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"Welcome to QI, the showoff show that sits at the front of the class shouting 'Me sir, me, me, me, sir, me', while other quiz shows are snogging behind the bikesheds."

BBC 2 comedy Panel Show. Debuted in 2003 and soon to be filming its tenth series. Each series is named for a letter of the alphabet and the topics for each episode begin with that letter ("J" being the theme for the upcoming season).

Standing for "Quite Interesting", the show is hosted by Stephen Fry and always includes Alan Davies on the panel. Apart from Davies, the panel varies from week to week, but there are a number of recurring guests on (including Jo Brand, Rich Hall, Bill Bailey, Jimmy Carr, Jeremy Clarkson, Dara Ó Briain, Phill Jupitus, Sean Lock, David Mitchell, Rob Brydon, Clive Anderson, Jack Dee, Sandi Toksvig and Ross Noble).

Fry asks questions on the topic of the week — the first few series had no specific theme per week, and their episode titles have been applied retroactively; it was not until Series D that the "topic of the week" really came to the fore. The guiding principle, as indicated by the show's name, is that knowledge should be interesting, and a sufficiently interesting answer will be awarded points even if it's completely wrong. Conversely, an answer that is both incorrect and uninteresting (i.e., if it's the answer anybody would have given) will cause a klaxon to sound and the contestant will lose points. There are, consequently, two types of question in QI: obscure questions that give the contestants an opportunity to make interesting guesses before Fry reveals the real answer, and questions whose answers seem obvious but are not, such as "How many moons does the Earth have?". Davies is the butt of a lot of the jokes on the show (last on the introductions and getting a funny comment, last on the buzzer sounds and getting a corny buzzer sound, being more likely than the others to get the klaxon and usually coming last, although he has the record for most show wins), and acts as a sort of foil for the concept by getting the more obvious answers (i.e. the ones the audiences at home are likely hollering at the TV) out into the open to be trounced.

As with all good Panel Shows the points are almost entirely irrelevant and merely provide the Framing Device for the comedy. The researchers ("QI Elves") nonetheless check that everything is as correct as it can be, often sending messages to Fry about things they've discovered while the programme is recording (especially if the guests have sent things onto a very distant tangent to what the question was actually about, which happens quite often).

This show is funnier than it sounds and can lead onto some amusing tangents. It's also very educational. One of the interesting things is how much comedians turn out to know about obscure subjects — for instance, Rory McGrath spouting the Latin names of birds, or Vic Reeves turning out to be an expert on pirates. Also, this is a post-Watershed show, and things have a tendency to get very "naughty" very quickly.

Some series have a once-an-episode feature with a name linked to the series letter. These have included:

  • Series "E": Elephant in the Room - A bonus for identifying where the elephant is in this week's questions.
  • Series "F": Fanfare - particularly clever answers are heralded with a fanfare sound effect and bonus points. This ended up only appearing in two episodes.
  • Series "G": Guest appearance - Stephen would announce that if the panellists wished to argue some unlikely-sounding piece of information, they could do so with [an expert on the subject] who just happened to be sitting in the studio audience.
  • Series "I": Ignorance - bonus points for identifying the question to which nobody knows the answer.

The show has spawned several books (including four QI Annuals), two DVD games (A Quite Interesting Game and Strictly Come Duncing), an Oxford club an iPhone app and most recently The Board Game. There's also an official Twitter account, maintained by the elves (note the location), which provides trivia and links to Quite Interesting things.

It returned for Series F in January 2009 on BBC One (having previously been on BBC 2) after it managed to be the highest-rated show on BBC 4 and Dave. It returned to BBC 2 for the current "I" series; new guests this series include Brian Blessed.

This show contains examples of:


 Stephen: Where might you run into the world's biggest drip?[1]

(picture of Hugh Laurie as Bertie Wooster appears on-screen)

Alan: Oi!

Stephen: No!


 Stephen: Who the hell is that?


 Alan: I'm not actually Jonathan Creek, I just look quite a lot like him.

    • And of course, when Daniel Radcliffe guest-starred, they made the whole episode about "Hocus-Pocus" and made quite a few references to Harry Potter. As Daniel had apparently done some research into real-life tricks and the history thereof, the net effect was to rig the game in Radcliffe's favor.
    • Stephen putting on a giant false mustache and baa-ing in the episode "International".
    • A Never Mind the Buzzcocks-style identity parade occurred when Phill Jupitus was on the panel in the episode "Indecision".
    • Whenever Jeremy Clarkson is on the program, expect at least one reference to or question about cars and motor vehicles, if not a direct reference to Top Gear itself.
    • In the Shakespeare episode, a question on Lord Byron leads to Stephen referencing a joke he once used in a monologue called 'The Letter' for Footlights Revue.

 Stephen: He had from birth a pronounced limp. L-I-M-P, pronounced 'limp'.

  • Adorkable: Alan. And David Mitchell, too. And Daniel Radcliffe, who discussed Hardy novels and the Harrowing of the North, all the while apologising in a very British fashion.
    • And Robert Webb who, on his appearance in season H, called a helix a spiral (despite knowing the correct answer) just so he could set off the klaxon. When it inevitably went off in response to his incorrect answer he threw his arms in the air, bounced up and down in his seat and giggled, beaming all the while. He then did the same thing ten minutes later while discussing Molotov cocktails.
  • Aerith and Bob:

 Stephen: The names of the ravens that live in the Tower of London are Gwillem, Thor, Hugin, Munin, Branwen, Bran, Gandalf and Baldrick.

Alan: And Dave.


 Stephen Fry: They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is... that there are no straight lines!

Jimmy Carr (uninterested): Do they? Hm.

Alan Davies: What-ever!

    • Whenever someone steels themself for the klaxon... and actually gets it right.

 Stephen: Where does the saying "saved by the bell" come from?

Jack Dee: Oh no, I know what's going to happen now, it's gonna be... I'm gonna get the klaxon for this, is it boxing? Is it a boxing reference?

Stephen: ...Yes.


 (on using horses to catch electric eels)

Stephen Fry: And the poor horses, of course, often had heart attacks and died of fright and drowned and got very upset, so it was rather mean.

Jo Brand: "Got very upset"?

Stephen Fry: Yes. "Distressed" is the word we use with animals.

Alan Davies: "I don't like it in the water w' the eels! Oowwwwwwwwwwwwww!"


 Alan (imitating Stephen): Have him scrubbed and brought to my room.

Stephen: Actually, don't bother to have him scrubbed.

  • Beam Me Up, Scotty: Setting up the question so that reciting one of these is the obvious answer is a common means of tripping up the panelists in the "General Ignorance" round.

 David Mitchell: Why do these films always forget to put their most famous lines in?

  • Berserk Button: Stephen can't stand willful or apathetic ignorance. Naturally, Alan Davies pushes this button whenever he thinks it might be funny. Lee Mack not only found it in Series H but practically danced on it, leading to the exchange under "Beware The Nice Ones" below.
    • David Mitchell is a man of many berserk buttons. Stephen tread on one with a double-bluff question about "The Man with Two Brains" — leading to an increase in double bluffs and other provocations whenever David is on the panel.
    • Phill Jupitus refuses to believe that the sun sets before we actually see it set.

 Phill: I hate this show!.

      • He is also outraged at the notion that there is another moon.
    • Sean Lock generally develops a strange kind of annoyance whenever there is a "genius" panel member on board with him, like Rory McGrath or Ben Miller.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Stephen is generally a Gentleman Snarker, who only gently ribs on panelists when they miss the point, then repeats the answer and explains patiently. Unless you go too over-the-top in Epic Point Missing, and he pulls out the big guns. See: explaining the 'i before e' rule to Lee Mack in "Hocus Pocus":

 [Stephen has been asking for words that break the 'i before e' rule and Lee has been suggesting "ceiling" for some time, twisting Stephen's words every time he tries to explain it doesn't fit:]

Stephen: Are you completely incapable of rational thought?! You cannot be that stupid. You cannot be that stupid!

  • Breathless Non-Sequitur: Stephen will do this after questions, occasionally too fast for the panelists to react.
  • Brick Joke: "Cashier number four, please."
    • And the Call Back in a later episode, with "Cashier number one, please." "Cashier number two, please." "Cashier number three, please." "I am very sorry for the severe delay to the 8:17 service (rest inaudible due to laughter)"
    • In series F, we hear part of "My Old Man's a dustman" in the episode about Families, and then in the episode about fashion, we hear it continue from where it left off.
    • In the France episode, when the designs of a large elephant-shaped building originally meant for the site of the Arc de Triomphe, Alan somehow pulls out the "Elephant in the Room" joker from the prior E-shaped series, much to the surprise of Stephen.
    • Rich is in such disbelief at hearing the earth has two moons that in every appearance he has made since, when a question about THE moon comes up, he automatically asks "Which moon we talkin' about here?"
      • When Rich turns up in the I series, a question about the moon arises and he asks his trademark question once more. It set the klaxon off.
    • A two-way brick, depending on whether one goes by order of recording or order of airing. In the series E episode "England", immediately after introductions, Alan swaps the English flag in front of him for a Welsh flag, to Stephen's dismay. In the "Europe" episode (which was recorded later but ended up airing before the England episode), Alan reveals that he has no actual Welsh roots, and he and David Mitchell trade flags (swapping Alan's Welsh flag for David's English flag).
    • A shorter one-episode one: In "Gravity", Stephen mentioned people betting to be the first to have sexual intercourse on a balloon. Later when he discussed shooting bullets vertically to the air, Alan imagined one of them hitting a couple suspended in the air.
  • Brief Accent Imitation: Stephen does this frequently(and utterly uncannily) with a multitude of accents and regional dialects from all over the world. Some of the other panelists dip into this as well; notably Rob Brydon.
    • Alan Davies does a Mexican Spanish accent... badly. The cartoonish manner is hilarious and deliberate though, and he does pretty much the same accent for his German, this being his Stock Foreign Accent.

 "Ello I'm from Meghikooh."

"Ze pink Polenta, I lav eet!."

    • They sometimes try Scottish, too.

 Lee Mack: Do you like my Scottish accent by the way?

David Tennant: Oh, that was a Scottish accent?


 Jack Dee: It's just one final chance to be a bloody nuisance to everyone, isn't it? "I want to be buried in a 15-foot fish." Oh yeah, great. That's so easy to achieve. You've always been a pain when you're alive, and now you're dead you're worse.

  • Butt Monkey: Alan Davies. Notable are when he got a forfeit for his answer to "How do you do?" and the times Stephen hooked his buzzer to the klaxon.
    • In one second-series episode, Stephen posed the question "What was quite interesting about the birth of Julius Caesar?", demolished Alan when he gave the obvious-but-incorrect answer, and then admitted that as far as the question-setters knew the correct answer was "Nothing at all", and he'd only posed the question to see if Alan would fall for it.
      • The same thing happened again in Series E with a question about getting impressed into the army.
    • Even the one time Alan had control of the questions, turning the tables on Stephen, he couldn't escape this; Stephen actually got the first question right, prompting the most crushed expression of disappointment you've ever seen from anyone on the part of Alan Davies.

 Alan (deflated): This isn't going to work...

    • At the beginning of an episode in series "I", Stephen explained that the topic was "Inattentiveness and Ineptitude", and then immediately asked Alan what the show was about. Alan replied with what Stephen had just said, word for word... and then got the klaxon and a points deduction. The actual topic was, fittingly, "Inequality and Injustice". And then right afterwards, Alan was informed that he'd finished the program in last place with minus one gazillion points.
    • Also Stephen at those times when everyone gangs up on him. "Stephen doesn't have beer goggles, he has Madeira pince-nez!..." "...You're all rotters and I hate you."

 Sean Lock: I thought you had your [underwear] done on a loom by exquisite boys.

Jimmy Carr: "I can't wear these, he's got a mole on his face!"

Stephen Fry: Oh God, help.



 Stephen Fry (detailing the Royal family's Christmas): At 5 PM the whole family has a cup of Earl Grey, except for the Queen, who has her own Indian blend...

Jo Brand: Is it Twinings?

(Stephen head-desks)

      • "They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is..."
  • Call Back: Becoming more regular as the series becomes longer. Alan often repeats things that have been covered in earlier episodes (as if to prove to Stephen that he has been listening). Rob Brydon made mention of his long socks in the H series, something he'd introduced the previous series.
  • Camp Gay: Wo ist mein Handy?
  • Captain Obvious: Often used as a way of avoiding the klaxon.

 Stephen: How do you tell if someone is lying?

Sean Lock: What they've said turns out not to be true.



 Stephen: Do you know the difference between a frog and a toad?

Alan: Spelling.

    • Or just for humor..

 Stephen: What's the ideal way to kiss a Frenchman?

Alan: [uncertainly] With their... consent?



 Stephen: What can you teach an oyster?

David: ...Not to get its hopes up?

    • On the subject of pilots' lunches:

 Stephen: Now, why do I say lunches?

Bill: Because there's more than one...

  • Catch Phrase: As yet, averted. This was noted on Series F, which looked at some other famous catchphrases, including "Has your mother sold her mangle?". Stephen noted that they themselves didn't have a catchphrase, and gave the panelists the task of coming up with one, eventually landing on "My bottom is a treasure house."
    • A case can be made for Stephen's "good evening good evening good evening..." spiel, his "and I use the word <x> quite wrongly", "Oh dear oh dear oh dear oh dear" or a loud cry of "Ohhhhhh!" in response to the buzzer, or Alan guessing the blue whale.
      • "Blue Whale!" (KLAXON)
    • Every now and again there are Shout Outs to Stephen's character's Verbal Tic catchphrase on Blackadder, "Baaaa!"

 Phill Jupitus: [as Stephen] "What one's the odd one out? None of them! Baa. Baa. Baaaa."

Stephen: Hey. Is that me?

Phill: That's you.

Stephen: Oh, bugger you. I don't sound like that. (sounding exactly like that) "Baaaaaa. Baaa."

    • Alan's demanding cry of "Points!" combined with arms thrown in the air whenever he gets something right.
  • Christmas Episode: Once every series, except for Series C where they apparently just forgot.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Jo Brand. Nearly all the smart-ass answers to the question get buzzed, except hers, which no one could have thought of. More recently however, she has been getting the klaxon. When the panel were asked, "What was the Great Disappointment?", Jo answered, "Have you been speaking to my husband?" This was the forfeit answer, word for word.
    • Similarly, Rich Hall has won a lot of games by barely saying anything except to crack the occasional joke, which earns him a couple of bonus points while everyone else wallows in huge negative numbers accumulated in earnest attempts to answer the questions.
    • Johnny Vegas regularly gives complete non-sequitur answers. Of course, on this show, he is sometimes pretty close to the right answer anyway.
    • Ross Noble, though he stumbled accidentally onto a couple of answers just by being random.
    • Sean Lock has recently been starting to become one.
    • Phill Jupitus has his moments, too.
    • Sandi Toksvig subverts this from time to time, by giving answers that at first glance seem like it's drug-fuelled, but actually make sense and often correct. Examples would be when she answered "What use is a goose?" with "Is it toilet paper?" [2] and "What's the best way to get a [baby] girl?" with "Swimming badges." [3]
    • Ronni Ancona on obscurity.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Stephen has had his moments, including provoking wary panelists into accidentally giving the forfeit answer or giving Alan, a vegetarian, sweets coloured with carmine, a red pigment produced from cochineal insects.
    • Also Sean Lock.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Often, usually in the service of the Rule of Funny.

 Alan Davies: The red squirrel can't live with the grey squirrel.

Stephen Fry: Ebony and ivory are together on my piano key... board, so why can't they be?

Alan Davies: What, you mean a kind of squirrel-fur keyboard?

Rob Brydon: That's barbaric. Are you saying you want pianos clad in the pelt of a squirrel?

  • Continuity Nod: Rich Hall still resents the "How many moons does the Earth have?" (Two) question from Series A and has made reference to it as late as Series I: "Which moon are we talkin' about?" It is unsure as to whether he will continue with it as he received a forfeit for it. See Brick Joke above.
    • In one episode Dara Ó Briain was awarded points for telling Stephen that the triple point of water is 0°C. In fact, as a physicist wrote in to the show to point out, the triple point of water is 0.01°C. The next time Dara was on the show, he was asked the triple point of water and triggered the klaxon when he gave the same answer.
      • In a series I episode, Dara is given points back because in a series H episode he said fishes don't have tongues and was told otherwise, only for it to turn out that he was right. Sandi Toksvig then complains that this is unfair, whereupon Dara relates the "triple point" incident above.
  • Conversational Troping: Occurs in Series H "History" with Stephen, Alan, David Mitchell, Sandi Toksvig, and Rob Brydon digitally edited into a photo of a combat squad. David (whose face was in a somewhat goofy expression) mused that he would be killed off early, while Sandi supposed she would be the woman brought along just to work the radio, but gets forced into flying a plane. Stephen would be the hero from the First World War, Rob gets killed off right before the end (just when you think he'll make it), and Alan survives the whole thing.
  • Cough-Snark-Cough: Stephen is very fond of this.
    • In Series B, Josie Lawrence talks about how St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things and guarantees he'll help you.

 Stephen: A-bullshit.

    • And on David Tennant's appearance, after answering a historical question right:

 Alan: It's all the time-traveling he does, he knows something about every era.

Stephen: (cough)He'sacting.

  • Cowboy Bebop at His Computer: Sean Lock's attempts to convince Stephen he was an expert on snakes.
  • Crazy Cultural Comparison: Occasionally when Rich Hall or Reginald Hunter is on. In the Series D Children in Need special, subjects in the second half of the episode included The Clangers and Oliver Postgate; Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men; the "Crazy Frog" ringtone; Newcastle accents; and Terry Wogan. Right before the end, Rich, having been silent for about ten minutes, buzzed in just to say, "Ever since the Clangers I've been lost. The last picture I recognized was the KKK, and that's pretty sad."
  • Creator Cameo: John Lloyd, the show's creator and original producer, made an appearance on the panel for the 100th-Episode Special in Series H.
  • Crossover: The show's eagerness to correct past mistakes apparently reaches to other shows. In an episode in season F, helpless David Mitchell can only sit and listen as Stephen debunks several of his facts from The Unbelievable Truth. Stephen, Alan and the producer John Lloyd later participated in a New Year special of TUT.
  • Crowd Song: They say of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon is...
    • Also, Stephen told the audience to sing the German national anthem. They sang the opening bars of the German national anthem as Deutschland Uber Alles, but since the contemporary German anthem's lyrics are only the third stanza of the Deutschlandlied, this got them a penalty of -100 points.
      • Although at the original recording, the audience genuinely didn't know the incorrect version (or the correct version, come to that), and those who did were too shy to speak up, but the forfeit flashed up anyway and they recorded the audience singing the song in the retakes.
    • David Tennant leading "Auld Lang Syne".
    • Gonna MAKE this a NIGHT to reMEMber!
  • The Cuckoolander Was Right: There have been a few people on the show who, in making a purposely surreal response to a question, accidentally included the right answer:
    • Johnny Vegas, that cornflakes were originally conceived as an anti-masturbatory agent.
    • Phill Jupitus, that Iceland is Europe's biggest producer of bananas.
    • Ross Noble, that a round triangle that makes a square is called a Reuleaux triangle. (Pronounced "rolo"--Ross proposed a "Toblerone-Rolo combo.")
    • Sandi Toksvig, suggesting that Japanese War Tubas were precision hearing aids and that the best use for a goose was as toilet paper.
    • Nina Conti, that a wooden sticklike device she found in her desk was a suppository.
    • Jack Dee in "Illumination":

 Stephen Fry: Tell me something quite interesting about the original geishas.

Jack: They were all men.

Stephen: Yes!

Jack [disbelieving]: Oh, God!

    • Jo Brand saying the animal that dreams the most was the platypus.
  • Cutting the Knot: Done by Alan Davies to the interlaced telephone directories in the 2011 Christmas special.
  • Dan Browned: As Rich said, "a lot of it's lies," especially by going too far in the direction opposite to Common Knowledge. Sometimes they later correct themselves on-show (often by forfeiting a previously-correct answer), and sometimes they leave it for the DVD or not at all. For instance:
    • "Spinach" is a forfeit to "which green vegetable has over ten times as much iron as average." Technically, it doesn't have quite that much, but the phrasing is a pretty clear allusion to an old Urban Legend about spinach's high iron content being attributed to a misplaced decimal.
    • Cruithne is identified as a terran satellite, which even at the time, astronomers did not believe it to be, but a "quasisatellite," a solar body with a close orbit, but distant enough to only weakly feel our gravity. It's also mispronounced, and corrected on-air to a slighly better mispronunciation.
    • Sedgwick is wrongly said to have died mid-word.
    • Alan is told there's no Welsh word for blue. There is, and it corresponds exactly, unlike such words in many languages.
    • Stephen at one point "corrects" Jimmy Carr for saying that marsupials are mammals, which they absolutely are.
    • Stephen, describing three-strike laws, implies that the California law he describes applies across the US, and says a crime constitutes the third strike "no matter how trivial," even though, trivial as these crimes often seem, it must be a felony.
      • In all fairness to Stephen, there is a California law that makes any theft by a convicted thief a felony, so some people have been sentenced to 25-to-life for what would we a petty theft (less than a year) anywhere else.
    • The show at one point addresses a letter calling them out for spreading an urban legend about the Flowerpot Men.
    • Stephen says of the Acropolis, where the Parthenon iiis, that there are no straight lines. He corrects this in a later episode; while curving pillars to make them look straight from certain vantage points is seen in some ancient buildings, the Parthenon is not one of them.
    • More cases and possible cases can be found here.
  • Daydream Believer: Bill Bailey, during David Tennant's guest appearance, jokingly insisted Doctor Who was a documentary when Stephen called it a work of fiction. Tennant played along and confirmed that it was all real. "Don't listen to the bad man." And then (at Stephen's prompting) he started waving his pen around like a sonic screwdriver...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Rich Hall, most notably.

 Stephen: What is the only man-made artifact visible from the moon?

Rich: (buzz) Which moon are we talking about, here?

    • And:

 Stephen: What do you call a group of baboons?

Rich: (buzz) A Pentagon.


 Stephen: Battology means pointlessly repeating the same thing over and over again. Battology means pointlessly repeating the same thing over and over again.


 Stephen: Now, tell me about the Great Disappointment.

Jo Brand: [buzzes] Have you been talking to my husband?


  • Did I Just Say That Out Loud?: After Sean Lock's suggestion that you could put cheese in your pants when entering a sauna and "re-shape" it when you leave...

 Stephen: [trying to get his attention] Sean... Sean. Sean, you're not alone; there are people here.

Alan: You're saying it out loud, you're not thinking it.

  • Die Laughing: Discussed in the XL version of "Happiness"; the only person they could come up with who'd died laughing was the man who laughed for 25 minutes and had a heart attack at an episode of The Goodies.
  • Dirty Old Man: In "H-Anatomy", Gyles Brandreth kept coming up with excuses to take Sue Perkins' hand, by "demonstrating" various ways to shake hands etc. She quickly grew both irritated and creeped out by it.
    • Irritated and creeped out being the default emotion usually associated with spending time in Brandreth's vicinity...
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Repeatedly invoked by Bill Bailey, who uses his biro as a pipe whenever he's impersonating an upper-class type.
    • And many panelists have produced real pipes from under the table, using them much the same way.
  • The Ditz: Alan Davies, dear God, Alan Davies! This is likely at least partly an act, as he has noted on his Twitter that the producers like it when he plays the idiot, though he also notes this isn't difficult to do.

 Jimmy Carr: How can you get it wrong after he's got it right? That is extraordinary. You were literally saved by the bell! He buzzed it and got it right, you couldn't say the stupid thing, and you went there anyway! You were amazing!

    • Subverted in Series G, when Alan won three shows in a row (Episodes 4-6), tied for first place in a further two (Episodes 12-13), and to finish up won Episode 16 with the highest score (21) all series, and indeed the highest score since Series D.
    • All of them play at it sometimes, though, just for laughs. Or at the very least throw out completely nonsensical answers that are still somehow related.

 Stephen: What should you not drink if you're dehydrated...?

Jimmy Carr: Jacob's crackers.


 Stephen Fry: In 1819, a German travel guide to London said, "The kiss of friendship between men is strictly avoided in Britain, as inclining towards the sin regarded in England as more abominable than any other." (beat) Queue-barging, presumably. (general laughter) That, or sodomy.

    • "Dictionaries" has an Overly Long Gag of this type which Stephen uses to run an unsuccessful joke of Rory Bremner's into the ground and stomp on it repeatedly, effectively making it funny again.

 Stephen: 'Eyyy, no, no, when I said "eye," I meant "e-y-e," and you thought, possibly for comic effect, but if so, disastrously, that I was saying "I," and that wasn't what was happening at all! It was completely something else! It was one of those laughable misunderstandings! And I use the word "laughable" quite wrongly. So, erm, anyway...

  • Don't Try This At Home:
    • In Series G, this warning accompanied a demonstration of the correct pronunciation of "Van Gogh".
    • In the Series E episode on Electricity, Stephen attempted to give this warning after demonstrating that gherkins glow when a large electric current is passed through them, but went off on a tangent and ended up saying that you should live your own life and not do things (or avoid doing things) just because some person on the TV told you to.
    • Inverted when discussing custard as a non-Newtonian fluid.

 Stephen: Children, whatever you do, please, please, try to walk on as much custard as you can.

  • Double Entendre: Oh so very much.
    • It's not French for innuendo either, as Sean Lock found out the hard way in the episode "Imbroglio".
    • Jimmy Carr lampshades the use of double entendre in the question, "Why did the inventor of the decimal point encourage his servants to stroke his cock?"

 Alan: "Cock" is not his penis.

Stephen: You're right. It's a cockerel; it's a rooster. He was an extraordinary man, John Napier. He... he wore black, and a lot of his neighbors thought that he was somehow in league with the devil. And he had this jet-black cock as his constant companion.

Jimmy: Did he do that purely for double-entendre? ... "Have you seen my massive black cock?" Etcetera. A hit at dinner parties in Edinburgh.

  • Dramatic Thunder: Near the beginning of an episode in Series D, as Stephen announces the theme of the night — Death.
  • Eagle Land: As usual, 80% of Rich Hall's gimmick.

 Rich: (after half an episode of silence) Ever since the Clangers I've been lost.

  • Early Installment Weirdness: The show was initially split into rounds of questions on various subjects. The B series changed this so there were two rounds, one on one subject and 'General Ignorance', but the show didn't take its current format until around series D.
  • Epic Fail: Sean Lock's final score of -76 in the 'Germany' episode was singled out by Stephen as "possibly a record". It still stands as the lowest score achieved by a guest panelist.
    • The actual record is the "Children in Need" special in Series D, where Stephen Fry multiples all the scores by a million as a gesture of generosity to mark the occasion. The upshot of this is that Alan Davies finishes the show with -29,000,000 points.
    • Alan also got -84 in Series C, in the episode Cleve Crudgington.
    • Not to mention -144 in the Differences episode, after a -150 point penalty for suggesting "Randy" as Gandhi's first name.
    • Assuming Alan's above score of -29,000,000 was actually just -29, for the entire series, Alan is currently on a score of -2180.
  • Exact Words: Rich Hall tries to use this to score points in one of his first appearances.

 Rich: So, wait, we get points for being interesting?

Stephen: That's right.

Rich: In some parts of the world people use linoleum as currency.

Stephen: That is interesting. Is it true?

Rich: ...You said it had to be interesting.


 Stephen Fry: What makes up more than 70% of the internet?

Jimmy Carr: Phwoo... Is it.. It's my personal collection, isn't it?

Stephen: Of what?

Jimmy: Of gentleman's special-interest literature.

(klaxon; screen shows "Porn")

Stephen: I think it knows what you're talking about.

    • The three men responsible for creating a QI-shaped crop circle for the "Hoaxes" episode were credited as 'cerealogical motif wranglers'.
  • Fearless Fool: Alan's role on the show, at least at first, was to jump in with obvious (or silly) answers and not be afraid of looking stupid.
  • Flat What: Stephen (of all people) delivers one when Bill Bailey tells him that a man was caught in a machine, went through a hole the size of a CD, and survived.
  • Foil: Alan to Stephen, naturally.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: An ominous tolling bell was added to the opening music of the "Gothic" episode.
  • Foreign Queasine: In "Invertebrates", Stephen presents the panel with a variety of insect-based candies, including a lollipop with ants in it, scorpion brittle ("like peanut brittle but with a scorpion in it"), and chocolate-covered ants. In an attempt to show the panel that they are the way forward, he tries a chocolate-covered ant, but soon has cause to regret it.
    • Played with in the Series I Christmas episode "Ice": After eating some ice cream, which they speculate might be made from breast milk, the panel is told that it's fox testicle ice cream... and they continue to eat it. Then, when they're told that it's not actually made from fox testicles, Ross Noble feigns disgust.
  • For Inconvenience Press One: Alan's buzzer in "Infantile".
  • Fridge Logic: David Mitchell's specialty is pointing these out.
  • Full Name Ultimatum: In "Invertebrates", Stephen admonishes Jimmy Carr by calling him "James Carr!"
  • Funny Foreigner: Rich Hall, as an American comedian on a British program is one of these by default, although he is perfectly willing to play this trope straight for laughs.
  • Geeky Turn On: When Jan Ravens gives "Diogenes the Cynic" as an answer...

 Jimmy Carr: Phwoa. You've seen this show before, haven't you. I think I'm slightly aroused.

    • Stephen is accused of this a few times as well. After David Mitchell shows detailed knowledge of a French chef, he gets a teacher's pet fanfare:

 Jimmy Carr: I don't want to burst your bubble, but Stephen's pupils have gone ten times bigger.

    • And after Rory and Stephen's discussion about Latin bird names:

 Jimmy: I believe, Rory, that you have pulled.

    • Professor Brian Cox's extensive knowledge of the Large Hadron Collider.

  Stephen: It- it's giving me an erection.

    • Phill Jupitus gets a moment that might count in the "Europe" episode.

 Stephen Fry: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit für das deutsche Vaterland! Danach lasst uns alle streben brüderlich mit Herz und Hand!

Phill Jupitus: I have an erection.

  • Genius Ditz: Alan Davies in later seasons.
  • Genre Savvy: Witness any moment when Stephen Fry asks a seemingly straightforward question... only for an awkward pause to ensue as no one wants to give the obvious answer, because they think it's a trap.

 Stephen: What do you call a slug with a shell?

(dead silence)

    • By the by, Apparently it's a shelled slug.
    • Also, players comment on how the obvious answer is often the wrong answer.

 Clive Anderson: Even I can work out that when you know the answer, never give it, 'cause it's always the one, it's the one they're hoping we'll say.

    • A related phenomenon is people spotting the trap, but giving the wrong answer anyway, just to get it out of the way. Also, it's not unknown for people to give a "wrong" answer, expecting the klaxon, only to find out their answer is the correct one.
    • In the Series G episode "Greats", Sean Lock deliberately gave an answer he knows cannot possibly be correct (or rather, not obvious-but-wrong, but inobvious and definitely wrong) to avoid setting off the klaxon.

 Stephen Fry: What was the lingua franca of ancient Rome?

Sean Lock: Eh, Dutch.

    • The contestants themselves wonder how far they need to take this trope, as one Series G episode had Stephen asking the team how old they were. Cue silence and an exasperated Dara Ó Briain wondering how the obvious answer could possibly be wrong.
    • Defied to hell and back by Robert Webb in "Hypnosis, Hallucinations and Hysteria", where he repeatedly trips the klaxon with utterly delighted childish glee.
      • A contestant who's already taken a number of forfeits may also defy this, if they feel they have nothing else to lose. Jo Brand has, in a couple episodes, given answers specifically to trigger the klaxon after racking up a huge negative score.
    • The klaxon gets in on this when it starts predicting the panelists' answers. Namely, Rich Hall triggering it by answering "which moon are we talking about?".
    • And sometimes, the panelists will question whether the question itself is valid. Sometimes, this will even be the case.

 Stephen: Why are so many great men short?

David: [skeptically] Are they really?

Stephen: hit the nail on the head.


 Fry: What do you suffer from if you're afraid of heights?

Alan Davies: Vertigo. *klaxon*

Fry: No. It's all Alfred Hitchcock's fault, but vertigo is not a fear of heights; it's a specific condition of dizziness...most people who have a fear of heights have a particular phobia. What's the name for it?

Alan Davies: Heightaphobia.

Fry: Yes - usually we use Greek, don't we, though?

  • Godwin's Law: Itself discussed in the episode on Germany. Stephen describes the law as stating that as every internet discussion or argument continues, the probability of somebody comparing something or someone to Hitler or the Nazis will reach 1, after which the argument is over. Rob Brydon asked whether this law applied to threads where Hitler himself was the topic.
  • Golden Snitch: A few episodes have had certain questions or challenges that would give 100 or even 200 points if done correctly. Two series had recurring bonuses — Series E had the "Elephant In The Room" bonus where at least one question per show would involve an elephant in some way that the panelists had to point out, while in Series F Stephen had a bonus "fanfare" which he would award to particularly interesting answers.
    • Inverted by giving certain "obvious but wrong" answers which are deemed incredibly stupid; answering "carbon dioxide" to the question "What is the main ingredient of air?" would have given a deduction of 3,000 points.
  • A Good Name for a Rock Band: Toblerone-Rolo Combo.
    • A discussion on the most famous person to have been beaten by a machine at chess led to the statement "Jesus plays chess", which Danny Baker thought would be a good name for an indie band.
    • Stephen thinks that the "Pacific Trash Vortex" sounds like a grunge band.
  • Government Conspiracy: The episode on "Hoaxes" debunked a number of conspiracy theories about the Moon landings.
  • Gratuitous French: The episode on France. 'nuff said.
  • Gratuitous German: The episode on Germany. 'nuff said.
  • Hair Flip: Ross Noble after taking his hard hat off in Series H (Health & Safety). Alan tried to imitate, but since his hair is all in short curls...
  • Halloween Episode: Has appeared in series D (Death) and H (Horrible).
  • Heroic BSOD: In Geometry, Stephen explains that the pillars of the Parthenon look straight because they are straight. But poor Johnny Vegas. Poor, poor Johnny Vegas:

 Johnny: That's not a question! "Why does this man look thin? Because he is." That has taken me on a whole circle... This is why I struggled in school! "If a train travels at 40 miles an hour and leaves at 9 o'clock and arrives in Glasgow at 12 o'clock, how did it get there?" And you're going, "'Cause it did!" ... IT'S VERY CONFUSING! [holds up his notebook with a squiggly line drawn on it] "Why does that look straight?" "Because it's not!" That could have been a question. [draws a straight line] "Why does that look straight? Because it IS! Because it is..." [breaks down sobbing]

  • Homoerotic Subtext: Quite a bit, and all played for laughs of course. Aside from the unsubtle flirting between Alan and Stephen, there's a lot among other contestants as well. Most notably, Rob Brydon and Ben Miller kissing in the 'Future' episode of "F" series. And there's the endless innuendo...

 David Mitchell: I like the expression "sleep in with the bananas". It implies that the bananas are asleep as well. Nothing nicer than being woken up by a friendly banana!

Stephen Fry (brightly): Well, quite.

    • On the subject of Alan and Stephen flirting the was the episode where, if a member of the panel guessed their score exactly right, they would get a prize. Alan's answer, towards the end of the show, to Stephen's question of what that prize was was "We'd have sex." Fry simply made a remark about Alan's wishful thinking.
    • Stephen and Professor Brian Cox. Good Lord. Stephen was probably just happy to have someone on the show who was smarter than him.
    • Phill Jupitus went on record in the making-of documentary as saying that his unofficial role on the show is to be as shamelessly flirtatious as possible with Stephen.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Alan Davies invokes this trope here.

 Alan: We're bad. No, we are. As a species, we're bad. (to Stephen) Don't start giving me Shakespeare's sonnets. We're wicked!


 Stephen: Flobbadob actually means flowerpot in Oddlepoddle. (beat) I cannot believe I just said that.


 Alan: What happened to MIs 1, 2, 3 and 4?

Stephen Fry: Well it's very interesting, I could tell you, but then I'd have to eat myself.

  • Ignore the Disability: In one episode of Series F, the guests were penalized for saying a swear word beginning with F, and in the Series G episode on Germany a similar ban was placed on mentioning "the War" (although the Franco-Prussian War was still fair game).
    • However, Sean Lock was chastised for mentioning Evelyn Waugh.
      • And then they spent the last third of the episode talking about the war! Just when you thought they might actually spend 40 minutes discussing Germany without bringing it up...
  • I Know You Know I Know:
    • "Double bluffs" get steadily more ridiculous, until hitting critical mass in the Comic Relief special, which opens with "how many sides - sides, S-I-D-E-S - does a right isosceles triangle have?" Two forfeits ("4" and "6") are hit before the correct answer, and it just keeps going like that, with questions like "How many legs does a spider have?" and "What is the capital of France?"
    • David Mitchell on wearing vertical or horizontal stripes:

 David: I think it just alternates, doesn't it? Because for ages you think, "Okay, vertical stripes make people look thinner." Then you say, "Oh, she's wearing vertical stripes, therefore she must be fatter than she looks." Therefore you start thinking, "Oh, she looks fat because she's wearing vertical stripes," so suddenly, horizontal stripes start making you look thinner, because "oh, she must be thin, otherwise she'd never dare wear horizontal stripes." Then you go, "Horizontal stripes make you look thinner; oh, she must be fat, she's wearing horizontal stripes..."


 Alan: They've got standards, these people!

    • In the "Holiday" episode, Rob Brydon's joke about stamp collecting earned pained reactions from the panel and an expression of abject shame from Brydon himself.
  • Informed Ability: One episode brought up "Little Tich", a music-hall performer who inspired Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and whom Stephen Fry proclaimed a comic genius whose name would be remembered when every other comedian on the show would be long forgotten. The panel were unimpressed, pointing out that his name had already been forgotten — neither they nor the audience had ever heard of him — and when a surviving clip of his act was shown, they didn't even think it was all that funny.
  • Insufferable Genius: When panellists get onto a subject they actually know something about, they can sometimes forget to be funny and take the qui part a bit too seriously — unwilling to follow other panellists (Alan Davies especially) and feign stupidity to a certain degree for the sake of entertainment. True enough, bantermeisters that often do provide intelligent answers can avoid appearing as this by actually providing jokes (e.g. Sandi Toksvig, Dara Ó Briain).
    • Rory McGrath came off as awfully show-offy to many people during his first appearance, to the point where Sean Lock got annoyed with him and started to mock him relentlessly. "You're doing atomic number wheelies, aren't you?" Even Stephen eventually gets fed up with him, smiling and stating "You are just beginning to try my patience now."
    • John Sessions was so frequent an offender that he was given a buzzer that consisted of an over-eager child saying "Sir, Sir! I know Sir!"
    • Poor, poor Brian Cox.

  Sue Perkins: (taking notes) How do you spell 'electron'?


 Sean Lock: I don't know about you, but I'm just going to do it on the first question, then none of us can lose out. We all do it on the first question, we all lose points, and then it's just done. We don't have to worry about it, spend the rest of the show going, "oh, damn, already used my hoax card"... what you reckon, guys, you in for that?

Danny Baker: We're all gonna say yes, but we're all going to not really do it!

Alan: I might use it, but when I use it, it might be a hoax!

  • Kick the Dog: Quite literally, in response to the question "What can't remember anything?":

 Sean Lock: My neighbor's dog can't remember when I kick it. It still comes up to me.

Stephen: Awwww.

Sean: Yeah, I kick it real hard in the face.

Stephen: Aw, stop it!


 Stephen (introducing the panel as "four people who look a bit like other people"): Please welcome Tony Blair (Rory Bremner)... Tommy Cooper (Phill Jupitus)... Ruby Wax (Ronni Ancona)... and... Alan Davies.


 Clive: "Where do you stand on Bovril?"

Stephen: "I never stand on Bovril. It's a stupid thing to do. But I quite like the taste of it, I have to say."

  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Averted. Of all the BBC Panel Games, possibly bar Mock the Week, this one draws from one of the smallest pools of repeat guests. This is probably due to not having any fixed "theme" to the show, so they're unable to pluck participants from the worlds of politics and media, music, or sport, and mostly makes do with a limited number of comedians. On the plus side this gives the show something of a dinner-party feel, with the old favourites who banter well together making regular appearances.
  • Long List: Stephen is sometimes given these.

 Stephen: Real Chinese inventions include the abacus, chess, the decimal system, drilling for oil, fireworks, the fishing reel, the flamethrower, the helicopter, the horse collar, the iron plow, lacquer, the mechanical clock, hot-air balloons, negative numbers, the parachute, print-making, relief maps, rubber, the seismograph, stirrups, the suspension bridge, the umbrella, the water bomb, and whiskey.

    • The best example was when he listed everything the Scottish had invented. He got a round of applause at the end of it.
  • Long Runner: Based on the theme naming, it would appear they expect the show to be on for at least 26 series.
    • And given that they do one letter a year, by the time they get to Z, Stephen will be 71, and Alan 62.
  • Loophole Abuse: Several Real Life examples are discussed on "Inequality", including a cricketer who noticed that there Aint No Rule you can't use a bat wider than the wicket (there is now), and a baseball team that fielded a dwarf to exploit the rules regarding strike zones.
  • Malaproper: Jeremy Clarkson made a probably-intentional one in the "Green" episode when he referred to the RSPB as the "Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds" instead of "Protection", "accidentally" getting it mixed up with the RSPCA which stands for "Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals". (He is known to be fond of using deliberate malapropisms to express apathy or contempt toward something; indeed, he used the aforementioned gag on Top Gear as well.)
  • Memetic Mutation: Invoked and referenced by in "International", when Stephen puts on a false moustache and Bill Bailey claims that there'll be a website devoted to it by the time the show finishes airing. (There was one put up a day later, apparently.)
    • In an older episode, after Stephen's infamous line about "length and thickness", Alan remarks, "That'll be up on YouTube tomorrow." He was right, too.
  • Missing Episode: The episode "Idleness" was in limbo because the week before its broadcast panellist Jeremy Clarkson made controversial comments on The One Show about strikers that led to over 30,000 complaints. It was, however, accidentally uploaded to the iPlayer, and somebody managed to get it on YouTube before the BBC realised their mistake. It ultimately aired in May 2012, one week after the Shakespeare special.
  • Mood Whiplash: There's been more than a few instances where the topic turns a bit grim and somber. Of course, the panelists always point this out and make up for it right afterwards.

 [Following a discussion on the state funeral of the Unknown Soldier with full military honours, in the presence of a guard made up of 100 VCs and 100 women each of whom had lost their husband and all their sons during the Great War]

Jack Dee: That was a very funny round, I think.

Sue Perkins: Be interesting to see if we can pick it up from there!

  • Monochrome Casting: Has had a grand whopping total of two comedians of colour on in all its nine seasons (Meera Syal in "Aquatic Animals", Reg D. Hunter in "Fashion").
  • Moral Dissonance: Invoked and Played for Laughs by Jimmy Carr in the XL version of "I-Spy", where he berates the audience for first laughing at a tale of a murder attempt, and then at a certain point going "aaawww".
  • Most Annoying Sound: Invoked in "Imbroglio"; the buzzers were all purposefully annoying sounds. John got a loud buzzing insect, Frank got a yapping dog, Sean got a crying infant, and Alan, of course, got the forfeit klaxon.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: Invoked; according to Rich Hall, it's the sound of a prairie dog being sucked through a tube at eighty miles per hour. According to the panel, it's the sound of one of the other panelists getting a forfeit.
    • When Ross Noble said that the idea of a 'rounded triangle' gave him hope for a "Toblerone-Rolo combo", Phill Jupitus commented that those three words in a Geordie accent were his new favorite sound.
  • My Name Is Not Durwood: Stephen accidentally called Sue Perkins "Mel" in the Gothic episode, leading to much embarrassment and the panelists giving him grief about it the rest of the episode.
  • N-Word Privileges: Stephen manages to "reclaim" the word 'charioteer' about 2 minutes after the panel suggest it should be a euphemism for gay. That's got to be some kind of record.

 Stephen: I'm a Charioteer of FIRE!

  • The Napoleon: Set up and then debunked in one General Ignorance round: political leaders tend to be above average height at the very least, and some are much taller.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Setting Bill Bailey's buzzer to, yes, "Bill Bailey, Won't You Please Come Home". Alan provides the obligatory Lampshading.
  • Nintendo Hard: It's explicitly stated that the guests are not expected to know the answers to any of the questions.
    • Although sometimes someone will know, and sometimes they won't know the answer but will know some sort of interesting relevant information. See Smart Ball, below.
  • No Export for You: The cost of clearing the rear-projected images for international showing has put paid to no fewer than four attempts to bring the programme stateside. However, Series F has been broadcast in New Zealand, and Australia broadcast Series F and G, then looped back to Series A - E before resuming with Series H. Also, the show has been remade for the Dutch market at least; the host of the Dutch version made a guest appearance during Series G to demonstrate the correct pronunciation of "Van Gogh".
  • Noodle Incident: When Stephen mentions in episode C01 that he would love to finally get some fanmail:

  Stephen: Apart from the, um...well you know who you are, don't you? [beat] And, I tried it, and it was a disaster.

  • Not So Above It All: Stephen Fry, whose main role is to rein in the panel when they go too far. When he loses his composure, it's often the funniest moment of the show.
    • A good spectacular example occurred in Series E, where he deftly disarmed Rob Brydon (who had been repeating the last few words of everything he said) and then bungled his very next line, which was of course "They say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is..."
  • Now You Tell Me: After Alan Davies destroys part of his desk with a saw in the Series G episode "Gardens", David Mitchell comments that "I really wish they hadn't made this set out of asbestos."
    • Bill Bailey claimed that once he went into an enclosure with a jaguar after the handler advised: "Always approach from the front." When he was almost within striking distance the handler suddenly corrected himself: "Oh no, sorry, 'Never.'"
    • Alan has a bad habit of destroying historical artefacts, just before Stephen says how priceless they are. This has gotten to the point where museums that loan items to QI include a proviso that Alan must not touch them.
  • Nutty Squirrel: the Carnival episode.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Several guests such as Johnny Vegas, Lee Mack and Robert Webb have played with the format of the show by being as obtuse as possible, usually just to drive Stephen up the wall and derail the show. More to the point, this is how Alan Davies fulfills his role of The Fool on a consistent basis. When he wised up to his situation in series D, he started playing seriously and actually won four episodes in a row. But as his buffoonery is a cornerstone of the show's popularity, he was soon set straight.
  • Off on a Technicality: Subverted when Lee Mack triggered the klaxon by saying "First of December" and the words "DECEMBER THE 1ST" appeared on the screens; he tried to argue he shouldn't lose points as that wasn't what he said, but was informed "you don't get off that easily".
    • Even more brutally subverted--or perhaps even inverted--when David Mitchell gave "After 1939" as an answer to "When was the first World War named as such?" After the forfeit "1939" came up, David tried to argue his case, since he'd said "after 1939"...eventually resulting in him getting two more forfeits in addition to the first. See Rage Against the Author below.
  • Off the Rails: All the time, but only because it's usually the game's entire point. Sometimes, it doesn't just go off the rails but upside down, in a ditch, and on fire. Notably, in the "Gardens" episode when Stephen asks about the best place to find a new species, which somehow led to an "interesting, fierce, and, I think, productive" debate on what to do with a starving honeybee.
    • Another one started with the origin of the word "vegetarian" and moved on to a debate about motorised monster truck-esque turtles — unsurprisingly, Jeremy Clarkson was involved. See Completely Missing the Point above.
      • Or the Christmas XL special, in which they started talking about Mormon polygamy and went through the Osmonds to figure out that the Tenth Doctor would be killed off by the secret brother Big Graham Osmond ("played by Bill Bailey!"), who lived in the attic and wrote all their songs. Bill Bailey ends up chewing the holly sprig in David Tennant's lapel.
  • One of Us: Jonathan Ross is a comic book fan, which gave him a chance to do a lengthy Motor Mouth gag in the Series D Children in Need episode about the origins of Wonder Woman, the private life of William Moulton Marston, and the evolution of EC Comics and its subsequent demise at the hands of the Comics Code Authority (albeit with a repetition of the myth that the word "FLICK" was banned in case it looked like "FUCK").

 Stephen: Fabulous. I love that. That is brilliant. And to think that almost everyone I know thinks you're a coarse, vain, loudmouthed...

    • Bill Bailey wears a Dragon Ball T-shirt in one of the H series episodes. In the following series he sports a Naruto t-shirt.
    • Phill Jupitus once wore a Planet Express shirt.
    • The XL version of "Green" features a lengthy discussion about assorted comic book superheroes.
    • In "Hoaxes" when discussing the QI crop circle, one of the men responsible for it is wearing an Xkcd t-shirt.
    • Rich Hall apparently watches Myth Busters.
      • As do the reasearchers. Several myths explored on that show have come up as questions (such as what happens when you drop a bullet and simultaneously fire another horizontally from the same height).
  • Only Sane Man: Stephen, obviously. Alan sometimes slips into that role, or David Mitchell during his appearances.
  • Overly Long Gag: During Series E, there was an episode centered around "endings". The buzzers for the first three included the sound of a church gong signifying death, the sound of a guillotine sliding down, and the final strums of a banjo tune. Alan's is what seems to be the last frantic chords of a piano... which then keep continuing on for another 30 seconds before stopping. During this, Stephen keeps trying to continue with the show, before the piano starts up again. He does this about three times.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: Discussed in "France". The porn version of Mary Poppins would be "Mary Popshot" or "Mary Pops-In".
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked several times as the panellists become more and more Genre Savvy about "obvious but wrong" answers; David Mitchell noted how worried the panel were to give an answer they were certain of for fear of the klaxon sounding, and after Jack Dee had finished a very long, rambling answer Ross Noble brought up the idea that the klaxon would go off and the screens would display everything Jack had just said, word for word.
  • People's Republic of Tyranny: Invoked by Jimmy Carr in a discussion about the Democratic Republic of the Congo. If they called themselves 'The Fascist Junta' we might at least respect their honesty.
  • Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Invoked when the panel where discussing the problems of sex in space. Bill Bailey and Alan Davies started musing about what a porno set in space would be like:

 Bill Bailey: I'm here to fix the turbo-thrusters.

Alan Davies: Then you'd better come through to the sleeping module.

  • Placebo Effect: One of the questions on 'Illness' asks why this works (it turns out that nobody knows).
  • The Points Mean Nothing: Even the show's creators don't know how the scoring works — they apparently hire a man to sit in a room and work it out, and no-one knows how he decides it. The placings can actually be quite important, especially if you're a fan of Alan Davies.
    • That's true of the points related to the questions, but Stephen gives points for things that are "quite interesting". There is, supposedly, an actual formula or line-of-thought he uses to do so when awarding points, but no one has managed to figure out how exactly it works.
    • The klaxon, at least, is a uniform -10 unless it's an incredibly stupid answer (like saying carbon dioxide makes up the bulk of the atmosphere, or thinking modern Germany still sings "Deutschland, Deutschland Uber Alles").
    • A lot of this is due to things being cut in the edit, but the points still affecting the end result. It explains why in some episodes people have apparently done well but still lost — they left a number of forfeits on the editing-room floor. And, of course, they can't re-record the ending to only include points scored in the edited version.
    • In the 'International' episode of Series I, Bill Bailey used his 'Nobody knows' sign after a discussion of the points. The point-scorer agreed, and awarded him 3 points for it.
    • Parodied on "Inequality"; the points were (unfairly) assigned before the game started (where Stephen said Sandi Toksvig had won despite having a lower score than Clive Anderson), and even more unfairly not announced at the end.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: "You can't even mutilate a tortoise anymore!"
  • Porn Names: "Grant Wood?"
  • Precision F-Strike: Unfortunately bleeped out, but Phill Jupitus loves using these.

 Stephen (cutting off Johnny Vegas after a rambling non-answer): The short answer to that is "No". The long answer is "Fuck, no".

    • Not to mention:

 Stephen: Does anyone know why the Royal Family celebrate Christmas on the 24th?

Jo Brand: Because they're all fucking mad!

Stephen: No, because they're all fucking German.

    • In the episode "Fingers and Fumbs", there was a special forfeit revolving around use of the word "fuck" where whoever said it had to play Rock/Paper/Scissors with Stephen to decide if they would lose points. It was a double bluff, as Stephen said, the contestants were expected to think that "fuck" was such an obvious word to choose as a forbidden word, they would think that the makers would never pick it as such. It came up no fewer than six times (three of them Phill's), and Stephen didn't win any games. (He kept playing scissors, having claimed it was the best opening move; see Kansas City Shuffle.)
    • In Series A, Stephen cut off a discussion on why there aren't any romantic songs that mention the "second moon" (technically a resonant body) Cruithne.

 Stephen: Because it was discovered in nineteen-ninety-fucking-FOUR!!

    • Actually, it was discovered to be a "moon" in 1997, but Fry was so keyed up by that point...
    • In one of the outtakes from Series 1, Stephen turns a fluffed line into a Crowning Moment of Funny:

 Stephen: Piss and arse and wank!


  Stephen: I'm talking about Neptune and Uranus. (looks at audience.) No. No.

  • Proud to Be a Geek
  • Psmith Psyndrome: The very first penalty of the series, in the pilot. Alan guesses that Adolf is the 6th most popular boy's name in Germany, and Stephen holds up a card that says Adolph, claiming the intern didn't fact-check the spelling. Alan then tries to claim he shouldn't be penalized because he pronounced it with an F. Stephen relents and reduces the forfeit to 8 points.
  • Psycho Strings: The forfeit for the "F*#@" forfeit in "Fingers and Fumbs" was accompanied by its own sound effect featuring these, rather than the usual klaxon.
  • Rage Against the Author: David Mitchell in the "International" episode, leaving Stephen and the audience in stitches:

 Stephen: When was the First World War first named as such?

David: ... It's gonna be some point after 1939, isn't it.

[klaxon sounds, cue forfeit: "1939"]

David: Excuse me! I think I said, I think what I said, people in the box, is "after 1939". Which may contain 1939, but does not mean it.

[klaxon sounds, cue forfeit: "AFTER THE SECOND WORLD WAR"]

David: Okay! [waving finger] No no no! I think-... "After 1939" and "After the Second World War" are not synonymous, now this is just giving you time to type "After 1939"!

[klaxon sounds, cue forfeit: "DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR"]

David: ... Why don't you just type, "Mitchell is a cock"?

Stephen: [warningly] I wouldn't put it past them.

  • Rant-Inducing Slight: David Mitchell is prone to these. The producers have picked up on this, and tend to use more double-bluffs and other tricks when he's on the show. In the Geometry episode, for example, they "targeted" him with a double-bluff regarding the pillars of the Parthenon, which appear straight because they actually are. Strangely, it wasn't David Mitchell who launched into an epic rant after that one, but Johnny Vegas.
  • A Rare Sentence

 Stephen: Why might I put my finger up your bottom if you couldn't name seven bald men apart from Yul Brynner? [Beat] That is possibly one of the oddest questions I've ever asked on this show...

  • Re Cut: QI XL, a 40-minute version of the show, broadcast the following day.
    • Something of an inversion of Edited for Syndication — a lot of the apparent points meaning nothing (see below) is ironed out in some episodes by massive forfeits and/or correct answers which were dropped in the edit down to a half-hour; the long edit still drops points, however, and at least once dropped a forfeit (in "Health & Safety," when Alan says "you big gorilla, you," the klaxon can be heard coming in, but is not shown). One presumes that even more than this is normally cut. The repeats on Dave for Series F are exclusively showing QI XL and not the normal version (and in a few cases even got to air the XL version first because the BBC never bothered).
      • Although this might be because it allows them to stretch it to a full hour of broadcasting with three internal ad breaks and a more traditional scheduling pattern, as opposed to other BBC shows the channel broadcasts, which remain unedited (save for a straight cut in the middle for one ad break), but as such take up a forty-minute slot. That being said, they're not doing the same for Have I Got A Bit More News For You
  • Released to Elsewhere: Phill Jupitus gets off an extended riff on this theme in the context of a discussion of Russian dogs carrying bombs which were trained to destroy tanks.

 Phill: Don't worry, that one didn't blow up. He lives on a farm now... they really love him; they stroke him a lot.

Alan: His back's broken, but...

  • Running Gag: Everything involving Alan Davies, from his comical buzzer noise to finishing last almost every time. Although since he's the only panelist who is on every show, even though he usually loses he's still won more games than any other panelist...
    • Phill Jupitus is liable to start these off, even if they only run for that episode. In particular, one episode where they discussed hunters dying because they only ate rabbit.
      • Also him standing up with an awestruck look on his face whenever someone's buzzer is set to God Save the Queen. (Or, during the France episode, the Marseillaise, appropriately.)
      • Kestrels. (This is actually one of Phill's personal running gags, popping up on Never Mind the Buzzcocks and other places, but it seems to have originated on QI.)
    • *Buzzer* Blue whale, anyone?
    • Pliny the Elder and his crazy "scientific facts" also qualify.
    • In the episode "Differences" in Series D, Dara was asked a question beginning "Suppose you got into bed with your wife...". Once the answer to the question had been settled, Dara pointed out that he didn't in fact have a wife, and Stephen explained that they'd bought him one from Amazon but she hadn't arrived yet. Dara's mail-order bride became a running joke for the remainder of the episode.
    • Stephen Fry being portrayed as a posh, out-of-touch upper-class gentlemen, with servants attending to his every whim. Phill Jupitus usually starts those, but others have as well.
      • Stephen's utter inability to understand Geordie accents has come up more than once.
    • The panellists claiming that the forfeit answers couldn't possibly have been predicted in advance, and that the QI Elves are frantically typing them in as they say them. Stephen carried cards with the forfeit answers on them in the first series to forestall this, but has since lost the habit, resulting in mild accusations of cheating.
    • The episode "Illness" from Series I featured two running gags: Jo Brand giving answers which included insults to director Michael Winner, and Stephen Fry concluding discussions of how to treat or avoid various conditions with "And avoid fatty or spicy foods".
    • Rich Hall and Jimmy Carr answering moon- and Christianity-related questions, respectively, with "which moon?" and "it didn't happen," until the Elves started docking them for it.
  • Schmuck Bait: The obvious answers. Since the A series, the show has evolved from heading full throttle into them to warily circling the answers to find where the obvious answer is correct.

 Alan: What are we doing [on Mars], what's the fucking point?

Stephen: are just unbelievable--

(Alan mimes fishing)


 David: This is the technique of the bully! You hit us, and then you go "Oh! You think I was going to hit you? No, this is my hand to stroke you!" And you hear me go "AHHHH! HE'S STROKING ME!".

    • And in the XL version of Series F episode "Fingers and Fumbs"...

 Stephen: Now, we have a special forfeit word. If you use a particular "f" word at any stage of this evening--

Jo Brand: [unimpressed] Oh, fuck off.

[Psycho Strings] [screen shows: F * # @]

Stephen: It was almost like a subtle double bluff, that it couldn't possibly be that word.. and it was.

[the panelists go on merrily dropping f-bombs for the rest of the show, the upshot of which is that the winning score is -24]

    • Or this one:

 Stephen: Now, welcome to the General Ignorance round, in which we ask Alan: is this a rhetorical question?

Alan: (hesitantly) No.

Stephen: *pause* Quite right.

  • Seen It a Million Times: Discussed in "Films and Fame" of phrases such as "Don't you die on me".
  • Serious Business: In the episode on "Hoaxes", the panel were informed that they had to guess which question was a hoax and, in fact, not true by playing their "Joker cards". At the end, it turned out that the idea of a hoax fact was itself a hoax, and everything had been true. This prompted Sean Lock and Alan to throw their Joker cards across the room in anger, and Danny Baker to say "This is an outrage, this is like the end of Lost!" When Sean was then announced as the winner, one of the other panelists claimed it was now a "discredited" show anyway.

 Stephen: It's endearing how much it matters to them.

  • Shaggy Dog Story: In "Hanatomy", Gyles Brandreth spends over a minute laying out a possible answer to a question about Marcel Proust, before suddenly realising that he's got confused and the event at the heart of his theory didn't happen to Proust but to a different French writer entirely.
  • Shaving Is Science: Stephen and Sean discussed the marketing of skin products for men.

 Stephen: "I think there's a current advert on for some skin preparation for men, it goes on about how your skin can get 'stronger'."

Sean: "Obviously they don't want to market 'moisturiser' to men, so they call it 'face protection'. Like, it's stopping bullets hitting your face! *mimics a man being shot in the face, shrugging it off* Put this on! It's not to do with making me all soft and lovely, it's actually *BANG* and *BASH* it away. People are throwing kettles at me, I'm going *BING*!"

  • Shout-Out: In series I a game of Identity Parade is played in "Indecision".
  • Skyward Scream / Milking the Giant Cow: Phill Jupitus in "Hodge Podge". "EVOLUTION!"
  • Smart Ball: Half the fun of the show is when it turns out that one of the panellists happens to be a massive nerd with regard to a particular subject, the more obscure the better. Examples include Vic Reeves being an expert on pirates, Jonathan Ross being an expert on comic books, Rory McGrath knowing the Latin names of most birds as well as the atomic masses of every element, John Sessions being able to name the birth and death year of many famous artists, and Jo Brand being a psychology expert, although this is helped by the fact she used to be a psychiatric nurse. Surprisingly, she also identified an electron as a probability density function and explained what that means.
    • Daniel Radcliffe's appearance in "Hocus Pocus", where he knew of the oldest magic trick in the book (but of course) but also showed quite reasonable knowledge in the Harrying of the North, to the other panelists' surprise.
    • And Clare Balding who was an accomplished horsewoman on an episode all about horses.
  • Smart People Know Latin: Alan makes a joke about Stephen knowing the Lord's Prayer in Latin, to which Stephen responds by quoting the first line of such at high speed.
  • Smite Me Oh Mighty Smiter: After David Mitchell's long and futile argument with the klaxon (yes, the klaxon), in which he inevitably loses:

 David: Why don't you just write "Mitchell is a cock".

Stephen: I wouldn't put it past them.

  • Sophisticated As Hell: The show can swing from very academic to completely filthy, sometimes in mid-sentence. Once Stephen gave a long, detailed, nerdy description of how woodpeckers' tongues work, before suddenly ending with "If the pecker's got wood, why go for tongue, you may ask!" — resulting in a lot of stares and Jo Brand asking "Could we maybe have an offshoot of this program called Quite Unnecessary?"

 Alan: We had a Jimmy Glascok at school. You could always see when he was coming.

Stephen: Oh, yes! Quality!

    • Also, Rob Brydon's anecdote about his father's choice of swearing:

 Rob: He would say, "Hell's bells and buckets of blood".

Stephen: It's a good phrase, "Hell's bells and buckets of blood". Sounds good. Good for getting it out of your system. [[[Beat]]] I say "f**k".

    • "The short answer is 'no'. The long answer is 'fuck no'."
  • Special Guest: The roster of panelists is so small and unvariant that any new face probably counts. The ones with the biggest profile are probably David Tennant, Daniel Radcliffe, and Brian Blessed.
    • Series I has included a few non-comedian guests based on that week's theme (Professor Brian Cox on 'Incomprehensible' and Dr Ben Goldacre on 'Illness').
  • Squick: In-Universe. In "Idleness", Stephen describes how a man can fake tuberculosis, and the panelists and audience react with disgust.
  • The Stinger: Stephen usually gets one final joke or funny quote after the scores are read.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: The producers obviously have fun trying to predict the more obvious joke answers so they can be forfeited. Highlights include catching Jimmy Carr out on "the world's most poisonous snake" being Piers Morgan, and Bill Bailey on "what has huge teeth and only one facial expression" being Janet Street-Porter.
  • Stupid Sexy Flanders: The horse from the "electricity" episode.
    • Also the giraffes from the "Ganimals" episode.

 Stephen: So there you are, they're these beautiful animals. And they are graceful and sweet and long-eyelashed and sexy and rather desirable in many ways...

(Sandi Toksvig looks at Stephen)

Stephen: ...but they use their necks, it seems, as weapons of war.

Sandi Toksvig: Good job you're tall.

    • Also, Stephen once found himself admiring Jo Brand's breasts:

 Jo: You do if you have massive knockers that are in danger of injuring people, and I do fall into that category.

Stephen: You're not doing badly, I have to say. You're very . . . A fulsome pair of funbags, there. . . . But, erm--

Jo: You know what? That was almost heterosexual.

Stephen: [makes a noise of consent] I may be on the turn.

  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: A rare real-time example. Within moments of Stephen messing up the "They say of the Acropolis..." line, the others have already created a song around it.
  • Subliminal Advertising: Debunked in the H series episode on "Hypnosis, Hallucinations and Hysteria". STEPHEN FRY FOR POPE
  • Take That: On the question "Name a poisonous snake", Jimmy Carr buzzed-in with "Piers Morgan"... which was the forfeit answer.
    • When asked to name the commonest material in the world, Clive Anderson suggested "Jim Davidson's".
    • Alan's buzzer in the "Horrible" episode: "Hello, I'm Piers Morgan."
    • When asked "what is the biggest load of rubbish in the world?", an audience member yells, "France!"
    • In "Invertebrates", the question "name a spineless vertebrate", Jimmy answered Nick Clegg, to great applause.
    • In "Incomprehensible", Stephen tells the panel about a woman who deliberately put herself through the most debasing and degrading experiences she could think of. Alan says, "But did she go on Mock the Week?"
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That: The klaxon, to many panelists' paranoia.
    • In "Illness", Jo Brand makes a Running Gag out of insulting Michael Winner. Eventually one of the questions is about what you would call a man who eats everything in sight, to which she answers "Winner"... which happens to be the forfeit (Winner having suffered near-fatal food poisoning in 2007).
  • That Came Out Wrong: Most of the innuendo is deliberate, but even so...

 Stephen Fry (about a very tall bicycle used by lamplighters): You lean against the lamp... you've got a torch, you've got an assistant ... And when you get home, or back to the depot, your assistant dismounts you.

    • In the first episode of Series C, Stephen describes an interesting feature of custard (it's a dilatant fluid, which means it becomes more solid the harder or more suddenly you press on it):

 Stephen: You can slowly put your finger through it--

(audience laughs)

Stephen: (facepalms) This is raising images. "Your finger slips in smoothly..." No, please, help me out here. But if you slap it hard-- no. (buries face in hands) Oh dear.

    • And in one episode, Stephen explains that you can't get margarine as a substitute for butter anymore.

 Stephen: You can't palm me off with margarine, I was about to say, but that sounds rather...

    • One of the outtakes from C series has Stephen discussing the unpleasantness of kissing stubbly men unless they've recently shaved, which is why if you ever kiss boys its best if they're 15 or younger...Oh I didn't just say that!
    • From "Incomprehensible", talking about a picture of a ground squirrel:

 Ross Noble: He's only making the face because he's got Philip Scofield's hand up his bottom.

Stephen: Oh that takes me back a bit. (laughter)

Ross: Is that with the squeaking noise, is it?

Stephen: No, when I say, that takes me back a bit (franticly trying to speak over the audience laughter) I don't mean there was a time...! (resigned look) It's all gone wrong.

  • Thing-O-Meter: The 'Pleasure Gauge' in the episode on Happiness.
  • Throw the Dog a Bone: The rare occasions when Alan wins or comes second (although in series G it happened quite frequently).
  • Too Dumb to Fool: As the panelists get more Genre Savvy and double bluffs become more common, Alan Davies has been earning points by plunging in with the obvious answer while the others sit back and try to decide what the writers are really asking.
  • Toilet Humour: Often supplied by Sean Lock.
  • Too Much Information:

 Fred MacAulay: There will be a lot of people watching who will wonder what a true Scotsman wears under his kilt, and I can tell you true Scotsmen will never tell you what he wears under his kilt. He will show you at the drop of a hat.

Stephen: I've seen dandruff on the shoes. That's a giveaway. Um. But the short kilt-

Sandi Toksvig: I don't feel well now.

Alan: [waving arms] Don't feel good with that information. ...Send me something else. Give me another image. Danish Pastries! Danish Pastries!

  • Totally Radical: The Series G episode "Groovy" is naturally full of this. But being QI, it includes a lot of discussion on what era various slang words actually hail from, a lot of them being Older Than They Think.
  • Treasure Chest Cavity: A certain pre-industrial travel guide recommended that travelers prepare for potential theft by making an incision in one arm and hiding a jewel inside the wound, then sewing it up and allowing it to heal. Thus one would have some emergency wealth that robbers wouldn't be able to find.
  • Uncanny Valley: After meeting the android Asimo, the contestants discussed how the creepiest thing about it (aside from the distinct feeling that it was probably heavily weaponised and might go on a rampage) was the "attempt to be human", such as talking in a humanoid voice rather than Robo Speak.
  • Unexpectedly Obscure Answer: Too frequently to really qualify as "unexpected".
  • Unusual Euphemism: At every opportunity, including in the F series with naval semaphore flags. Alan describing a stale chocolate bar as tasting like "old ladies' cupboards" was not a euphemism, although everyone tried to make it one.
  • Uranus Is Showing: An episode in Series D has a question about the discovery of the rings around Uranus. The panel avoids making any of the obvious jokes — not that they need to, since the audience laughs every time the word is said anyway — until Stephen deliberately provokes them by innocently remarking that he's just noticed the word might be misunderstood.
  • Verbal Backspace:

 Rob Brydon: The only thing I have knowledge of is the sheep tied to a lamp- no, sorry, I have knowledge of Cardiff.

  • Viewers are Morons: This is apparently the official reason given for the programme not making it to BBC America. Otherwise, generally averted.
  • Westminster Chimes:
    • Used for the buzzer sounds in a first-series episode — Dave Gorman's buzzer chimed mi, Jeremy Hardy's chimed do, Jo Brand's chimed re, and Alan's made a noise like a pneumatic drill.
    • Again in a second-series episode — each of the first three contestants had a four-note chime, and Alan had a cuckoo clock.
  • What Could Have Been: At one point the intention was to have Michael Palin as the host, with Stephen and Alan as team captains.
  • What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Stephen often has to apologise for mistakes in the research, but nothing beats apologising for the, er, language the Flowerpot Men speak (which was Oddlepoddle, not flobbadob).

 Stephen: Flobbadob actually means 'flowerpot' in Oddlepoddle. (beat) I cannot believe I just said that.

    • The great debate in "Garden" on how to kill a honeybee.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Alan told a story about seeing some pictures from a party he'd been at that showed people playing with sparklers, and he thought he must have been in the bathroom or something since he didn't remember sparklers being there. The next few pictures showed him lighting them and handing them around.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Jimmy Carr brings this up in "Flora and Fauna".
  • Why Don't Ya Just Shoot Him:

 Stephen: Do you know the best way to escape a charging polar bear?

Jeremy Clarkson: SHOOT IT IN THE FACE.

  • Wilhelm Scream: Sue Perkins's buzzer in episode G13, "Goths".
    • It gets discussed in full in the "Film and Fame" episode.
  • Worth It: Often expressed when a joke answer gets the klaxon, such as when Bill Bailey suggested "Janet Street-Porter" for the question "What has large teeth and only one facial expression?", or Sue Perkins said "Iceberg" for "What type of lettuce was served on the Titanic?"
  • Zero-G Spot
  1. i.e. someone who is weak or cowardly
  2. François Rabelais indeed wrote in Gargantua and Pantagruel that the best thing to wipe your behind is a goose's neck. And it is the answer Stephen was looking for.
  3. What she meant was, sperms are like swimmers, and "boy sperms" are fast but die quickly while "girl sperms" are slow but can endure. No points there though; the answer is diet.