Late to the Party: Q.I.

This week’s Late to the Party is a little bit different from the past entries I’ve made. I’ve been busy with my family out-of-province this weekend and have had no time to find something to write about that would be appropriate for my piece. Because of these circumstances, I’m choosing to review something that’s different on a couple of levels: it’s not something that I’ve only just stumbled upon recently, and it will likely be newer to you than to me; but in keeping with my tradition of being behind the times, I was at least six or seven years late in catching on to it.

This ‘thing’ to which I am referring is a British panel show called QI (short for ‘Quite Interesting’) which first aired on September 11, 2003. I happened upon it quite by accident while watching clips of a similar British panel show called 8 Out of 10 Cats, which I may get to another day. I’d been searching for clips on YouTube and clicked on one for QI instead of the one I’d meant to click on; it seemed like a neat concept, so I thought I’d give it a chance. It is now hands-down one of my favourite television shows.

The premise of QI is that the contestants are asked questions with either an extremely bizarre answer that almost no one would know, or an ‘obvious’ answer that everyone would think they knew the answer to. Points are given for correct answers and deducted for incorrect but common answers that the QI team was able to anticipate. Because it is much more likely that someone will lose points rather than earn them, the contestants are also awarded points simply for offering up interesting tidbits of information — provided, of course that said information is accurate.

QI begins with the more bizarre questions first, more as a way to get discussion going, I think. Some of my favourite questions from the first segment are “Could Jesus walk on custard?”, “Who is the most famous Alan in Hollywood”, and “If you heard a ‘fuffing’, what type of animal should you expect to be savaged by?”. (Yes, all of the beginning questions are that weird.) The guests fiddle-faddle over it for some time, jokes flying all the while, until they either guess the answer or Stephen takes pity on them and gives the answer. Breaking slightly from other television shows, QI names its seasons (or series, as the British say) by simply naming them Series A, B, C and so on. This first segment is named based on the letter of the series, e.g. “Adam” and “Astronomy” in the first and second episodes of Series A, respectively.

The later segment, appropriately named General Ignorance, brings in the questions that everyone thinks they know the answers to, when in fact it’s more than likely that we’re all mistaken. These can include things like “What are the Beatles spelling out in Semaphore on this album cover?” (it’s not ‘Help’), “How many moons does the Earth have”, and “How many words rhyme with ‘purple’?”. The QI team is not entirely infallible in their answers, and so they have a section on their website in which you can dispute answers that were given on the show, which they will correct at a later date in the event that they were mistaken.

I noted that this is a panel show, but it’s also a prime source of entertainment. Hosted by the legendary Stephen Fry, the show has four contestants each episode, one of whom is always Alan Davies, who quite happily plays the role of the token village idiot. The other three are usually comedians, actors or some other public figure who have managed to make known that they have a sense of humour. Due to so many comedically-inclined guests being on the show each time, it is very, very rare to make it through an episode without having a good and proper laugh. QI has sent me into more giggle-fits than I could really count, all while I was learning something new.

So! If you’re the type of nerd who loves random bits of trivia, watching celebrities make delightful fools of themselves and listening to British humour, this show is most certainly for you. Below are some of my favourite clips, including the  three parts of the first ever episode of QI. Enjoy!

Note: This series includes some profanity and innuendo, so some clips may not be appropriate for younger readers/viewers.

Series A, Episode 1, Part 1
Series A, Episode 1, Part 2
Series A, Episode 1, Part 3

Could Jesus Walk on Custard?
Chinese Names Translated
Stephen Fry gets tongue-tied

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One Comment

  1. Ben
    Posted September 7, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    After you showed me the “Could Jesus Walk on Custard” clip over one of our many Skype conversations, I went to Youtube to seek out more clips. Not only do I love the bizarre questions and the hilarious banter that ensues, but I could frankly watch Stephen Fry all day…he could sit in a chair and read from a phone book and make it entertaining. The information you glean from the show usually falls into the “useless but fun” category, which is my favorite kind.

    The style of humor reminds me a little of Top Gear, not so much in terms of show content (Top Gear is about cars) but the way it’s delivered and the dry wit of the hosts. If you’re into British TV shows, you must check out that show even if you aren’t a car enthusiast. Simon Pegg was previously a guest and I’ve heard Rowan Atkinson is in the new season.

    Keep the great reviews rollin’ 🙂

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