Stephen

And the Hawaiian thing that he liked.

Bill

It was he was not allowed to be filmed below the waist or something, was that true?

Stephen

On television, yeah on the Ed Sullivan Show, I think.

Alan

The Ed Sullivan Show, waist up.

Bill

Too sexy… for the Fifties.

Sue

Gyles has the same thing. He’s not actually allowed to display… Dizzy Hips Brandreth can’t break them out, can’t bust them out for TV.

Gyles [nods and smiles knowingly]

Bill

He’s actually hula-ing right now.

Gyles

Quite subtly.

Stephen

Which brings us to the unappealing nether regions of our show. The place that we call General Ignorance. So hands on horns, if you’d be so kind.

What should you do with your head if you have a nosebleed?

Viewscreens: A picture of a woman blowing her nose.

 

Gyles [presses buzzer]

[He sits silently, looking at Stephen, with his hand poised under his nose]

Stephen

Yes? You have to answer when you press the buzzer…

Gyles

I’m doing it. [Presses knuckles against his upper lip]

Stephen

You should do that with your head?

Sue

Pressing?

Gyles

Pressing the bit above the lip, this bit below the nose.

Stephen

No.

Gyles

Because the nose… actually not worry. [takes his hand away] A nose bleed won’t harm you.

Stephen

Mm, OK. You might stain your clothes.

Gyles

You might stain your clothes but a nose bleed’s alright. I mean, you could lie back?

Stephen

Woo…

Gyles

Oh no! It’s fatal!

Forfeit: Klaxons sound. Viewscreens flash the words “TILT IT BACK".

Gyles

[bangs his palms on the desk, and smacks his notebook down]

Stephen

Oh, you’re so angry. You’re so competitive, I like it!

Sue

Yeah!

Gyles

No, no. I remember this.

Stephen

The point is, most people think you should tilt back, but you shouldn’t.

Alan

All goes down your throat then, it’s horrible.

Stephen

And of course you can get it into the lungs if it goes down the wrong pipe.

Gyles

And worse than that, and this is why I should have remembered this, you lie back and it goes into you, but you can also have a nosebleed through your eyes.

Stephen

Oh!

Gyles

It is possible to have a nose bleed that come out of these bits here. [points to tear ducts]

Alan

An eye bleed?

Gyles

Yes, but it’s a sort of misdirected nose bleed. Wrong to call it an eye bleed.

Bill

Alright.

Gyles

Cause it’s coming out of the nose parts.

Stephen

The Eustachian tubes…

Sue

Just tilt your head forward from now on, love.

Gyles

So the point is forwards not back.

Sue

Always forwards not back.

Stephen

Well, if it lasts for longer than 20 minutes it is very much recommended to seek medical advice, and if you’ve caused it from anything other than the most common causes, which would be?

Alan

Bouncy castle.

Stephen

A bouncy castle. A classic, yeah.

Alan

Inevitable.

Bill

Bound to happen.

Stephen

Another one is ‘being punched in the face’. That’s one, yeah. That can bring it on.

Viewscreens: A picture of Larry Holmes and Ray Mercer boxing.

Stephen

There you are.

Sue

That’d do it. Tilt your head forward love.

Stephen

Can you name them? I think that’s Larry Holmes and…?

Alan

Spinks, is it?

Sue

And the other one.

Stephen

Ray Mercer, "Merciless" Ray Mercer, that is.

Then there are various others, blowing your nose too hard, picking your nose, picking a little bit too violently.

Bill

Poking it.

Stephen

Yeah. You shouldn’t tilt your head back if you have a nosebleed, it can be dangerous, tilt your head forwards, and pinch your nose, just like that, [pinches bridge of nose] simple as that, and then eventually after about 12 minutes or so it will clot naturally.

What might happen if you swallow your tongue, however?

 

Viewscreens: Photo of a man gurning, his bottom lip all the way up to his eyebrows.

 

Gyles [presses buzzer]

Nothing, I don’t believe you can swallow your tongue.

Stephen

Is the right answer. Absolutely. That sort of busy bodying person who comes forward and says “Lots of hot sweet tea.” when someone’s fainted or had a seizure, and they say “Ooh, do this.” and “Pull the tongue down cause they might swallow it.” is just nonsense, you can’t swallow your own tongue. It can’t be done.

Alan

What do they mean then when they say that, cause I’ve heard that.

Stephen

Well, they might obstruct an airway, possibly, it’s very rare.

Alan

You have a bash and you bite it or something and it swells up, or…

Stephen

Oh, you can bite your tongue, yeah, but you can’t swallow it, you can’t, I mean there was literally this idea that you could, as it were, it goes backwards and [gulp] down your throat and causes you to choke, that just cannot happen.

And finally, why shouldn’t you crack your knuckles?

Alan

Is there lasting damage, can you do lasting damage? [bends his knuckle and accidentally cracks it]

Sue [covers her ears]

Ooh!

Stephen

Oh you just did it.

Bill

Oh no.

Gyles

There’s a, but I think it’s an old wives tale, that actually if you do that it causes arthritis. Because there was a famous doctor called Dr Unger who believed that it did, and for 50 years this doctor, every day, cracked the knuckles on his left hand and didn’t on his right.

Stephen

What the story is, is that his mother, when he was very young, he cracked the knuckles on both hands and his mother said [in a Southern American accent] “You do that honey you’ll get arthritis.”

Alan [Southern American accent]

Aaarth-a-ritis.

Stephen

And he thought, being of a scientific turn of mind already as a child...

Alan

“You gon’ get arth-a-ritis.”

Stephen

He thought, I will test this by only doing it on the fingers on the left hand.

Alan

“I aint get no arth-a-ritis and I show you how.”

Stephen

Exactly, so he did it on his left hand only, for 60 years. And then he had various tests and there was no suggestion of arthritis on the left hand more than the right. And apparently he shouted out, “You were wrong, mother, you were wrong.”

Bill

I wasted my life.

Alan

“You were wrong, mother, you were wrong.”

Stephen

Well there we are, that is indeed the answer, you can’t get arthritis from cracking your knuckles, at worst you could end up with a limp handshake and goodness knows what impression that’ll give people.

Which handily brings us to the heart of the matter, the scores. Ooh! And the winner really used his head, their two heads, because ladies and gentlemen, we have a tie for first place. On minus eight, it’s Gyles and Sue!

[Gyles offers his hand for Sue to shake, she hesitates, then accepts it, wincing and turning away as she does]

Stephen

Oh, but missing out on a hairs breadth with minus 12, Bill Bailey!

Throwing his hands up in the air on minus 25, Alan Davies!

Alan [puzzled]

How did I get minus 25?

Stephen

So all that’s left for me is to thank Sue, Gyles, Bill, and of course Alan; and I leave you with this. Um, it’s an anatomy lesson.

In order to accustom medical students to the business of getting used to dead human flesh; an anatomy professor basically said to the class, “Look, you’ve got to get used to doing this, I need one of you students to come forward, you’re a first year.” Stood him by the body, said you’ve got to do what I do, and he put his finger up the rectum of this dead body, like that, and then just sucked it. He said “I know, I know, I know, but you’ve got to learn how to be a doctor.” So this medical student puts his finger up, like that, and went like that. [sucks finger] And he said “The other thing about being a doctor is you must be observant. I put my middle finger up the rectum, and sucked my index.”

Thank you and good-bye.