Stephen Fry asks unanswerable questions about all things horrible, with Dara O Briain, Chris Addison, Sean Lock and Alan Davies.
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Well! Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening,
and welcome to QI, which tonight is a wholesale homage
to all that is horrible.
Queasily hunched over the handrail with me tonight are
the disgusted Dara O'Briain.
CHEERS AND APPLAUSE
The appalled Chris Addison.
-The shuddering Sean Lock.
And the slightly disturbed Alan Davies.
CHEERS AND APPLAUSE
Their buzzers are a hideous foretaste of the loathsomeness to come.
-MAN: That is disgusting!
-And Alan goes...
-'Hello, I'm Piers Morgan.'
Pass the sick bag, Alice, let's plunge in.
Where do you think this little chap lives?
I bet it's about your person, is it?
Mm, it's certainly... Let's just say it is parasitical.
-It looks like it fits on the top of a pencil.
-Like a gonk.
-A good-luck charm for your exams.
-Like kids have on their pencils. One of those.
Or has someone's head been removed? Is it a massive thing?
-No, it's not that.
Looking at it, I think it lives in the dark.
It's black all around it.
That's it in its natural environment.
No, it's got that translucent, I'm not worried about how I look feeling.
Actually, it's a mouthpiece. It's a mouth part that it latches on to.
-A tongue mite?
-The tongue of a particular fish.
It is indeed. It's called the tongue-eating louse.
Is it the tongue of the thwh-thwh-thwh fish?
It developed fins like that.
Really? And fish have tongues? I have never heard of a fish...
-What? Really? Why?
Why? How else are they going to whistle?
-This is the African blacktail.
-That's not it's actual size, is it?
Yes, it's a big fish. It's the African blacktail.
The really gruesome thing about this louse
is that it latches onto the tongue - you can see how big it is -
and it sucks the blood out of the tongue
such that the tongue disappears and it replaces the tongue.
-The animal thinks its tongue is actually this louse
and it lives in there quite happily
and breeds and its children live in the gills
and it just colonises the head.
So when the fish sees that photo, it'll be really embarrassed.
"No wonder everyone was looking at me oddly at that party."
So the fish goes without a tongue, the louse gets free food.
On the plus side, it looks like it's on a massive space hopper.
-Does it die, the fish?
-No, no, it carries on with a false tongue.
-Parasites keep their host alive, don't they?
-Yes, it's to their advantage.
The point is the food that passes into the mouth.
It's probably not that bad. There's worse things happen to a fish,
like being caught, as it has been there.
Caught by a human. It probably finds the human more disgusting than the louse.
There's a flatworm that sort of inserts itself into crabs
and then grows through all the parts of the crab
until it pops out the top and drives the crab around.
"Get out of the way!
"I'm after some seaweed."
You're absolutely right. There are other animals you might like to know about.
What's covered in snot and eats whales?
I don't know. Some sort of nose parasite?
Well, it's a parasite that eats whales.
-No, it feeds on the bones of whales.
-It has evolved...
-Is there a creature I don't know about, a massive creature that eats whales?
-The snot monster?
This gigantic green thing that I've never seen?
-It would be big, wouldn't it?
-Eats them like peanuts.
Everyone has a bit of a whale when it dies.
It takes months for it to get... Gradually, it all gets consumed by the creatures of the deep.
And the bits that fall right down to the bottom are the bones
-and there's this extraordinary...
-Snotty little bugger.
Yeah, it latches into the bones and it brings out feather-like plumes
and it feeds off the nutrients
and it's covered in mucus, so it's called a snot flower or mucoflora.
I've coughed something like that up.
That looks a bit like KFC.
-It does a bit.
Tempura. That's so middle class.
Not if you're from Japan.
"No, actually, it doesn't look like KFC, it looks like tempura."
Two other parasites worthy of mention. Tapeworms.
How would you know if you had a tapeworm?
You'd eat more than usual?
-I know a fact about tapeworms,
that 80% of the people in this country have got tapeworms,
which makes them more popular than dogs.
There you are. The most popular pet.
I heard a very interesting programme on the radio the other day
about a man who was told that having a tapeworm gets rid of asthma and eczema.
He caught a tapeworm
and it's got rid of his crippling asthma and eczema conditions.
-Completely got rid of it.
He doesn't want to get rid of this tapeworm. He said he eats more...
Well, no, you don't eat more. That's not true at all.
I added that bit on. You're right.
-I put that in on purpose.
-It's a misapprehension.
People think it eats your food, therefore you'll be hungry.
In fact, it makes you nauseous. It eats a small amount of your food but you lose appetite.
Someone told me that to get rid of the worm, you have to starve yourself
and then wave a steak in front of your mouth.
-I was 16, I was chatting up this girl...
-Not your mouth.
Yeah, well, she was all about then it would come up and bob out and you know...
I was 16, she was saying this, I was trying to chat her up and...
You were chatting her up with tapeworm stories?
-It was her tapeworm story.
-Oh, I see.
So what sort of length would you expect a tapeworm to be?
-14 miles is perhaps a little long.
-A good half marathon.
-But thank you for joining in.
-50 feet is not...
-8 metres isn't bad, is it?
8 metres isn't bad at all, no.
But they can stay in you for 20 years,
-a long, long time.
-That is a long time.
They're not pleasant.
And they are segmented - flat but in little segments to make them even creepier.
There's one that comes out of your leg
and it takes three or four weeks to come out of your leg
because the only way of getting it out is to wind it round a pencil.
You go to the doctor every day and he'll do about an inch a day.
It's incredibly painful.
But there's a theory that that's where the medical sign of a serpent wrapped round a staff comes from.
That's a nice thought.
I like this kind of atmosphere of scout camp where everyone keeps each other awake
saying, "And apparently there's this thing
"and they had these spiders came out and ate them."
Hopefully that's prepared you all for the horrors ahead.
You might need a drink after all those disgusting animals.
What's the key ingredient, then, in the world's nastiest cocktail?
Is it Malibu?
ALARMS GO OFF
-I reckon you've got someone who's a really quick typist.
We're after a nasty cocktail.
-Is it a genuine drink?
-It's a genuine cocktail that is served in a genuine bar
in a genuine place in a genuine country.
-Give us a clue.
-It's part of the body.
We're in a country that is sort of known for its cleanliness, probably.
As they say of Toronto, it's New York run by the Swiss, so it's that kind of a place.
-Some sort of moose?
-But this is in the Yukon in a mining bar,
the Downtown Hotel, Dawson City.
It's a part of a human being.
Well, toenails is good enough. It's a toe.
The Sourtoe cocktail is the specialite de la maison
in the Downtown Hotel.
-Where do they get the toe?
-Well, there's a whole story.
It started in the 1960s
when a figure called Captain Dick Stevenson -
he'd been everything from a male stripper to a miner to a lumberjack,
-you know the way that manly men are...
And he found himself in an old cabin and there was a pickled toe
that had belonged to a rum runner back in the prohibition days
and for some reason he thought it would be amusing
to offer as a challenge to put it in alcohol
and the idea was you drank it and it became a very popular drink.
You kept the toe, though. It moved from glass to glass.
There's a little rhyme, which is the key.
"You can drink it fast, you can drink it slow
"But the lips have got to touch the toe."
-So the toe has to touch...
But unfortunately, there was a series of accidents.
In 1980, Garry Younger, a local miner, accidentally swallowed the toe,
so they found another one.
This very nice lady called Mrs Lawrence of Alberta,
whose middle toe was amputated due to an inoperable corn,
So you're now drinking a toe that not only was amputated but had a hideous corn on it.
And people... That lasted well. It didn't have to be alcohol.
I've drunk worse than that.
I remember being at a party once, no glasses,
drinking Tia Maria out the dog bowl.
No glasses. Wahey.
That, that's chicken, it's fine.
They've gone through a lot of toes.
They have a collection. People donate their toes if they're going to be amputated
so they have some packed in rock salt.
You can choose your toe to have with...
He looks like he finds it hilarious. I can imagine him going, "Hee-hee! You're gonna have to drink the toe!"
"This guy is gonna drink the toe. I love that."
It's only 5 a shot. They reckon 35,000 people have done it.
-It's quite popular.
I mean, you're likely to pass on germs, though, aren't you? All those people touching the same toe.
Is the toe supposed to retain any flavour?
Has it been pickled in a way that makes the drink more interesting
-or is it just for the...?
-I think it's just so you can say you've done it.
It's leather now, I would imagine. Leather and a hint of nail varnish.
Anyway, there we are.
That's the Downtown Hotel in Dawson City in the Yukon
and it offers its patrons the Sourtoe cocktail,
the liquor of your choice garnished with a severed human toe.
If that's made you feel ill, answer me this.
What's the best way to get rid of a leech?
-Well, you don't want to rip them off.
Doesn't do more damage and leave bits of them in you?
It will be ripping them off.
-ALARM GOES OFF
All right, burn it off.
-You want to burn it off?
-ALARM GOES OFF
Douse it in some sort of vodka, whisky spirit thing.
You're safe with that one.
-Actually, the answer is simply just leave it.
-It fills up and then goes?
If you pull it off, you won't leave a bit of it behind but nor will it help.
It's difficult to ignore when it's right there on your nose.
Having to... Sorry...
They're usually on the legs.
There are many of misapprehensions about leeches.
One is that they've evolved to drop down onto your neck.
They're nearly always on your legs because they're in the water.
If you pull them, they don't leave bits of themselves behind
but their anticoagulant means that you will bleed for a time.
Whereas if you let them finish it off, they seal off the wound nicely
and you'll only lost about a teaspoonful of blood.
Aren't they experimenting with the anticoagulant to find ways of stopping haemophilia?
That's right. Wales was the capital of British leech farming,
you'll be please to know.
There's still one left.
-So they're called lleeches.
-Lleeches. Two Ls, that's right.
-Does it hurt?
-Not really, no.
I've had a leech on me. You don't notice. Someone points it out.
It hurts if you pull it off, so just leave it.
-How did you get yours off?
-I was told just to leave it.
-They said, "You've got a leech,"
-Is it still there now?
-No, it's not.
Five years later. Huge great leech.
-Given it a name, read it stories.
-How long before it's filled?
-Oh, not very long.
It'll be there for ten minutes or so.
-And it doesn't leave you a sting, like a mosquito?
If you burn one, it will come off, won't it?
It will but it's bad for it. It will make it vomit, which is a bad thing
because other blood it's got in it may go into you.
It's just unnecessary. Leave it be.
It's nothing like as annoying as a tsetse fly, for example.
-Or a human.
-Or a human that bit you, for example.
When people farmed them, people stood around in pools of water
and get them all over their legs and presumably they took them off.
They'd wait for them and peel them off as they finished,
pop them into buckets and sell them.
-Well, to doctors.
Another name for a physician was a leech. That's what you called the doctor.
One of the most popular cures for anything was blood letting
and leeches were the least harmful.
Those are the worst kind, a phlebotomy, the cutting of a vein,
and there, huge bowls of blood, I mean constant... Terribly bad for people.
But that was considered to be the cure for almost any fever,
whereas a leech... Mind you, they'd use about 50 of them,
they'd cover you in leeches.
They're used today in surgery.
The NHS buys thousands of leeches a year. There's some.
-What surgery do they use it in?
-Well, in microsurgery.
It repairs the blood vessels quite well, seals them up properly.
It's really very helpful, it seems.
I hope the leech guy in the surgery dresses differently to the rest of the staff.
I wonder if when the leech guy arrives it's like the Child Catcher,
he has a fancy hat with leeches hanging off it.
And then he arrives in. "Hello! I'm the leech man."
So leeches won't do you much harm if you just let them finish their meal.
Now, how can you tell if you've got Bonnie and Clyde syndrome?
Is those people who have one half, they're dressed as a man
and the other half, they're dressed as a woman?
And they go and do variety shows,
probably somewhere like Albania these days.
-Has the gentleman on the left got it?
No, I don't think so.
Peculiarly enough, Bonnie might have had it
but Clyde certainly didn't.
It's a paraphilia. Do you know what a paraphilia is?
It's an erotic attachment to something wrong.
Yes, a fetish or a taboo or something like that.
-It can be for a physical...
Not necessarily bank robbery.
It's one of the few paraphilias that more women have than men,
this particular one.
It's called hybristophilia.
-Women who fall for very dangerous, violent criminals.
In Britain alone, there are estimated to be at least 100 women
who are engaged to Americans on death row.
-People who've corresponded with them.
-British women who've not even been there.
Not just corresponding but engaged to.
-Not to mention the wives of Tory MPs.
It's an erotic, sort of fetishistic, strange love that people have
for violent criminals, real wrong 'uns, not just like, "Oh, he's a naughty boy,"
but murderers of the worst possible kind.
She appears to be going, "Lose weight!"
That's the real Bonnie and Clyde.
-Yeah, the casting was quite favourable to them.
-I've never seen a picture of them.
-They were no Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in real life.
No. The real Clyde Barrow was an institutional criminal,
a really violent, unpleasant man who murdered a lot
and killed many people
but Bonnie might have had this.
A lot of the gang members said she never raised a gun or killed anybody
and that she was fond of poetry, she was privately educated, she was intelligent
and maybe she had hybristophilia for Clyde.
So why would men not find them as appealing?
There are various theories.
The glamour of notoriety, vicariously gratified propensity for violence themselves.
Religious fervour - sometimes evangelical Christians think they can convert...
There's a very sad case of two Christian sisters from Australia
called Avril and Rose
who left marriages they were already in,
so-called boring marriages, for two criminals in Australia.
Avril was battered to death with a hammer by her husband as soon as he was let out of prison,
having married him when he was in jail,
and Rose's husband went back in prison after he tried to cut her ear off
and pull her teeth out with pliers.
-So these were not nice people.
Yeah, they are bad choices.
There's another paraphilia called harpaxophilia.
That's someone who gets off on being robbed.
It exists. Well, there you are. That's the Bonnie and Clyde syndrome. Hybristophilia.
It's an attraction to people who have committed terrible crimes or atrocities.
Name a pizza topping that eats insects.
-What, do I get to be Mario in this week's episode?
-Oh, dear me, no.
-No. Is that a pizza topping?
-You can put anything on a pizza.
It's no more ridiculous than pineapple on a pizza, spiders.
If someone said to me, "Do you want spiders on that?" I'd go, "Yeah, all right."
-If you're gonna have a chicken tikka pizza, I think spiders is a small leap further.
-I've forgotten what the question is.
-A pizza topping...
-Tomatoes is right!
-Tomatoes eat insects.
-Tomatoes eat insects.
It's not their only diet, as we know.
Tomatoes grow like a lot of fruits and vegetables.
They draw nutrients out of the soil and can be grown hydroponically
but also they have another way of ingesting nutrients
and that is trapping insects in the furry, the hairy stems
and they die and they absorb their nutrients.
So they are insectivorous.
-Not while they're on a pizza, though.
-Not while they're on a pizza.
What about if you were wanting your spider pizza and they get eaten by the tomato?
-That's how you get that lovely spidery, tomato flavour.
They trap them and so they fall down into the ground
and are absorbed through the soil.
It enriches the soil by filling it with dead insects, you see?
OK, very good. Tomatoes trap insects in a deadly embrace on their hairy stems
and use their decaying bodies as fertilizer.
One horrible thing all of our panel, I suspect, has experienced,
-So where did the first hecklers come from?
-What did they do for a living?
-Houses of Parliament?
-No. It wasn't.
A heckle is a word meaning a comb
for dividing two types of fabric of flax for making yarn
and people who did that were called hecklers.
-Where was the capital of the jute industry?
In Dundee. Absolutely right.
And the Dundonian heckler was known to be a troublemaker,
Violent harangue and ferocious debates, they were known for.
And so to publicly question, to shout, to harangue
was like being a heckler.
It was a back formation. You were a heckler and so what you did was to heckle.
-I thought you'd like to know that.
-It's interesting, yeah.
-Have you been heckled much?
-No. I didn't used to get heckled.
If people didn't like me, they'd just start talking amongst themselves.
I remember two girls at the Comedy Store.
One turned to the other and went, "He's lost it."
That's very disturbing.
Really gets under your skin.
I have to go to them to get them to talk.
I was in Liverpool and I was talking about dreams
and about having a dream about a famous person
and some bloke shouted out that he'd had a dream about Kate Winslet.
And I said, "Oh, was it a sexy dream?"
and he goes, "No, she turned me down."
In his own head.
-I had a dream about Kate Winslet.
-I said to him, "Were you disappointed?"
and he goes, "No, I didn't hit her with me best stuff."
-That's very strange.
I had a dream about Kate Winslet
and in my dream it didn't quite work out either.
Wow, she's like the Freddy Krueger of dreams.
Well, thank you very much.
Yes, hecklers were originally people who split the fibres of flax and hemp to spin into yarn.
And so with a cough and a retch,
we bring up the bolus that is General Ignorance.
So fingers on buzzers. Where does a snake's tail begin?
After its bottom.
Is the right answer. After its bottom.
-Well, as you know... As you know, Stephen,
I studied snakes for many, many, many years.
I'm one of the world's leading snakeatologists.
-Herpetologist, yes. We don't call ourselves that.
-Don't you? Oh.
-Not since the rebranding.
It's called a cloaca and after that is where the snake...
-After this are ribs...
-We call it the body.
Ribs and spine. It's got vertebrae. It's got a lot of vertebrae.
-That other bit's the head,
up the other end there.
You might want to write that down, Stephen. The head.
You weren't kidding, were you? You really are an expert and you get your points.
-No legs on a snake, Stephen.
-You won't find any legs on a snake.
-Not a one, not a one.
Snakes might look like they're all back end but they have surprisingly short tails.
What are the dimensions of a piece of two by four?
Four by two.
Two by four. Two by four.
You've lost all the points you've made with your expertise on snakes.
-You've leached them.
-I'll win them back.
-It is... What is two by four?
-It's a plank of wood.
Yeah. But it's not two by four.
It's about 1.5 by 3.5 inches.
It's based on a dimension block which was originally itself two by four
but it's then shaved and planed so it's smaller.
But even now the original dimension block is smaller or larger.
It doesn't actually matter. It's still called a two by four even though it no longer is.
Now, we've saved the most disgusting, the most horrible thing, for last.
What am I describing?
Allegedly, it can cause birds to fall dead from the sky
and it's banned by airlines but it's quite good on toast.
Will your...? Oh, no!
-No wonder you've not been getting points.
-Oh, that's typical.
-That's unfair. Chris, you can answer.
Er... What was the question?
Is it gentleman's relish?
No. I have some here. I have a can of it.
But... And this is a genuine can of it.
-It's something rotten, isn't it?
-Scandinavian rotten food.
-It's Scandinavian rotten fish.
They have it on midsummer's night, don't they?
-I've always wanted to try that.
I've actually been told, and you may say, "Oh, go on, Stephen," that I cannot open this
and if I did, the audience... Probably the audience at home would go away.
It is apparently so disgusting, it would never leave the studio
-and I think we'd be sued by the studio.
-By the Graham Norton Show.
Yeah, by the Graham Norton Show.
It's called surstromming. It's herring.
What happens is, they put the herring in a barrel first of all
with about half the amount of salt you need to cure it,
so instead of being cured, it ferments, it putrefies.
And then after it's been like that for a month or so,
you then put it in a can
but the can is designed, as you can tell,
to swell up slightly, so it's continuing to ferment.
-They buckle, don't they?
And it is absolutely unbelievably disgusting, the smell.
There is nothing, apparently, as revolting on the face of the earth.
-A friend of mine lives in Sweden and he says that is something you have to be Swedish to eat.
They consider it a delicacy.
Often, they open the can underwater
because the way to eat it is to rinse it and cover it with onions.
It's got a best before date.
-I'm going to move this away...
-Best before we canned it.
Apparently, in the 16th century, there were...
You can have a look but please don't open it.
-There were Swedish sailors...
No! Who ran out of salt and they had this rotting fish
and they found some Finnish islanders that they sold it to,
thinking they were idiot foresters who knew no better.
And then a year later, they came back and met them again
and they said, "Can we have some more of this rotten fish, please?"
So they tried it themselves and apparently, it is tasty,
even though it smells beyond anything else.
I'm glad to say the can is holding up.
So there you are. Surstromming. Baltic herring fermented in cans
with foul smelling and explosive but allegedly delicious results.
So we head now staggering towards the bucket
and there only remains the horrible embarrassment of the scores.
And, well, I have to say, totally repulsive as they all are,
it's pretty impressive.
In first place, repulsing all comers,
with a positive 2 points, Dara O'Briain.
In second place, with a reasonably bad taste in the mouth with 13.8 points
-it's Chris Addison.
Gagging slightly from time to time,
Sean Lock with minus 33!
And just behind him taking an early barf,
on minus 35, Alan Davies.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
That's all from this stomach-churning edition of QI.
It's goodnight from Chris, Sean, Dara, Alan and me
and one final word of advice.
If you can't be a good example, try to be a horrible warning. Goodnight.
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