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Good evening and welcome to the QI office party.
Joining me around the photocopier for a show all about offices
and occupations are vice president of stapler affairs, Deirdre O'Kane.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Senior partner in charge of biscuits, Richard Osman.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Regional branch Biro lid replacement manager, David Mitchell.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And, on the 15th year of his two-week internship, Alan Davies.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Let's hear their noises office. Deirdre goes...
What is it?
-It's a, yeah...
-Thanks for the help! Thank you.
-Yes, there must be a historian in.
But genuinely, kids at home are going, "Oh, thank you."
They couldn't know that, they wouldn't have.
BROADBAND DIAL-UP BEEPING
That's a laugh from a certain section of the audience,
who got that.
Diarrhoea, we're all aware of that.
And Alan goes...
The office is now closed. Please leave a message for...
-..after the tone.
What's the worst thing you can catch in the office?
Well, I mean, the plague?
Can you imagine how many days off people had during the plague?
People who were perfectly all right.
"Yeah, oh, God, plague, yeah. Yeah, pretty bad."
Were they just talking to their hands? They were just...
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Well, in fact, it's bad manners.
Bad manners is the thing you are most likely to catch in an office.
They did a study in 2015, and acts of rudeness apparently
spread around an organisation a bit like a cold.
And when rudeness starts,
it tends to get worse over the course of a working day.
-It is the thing...
-Oh, bugger off!
You can't actually catch bad manners.
Apparently what happens is,
if somebody is rude to you you're more likely to be rude back.
Hence the Nazis and things like that.
-That started in an office...
-..with someone being a little bit impolite...
-..over some filing.
-And suddenly they're in Poland.
The next thing you know...
There is lots of bacteria as well.
I mean, they did a study of 33 keyboards in an average office and
one of them had five times as many germs as the office toilet seat.
But I'm always a bit worried about those numbers of germs things
because they say the average kitchen worktop has more germs on it
than the average loo seat.
To which the obvious response is,
well, that's obviously broadly fine, then.
Because we're not all dying, we don't go to the kitchen
and have one meal and immediately vomit and vomit and vomit.
But toilets are actually quite clean
because they are actually cleaned with bleach, which is...
Do you not think bleach is the perfect product of all time?
Because people go to the shops, they buy it, they pour it
down the toilet, they flush it away and they go and buy some more.
Whoever invented it thought, "This is going to make us a fortune."
So Deirdre, what do you reckon?
If you had an all-male office and an all-female office,
which one would have more bacteria?
-Oh, the male office.
Because they're mankier than us.
So maybe that is the scientific answer.
They're dirtier and bigger, so they give off more bacteria.
But are men dirtier per kilogram?
Oh, that's a good question.
Deirdre, how dirty are you? And then we'll work it out.
I know that men don't wash their hands after
-they've been in the toilet.
-There you go.
In fact, I was once at Wembley Stadium,
and I went to wash my hands, and when I got to the sink
there were three penises urinating into the sink.
No! On their own?
I don't really know how it works.
They couldn't be bothered to queue for the urinals,
they just used the sink where I was trying to wash my hands.
And they're here tonight.
Did you ever play the old Comedy Store in Leicester Square?
Yes, and the first time I went in the dressing room,
Arthur Smith and Paul Merton were in there.
And they introduced themselves and said, "The toilet's over there."
-And it was the sink.
So there was just a basin in the corner of the room,
and they weren't really expecting girls.
I was just going to say, not much good for us.
No, well, Josie Lawrence used to lift me up, to be able...
But while we're on the difference between boys and girls,
does anybody know why air con, air conditioning in offices is sexist?
Is it because males and females like different room temperatures?
It's because when it was first set,
they did some tests in the 1960s and they specifically set
the temperature for an 11st, 40-year-old man.
And it's been set at that temperature...
There's no such thing as that any more, is there?
An 11st 40-year-old man.
So it was set at that.
And I don't know his name, if I catch him I'm going to kill him.
But women's metabolisms run so much slower,
so we don't have as much muscle, we don't generate as much heat,
so we're much colder in offices than men,
for whom the air conditioning is all organised.
There is good news, if you feel cold at work.
If you feel cold on a Monday, why might it be better on a Friday?
The excitement at the weekend makes everyone get a little bit oooh.
-You've been in the office for five days, you get used to it?
It's that you've been in the office for five days and it has
got warmer by the generation of all those people coming into the city.
They did some studies in Melbourne
and the temperature actually went up 0.3 degrees in the entire city
by just people coming in over the course of the week.
Not just because it's Melbourne and it's warmer there.
Well, I never thought of that as an answer, I think that's fair enough.
The worst thing you can catch in the office is bad manners,
unless you work in a virus laboratory, I imagine.
So, I have four occupations for you.
Deirdre, you are a sewage diver.
Richard, you are the Queen's bagpiper.
David, you're an ornamental hermit.
And, Alan, you're bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds.
Which of you has got a real job?
The Chiltern Hundreds is a real place.
Yes, but is the job a real job?
It's an anti-job. It's what you get when you resign as an MP,
-you join the Chiltern Hundreds.
So it's not really a real job.
So 1624, they passed a law saying that nobody
can leave Parliament, and it stems from the time
when people were elected against their will.
So sometimes local gentry were made to join Parliament,
they didn't really want to,
and the law says technically you have to die or you have to be
voted out or you have to go work for the Queen or something.
So if you want to retire, you apply for a fictional Crown Office
called the steward and bailiff of the Chiltern Hundreds.
And here are some people who have, in their time, been stewards.
Look at Tony Blair pretending to drink wine.
He brought an empty glass to his lips
and now he's filled it with his special liquid.
Then he passes it to the person next to him.
They drink it and then they like him.
So, let's go back to the sewage diver.
What do you reckon, Deirdre, real job?
Well, it's a shit job, isn't it?
It is, look at that, it is a real thing.
It's more wading they do than diving, isn't it?
But that's not a way to resign if you're an MP. You know...
-I think that would be quite popular.
-That would be a good way.
"I wish to leave politics, so now I will immerse myself in excrement."
-But who would do this job?
I used to be a sewage diver.
It was just going through the motions.
Well, there are sewage farms and they have sort of moving parts,
and when things get stuck, they're fitted with air pipelines,
-they have to dive in and climb down to fix them.
-They're fitted with air pipelines, I would hope so.
-Yes, I know.
Just take a deep breath and go for it.
I would have thought the worst job is the person who has to
clean the suit when they get out.
I don't know.
I think I'd go, presented with that terrible career choice,
I think I'd go for cleaning the suit.
What about Queen's bagpiper, Richard, is that a real job?
Well, she's got everything, hasn't she, the Queen?
So yeah, gosh, I'd imagine so.
She is really keen on bagpipers, isn't she?
Well, she inherited it.
Queen Victoria was terribly keen, I mean, mad keen on them.
-Mad for the bagpipes.
-Mad for the bagpipes.
There was no telly then, so, you know, fair enough.
I have to say, it was much easier in the days
-when all you had to be better than was a bagpiper.
Nine o'clock every morning he plays for 15 minutes
underneath her window.
Oh, no, he doesn't!
Well, he's been told it's her window. Who knows?
They play 15 minutes every day at Buckingham Palace,
Windsor Castle, Balmoral or Holyroodhouse.
They don't play at Sandringham. Anybody know why?
Because she needs a break.
-That's the Christmas one, isn't it, Sandringham?
Well, apparently it's because there isn't enough accommodation.
-I'm so sorry, we just don't have the room for the bagpiper.
One of the things they say...
It's kind of anti the Christmas story, isn't it?
Go in the stable.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
No room for the bagpipers.
Apparently, and you'll be appalled by this,
at Christmas at Sandringham,
some of the royal family have to sleep in the servants' quarters.
I don't know where the servants go.
But presumably that involves them seducing a servant every evening.
I mean, that...
And when he's not bagpiping, he's a Page of Presence.
But I have no idea what that is.
A Page of PRESENTS is Santa's list, isn't it?
I'm going to give you an extra point
because that's the cutest answer anybody's ever given.
What about the ornamental hermit, David? What do you reckon?
The sort of very rich man, aristocrat that built follies
might think a folly would be even more fun if it was permanently
inhabited by someone employed to sort of be there and be a hermit.
You're absolutely right. It was very fashionable in the 18th century.
They liked people to sort of dress up as Druids,
and they lived in caves.
If the land owner couldn't afford a hermit,
because, you know, they're pricey, they saved money by having
just the hermitage and telling everybody the hermit was out.
-Which, famously, hermits never are.
Yeah, I'd have gone with,
"Don't bother the hermit, he's a bit of a loner."
That's more plausible, isn't it?
There are still several towns in Europe
that have professional hermits.
So early 2017, the Austrian town of Saalfelden advertised for one.
There's no salary, but you get your own house and chapel,
which is very nice.
There's no TV, no running water, no internet,
and you need to be sociable.
-You need to be sociable?
-Yeah, because people turn up.
-You wouldn't expect that.
If you'd finally made it as a professional hermit and then
they say, "Of course, the main thing is you've got to be sociable."
2008 survey, most common job title in the UK?
-Balloon animal magician?
Oh, I want it to be that.
Is it just an office worker?
-That's a lot of managers.
Most of them have been England managers, as well.
-Is that a football joke?
Anyway, moving on.
Why shouldn't you give a teenage boy your phone?
Just plain hygiene.
Don't want to give a teenage boy anything, do you?
-I'm not happy with anyone having my phone.
My phone broke a few weeks ago and it was like I'd lost a hand.
And in fact I gained one, because I could use two at once again.
But it was...
I was honestly, I felt genuinely bereft.
I think having something you can stare at, and by staring at it
you look like you're gainfully occupied,
and so people might leave you alone.
It's a way of being a hermit wherever you are.
Actually, we are going back to the 19th century.
It's the very first telephone systems.
Bell telephone, 1878.
If a call came in,
they actually had to put a plug into the hole that the call was
being received, and then run a wire to where the call wanted to go.
And when they first set up this system they hired messenger boys
because it was assumed that it was a physically demanding job
and the boys would be fantastic at it, they'd be really fit.
Instead, they drank beer and wrestled each other,
swore at the customers and connected strangers together as a prank.
-Well, that's like the first social network.
Yes, it is, exactly.
I was going to say, what if this is what the internet is?
We think it's this whizzy thing, but it's actually just
a series of teenage boys in a little bunker, kind of connecting people.
I know, dressed like that.
It would explain a lot about the internet if it was.
And so the boys were very quickly replaced by women.
By the end of the 1880s, almost all phone operators were women,
and they could always remember who they were speaking to.
They had to say "number, please" about a thousand times a day.
They were polite and they managed to knit at the same time.
This is the original multi-tasking.
And yet the toilet was still a sink.
The phone banks, you can see how long they are in the picture,
that some of the women used to wear roller skates
in order to make their way up and down.
Anyway, another O occupation now.
How would an Onion Johnny bring tears to your eyes?
Is he wearing one there?
No, it's not a thing.
-It's not a thing?
So it's an emotion?
Oh, what is the emotion of Onion Johnny?
It's a sad emotion, obviously, it brings tears to your eyes.
Because it's making you cry. An ennui, maybe.
You are heading in the right direction.
OK, really? Blimey!
In that we've managed to get a cod French accent in.
-Oh, all right.
-So it's French.
-French, heading towards France.
-French, but it's not a thing.
It's a person.
Is it a person selling onions?
It's a person selling onions, absolutely right, Deirdre,
very well done.
So, they were French onion sellers who travelled door to door.
The 1920s and '30s, there were up to 1,500 of them
who travelled to the UK for several months of the year,
mostly on bicycles.
And they were called Johnnies because they were Jean,
many of them were called Jean, so they were Onion Johnnies.
And it's where we get the origin of the French stereotype,
the beret and the stripy jumper.
But in fact they were Breton, they were from Brittany.
So most French people are baffled by the fact that we think this is
what a Frenchman looks like, because most of the Johnnies didn't speak
French at all, they spoke Bretonese, which is a bit like Welsh.
2008 reported only 15 Onion Johnnies remaining.
Does anybody know the myth that
if you put half an onion in your sock, within half an hour
you'll be able to taste it, as the chemicals run through your body?
But why would you eat your sock?
No, you don't need to eat the sock.
You put the onion inside the sock to keep it in place.
And then the chemicals seep up through your body.
-Nonsense, I don't believe it.
-It is nonsense.
One of the Elves tried this and it doesn't work,
and what worries me is that they tried it.
-They are very thorough researchers.
-They do very thorough research.
I heard that if you fill your shoes with custard
you can taste it after half an hour, and that's a fact.
Don't say that, those squelching Elves.
If they're watching.
I've heard if you put beef stroganoff in your socks
you can taste it after six weeks,
so you've really got to stick at that one.
Sometimes they make you cry and sometimes they don't, don't they?
-Yes, and there are all sorts of...
-And there's a reason for that.
I think it's the way in which you cut them.
Something to do with that,
and also whether your partner's just left you.
And there's no point in putting a spoon in your mouth then, is there?
-I do that.
-Do you put a teaspoon in your mouth?
You're meant to put a spoon in your mouth.
When you're chopping onion, you put a spoon in your mouth
and you won't cry, but it doesn't work.
A teaspoon or a great big spoon, like a ladle?
No, like a...
-Let's say a dessert spoon.
Soup spoon size.
And do you have it curvy bit up or down?
I'd have the curly bit up in the shape of the palate.
-But don't ask Deirdre, it doesn't work for her.
Have you ever played the spoon game?
What's the spoon game?
The spoon game is...
..you put a spoon in your mouth, a bit like that...
-All right. Put your head down, it won't hurt.
-Put my what?
Head down, right.
And you go like that.
-Then... David, you can get up now.
Then David will put the spoon in his mouth and I'll put my head down.
-And then a third person behind me will hit me
with incredible force with another spoon.
-And it really, really hurts.
-So when you come up, you're enraged.
And then you put the spoon back in your mouth
and you really, really try as hard as you can.
And then they say "Right," and then the third person goes...
And it took me three goes before I thought, "Hang on a minute,
"you're not doing that with a spoon in your mouth!"
What worried me is how compliant David was.
You had no idea.
I was just trying to look fun.
-I've known you a long time, David, it's a new look.
Now for an out-of-office question.
How do you get everyone to leave the office party?
-A fire alarm?
-Fire alarm's good.
-I'm going to give you a clue.
It's a particular office that we are going to be in,
it's going to be the Oval Office.
Tell them the President's on his way?
So, the President of the United States,
it was a tradition that he held an open house
to celebrate the inauguration.
And theoretically anybody could show up
and shake the President's hand and drink a bit of punch.
So, 1829, Andrew Jackson, he had a tradition of,
you know, having people over.
And it was the worst house party ever.
20,000 people showed up, massive crowds poured in.
They stood on the furniture, they ground food into the carpet,
they broke the crystal,
and apparently the carpet smelled of cheese for months.
So, how to get the guests out of the house?
So the house has got 20,000 people in it,
they're all making the place stink of cheese.
-What do you do?
-You want to lure them, be nice...
-Ice cream van.
Ice cream van in 1829, I'm loving the idea.
I'm sorry, ice cream cart.
No, they set up huge barrels of whisky on the lawn.
At last, we've had so much cheese!
But he didn't learn, Jackson,
so 1837, he's done eight years in office, and he leaves office.
And he's been given as a gift this massive half-tonne
wheel of cheese by a farmer as a...
-Half a tonne?
-A half a tonne wheel of cheese.
And he thought, "We'll have that as a party."
10,000 people turned up and ate this cheese in two hours.
And once again the White House stank of cheese, apparently.
Simpler times, when all you need for a great party is just
an unbelievable quantity of cheese.
-You don't even need biscuits.
So, the truth is,
most people don't look forward to their office parties.
They did a survey of 700 office workers -
25% did look forward to it,
40% didn't care,
20% actively hated the prospect
and 15% couldn't be arsed to answer the question, I think.
I think you have to be quite socially confident to say
you're looking forward to your office party.
-It sounds a bit keen.
You're supposed to dread it or go, "Oh, it'll be fine."
So those 25% are either very socially confident or
-they've completely missed the mood of the times.
Quick question about the Oval Office.
Can you spot the fascist in the Oval Office?
It's a thing. This is an actual thing.
-A thing, a thing.
-It's not a person.
It's the thing from which we get the word fascist, or fascism.
It's that bundle there that you could see over the door.
So what it is, it's a bundle of wooden rods,
it's often shown with an axe.
And when Mussolini came to power, he adopted it
as the symbol of fascism, so it's where we get the word from.
It's a big thing for the Americans,
there are two fasces on the Seal of the United States Senate,
and they also had them on their coins
throughout the Second World War.
The Washington monument is the tallest building in Washington DC.
No other building is allowed to be more than 12 storeys
-or something like that.
It was much disputed over,
because they couldn't decide who was going to pay for it.
So they built a bit of it and then it stopped, and by the time
they finished building it, they didn't have the same marble,
so you can see a line where the dispute kind of took place.
Once you get above a certain height you can just use breeze blocks.
No, I always spot that, always.
People always build their fences to like an inch lower
than my eyesight, and, honestly, they think they're
safe from everybody, but they're not safe from me.
The trampolines I've seen!
That's just a brilliant title for your autobiography.
But you know what?
We've got a wall that goes onto a public space,
and the limit that we're allowed to erect to is two metres,
which is a very close approximation of your height.
So the law about your wall height is specifically designed
to allow Richard to see in.
Or it's for us to see Richard should he approach.
Right, moving on.
Name the world's biggest troll.
Any more for any more?
Oh, no, that doesn't make sense!
No, we've gone offshore, so it's not a Twitter thing,
it's an offshore thing.
Do trolls live under oil rigs now? Who's that clip-clopping over...?
-It's Troll A.
It's a gas platform in the North Sea's Troll gas field.
It's the tallest and heaviest structure ever moved by mankind.
It weighs over a million tonnes
-and it is taller than the Empire State Building. So...
Normally, this is before it's been taken out...
-Shut the front door!
Taller than the Empire State Building?
This is before it's been taken out to sea, so when it is out
at sea you can't actually see the central structures there.
And it takes nine minutes to take the lift
down the leg of the structure.
Whereupon you drown.
The singer Katie Melua received a Guinness World Record for
the Deepest Concert Ever Given
when she played 303 metres below sea level in the leg.
So they have a performance space at the bottom of the troll leg thing?
Yes, but I don't...
I think that shouldn't have got funding.
There's too much money in gas, isn't there?
Well, I think it's strictly speaking called the dining room,
it's not like a club.
And you couldn't have a board outside saying what's on,
because it would get washed off every now and again.
Would you not get the bends?
-It'll be pressurized in there.
It's not only is it a sub-aqua performance space,
-it has to be pressurized!
You can see why the boat remains the more cost-efficient way
-of having something on the surface of the sea.
Rather than it being on a huge concrete leg
with a concert hall in it.
And when all that's done, is there a tiny little gas tap at the top,
like you have for a Bunsen burner?
You've got your million tonne structure, and then you go,
Yeah, they use it to light their cigarettes.
When we went for a cigarette at lunch time at school,
we went and stood round the back of the Shell garage, I shit you not!
That was where we went for a cigarette!
"Going up the garage?" "Going up the garage."
And we'd go round and smoke on the forecourt.
Safety first, I love it.
Now, for a double-O occupation,
can you name the longest-lasting Soviet spy to work in the UK?
My friend Steve.
-I shouldn't say that, actually.
But it is him.
It was a secretary called Melita Norwood, and she had
a job in a metals firm in London that was heavily involved...
You just have to look at her!
I know, you can tell straight away.
To be fair to her, she spent a while in Slade as well.
Doesn't she look a bit like Richard, though?
Like a little Richard.
You know what her main tactic was? Peering over people's walls.
I get that Vladimir Putin onto me all the time,
"Tell me about the trampolines, tell me."
"Who is on ze trampoliiiine?"
I don't know why I did that voice.
"Does Alan Davies have a Wendy house?"
It just shows you, it's worth another layer of bricks,
-isn't it, when you're building a wall around MI6?
How tall can someone be? Six foot two maximum!
She worked in a metals firm that was heavily involved in
Britain's atomic project, and every night she used to open her boss's
safe and she used to photograph the contents, and thanks to her
the Soviet Union were able to test their nuclear weapons much sooner.
And she was discovered as a spy in 1999, when she was 87 years old.
And the authorities decided there was no point in prosecuting her,
and she was of course nicknamed The Bolshevik of Bexleyheath.
Which is a hideous error, because obviously Bolshevik is a male word.
-Should have been Bolshevichka.
-Also, she lived in Stafford, and so...
One of the least effective spies, Britain's Michael Bettaney,
hired by MI5 in 1982.
He once tried to dodge a ticket on a train while drunk,
and when a guard chased him he shouted,
"You can't arrest me, I'm a spy."
It's so easy to over-estimate the efficacy of the double bluff,
-I know, yes.
He later tried to get in touch with the KGB to sell them
some documents, and the KGB thought they were being set-up
and they informed MI5 of his treachery.
So he was just rubbish.
Look, that is the worst bunny rabbit you've ever seen.
Probably the worst spying operation happened in 1940,
and this is one of my favourites - a dozen German spies
landed in Britain and they were all caught almost immediately.
One walked into a pub
and asked for a pint of cider soon after nine o'clock in the morning,
and they weren't allowed to serve alcohol before lunch.
-Half a litre of cider.
-Straight away, please.
Another couple were stopped while cycling through Scotland
on the wrong side of the road, and when they looked in their bags,
they were found to contain German sausages and Nivea hand cream.
-What a combination that is!
-LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
-It's nine o'clock in the morning, Rolf!
I've had a cider, Hans.
I thought it was because no British soldier would have hand cream,
but it turns out Nivea is German, I didn't know that.
One of them spoke no English at all, but the one who spoke English
the best said his mission was to find out,
"How the people is living,
"how many soldiers there are and all the things."
It really is, "'Allo 'Allo!" was a documentary, basically, wasn't it?
There are some people who think they were deliberately
sent by senior German officers to sabotage the plot
because they didn't want to invade Britain, but...
That's the Germans for you.
At the time.
A lot of them have mended their ways since.
-No, a lot of them have.
-It's a wonderful country.
For our friends in Berlin, Richard's address is...
He's just bitter because they have really, really high fences.
But I tell you, that Berlin wall! Oh.
Now, what is this man about to post?
-Took a bullet there, everyone.
Is he about to post a Movember selfie on Facebook?
No, it is a most extraordinary thing, he's about to post himself.
-Yeah. His name is Willie Reginald Bray.
He was also known as The Human Letter.
He was an eccentric gentleman who spent his entire life pushing
the British Post Office to their absolute limits.
And he started by sending unwrapped stamped objects to himself
to see how that would go.
So he sent a shirt collar and a half-smoked cigar.
That's him actually posting onions on the right there.
He sent a turnip with the address carved into it,
a rabbit skull with the address written along the nose bone,
with the stamps glued onto the back,
and almost all of it got through without any trouble at all.
So he began to experiment.
He wrote to "any resident of London", there it is.
Any resident of London.
Sadly, that was rejected, "insufficiently addressed".
But he did get his mother to crochet the address and that was accepted.
And he also wrote the address in mirror writing
and that was also accepted.
And then he discovered, in the Post Office guidelines,
that you could send a live animal as small as a bee,
if you wanted to, through the post.
So he couldn't get a bee, he settled on his dog.
And then finally he sent himself through the post.
He shipped himself to his father,
and there's his rather irritated father receiving him.
Then he decided to build the world's largest collection of autographs.
He wrote to the Reichstag in Germany so many times.
There's a letter back from Adolf Hitler's office,
"Please can you stop sending letters? The Fuhrer's quite busy."
-What if that finally pushed Hitler over the edge?
As I say, a lot of them these days, very different,
-a very different country.
Just keep digging that hole there, Richard, it's ...
It's not a hole, it's a trench.
I'm just saying keep an eye on them, that's all I'm saying.
Right, moving on.
Now it's time for Alan's occupational hazard,
the round that we all call General Ignorance.
Fingers on buzzers, please.
Who do you go and see to get your eyes tested?
WATER GURGLES David?
-Oh! SIREN BLARES
-No. Why not? BUZZER:
Yes. So the optician dispenses the glasses
and the optometrist is the person who actually tests your eyes.
You can be trained as both, so you might have an optician
who is also an optometrist, that is possible.
An optician who is also an optometrist,
that's a TV show I'd like to watch.
Crazy maverick optician who does optometry as a sideline.
There is an optician where I live, and it's called Maverick and Wolf.
An optician. I don't think that's their real names.
-I think it is their real name.
-Oh, do you think?
Because it's an odd thing to invent, isn't it?
Why would you want to buy glasses from people so oddly named?
Branding, David, do you understand the concept of branding?
Mitchell and Webb was a disastrous name.
-Mitchell and Webb is a good name for an optometrists.
That works much better.
Actually, it does sound like an optician's.
-Maybe one of each.
-Oh, yes, I like that.
And they can't get on.
Why might poor eyesight make a good impression?
Do you seem aloof and therefore people respect you?
When you can't see them, you don't rear back at their hideousness.
-Or try and jump them because of their beauty.
So either way, your response is muted.
-It's not that.
I have very bad eyesight, even with glasses,
so I can see virtually nothing.
But it does mean, you know in all the Hollywood movies
when they used to sort of...? Yeah, I see that.
Can I say, thank you very much.
So, everyone looks like they're shot through a filter.
OK, so it is about that, it's to do with impressions.
-Oh, oh, is it because Monet and Manet had bad eyesight
and that's why they painted in the way they did?
Absolutely, many of the impressionists
suffered from very poor eyesight.
That explains a lot.
Yeah, I'm very short-sighted. Without glasses or contact lenses,
-things look a bit like an impressionist painting.
I was in a hotel in New York recently,
and I was walking down a long corridor.
At the end of the corridor I saw this painting which I thought,
"That is beautiful."
It was abstract, it was red and white and all kinds of stuff.
And I thought, "When I get to the end of the corridor,
"I'm going to see what that is."
And it was a fire hose.
It was beautiful.
That would be a thoroughly irresponsible painting
-to hang in a hotel corridor.
-It would be.
Well, Monet's unusual colours may be down to his cataracts.
And he's not the only one.
Degas probably had maculopathy, so it's a retinal disease,
it affects your central vision.
And that explains the increasing blurriness in his paintings.
And it is thought that Van Gogh suffered from lead poisoning,
and that can make your retinas swell, and you start to see
light in circles, so very like the Starry Night.
And Van Gogh also treated, of course,
with digitalis for his epilepsy,
and that drug can cause you to see in yellow or yellow-green,
and that could explain his increasing use
of yellow in later works.
Anyway, if you let an optician test your eyes
then you need your head examined.
If your surname is Farmer, what did your ancestors do for a living?
-Good, very good! Excellent.
-Pharmacists is very good. Very good.
Pharmacists, no. What did they do for a living?
I like that they call the drugs industry big pharma, don't they?
Which always makes me laugh,
because I always think of a big farmer.
-It's not that.
In the Middle Ages, a fermier was a tax collector.
So early fermiers collected taxes for the Crown,
and they would pick applicants to work on tenanted lands in time.
They made money out of this, they began to buy land,
they began to grow crops on it,
and eventually they became what we know as farmers.
The very first-ever farmer, in our sense of the word,
was a man called William Le Fermer, recorded in 1238.
So farmers are actually tax collectors.
Well, let's have a look at some other occupational surnames.
Anybody know any of these? Osman.
-Oh, that's a good one.
If you go back a couple of generations,
we were all charcoal burners in the New Forest.
OK, but it's anybody who worked with bones,
so it could be a rag and bone man.
Oh, that's fun.
Yeah, so it was an Osman.
It's somebody who hits bulls on the head to stun them
-before they get slaughtered.
-With a spoon.
And they do it with a huge spoon, yeah.
Yeah, a massive spoon.
What about a Warner?
Is that a sort of health and safety inspector?
Is it someone who makes yellow cards?
-That's a football joke.
-A football joke, OK.
Hang on two seconds - ha-ha-ha!
It's somebody who looks after royal rabbit warrens.
What about a Dickman, what do you reckon?
It's somebody who digs ditches, a Dickman.
And a Kellogg?
It is, it's a killer of hogs, it's a butcher.
Is an Arkwright someone who makes an enormous boat?
An Arkwright is a person who makes arks, so chests.
So Noah's Ark, it was just an inverted chest.
Massive chest, yeah.
If your surname is Farmer, your ancestors were tax collectors.
Name the greatest Wimbledon champion of all time.
I think I would have said Sampras. Sorry.
Sampras? SIREN BLARES
Great Uncle Bulgaria.
Is it a croquet player?
Yes! It is a croquet player.
Professor Bernard Neal is the greatest Wimbledon champion
of all time, he won the croquet championships 38 times.
So if you think about it, Navratilova won Wimbledon singles
nine times, he won 38 times.
He only took the sport up at the age of 40.
Between 1963 and 2002, he won 37 titles out of a possible 40.
Smacks of a drug cheat, that.
What do you have to press on the red button to get
coverage of the croquet?
I've got a bit of croquet here.
Alan, what colour do you want to be?
Do you want to be red or blue or...?
-Black, here we go.
Can I be the iron?
Which way are you going to go? Are you going to go right...?
I don't know why that's pleased me so much.
It went miles, it went miles, viewer!
That'll be under someone's feet.
Croquet, it was an Olympic sport.
And it should be still.
It was dropped after 1900
because only one person turned up to watch, so...
But the reason it's interesting is because the very first women to
take part in the Olympics took part as part of the French croquet team.
So there were seven men and three women.
And it was thought to be rather racy
because it was a game where men and women played on equal footing.
There's a wonderful quote from the American Christian Review,
in 1878, said, "Croquet would lead to moral decline in American women,
"and consequences would include absence from church,
"immoral conduct and eventually ruin."
-That's a very pessimistic view, isn't it, really?
I love that. Anybody know the connection between
croquet and Pall Mall, the great street in London?
They played croquet upon it?
Yes, they did. It is in fact where croquet comes from.
An Italian game, 17th century game called Palle-Malle.
And both Pall Mall and the Mall were designed
specifically to play this game.
They whacked the ball up the course
and then they had to shoot a ball through a suspended
hoop at the end, and that's where we begin to get croquet from.
-That's much more like Quidditch.
-It is, yes.
There are people who play actual Quidditch near where I live.
They run around with broomsticks between their legs.
None of them can fly.
That is what leads inevitably to ruin.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
So, the name comes from the Italian pallamaglio.
Palla - ball and maglio - mallet.
And it's where we get mall from, shopping mall,
we get it from the Mall and all those wonderful games.
Can I have my things back, please?
I've lost the black, I'm sorry, it's gone.
Now, which oath do doctors swear before entering practice?
They don't. It turns out they don't.
-Yeah, I knew that they didn't.
You knew that?
-A doctor friend of mine said, "Oh, no, we don't."
I was very disappointed.
Yeah, "We do what we like."
Fingers crossed all the way.
"We do what we fancy, we know all the stuff
"and then we do what we like."
They do take sometimes an oath called
the General Medical Council's Guidance on Good Practice,
but the Hippocratic Oath that we talk about, they don't.
Although it's got some great stuff in it, the Hippocratic Oath.
Don't have sex with patients, that kind of thing, you know.
I think that's quite good.
Don't remove the kidney or bladder stones,
that's part of the Hippocratic Oath.
-I didn't know the Hippocratic Oath was this specific.
I thought it was like general, airy-fairy, try and do good.
-No, no, no, no.
-"Airy-fairy, try and do good?"
Yeah. If a patient is ill, try and make him better, or her better.
The bit you are thinking of is "first do no harm".
It actually comes from another part of Hippocrates' work.
But in fact we don't even think he wrote the oath.
It appears about a century after he popped his own clogs,
so it's probably one of his students.
But the doctors in America do take a more modern oath.
Does anybody know what it's called?
It's named after a pasta dish.
-The oath of ravioli, I like that.
-The oath of Bolognese.
-The oath of Bolognese.
-Yes, it's the Oath of Lasagna, you're absolutely right,
written by a doctor in 1964 called Louis Lasagna.
And at the end of all that, it is time for the scores.
In first place, our employee of the week, with minus two, is David.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Performing adequately with minus five, it's Richard.
-CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
On a final warning with minus seven, Deirdre.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And clearing their desk with minus 49 points...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And of course we have a prize for our winner.
This week's objectionable object is
this lovely Queen Victoria milk jug.
That's for you, David, because you can't have a show without prizes.
It only remains for me to thank Deirdre, Richard, David and Alan.
Now it's time to clock out, and to encourage you all to leave,
we've left a massive cheese in the car park. Goodnight.
Sandi Toksvig looks into occupations and offices. If you have ever wondered what an ornamental hermit does, this is the show for you. With Deirdre O'Kane, Richard Osman, David Mitchell and Alan Davies.