Stephen Fry waxes inventive with Nina Conti, Sean Lock, Bill Bailey and Alan Davies.
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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Good evening, good evening, good evening, good evening.
Welcome to QI where, tonight, we'll be putting sliced bread to shame
and reinventing the wheel in a show all about inventions.
Joining me at the lab bench, we have a world first, Nina Conti and Gran.
The peculiarly innovative Sean Lock.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
The patently absurd Bill Bailey.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And I'm afraid it's back to the drawing board, Alan Davies.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
if you have any bright ideas you wish to share,
-activate the light bulb in front of you. Bill goes...
-And Nina or Gran goes...
-And Alan goes...
-ELECTRIC CURRENT NOISE
-Er...so you've brought your grandmother with you.
Is she familiar with our rule we have in this series?
We have a 'don't know' rule. We have a 'Nobody Knows' rule.
-There's a joker you have, which is the 'Nobody Knows'...
TANNOY: Nobody knows!
There may be a question to which nobody actually knows the answer.
The answer is, nobody knows. Can she...?
-There you go, Gran.
-"I can hold it."
-Have you got it?
-"It's a bit..."
-She's got a little bit of arthritis in the fingers.
-Do you want me to hold it for you?
-Oh, all right.
"Slap me on the bottom with it, dear."
-"I won't be like that, I'm just excited."
Good. Now, my first question is,
why should you be glad that you didn't invent the flying car,
the parachute suit or the web rotary press?
I've got a feeling that the guy with the parachute suit, didn't he die?
Um...and then it does follow that they all died.
They were all killed by their own inventions.
The inventor of the web rotary press, for example,
which was a huge advance and revolutionised printing,
and unfortunately the inventor fell into the works and got gummed up in them and died.
-Yeah. Very sad business.
But it did change printing. He was called William Bullock.
-Which bit of it did he fall in?
-Well, into the gearing. I can't imagine how he managed it.
A bloke the other day, he went through a machine,
and his whole body went through a tunnel the size of a CD and he survived.
Was it Ronnie Corbett? LAUGHTER
Yeah. That would explain it.
No, his whole head went in, broke every bone in his body...
-But he did live?
-..to tell the tale.
Unfortunately, though, he is now in a redundant format.
That was the fate of William Bullock.
When it comes to the parachute suit, it was a man called Franz Reichelt who was an Austrian,
who was convinced he could jump off the Eiffel Tower, this was in 1912, wearing a parachute suit.
People warned him it was not a good idea, but he was utterly confident.
He ripped a page out of a book to test which way the wind was going
and his last words were, "A bientot."
Unfortunately, that was the instruction manual(!)
He jumped off and hit the ground a little bit too hard,
and was dead.
So that was not a good result.
That's not actually an invention, then, is it?
That's just a really stupid thing to do.
Where's the grey area where inventions become...suicide?
It was a parachute suit that might have worked from higher up.
The principle behind it was sound, as we know from parachutes, they do work.
-But he just...
-He invented jumping off things.
He invented jumping off things badly, yeah.
The flying car you ought to know about.
This was a Californian engineer called Henry Smolinski.
-Look at that.
"I can't fly or drive though, because I can't see, because my eyes are marbles.
"But I can point where I want to go, look. There!
"Higher! There's buildings down there.
-"Pull my finger, dear."
You've got a very, very warm finger there, Gran.
"Oh, no, don't say that, dear.
"It'll draw attention to it. Where it's been."
All right, thank you! Thank you!
Thank you, Gran.
On the face of it, it's rather a marvellous idea.
Smolinski's idea was that you drove to an airport, you collected the wings,
you'd fly 500 miles-odd to the next city,
where you'd take the wings off and you would drive off again.
And it worked really well.
Then in 1973 he was on a flight and one of the struts broke
and he and his co-pilot plunged to their death.
The idea was never thought of again. I think it should be brought back.
I thought he would have died when he was in the air
and he got up to go around with the drinks trolley.
-It's simple. It worked with Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Did they have two sets of controls?
-You've asked an intelligent question.
Joysticks and it will turn over like in Thunderbirds?
Was it a big switch? Plane - car.
The car steering was modified so you could fly from the driver's seat
so it was pretty much all-in-one.
-So you could steer it with the steering wheel?
-I'd love one of those, wouldn't you?
-I'd love one too.
-"Difficult to park, dear."
-Yeah, difficult to park.
-I think it's a brilliant idea.
"I just have to stay in the overhead compartment,
-"don't I, dear?"
-Yeah, I put her in the overhead compartment.
-Aw, that's a bit mean.
-Right! I feel like I have to open the compartment slowly
-just in case you fall out and injure someone.
-"Fall out and hurt someone, yes."
-"I'll keep going. Happy days."
-Are you allowed to use the loo?
"No, I don't have any bodily functions, dear."
"I just sit there for comfort. But nothing happens."
-Too much information!
-I imagine there's all these other grans
in the overhead compartments, all... all crawling about during the flight.
I don't know why you even go on the plane, why don't you just post yourself?
"It's very expensive, dear. I'm heavy."
That's not true. I lost her once on a plane, by an airline,
-which for legal reasons, I'm not supposed to name.
-"Would you put your granny in the hold, dear?"
-No, I wouldn't.
I have a friend who has one of those micro pigs
and she puts the pig in hand luggage in the cabin without telling them.
-It's only a pig, isn't it?
-It's one of those tiny pigs.
Are they easy to look after? My wife would love one of those.
You can grow them in special tubes so they're triangular and they will fit in a Toblerone box.
-Is that a Toblerone... Oink! ..no.
-Sometimes they grow and grow and basically you've got a huge pig.
-You've just got an actual pig.
What you bought was a piglet.
Imagine being conned by a pig salesman!
It's called buying a pig in a poke. It's a phrase for it.
-Pig salesmen used to be dishonest.
-"Can you say that, Nina?"
-What? Pig in a poke.
-"Can I say that?"
-Go on, say, pig in a poke.
-"That's a challenge to a ventriloquist."
-If I say, pig and a poke, it's fine.
-You say it, Gran.
-Go on, Gran.
-"Pig in a poke."
That was impressive!
-How do they do that?
-I didn't know it meant that.
A pig in a poke? What's a poke, then?
A poke is a sack. A pocket is a small poke.
-So you haven't seen the pig?
-It could be a dog.
The point is all those inventions tragically killed their inventors.
Which well-known invention is the wickedness which lurks in the belly
and deserves to dwell in the cesspool?
The wickedness which lurks in the belly.
-Do you know...
-We know because this... Yes...
Um...I am a belly speaker.
You are a belly speaker. Ventriloquism.
That's it. You're a tummy speaker.
It was considered to be a possession by demons
if someone could have this voice come from their tummy.
It didn't seem to come out of their mouths... Or throw their voice.
And a Patriarch of Constantinople by the name of Photius,
who once excommunicated the Pope, and he was the one...
There you are! Have a go. Have a go.
Oh, have we all got these?
-Pig in a poke.
-I am very impressed.
-The weird thing is...
-ELECTRIC CURRENT NOISE
That puppet is a ventriloquist
and its lips didn't move when you said that
so it's operating you which is fantastic.
It really is a lot...
-"It really is a lot harder than it looks."
-"You've had a stroke, dear."
"He looks like ET."
-No, don't, Gran.
-"I am Bogdan.
"I like you very much."
"You are attractive lady."
"If I start on you, you'll never see the light of day again."
"Come with me. I have Oyster Card."
-"Are you moving your lips?"
Sean, let's see if you can do any better.
-Are you hoping...
-I'm not moving my lips.
Oh, sorry, it's a left-handed puppet. Sorry!
That's the only thing I tend to do is... GROANING
"Pieces of eight. Pieces of eight."
You don't actually have to stretch your mouth.
It's the only way I can do it. I can't do it any other way.
-Oh, I've broken it.
-Oh, Bill Bailey!
"What the hell's he doing?"
0h, dear, oh, dear, oh, dear.
What a wretched disappointment to us all you are.
I can't get the talking to... I can't get the talking to you.
-"You're an idiot."
-It's very difficult.
-You have to look like you're listening when you're talking.
-You look at her?
-Yes, you have to look like you're listening
when you are in fact talking. It's quite difficult.
-"The first rule of showbusiness, make everything look easy."
-"Not like this half-wit over here,
-"milking it for all it's worth."
I think...it doesn't matter if your lips move because, surely, this gives the game away.
-In those circumstances, yes.
-A stick here suggests it's not actually a real thing
so it doesn't really matter whether my lips move, does it?
"I thought this was a highbrow show."
In order to make it highbrow, I'm sure you can help us, Nina, on the history of ventriloquism.
I know that it has a very dark history
and that ventriloquists used to earn a living as if their words were Divine utterances.
-Yes, that's the point.
I'm so sorry.
I'm sorry. I was listening but my hand came out of the top.
I shocked myself(!)
-That's very disturbing.
-It is quite disturbing.
That's horrible. It looks like Alien.
It looks like Lady Gaga's sleeves.
Well, you're absolutely right,
it was regarded as Divine utterance or demonic possession, in fact.
-And I know one woman died from her ventriloquism.
-Who was that?
Um...but I don't know her name. I bet you do.
-With her utterances, she was objecting to the marriage of Henry VIII...
-To Anne Boleyn.
-To Anne Boleyn.
-Her name was Elizabeth Barton
and she was known as the Holy Maid of Kent.
She was a very good ventriloquist
and these voices would come without her mouth moving as if from her stomach.
-"Nice tits too."
She became very popular until she started to say...
-Look at the bloke looking at her tits as well!
"You've got yours out as well tonight.
"Is that to distract from the lip movement?"
She was very popular until she said
that if Henry VIII married Anne Boleyn he would be deposed.
Henry VIII didn't like that so had her head chopped off.
-Ironically, her head was put on top of a pole...
-And carried on talking(!)
It was quite a strange fate for a ventriloquist to have their head stuck on a pole.
But she was indeed, she suffered for her art.
But in the 19th Century it became known to be a piece of entertainment rather than demonic spirits.
-But the first ventriloquists on stage didn't have dummies.
-What did they have?
They used to do things like voices inside suitcases.
There would be ones who did chimney sweeps, there'd be a chimney
and they'd do the sound of the boy going up and getting more and more
smothered and quieter and more distant as he went.
Huge rounds of applause but it was a man called Fred Russell
-who came up with his character Coster Joe was one of the first.
-Was he blind?
He made that one afternoon.
It's not the most beautiful object you've ever seen, is it?
That's when dummies became popular. Speaking of which,
which of you here has ever had an imaginary friend?
Did you ever have an imaginary friend, Gran?
-She can't say his name!
"I think Bill Bailey, that is a hard one,
-"I think you're my imaginary friend. And slightly out of focus."
-"Fuzzy kind of, and you, Sean..."
-That is strange.
My reality is being called into question by...
It's one of the odder conversations I've had but...
"If your imaginary friend falls over in the forest and there's no-one to hear, does that...? I can't finish."
That's a good philosophical point. We're getting Bishop Barclay from Gran, I'm impressed!
Did you have one? A lot of children do.
-I'm not aware of it.
-Your mother would have told you.
They didn't use to come round much.
-An imaginary friend that doesn't play with you.
-An imaginary friend who cuts you dead!
I wanted to be his friend but...
-Aw, that's so sad.
-He just wasn't interested.
We're all familiar obviously with the concept of it
and the fact that lots of children do seem to have an imaginary friend which can worry their parents.
-It is peculiar. You have to lay places at table for them.
They have to be given seats on the sofa to watch TV and so on. They have tea parties for them.
But, according to psychiatrists, having an imaginary friend is a very good thing for a child
and that children have had them tend to have more social and verbal skills than those who don't.
Although, a certain proportion of them are malevolent.
Some people have imaginary friends who scare them, a worrying thought. A nasty imaginary friend.
-I hear voices.
But I ignore them and I just carry on killing.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
-The voices say, "Stop killing people, Sean!"
You know this is wrong, Sean, they don't deserve it.
I ignore them.
It is quite a phenomenon.
It was actually Yasser Arafat who said the history of religious wars
is the history of people fighting over their imaginary friends.
It is weird that the leader of the PLO,
who founded the Palestinian movement which is now of course so bound up with
religious extremism, was himself rather sceptical about it all.
The world is hardly come on, has it? Let's be honest.
The interesting thing I knew about him, he married a Frenchwoman.
You wouldn't think that, would you?
It's not beyond the bounds of reason!
Well, you'd think he's very interested in helping his local area,
he'd choose one of his local women.
Yes, but the very nature of being a Palestinian meant
he had no homeland, so it is quite likely he'd choose someone from a land where he'd resided in exile.
And many did in France.
Or maybe she was just an imaginary wife.
Maybe she was. Or maybe she was just damn hot.
She was foxy.
-Was he a pussy hound?
-I don't know.
I... Wow! LAUGHTER
Did I say that?
Something has gone wrong.
I'm intrigued to think that is what you thought I was about to say.
You looked into my eyes and thought, he's going to say "pussy hound".
I'll beat you to it! I'll beat you to the punch.
Is a pussy hound like a liger?
It's a kind of a cat and a dog together.
It's like a dog that gentlemen would send out to find ladies.
So, it's kind of independent and yet loyal.
-Yes, I like that.
Now, you all have an invention under your benches. And we'd like to know what they are.
-What are we looking it?
-It's some kind of measuring device.
-We've given it you for a reason.
-Yes, a particular quality you have.
-You might be more likely to guess it than others.
Is it a beard measuring device?
No, I would not call your beard a quality. It's a lovely beard but it's not a quality.
-It's a feature!
-You've crossed the line, Fry.
-It is a lovely, charming facial feature.
-It has a musical connection.
If you were certain kind of instrumentalist,
-you might be born, as it were, with limitations that annoy you.
-Ah! Wait a minute.
-Is this something which stretches the reach of the pianist?
-Yes. That is exactly what it is.
That's right. Most people might be able to manage an octave C to C
and some as you know can do C to E.
-I can do C to E.
-Can you? That's a wide reach.
-It is a wide reach.
I see. So, a hand would go in there,
-and you'd undo this thing here.
-That's right and stretch and stretch until...
-This would then stretch and stretch.
-Stretch and stretch like that.
Yeah, supposedly that would give you...
So, what have you got there, Sean?
-It's a bottle, Stephen.
-And what do you think it's for?
For putting stuff in.
OK, so, next, moving onto you.
What have you got there?
"Is this one mine? It's a suppository."
Well, the bizarre thing is you're not far off.
If you unscrew the bottom.
-You have to help me, Gran.
-"With my teeth!"
-"I can't get a grip."
-Maybe Bill will help.
-You get one of those with...
"I can't do it, dear!"
-With Preparation H.
-Alan's on it.
-Has this been up someone's arse?
Alan has exactly got it.
When you get Preparation H, you screw a plastic one of those on the top.
-You insert it in your rectum.
And the dark oil comes out of the holes.
Comes the haemorrhoid treatment - exactly right. For the treatment of haemorrhoids.
-So what happens? This unscrews?
-Yes, and you pop in the ointment.
-The ointment goes in there.
-Then you screw it up.
Then you put the thing up your botty. Up the old...
You screw that and, the ointment squirts up, reaches all places it needs to reach.
-"It squirts up, happy days, dear."
-That's quite clever.
Because half the people on the planet will be afflicted with haemorrhoids in their lives.
Ah... Wha...is this something you could self medicate or...?
Yes, you don't need to, ask a friend to do it if you want.
I imagine that would be best, to be perfectly honest.
What are yours, Alan? What have you got?
I have got a pair of glasses that enable me to see into my lap.
I wonder if they are...
-cos I can read this book.
-But I am looking up at you whilst I'm looking down, I can read
and write but see straight ahead.
So are they for an artist or painter?
Actually, they're more lazy than that.
They're called lying down spectacles.
You can lie in bed with a book on your chest and you'd be able to read like that.
Lying down. It is rather elegant.
I see, that is exactly what you need when you're sunbathing
-when you have to hold the book like that.
You can do it perfectly.
SEAN: Doesn't look weird at all, it looks great!
If you got the sun on the mirror, you'd be instantly blinded.
It's a surprisingly clear image, isn't it?
Here I have this little device with a cork on the end.
It's in the shape of a policeman's whistle.
That is a hint because policemen would carry these around with them.
That's for blowing bubbles.
It does look like it. There would be a liquid in there, you're absolutely right.
It could be a salts of ammonia, sal volatile.
Oh, smelling salts!
Smelling salts, exactly. This was called a policeman's Lady Reviver.
"Can I have a sniff?"
So when a lady fainted in the street,
the policeman would whip it out there and...
That was them!
He would whip it out and wave it under the lady's nose.
-That would wake her up.
-Wave it under the whoo-hoo!
Yes. The sharp smell of ammonia,
which was what was in the smelling salts.
Have you come to a more sensible decision as to what your flask is for?
It has it written on it. If you took the trouble to bloody read it.
-"Harden Star Hand Grenade."
It's a hand grenade, Stephen.
-It's a kind of hand grenade. It's a fire extinguisher hand grenade.
-It's a water grenade.
You'd fill it with aqueous solution
and you'd throw it at the fire.
That was the idea. You'd throw it. Those are our inventions,
lots of very imaginative ones and they were kindly lent to us by the Maurice Collins Collection.
All in beautiful condition. Thank for that and for not breaking them.
Right, that's enough inventions - let's turn our attentions to
the very real but entirely impractical business of general ignorance.
So fingers on the buzzers, those that are still working, how did dinosaurs have sex?
You're right. We just don't know.
You're good at those.
No extant genitals.
No soft tissue, it wouldn't necessarily be soft,
but the soft tissues are the bits that don't survive in fossils of course.
It's only in the last 15 years they've been able to sex a dinosaur fossil,
the female dinosaurs have a special sort of cavity for making extra calcium for eggs.
That's how you can tell from a fossil whether it's female or male.
Obviously, that would be wrong because that would be inter-species dinosaur sex.
The weirdest kind and that would be wrong.
I think he's just looking for a cheap thrill.
That's not about procreation at all.
-No, it isn't.
-That is a dinosaur S&M dungeon that.
And the best guess is that like most birds and reptiles,
dinosaurs had a cloacal sac.
A single opening for both waste and reproduction.
-Like sharks, exactly.
And they mated by cloacal kiss.
There we are.
Name a disease spread by feral pigeons.
-There aren't any.
There's nothing wrong with them. Again that's the answer, you're doing awfully well, Alan,
-you're on fire tonight!
-I'm doing awfully well!
Basically, this idea that they are disease-infested
and disease-spreading vermin,
is nonsense according to experts on pigeons.
This thing of them being rats with wings is considered very unfair by those in the know,
they don't spread that much disease.
They do leave a fair amount of poo but then so do humans, don't we?
We've just got a better way of dealing with it perhaps.
I tend not to leave it on people's shoulders.
Well, that's the difference!
I mean, I wouldn't say I was well brought up but,
there's a few benchmarks we tried to set early on...
in my toilet training.
That was one - never on the shoulder.
It had a big red NO through it. It was in my bedroom on the door.
There's a picture of a man with a turd over his shoulder, and it says, "No, Sean!"
You learnt your lesson and we're all very tidy pooers I'm sure here in this room, including Granny.
-"Not at all. Don't even do them, dear. Don't eat, don't excrete."
That's the secret of a long and happy life.
And that is your lot. Time to invent the scores.
Oh, my goodness me! Very exciting. Very exciting indeed.
I'm afraid, despite some remarkable performances, in last place
with -3, it's Bill Bailey.
And erm, in a very creditable fourth place with one point - Alan Davies.
Third place with three, Sean Lock.
In second place with four is Gran!
"Oh! Very nice."
Which means that our winner with plus five is Nina Conti!
My thanks to Bill, Nina, Gran, Sean and Alan and I leave you with this from Sid Caesar,
the guy who invented the first wheel was an idiot.
The guy who invented the other three, he was a genius. Good night.
APPLAUSE AND CHEERING
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
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