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For other uses of "Qi", see Qi (disambiguation).
"QI (TV series)" redirects here. For the Czech, Dutch and Swedish versions, see Qi (disambiguation) § Television.
QI Title Card.jpg
Also known as
  • Quite Interesting
  • QI XL (extended repeats)
  • QI VG (compilation episodes)
Genre Comedy panel game
Created by John Lloyd
Directed by Ian Lorimer
Presented by
Starring Alan Davies (2003–)
Theme music composer Howard Goodall
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 14
No. of episodes 182 (plus 1 unbroadcast pilot) (list of episodes)
Location(s) The London Studios
  • Nick King
  • Richard Everton (Series A)
Running time
  • 30 minutes
  • (45 minutes for QI XL)
  • (30 minutes for QI VG)
Production company(s)
Distributor FremantleMedia[1]
Original network
Picture format
Original release 11 September 2003 (2003-09-11) – present
Related shows
External links
Production website

QI (Quite Interesting) is a British comedy panel game television quiz show created and co-produced by John Lloyd, and features permanent panelist Alan Davies. Stephen Fry was host of the show from its initial pilot, before departing after the final episode of the M series in 2015,[2] with frequent QI panelist Sandi Toksvig replacing him prior to the beginning of the N series in 2016.[3] The format of the show focuses on Davies and three other guest panelists answering questions that are extremely obscure, making it unlikely that the correct answer will be given. To compensate, the panelists are awarded points not only for the right answer, but also for interesting ones, regardless of whether they are right or even relate to the original question, while points are deducted for "answers which are not only wrong, but pathetically obvious"[4] – typically answers that are generally believed to be true but in fact are misconceptions – which are known as forfeits that are usually indicated by a loud siren, flashing lights, and the incorrect answer being displayed on screen. Bonus points are sometimes awarded or deducted for challenges or incorrect references, varying from show to show. QI has a philosophy that "everything is interesting if looked at in the right way";[5] many factual errors in the show have been corrected in later episodes or on the show's blog.

For its first five series shown between 2003 and 2007, which corresponded to the first five letters of the alphabet, episodes premiered on BBC Four before receiving their first analogue airing on BBC Two a week later. From 2008 and 2011, the show was moved to BBC One, with an extended-length edition of each episode it broadcast introduced under the title of QI XL, and shown on BBC Two, often a day or two after the regular show's broadcast,[6] with Series G and H seeing the regular show broadcast in a pre-watershed slot; the extended edition remained within a watershed slot for its broadcast. Beginning with the I series, the regular show returned to a post-watershed slot on BBC Two. Syndicated episode of previous series are regularly shown on UKTV G2/Dave.

The show has received very positive ratings from critics and has been nominated for multiple awards; QI itself has the highest viewing figures for any show broadcast on BBC Four and Dave.[7][8] Several books, DVDs and other tie-ins to the show have been released, and international versions of QI have been made in other countries.

QI also receives its name for being IQ backwards as in the IQ test due to the presenter asking difficult questions

Format and concept[edit]

Comedian Alan Davies has been a permanent QI panelist in every series.

The panel consists of four participants: three rotating guests and one regular, Alan Davies, who has the seat to the immediate right of the host. The show's other panelists mainly come from a comedy background,[citation needed] although there have also been guests from other fields, including actors, television presenters, poets, scientists, musicians and even clergymen.[9][10][11] Davies has appeared in every episode, although in "Divination" he was not able to appear at the studio but was still able to play "from beyond".[clarification needed] Despite infrequent wins, Davies often finishes last due to incurring forfeits.

Questions posed to the panelists are often misleading or very difficult. Providing an "obvious but wrong"[12] answer results in a sequence of sirens and flashing lights; these answers are "forfeits". Davies is usually the panelist who gives these answers.[12] In the first two series, Fry produced the given answer on a card to show the panelists, while it also flashed on the large screens behind them (except in the pilot episode and the first show of the first series, when only the cards were used).[13] In the third series and onward, Fry's answer cards were dispensed with altogether, leaving only the screens as proof that such answers had been predicted.

Because the show's creators expected that hardly anyone would be able to give a correct answer without significant prompting, they instead encourage sheer interestingness, which is how points are mainly scored.[14] As such, tangential discussions are encouraged, and panelists are apt to branch off into frivolous conversations, give voice to trains of thought, and share humorous anecdotes from their own lives.[14] The number of points given and taken away are normally decided by Fry or beforehand by QI researchers known as "The QI Elves". For example, in one episode Davies was docked 10 points for suggesting "oxygen" to the question "What is the main ingredient of air?"[15]

Negative scores are common, and occasionally even the victor's score may be negative. Score totals are announced at the conclusion of the show. Fry said "I think we all agree that nobody in this universe understands QI's scoring system."[16] John Lloyd, QI's creator, has, on one occasion, admitted that not even he has any idea how the scoring system works, but there is someone who is paid to check on the scores.[17] According to the Series A DVD, guests are allowed the right of appeal if they believe their score is wrong, but none has so far exercised that right.[14]


Each panelist has a buzzer, which when pressed, produces a sound. For the first three series, the sounds were seemingly random things or of an arbitrary theme for the episode, but from Series D onwards, the sounds of all four are based on a theme that the episode is about, such as in the Series E episode "Espionage" for example, the sounds were all associated with spying; one was a piece of the intro theme for Inspector Gadget. The buzzers are always demonstrated at the beginning of the programme, but are usually given a shortened version for repeated use during the episode, mostly in General Ignorance.[citation needed] Davies "always gets the most demeaning sound" for his buzzer, in some cases, triggering the forfeit siren when asked to demonstrate his buzzer.[18]

Sometimes, the buzzers have unique points to them, such as having questions based on them; in most cases they are usually about Davies own,[citation needed] such as for example, one of his buzzer noises in the Series D episode "Descendants" sounded like a Clanger, and the panel had to try and guess what was being said, while in the Series F episode "Fakes and Frauds", all the buzzers sounded like ordinary household objects, but three turned out to be the sound of the superb lyrebird mimicking the noises. In other episodes, they were sometimes changed to suit the theme of an episode; for the Series D episode "Deprivation", the panelists had to use unique buzzers - two had bells, one flicked a ruler over the edge of a school desk, and Davies squeezed a toy chipmunk - while in the Series G episode "Green", the buzzers were replaced with whistles so the show could be eco-friendly.

General Ignorance[edit]

In a parody of ubiquitous general knowledge quizzes, the final round is off-topic and called "General Ignorance". It focuses on seemingly easy questions which have widely believed but wrong answers. Whereas in the main rounds of the show, the panelists' buzzer usage is not usually enforced, the "General Ignorance" questions are introduced by Fry's reminder to keep "fingers on buzzers". "General Ignorance" was featured in every episode until the I (ninth) series, but featured only occasionally in the J (tenth) and K (eleventh) series before appearing regularly again in the L (twelfth) series. Due to the large number of "obvious but wrong" answers, panelists, especially Davies, usually incur the greatest point losses in this round.[citation needed]

Tasks and themes[edit]

In a number of episodes, either the set, the panelists' clothing, the opening theme, or a mixture of all, are changed to match the episode's theme. For example, in "Denial and Deprivation", the set was replaced with an auctioneer stand for Fry and school desks or side tables for the panelists, and the lighting was stripped down.,[19] while in "Health and Safety", the panelists wore high visibility jackets, while the host wore a white coat.[20]

In some episodes, an extra task is given to the panelists to complete during the course of an episode, which can earn them extra points. Such tasks have included a drawing contest,[21] or spotting an item within a question and waving a "joker" card (e.g. Cuttlefish). In a number of series, the task reoccurred throughout a series' run. In the E series, for example, a task named "The Elephant in the Room" was featured in every episode, where panelists could play a themed joker card if they thought the answer to a question involved elephants. In the I series, the task was called "Nobody Knows", and the joker card for it was to be played when a question without a known answer was asked. In Series L, the "Spend a Penny" joker card could be invoked where an answer was related to lavatories.

In addition to tasks, Stephen Fry has also performed scientific experiments or demonstrations during an episode. He often did so once an episode in the J, K and L series, where they were called "Jolly Japes", "Knick-Knakes" and "Lab Larks", respectively, and usually occurred towards the end of the episode. Such experiments either used simple objects, various chemical compounds, odd contraptions, or a mixture of all. If an experiment's outcome was too fast to be seen, a short "replay" of it was shown, (sometimes with multiple angles) to reveal precisely what happened.


Veteran comedy producer John Lloyd was the driving force behind QI's creation.

Writer and former BBC producer John Lloyd devised the format of the show, and it is produced by Quite Interesting Limited, an organisation set up by Lloyd. QI was originally seen as being an "Annotated Encyclopædia Britannica ... the world's first non-boring encyclopaedia."[14] As a panel game, it was conceived as a radio show, with Lloyd as chairman.[22] While developing the show with Peter Fincham and Alan Yentob, Lloyd decided that it would work better on television. The three pitched it to Lorraine Heggessey, controller of BBC One at the time. Heggessey passed on the format, opting to commission a similar panel game called Class War (which was never made). When Fincham became controller of BBC One, Lloyd pitched it to him, only to be turned down by his former collaborator. Eventually, he pitched it to Jane Root, then controller of BBC Two, who agreed to develop it.[23] When it was decided that the show would air on television, Michael Palin was offered the job of chairman with Fry and Davies as captains of the "cleverclogs" and "dunderheads" teams, respectively.[22] However, when Palin decided not to take the job, the producers opted to change the format; Fry became the host, with Davies as the only regular panelist.[22][24] Root commissioned a pilot and a further 16 episodes after that, although budget limitations reduced the first series to 12 episodes.[23]

In October 2015, it was announced that Fry would be stepping down as host after Series M and would be replaced by Sandi Toksvig.[24] Fry described his position on QI as "one of the best jobs on television",[25] but that "it was time to move on". Toksvig said that "QI is my favourite television programme both to watch and to be on".[26] Lloyd said that Toksvig will be "the first female host of a mainstream comedy panel show on British television",[27] and that although she is very different to Fry, she "will bring to the show the same kind of wonderful thing that Stephen does, the mixture of real brains and a hinterland of knowledge, plus this naughty sense of humour." He also said it will give the show a chance to "do things in a slightly different way".[28]

Stephen Fry was the QI presenter, or "quizmaster", from the pilot through to Series M in 2015. 
Danish-born Sandi Toksvig, a regular QI guest, took over from Fry as "quizmaster" from Series N in 2016. 


The QI panel set, seen empty in 2009, incorporates the QI logo.

Recordings usually take place over a few weeks in May or June at The London Studios; three episodes are typically filmed per week and sixteen are filmed for each series.[29]

In the morning on the day of recording, the studio has to be set up. Seven cameras are used to record QI.[30] To check images, forfeits, buzzers and lighting are working, the first technical rehearsal is hosted by floor manager Guy Smart with stand-ins for panelists. Fry, who has been given the list of questions roughly an hour beforehand,[14] hosts the second technical rehearsal at 2:00 pm.[31] Guests may have time to practise with a set of warm-up questions.[30]

For earlier series, warm-up comedians were used before recording began, frequently Stephen Grant, credited as the "audience wrangler".[32] However, there have been no warm-ups for recent series. Fry records and tweets audience AudioBoos and introduces the guests before the show.[30] Recordings start at either 4:30 pm or 7:30 pm and last up to two hours, although only 30 minutes of footage is used for normal episodes and 45 minutes for "XL" episodes. By 10:00 pm, recording has usually finished and the set has been disassembled.[30] Roughly 16 questions are asked and about half of those make it into the show;[30] 20% of material researched is used in a QI episode, while other facts may appear in the XL versions, a QI book, on QI's Twitter feed or on their website.[31]

Questions seen beforehand[edit]

The makers of the show insist that the answers are not given to the panelists beforehand.[33] The host is given a list of questions about an hour before the show, for preparatory purposes, but the guests are forbidden to ask for preparatory materials or other help.[14] It is known that Davies never does any preparation.[14]

In an interview with the Radio Times regarding the current state of the BBC, Fry revealed one of the regular panelists insists on seeing the questions before they appear in the show.

"There's only one regular guest who always insists on seeing the questions beforehand and prepares for them. I won't tell you his or her name," he said. "It really annoys me. In fact, one day, I'll make sure that person is given a list from another programme because they don't need them."[34][35]

Following this comment people asked Fry to come out and say who it was, with several people posting their suggestions as to who it was. Fry later posted on his Twitter account that it was neither Davies nor Rob Brydon.[36]


The research for the show is mostly carried out by seven people called the "QI Elves", a team which has included Justin Pollard, Vitali Vitaliev,[37] and Molly Oldfield (daughter of Mike Oldfield). The "elves" devise the questions for the show, and one is on set during filming who is able to communicate with the host during the show to provide and correct information.[37] Other people involved in researching questions and compiling the scripts are John Mitchinson and Piers Fletcher, known (along with Justin Pollard, Molly Oldfield and James Harkin) as the Question Wranglers,[37] whose research utilizes both Encyclopædia Britannica and Wikipedia.[38] The QI website also has a forum.[39]

A QI Elves podcast, "No Such Thing As A Fish" began on 8 March 2014. The title is taken from an entry into the "Oxford Dictionary of Underwater Life", which was used on the show. The audio from the first episode in which they discuss how they found this fact is used as an introduction.[40] Regular elves are Anna Ptaszynski, James Harkin, Dan Schreiber and Andrew Hunter Murray, with occasional appearances from Alex Bell and Anne Miller. Dan is the host of the show. The theme song is "Wasps" from the band Emperor Yes, which is based on a fact about bees which was used on QI. The song is written as an exchange between the bees, as they defend their hive from attacking wasps by swarming the wasp, and using their body heat to boil the wasps.[41]

Theme tune[edit]

The theme tune was composed by Howard Goodall, who has twice appeared as a panelist on the show. The music was planned to be (and for the unbroadcast pilot actually was) "Wonderful World" by Herman's Hermits. However, the producers were unable to gain clearance to use the song and the DVD edition of the pilot now features Goodall's composition.[14]

Different instrumentation occasionally reflects the topic of a particular programme. For example, the Christmas specials include sleigh bells and have "Jingle Bells" as a counter-melody, Halloween-themed episodes feature spooky sound effects, and the "France" episode uses accordion music.[citation needed]

In the eighth episode of Series M, "Merriment", it was revealed that the theme tune contained the Morse code for www.alan0andstephenhero.com.[42] This URL redirects to a page on the main qi.com website and contains "bonus bits".


Main article: List of QI episodes

In QI, every series takes its theme from a different letter of the alphabet, starting with the letter "A". Series are referred to by letter rather than number. The first series started on 11 September 2003, and consisted of topics beginning with A. The second series consisted of topics beginning with "B" and also saw the first attempts to pay attention to a particular theme throughout one episode, e.g. "Birds" (the overriding theme did not necessarily begin with "B", although the questions always contained an element that did). The only exceptions to the alphabet system have been the Christmas specials, where the topics are often Christmas-based and do not necessarily correspond to that series' letter (although greater attempts have been made to do so since Series D.[citation needed])

Series D was the first to see all the episodes focus upon a single topic or theme, beginning with the series letter (i.e., Danger), and for each to be given an official title connected to the topic/theme; it also saw Fry modify his introduction of the panelists, by incorporating the theme/topic of the episode, with Davies often getting the "demeaning" introduction. This trend has continued with each subsequent series; episodes from previous series were retroactively given titles. A video podcast (featuring the best moments with some out-takes) was planned to accompany Series E, but this was instead turned into a set of "Quickies" featured on the QI homepage of the BBC's website. As this decision was not reached until after recording though, they are still referred to as "vodcasts" by whoever is introducing them (usually Fry but occasionally a panelist or even the audience).[43]

Points may be given to (or taken from) the audience, and four episodes have the distinction of being won by the audience: "Death", the 5th episode in Series D; "England", the 10th episode in Series E; "Flora & Fauna", the 10th episode in Series F; and "Greeks", the 14th episode in Series G. The audience's win in "Greeks" was only announced during the XL broadcast as their contribution was cut out of the main broadcast. In contrast, the audience lost the 5th episode of Series E, "Europe", receiving a forfeit of -100 when they incorrectly sang the first stanza of the German national anthem.

A special stand-alone episode was filmed between 1:00 and 2:00 am (GMT) on 6 March 2011 as part of Comic Relief's special 24 Hour Panel People featuring David Walliams, who appeared in various old and new panel game shows throughout a 24-hour period. The shows were streamed live on the Red Nose Day website, and parts of each show were shown during five half-hour specials on Comic Relief. The QI episode featured panellists Sue Perkins, Jo Brand, Russell Tovey and David Walliams. Davies admitted through Twitter that he was asked to host the episode when it was not certain if Fry would be available, but Davies declined. Once Fry confirmed his participation, Davies did not hear back from the production team.[44] Unlike the classic format of the show where most questions follow a subject, this episode was instead an hour-long (including breaks) General Ignorance round.[45]

Guest appearances[edit]

The following have all appeared multiple times as one of the guest panelists on the show, including any as-yet unbroadcast episodes of Series N. This list only includes "canonical" episodes of the BBC show. It does not include the unbroadcast pilot, nor the special editions for the Comic Relief and Sport Relief telethons, nor any live stage editions.

Jo Brand, Jimmy Carr and Phill Jupitus are the only remaining guests to have appeared in every series to date. Rich Hall has the highest number of guest appearances in a single series—six times in Series B (half of the episodes that year)—as well as the highest number of wins by a guest panellist, with 10.

Musical comedian and actor Bill Bailey has appeared on 38 episodes as well as the pilot.
Comedian and writer Jo Brand is one of three guest panelists to appear in every series.
Former Never Mind the Buzzcocks captain and comedian Phill Jupitus has also appeared in every series.
Bailey, Brand and Jupitus are the only guest panelists to have made 37 or more appearances.

a. 1 Also made an additional appearance in the unbroadcast pilot. Eddie Izzard and Kit Hesketh-Harvey were also guests in the pilot, the latter never having appeared in the series proper.

b. 1 2 Also made an additional appearance in the live Comic Relief episode.
c. 1 As a panelist only. Toksvig took over hosting duties from Fry from Series N (2016) onwards.

International versions and broadcasts[edit]

As of 2011, QI is distributed by FremantleMedia.[1]

In Australia QI is shown regularly on the ABC. As of July 2014, it currently screens repeats every weekday at 6:30pm on ABC1 and new episodes on Wednesdays at 8pm. The programme was first broadcast on 20 October 2009 after the surprise ratings success of Stephen Fry in America. The ABC aired QI Series F first, but subsequently, in July 2010, ABC1 began broadcasting QI from the very beginning with Series A.[46][47] QI has also begun broadcasting on pay TV channel UKTV.[48] ABC has been criticised for showing QI repeats, and other shows featuring Stephen Fry, too frequently.[49]

In March 2010, QI began a run in New Zealand on Prime.[50] On 27 May 2011, Series A of QI was broadcast in South Africa on BBC Entertainment.[51] QI series A-J has also aired on BBC Entertainment in the Nordic countries.[52]

There have been several attempts to broadcast QI in the United States. US networks that have tried to broadcast the series include Comedy Central, PBS, Discovery Channel and BBC America. Show creator and producer John Lloyd said that one factor in the failure to get the show broadcast is due to the cost. As QI features several images during each episode there are copyright issues. Lloyd said in an interview with TV Squad that: "No country in the world has bought the original show and this is partly a matter of cost. The pictures in the background of the show are only cleared for UK usage, so until the show is bought by a Stateside TV company and the rights cleared for World, the programme (is) unaffordable by smaller countries."[53] Amongst the famous names also to express anger over QI not being shown in the US include comedian John Hodgman, who appeared as a "fifth guest" in the second episode of Series G.[54] In 2013, QI was picked up in the US by the streaming video service Hulu.[55] On January 30, 2015, BBC America announced that they had acquired QI and planned on airing the show, beginning with Series J, on February 19, 2015.[56]

Davies has criticised QI being repeated so often, saying "QI being in a soup of shows on one of these repeat channels ... completely devalues the brand". Davies thought the show would gain more viewers when a new series aired if channels "[made] an audience wait for a couple of months".[57]

International versions[edit]

In 2008, the QI format was sold to the Dutch broadcaster VARA. Also called QI, the Dutch version of the show aired for the first time on 27 December and was hosted by the writer Arthur Japin with the comedian Thomas van Luyn taking the role of regular panellist.[58][59] Japin also appeared (in the audience) in a British QI episode, "Gothic", explaining how the name Vincent van Gogh should be pronounced. The Dutch series was discontinued after six episodes.

A Swedish version of QI started airing on SVT1 8 September 2012, and is called Intresseklubben. Comedian Johan Wester hosts Intresseklubben, and Anders Jansson is featured as the regular panellist.[60] A second series covering the letter B started airing in September 2013;[61] Series C was recorded in June 2014 and aired in late 2014,[62] while season D was recorded in June 2015 and started airing in August 2015.

The Czech version of QI was first broadcast on TV Prima on 14 August 2013. The programme is hosted by Leoš Mareš, with Patrik Hezucký appearing as a guest in every episode.[63][64]

Mistakes and corrections[edit]

Some of the answers on the show have been disputed and shown to be incorrect. For example, in Series A, the show claimed that the longest animal in the world was the lion's mane jellyfish,[65] but this was later corrected in Series C, saying that the longest animal in the world is the bootlace worm.[66]

Members of the public and members of the QI website contact the show to correct information. The error that has attracted the most complaints to date was made in Series B, when it was claimed that the Welsh language has no word for blue. In fact it is glas.[67] The error was explained on the "Banter" section of the Series B DVD as a mistake on the part of John Lloyd himself. Another episode in Series B claimed that the language spoken by children's TV characters Bill and Ben was called "Flobbadob" and was named after the onomatopoeic phrase that creator Hilda Brabban's younger brothers (after whom the characters were named) gave to their bath farts during their early childhood.[68] However, in Series D, Fry read out a letter written by Silas Hawkins, the son of veteran voice-over talent Peter Hawkins, who provided the original voices of the characters:

The fart-in-the-bath story was trotted out last year in an episode of Stephen Fry's otherwise admirable quiz show QI. It (the story) first appeared some twenty years ago in a newspaper article, to which my father immediately wrote a rebuttal. This was obviously ferreted out by some BBC researcher. It may be quite interesting, but in this case, it just isn't true.[69]

Fry then apologised and corrected the error, saying "Their language is called 'Oddle poddle'. 'Flobbadob' means 'Flowerpot' in Oddle poddle." [69]

At the end of the third series, Dara Ó Briain was docked points for having stated, in the previous series, that the triple point of water is zero degrees Celsius, an answer which earned him 2 points at the time.[70] Viewers had written in to say that the triple point of water is in fact 0.01 degrees, and so the 2 points awarded Ó Briain in the previous series were revoked and he received a further deduction of 10 points for "saying a now obvious answer".[71]

Various other retractions are made by the producers of the show on the special features of the DVD releases. The origin of the error may also be explained. (Information contributed by a panellist during a discussion, but which has since been found to be false, is also corrected here.) For instance, Fry made a mistake when explaining why helium makes your voice higher, in the Series B Christmas special. He claimed that the gas only affected the frequency, but not the pitch, despite them being the same thing; in actuality, the timbre is affected.

The "Knowledge" episode in Series K included point refunds for the three panellists who had appeared previously; it was explained that many facts on the show are later shown to be incorrect. The largest refund went to Davies, who received in excess of seven hundred wrongly deducted points.[72] Fry gave some examples of incorrect facts told in previous episodes, such as ones relating to lobster ages,[73] the evolution of giraffe's necks[74] and millipede legs.[75]

More recently, the online forum now includes a "QI Qibbles" blog, which aims to rectify further mistakes in the series.[76]


QI has stated it follows a philosophy: everything in the world, even that which appears to be the most boring, is "quite interesting" if looked at in the right way. The website states that:

We live, they say, in The Information Age, yet almost none of the information we think we possess is true. Eskimos do not rub noses. The rickshaw was invented by an American. Joan of Arc was not French. Lenin was not Russian. The world is not solid, it is made of empty space and energy, and neither haggis, whisky, porridge, clan tartans or kilts are Scottish. So we stand, silent, on a peak in Darien a vast, rolling, teeming, untrodden territory before us. QI country. Whatever is interesting we are interested in. Whatever is not interesting, we are even more interested in. Everything is interesting if looked at in the right way. At one extreme, QI is serious, intensely scientific, deeply mystical; at the other it is hilarious, silly and frothy enough to please the most indolent couch-potato.[5]

On 28 December 2009, the BBC Radio 4 panel game The Unbelievable Truth, hosted by frequent QI guest panellist David Mitchell, broadcast a New Year's Special which paid tribute to QI. The show featured Fry, Davies and Lloyd on the panel, as well as Rob Brydon, another regular QI participant.[77]


In December 2010, panellists on QI made jokes during a discussion about Tsutomu Yamaguchi, who survived both atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.[78] Yamaguchi had died only earlier that year.[78] The Japanese embassy in London wrote a letter of complaint to the BBC about the content of its quiz show after being alerted to the content when viewers in Japan contacted diplomatic staff.[78] Yamaguchi's daughter also made known how upset she was as a result of the comments broadcast on the BBC.[79] She said that Britain, as a nuclear power, had no right to "look down" on her father.[80]

In January 2011, the BBC issued an apology for "any offence caused" to Japan by the incident, recognising "the sensitivity of the subject matter for Japanese viewers".[78] In February 2011, the BBC blamed a "strength of feeling" in Japan following its atomic bomb joke broadcast for the cancellation of the filming of part of its Planet Word documentary in Japan,[81] which was due to be presented by Fry.[82]

In February 2011, the BBC received several complaints about jokes made in an episode of QI about Margaret Thatcher. A panellist, Jo Brand, commented that Lady Thatcher sounded like "a device for removing pubic hair". Later, panellist Phil Jupitus shouted "Burn the witch!" when a digitally altered picture of Thatcher was shown on-screen. Several Conservative politicians condemned the remarks; Baron Norman Tebbit complained that "Lady Thatcher has been treated like this by the BBC for the past 30 years". A spokesperson for the BBC said that the episode was filmed in June 2010 and had no relation to current events.[83]

In 2011, an episode of QI featuring Jeremy Clarkson was withdrawn due to controversial comments Clarkson had recently made about people committing suicide by jumping in front of trains. The QI episode did not contain any such statements, but was postponed "to avoid putting Clarkson in the spotlight". The episode, on the subject of "idleness", was broadcast later.[84][85]

On 11 January 2013, an episode of QI ending with Fry reading a limerick about paedophilia was criticised by viewers, especially as it was broadcast directly before a Newsnight report on Jimmy Savile. The BBC Trust described the incident as "unfortunate and regrettable" and the limerick as "capable of causing offence", but ruled it was not in breach of BBC guidelines.[86]


You feel like you're at the pub with the funny, clever people, ear-wigging on their slightly tipsy meanderings, rather than standing against a wall while they fire their joke cannons at you. It draws you in, all that familiarity and casual pontification.

Julia Raeside of The Guardian[18]

QI was received very positively by its viewers. It was the most popular programme on BBC Four in 2005,[87] and one of its books, The Book of General Ignorance, became a global bestseller for Christmas 2006.[88][89]

QI has been supported by nearly all critics. Peter Chapman said, "When the schedules seem so dumbed-down, it's a delight to encounter the brainy and articulate Stephen Fry. He excels in this format, being both scathing and generous."[90] Another critic, Laura Barton said, "QI and its canny coupling of Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, which manages to condense tweedy goodness, cockney charm, pub trivia and class war into one half-hour."[91]

Julia Raeside from The Guardian reviewed the show during its tenth series, calling it "still rather more than quite interesting" and complimenting it for being "one of the last truly popular programmes on mainstream television where comedians are allowed to be clever". Raeside noted ratings were still high, as four million viewers in total watched the first J series episode of QI and QI XL.[18] American critic Liesl Schillinger described QI as "Jeopardy! with Stephen Colbert as host, with Steve Martin and Ellen DeGeneres as guests, working off a game board loaded with unanswerable questions."[92][93]

Matt Smith gave QI Live a positive review, calling it "funny, educational, and ... quite interesting"; Smith noted there was a "great deal of Fry worship" and that, due to high ticket prices, "only the most dedicated Fry fans ... would come to this show". He commented that "much like the television show, your enjoyment of the stage version will be affected by how you perceive the guests", but went on to say that he enjoyed the line-up in the show he saw.[94]


Year Ceremony Category Outcome Notes
2004 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [95]
2005 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [95]
Lew Grade Award
John Lloyd
Ian Lorimer
Nominated [95]
2006 British Comedy Guide Best British TV Panel Show/Satire Won [96]
Rose d'Or Light Entertainment Festival Best Game Show Host
Stephen Fry
Won [97]
2007 British Comedy Guide Best British TV Panel Show/Satire Won [98]
BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [95]
British Comedy Awards Lifetime Achievers Award
Stephen Fry
Won [99]
British Book Awards TV and Film Book of the Year
The Book of General Ignorance
Nominated [100]
2008 Royal Television Society Entertainment Won [101]
Entertainment Performance Nominated [101]
Televisual Bulldog Awards Best Panel, Quiz or Chat Show Won [102]
BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [95]
British Comedy Awards Best Comedy Panel Show Won
2009 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Best Entertainment Programme Nominated
Televisual Bulldog Awards Best Panel, Quiz or Chat Show Won [102]
2010 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
2011 BAFTA Awards Best Entertainment Performance
Stephen Fry
Nominated [95]
British Comedy Awards Best Female TV Comic
Sarah Millican
Nominated [103]
TV Quick Awards Best Entertainment Show Nominated [104]
National Television Awards Most Popular Entertainment Programme Nominated
2012 Comedy.co.uk Award Best TV Panel Show Won [105][106]
National Television Awards Most Popular Comedy Panel Show Nominated [107]
2013 National Television Awards Most Popular Comedy Panel Show Won [108]

Media releases[edit]

QI has entered a number of different media, and has seen an increasing number of tie-in DVDs, books and newspaper columns released since 2005.



The first QI book was 2006's The Book of General Ignorance, published in hardback on 5 October by Faber and Faber. (ISBN 9780571233687)[109] Written by producer and series-creator John Lloyd and QI's head of research, John Mitchinson, it includes a foreword by Fry and "Four words" by Davies ("Will this do, Stephen?"). Most of the book's facts and clarifications have appeared on the programme, including its list of 200 popular misconceptions, many of which featured during the "General Ignorance" rounds. On 8 December 2006, the book "became a surprise bestseller over the Christmas period, becoming Amazon's number one Global bestseller for Christmas 2006."[110] By the end of January 2007, it had sold more than 300,000 copies (and subsequently over half a million[111]), paving the way for subsequent (projected) annual book releases to capitalise on the UK Christmas book market.[110] The Official QI website notes that it will soon be published in 23 countries.[111]

Pocket-sized and audio versions of General Ignorance went on sale the following year. In 2008, a newly revised version was published under the title of The Book of General Ignorance: The Noticeably Stouter Edition. This edition corrected and updated some of the information from the first print, while adding 50 new sections (and extra illustrations) to the original 230. It also included quotes from the series, new "Four Words" by Davies and added a complete episode listing from Series A–F, along with an index.[112]

QI's second book, The Book of Animal Ignorance, was released in the UK (in the same hardback format) by Faber & Faber on 4 October 2007. (ISBN 978-0-571-23370-0)[113] It promised to be a "bestiary for the 21st century,"[114] and contains almost completely new quite interesting facts.[115] The book includes "400 diagrams and cartoons by the brilliant Ted Dewan", another Foreword by Stephen Fry and a "Forepaw" by Alan Davies.[115] This publication has also been followed by a pocket-sized version.[116]

On the Factoids feature of the Series A DVD, John Lloyd mentioned an idea he'd had for a QI book of quotations, under the working title Quote Interesting. This book was eventually published in 2008 as Advanced Banter.[112] Similarly, on the Banter feature of the Series B DVD, Lloyd also previewed the title of QI's fourth book, The QI Book of the Dead, which went on sale on 15 October 2009.[117]

7 October 2010 saw the publication of QI's fifth book—The Second Book of General Ignorance. Written by the same authors, this book covers a whole new series of questions on a wide variety of topics, which promises to prove that "everything you think you know is (still) wrong".[118]

The sixth QI book, 1,227 QI Facts To Blow Your Socks Off, a list of facts, was published on 1 November 2012. James Harkin, QI's chief researcher, co-wrote the book with Lloyd and Mitchinson.[119]

QI's first annual, The QI "E" Annual or The QI Annual 2008 was published by Faber and Faber on 1 November 2007, to coincide with the initial airing of the TV show's E series (ISBN 978-0-571-23779-1).[120] Succeeding years have seen the publication of F, G and H annuals, concurrent with the BBC show's chronology, though retrospective annuals on the first four letters of the alphabet have yet to be published. The covers, which feature various cartoon scenes starring caricatures of Fry and regular QI panellists, are produced by David Stoten (one of Roger Law's Spitting Image team), who also contributed to the annuals' contents. Many of said cover stars are also credited with contributing content to the annuals, which also provide a showcase for Rowan Atkinson's talents as a 'rubber-faced' comic, as well as the comic stylings of Newman and Husband from Private Eye, Viz's Chris Donald, Geoff Dunbar, Ted Dewan and The Daily Telegraph's Matt Pritchett.[121]


A French edition entitled Les autruches ne mettent pas la tête dans le sable : 200 bonnes raisons de renoncer à nos certitudes ("Ostriches don't put their heads in the sand: 200 good reasons to give up our convictions") was published by Dunod on 3 October 2007. (ISBN 978-2-100-51732-9)[122] It is released as part of Dunod's "Cult.Science"/"Oh, les Sciences !" series, which also includes titles by Robert L. Wolke, Ian Stewart and Raymond Smullyan.[123]


An Italian edition entitled Il libro dell'ignoranza ("The book of ignorance") was published by Einaudi in 2007 and in 2009 the same publisher published Il libro dell'ignoranza sugli animali ("The book of ignorance about animals").


On 7 August 2007, The Book of General Ignorance was published in America by Harmony Books. (ISBN 0-307-39491-3) It features a sparser cover downplaying its links to the TV series, which had yet to be broadcast in the US. The book received glowing reviews from both Publishers Weekly[124] and The New York Times, which recommended it in its "Books Holiday Gift Guide".[125] (It subsequently entered the New York Times' "Hardcover Advice" best-seller charts at #10 on 9 December,[126] falling to #11 two weeks later where it stayed until mid-January, before falling out of the top 15 on 20 January.)[127]


A number of DVDs related to QI have also been released, including interactive quizzes, and complete series releases.

Interactive quizzes[edit]

On 14 November 2005 an interactive QI DVD game, called QI: A Quite Interesting Game, was released by Warner Home Video. A second interactive game, QI: Strictly Come Duncing followed on the 26 November 2007, from Warner's Music division.[128] Both games feature Fry asking questions, and then explaining the answers in full QI-mode.

Series releases[edit]

United Kingdom[edit]

A DVD release for the first series was the direct result of an internet petition signed by 1,821 people, which persuaded the BBC of the interest in such a move.[129] Series A, was therefore released by BBC Worldwide's DVD venture, 2 entertain Ltd. on 6 November 2006 (as "QI: The Complete First Series").[130] It contains a number of outtakes as well as the unbroadcast pilot.[130] Sales over the Christmas period, however (in stark contrast to The Book of General Ignorance, which topped the Amazon.co.uk best-seller list), were not as strong as hoped.[110] A lack of adequate advertising is thought to be to blame (and subsequent episodes of QI have since trailed the DVD), and may have factored in the label change for Series B.[110][131][132] Series B was released on 17 March 2008,[131][132] followed by Series C on 1 September.[133]

In 2014 a message on the QI site read "Due to a number of copyright issues there are difficulties releasing further series of QI on DVD".[134] On 14 December 2015 Network Distributing a video publishing company made an announcement on its website that it had made a deal with FremantleMedia so previously unreleased shows could be made available on DVD sometime in 2016; among the list was QI.[135]


A box set of series 1–3 (Series A-C) was released in September 2011.[136] Additionally, a single DVD titled "The Best Bits" containing clips from Series G was released 3 June 2010.[137] Two years later a three DVD set labelled as "Series 9" was released in August 2012, containing the Series H episodes.[138] The Series 9 DVD title was later changed to "The H Series"[139] and The Series J was released also on 5 March 2014.[140]

DVD Title No. of Discs Year No. of Episodes DVD release
Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series A 2 2003 13 6 November 2006[130] Complete Series
1–3 (A-C)

14 September 2011[136][141]

Complete Series B 2 2004 12 17 March 2008[131]
Complete Series C 2 2005 12 1 September 2008[133]
The Best Bits
(Series G)
1 2009 & 2010 Various
episode clips
3 June 2010
The H Series 3 20102011 16 2 August 2012[a][138][139]
The J Series 3 20122013 16 5 March 2014[140]
  1. ^ This DVD was originally released as "Series 9" but later had its name changed to "The H Series".

Online releases[edit]

United Kingdom
Series I–L are available in HD on Netflix and Series N is available through the BBC Store but can only be streamed in the United Kingdom and Ireland.[143][144][145]

United States
Series A through G are available on Acorn TV and Series I, J and K are available on Hulu but can only be streamed in the United States.[146][147]

Other media[edit]

Since 10 February 2007, a weekly QI column has run in The Daily Telegraph newspaper. Fifty-two columns were planned, originally alphabetically themed like the TV series and running from A to Z twice, but the feature is ongoing and was recently re-launched in the newspaper's Saturday magazine and online.[148] A QI feature has appeared in BBC MindGames magazine since its fifth issue, and revolves around facts and questions in the General Ignorance-mould. There is also a weekly QI linked multiple choice question featured in the Radio Times, with the solution printed in the feedback section. QI also has an official website, QI.com, which features facts, forums and other information. It also links to QI's internet show QI News, a parody news show which broadcasts "News" items about things which are "quite interesting".[149] QI News stars Glenn Wrage and Katherine Jakeways as the newsreaders, Bob Squire and Sophie Langton.[149]

On 22 December 2010, Faber and Faber released a QI App. Amongst the features of the App are a library containing the complete contents of The Book of General Ignorance, The Book of Animal Ignorance and The QI Book of the Dead, arranged as 56 "themed book" on a customisable scrollable shelf. There is also a rolling selection of quotes from Advanced Banter. The App also allows users send interesting information to the QI elves in the form of "postcards" and can be rated on the "Interestingometer".[112][150] The top 10 most popular facts every week are listed on the QI website.[151]

The QI Test[edit]

The QI Test was a planned spin-off version of QI that was to be broadcast on BBC Two. Created by Lloyd, Talkback Thames' Dave Morely and former QI Commercial Director Justin Gayner, The QI Test differed from QI in that it would have featured members of the public as contestants instead of comedians and celebrities. It would have been broadcast during the daytime schedules. The pilot was not hosted by Fry and was recorded in November 2009, but a series has yet to materialise.[152]


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External links[edit]