Sandi Toksvig looks at some oddballs with Jason Manford, Jimmy Carr, Victoria Coren Mitchell and Alan Davies.
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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Hello, and welcome to QI,
which tonight is an omnibus of Oddballs.
Let's meet our obliging odd-fellows. An odd bod, Jason Manford.
-Odd? Odd bod?
An odd fish, Jimmy Carr.
Really? Odd fish? OK, fine.
An odd lot, Victoria Coren Mitchell.
What is an odd lot?!
And Odds Bodkins, Alan Davies.
Right, let's hear their Odd Ball buzzers.
Jason Manford goes...
TABLE TENNIS BALL BOUNCES
BALL BOUNCES HEAVILY
Well, my apologies.
A Mexican lunch.
PINBALL MACHINE PINGS
Oh, you... And Alan goes...
# Bouncy bouncy
# Bouncy bouncy
# Bouncy bouncy
# Bouncy bouncy. #
Oddly enough, we start with Oddball games.
So you've each got a selection of odd balls under your desks.
Odd balls coming up.
Kindly invent a new ball game, and I would like you to use your heads.
-That was funny.
-What did you do, just...?
I threw it at his head, look.
Not the baseball!
OK, can we get the orange one back again?
Can we have it thrown back by somebody?
-Somebody will throw it to us, I'm sure. Come on.
-That was terrifying!
-Do you know what?
If you can't throw, don't volunteer.
-Underarm, as well.
If it comes over here again, I'll put a bloody knife through it!
-Curmudgeonly old man.
There is a German game called Headis,
and it is ping-pong played without a bat,
where you just hit it with your head.
So, it was invented by a sports science student.
-But don't forget the net.
-Yes - so, there's a net in the way, right?
OK, are you ready? Try now.
Can you get that?
He caught the ball.
It was in 2006, his name is Rene Wegner,
and he invented this game Headis.
It is now played internationally.
It is on the official sports programme of 15 German universities,
and have a look a this, because the top players are extraordinary,
and they use sort of noms-de-guerre -
like, well there's things like "the Sausage Seller", "Leek Face",
-and "Bob Der Headmaster", which I'm...
-..very pleased with.
And they have astonishing rallies.
So they're replaced the bat with their heads.
I suppose it's better than the ball.
I can't help thinking of the corners of the table.
I know, yes.
Another ball game we've discovered is a Swiss game
called Hornussen, and this is one of Switzerland's national sports.
You have two teams, but there seems to be no limit
to the size of the team, or the size of the pitch,
and there is a ball, which stands on this little thing like this,
and then what looks like a bendy golf club, right?
And you hit the ball and it goes out into a field,
and then the opposition have these enormous sort of placards.
So here's the guy who hits the ball.
It's a bendy golf club, yeah -
and then a guy with a placard... LAUGHTER
..tries to stop the ball, OK?
And yes, a lot of shouting...
..and then - oh, there they are - and there seems to be no limit.
-That is good.
-That is brilliant.
It's been around since the 17th century,
and it evolved from the ancient tradition
of hitting burning logs down the mountainside to expel evil spirits.
But the ball can go up to 306km per hour -
I mean, it's a fantastically fast thing.
Ah, well, that explains why that fellow in the video
-didn't have many teeth left.
-Yeah, I think that's the thing.
-300km an hour?
-That's really fast, isn't it?
-It's really fast.
It would tell us a lot about the human mind
to know exactly when in history
people went from, "Well, it's very important
"that we hit this burning thing down the mountain
"to ward off evil spirits,"
to, "Let's just make a massive game of it."
It's a huge, hilarious game.
This game I like the look of,
although I would not be able to play it.
It's called Cycle Ball, it was invented in 1893,
it is enormously popular in Germany.
Anybody work out how you play it?
Is it not like polo, but they're on bicycles?
Yes, and you have to use the front wheel of the bicycle -
and, again, just extraordinary skill that the players have with this.
Obviously it's tremendously exciting.
-Ooh, what a goal. Oh, nice.
-Yeah, yeah. Look.
-Ooh, he's lobbed him.
-He's lobbed him...
-Oh, this is a good show reel.
-Yeah, that's, I mean...
-I would actually watch that.
-It's quite exciting, don't you think?
-I would totally watch that.
This is, I think, I seem to...
-For - I mean, for a bit.
One I like is a game called Pushball.
So, there's a guy called Moses Crane, in the 1890s,
who watched a lot of American football, and he got confused.
You know in American football they always have sort of like a scrum?
They couldn't find the ball, so he invented this game.
-"It's so big!"
It's a six foot ball that weighs 50 pounds.
-So those guys are about to die.
No, the idea is you have to either get it across the line,
or you have to get it across a crossbar.
People played it on horseback.
Is that the... Is that the American remake of The Prisoner?
OK, balls away, please.
Now here's an odd question.
How can I persuade you to do what I want using only my thumb?
-Ah, well, now, well...
-I can think of a couple of possibilities.
-No, I've got nothing that isn't filth.
-Nothing that isn't filth.
It is known as the "thumb of power" and it's a hand gesture
used very widely by modern politicians when they make speeches.
Oh, it's to stop you doing this, isn't it? To stop you going...
-Apparently it's more powerful -
don't do that, because people don't like it,
-but if you do that you look like you're a powerful person.
-Never do that as a politician.
There's a science of oratorical hand gestures,
and it's called chironomia,
and it was set out in precise detail in 95AD, so a really long time ago.
Quintilian's Institutio Oratoria.
It says here, "One of the commonest of all the gestures
"consists in placing the middle finger against the thumb
"and extending the remaining three.
"It is suitable in the statement of facts,
"but in that case the hand must be moved with firmness
"and a little further forward
"while, if we are reproaching or refuting our adversary,
"the same movement may be employed with some vehemence and energy,
"since such passages permit of greater freedom of extension."
-You know, I'll tell you who does it...
I think, Paulie Walnuts in the Sopranos.
But the study of oratory and rhetoric
dates back a really long time -
and there's all sorts of rules about classic rhetoric
based around the rule of three, which is the same as in comedy.
So, tricolon, "I came, I saw, I conquered."
Or veni, vidi, Visa - "I came, I saw, I shopped."
Molossus, so that's three stressed syllables.
"Yes, we can."
And epizeuxis, so, "Location, location, location,"
when you repeat the same word over and over again -
but it hasn't changed, it hasn't changed.
So you get ethos, logos and pathos,
those are the three modes of persuasion.
So, ethos is how you establish the credibility of the speaker.
So, "Watch QI, I'm on it."
Logos, you present the logical argument.
"Watch QI, it's really good."
And pathos, appeal to the emotions.
"Watch QI or we shoot this kitten."
I was just using it as a rough example.
There have been manuals about how you gesture
since there have been speeches.
-This is a wonderful one.
-Oh, I've done this on a stag do.
-Zorb - zorb football, it's called.
-You run downhill.
It's a right laugh, 12 of you, "Boing, boing..."
We didn't dress like that.
Hob, dob, do.
Hob, dob, do.
Hob, dob, do.
I think he might - I think he might be learning the Macarena.
I'm totally sure.
And politicians can't help but use them.
My favourite example is Richard Nixon
on the day that he was made to resign as President,
that's what he chose to do as he left.
Clearly hadn't got the message it hadn't gone all that well.
I think I could play a young Nixon.
-Yes, actually, that's slightly terrifying, isn't it?
And Angela Merkel always holds her hands like that.
In fact, in Germany, it's known as the Merkel-Raute,
the Merkel diamond, that's just how she always holds her hands.
Trump, also, lots of signature hand signals.
When Donald Trump took to office, little did he know.
-I like Angela Merkel's one -
it's like she's going to go, "Open the door, see all the people."
It does look like that!
GERMAN ACCENT: "I have ze steeple and zen - oh, look.
"Ah, zere's no British people."
Don't you think, Victoria, when you have your photograph taken,
it's awkward to know what to do with your hands?
If you're a woman, especially.
-You can't put your hands in your pockets, can you?
-No, yes, terrible.
I've read things that say, you know,
if you put one foot forward, you look thinner.
I like the idea of the one foot forward.
-Just do that. Always just do that.
-Why is that?
Because people will always remember you.
"Remember that man
"that thought there was a robbery going on all the time?"
"Yeah, I remember him, yeah."
-Am I alone in this?
When you see great-looking women at premieres,
and they have a picture and they're looking over...
Whenever I see a picture like that, I don't understand how they do it.
-They used to have a pose they did on Page 3
where it got the tits and the bum in the same shot.
Tits and the bum in the same shot?
I think I've got it.
-You be the bum, you be the bum, and I'll...
Bend over, be the bum, like that.
There we go.
How did this man's bare bottom help Britain win World War I?
He looks really different with his suit off, doesn't he?
Like, you wouldn't even know that was him.
Give us a clue about the man -
-did something go into his bottom or come out of it?
-The man is called William Lawrence Bragg...
..he was a physicist. He was a Nobel laureate.
In fact, he remains the youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize -
he received it in 1915, along with his father, a famous physicist.
In 1915, he was serving as a subaltern in Flanders,
trying to find out ways to use sound to locate enemy artillery.
So, one day he was sitting on the latrine
at the house where he was billeted -
it was a tight little closet, with no window at all,
and he'd shut the door,
and so there was no other opening to the outside world
apart from the one that he was sitting on -
and he noticed that when there was gunfire nearby,
his backside momentarily lifted off the seat.
Even when he didn't really hear the explosion,
there was a sort of a thing, like this -
and meanwhile, another physicist he was working with,
a man called William Tucker,
was billeted in a tar paper hut,
and he noticed that by his cot there were just a couple of little holes,
and even on a day when there was no wind,
little puffs of air were blowing through,
and they compared notes, the two of them,
one from the loo and one from these two little holes,
and they deduced that this was the result
of inaudible low frequency sounds of artillery,
and they set about devising detectors,
and by 1917 it was so advanced
that the allies had a really devastating advantage
in locating and targeting enemy guns...
-..and it all came about
-because his backside lifted off the lavatory.
Is this maybe the most inspiring story I have ever heard...
-About a lavatory.
-..about a men's toilet and holes in a wall.
-Normally these end super differently.
Normally it's, "Then they had to shut down that garage."
And did they have to use his specific arse on all of this?
No, I don't...
Did he have to go round the whole - "Oh, it's over there."
Yeah, but that's how he discovered it.
-There are still 40,000 outside lavatories in the UK.
I'm surprised they've not all been turned into cereal cafes or summat.
That's the sort of thing people keep doing now,
turning toilets into bars.
-Yeah, there's one not far from here.
-It's a toilet.
-That turned into a bar?
It's called The Toilet, I think.
I think it is, actually, that's right!
Where you go to the loo, God knows.
You can go out on the street and do it up the side of a pub, like...
Well, there used to be a thing,
when people were peeing up the sides of buildings, boys, let's be honest.
-Let's be honest, yeah.
-Boys peeing outside buildings.
And talented girls.
Yeah, and talented - very talented girls
who were straight from Page 3,
showing their arse and their tits at the same time.
Lots of London buildings had special tilted metal bars,
so that if somebody did pee against it,
the pee would splash back on the person's shoes.
The most southerly public loo in Britain
is on the island of the Minquiers.
Here is a picture of it. It says, "This toilet has the distinction
"of being the most southern building in the British Isles.
"Please use with care as the nearest alternative is in Jersey,
"which is 11 miles away."
It looks like those rocks are leaning against the toilet.
It looks like they're queuing up, doesn't it?
It does look like a queue, doesn't it, and they've solidified waiting.
"Oh, hello, we're the Minquiers.
"Is there anyone in there?"
That's a great title for a band.
"Hey, hey, we're The Minquiers."
"Hey, hey, we're The Minquiers."
On a lighter note, who takes their mother-in-law to a lunatic asylum?
-Look at us there.
Is that meant to be us as mothers-in-law in a lunatic asylum?
-Yes, that's exactly what it is.
-I think that is the general...
-That's the look we're going for.
-That's definitely the weirdest idea
-for a picture of us.
-I'm just thinking of mother-in-law jokes now.
-Go on, then.
Well, the Les Dawson one is the best mother...
-I haven't even told a joke!
Damn you! That's not fair!
He had the classic,
I was walking down the street with my wife
and I saw my mother-in-law,
and she was being beaten and robbed by six men.
And my wife said, "Aren't you going to help?"
-I said, "No, six should be enough."
-AS LES DAWSON:
-I knew the mother-in-law was around,
-because all the mice were throwing themselves on the trap.
-He's amazing, amazing.
-Is this the old school... Like, the day out?
-Like you would take...
-It was just down the road from here, wasn't it? Bethlem Hospital.
You could go and they had a viewing gallery,
-when you used to go and watch the crazy people.
In 19th-century America, if you could afford a honeymoon,
you would go on a grand tour, like you'd go to Niagara Falls,
but you would also take an excursion to an insane asylum, prisons,
battlefields, homes for the deaf and dumb, orphanages -
and it was normal practice to take your new in-laws along with you.
Can you imagine?
It's funny how, like, there's a part of you that hears about that,
and you suddenly think, "Oh, well, I'm glad we've moved on,"
and then you think, "Isn't Big Brother still on the telly?"
-And Britain's Got Talent auditions.
-Yeah, I know!
-It's pretty much the same thing.
I only actually watch those at the beginning,
when you've got the nutters. "Where are you from?" "Hull."
"Where are you from?" "Carlisle."
"Where are you from?" "Narnia!"
"Right, you're in, right to the front."
So, odd outings, and odd days out, if you were interested -
-sewage treatment works, for example.
The Sha Tin sewage works in Hong Kong
offers, "Thematic tours, display panels,
"model exhibitions and game booths,"
as well as "stage performances,
"a fun area for kids and photo-taking corners."
Can you see the guy in the bottom right?
That really, that's very much like, "Oh, this is a terrible..."
-"I thought it was a funny idea,
"and now I'm here and it's bad."
There's a treatment plant in New Zealand.
"Sturdy, flat-soled and closed-in shoes are required,
"and rain coats are recommended."
That sounds like they need a redesign,
-if you've got to wear a raincoat.
Going on a log flume.
Yeah. "Close your mouth!"
The Dubbo Sewage Treatment Plant in New South Wales,
their open day includes "spectacular drone footage plus a free barbecue."
As the man in charge said, "I would be surprised
"if we didn't have at least dozens of people through."
Now, what do vegetarian goatsuckers eat?
-Can you show that on television?
I think that's taking vaping too far.
Is that a goat bagpipe?
It is a goat bagpipe.
He's done something odd to his hair.
Yeah, his hair, that's the problem with that picture.
So vegetarian goatsuckers, what do they eat?
He must eat the rest of the goat, surely,
before it becomes his instrument?
It's a vegetarian goatsucker.
-It's no use saying that.
What's a goatsucker?
-It's a kind of bird, it's an order of birds called goatsuckers...
..and they were named
because there was an ancient belief that they lived nocturnally
sucking the milk from the teats of goats,
-which sent them blind.
-Feels like a fun-size owl.
Like, if you're like, "Oh, I want to get an owl,
-"but I haven't got the space."
"I'll get one of these."
They're called oilbirds, also known as guacharo,
and they are the only vegetarian species of goatsuckers.
Most goatsuckers eat insects.
These oilbirds eat fruit.
Sorry, you said that like it's like a huge surprise to us.
-We only just heard they existed,
and you went, "These are the only ones that are vegetarians."
Well, I've just found out. I mean, I literally couldn't care less.
And I'm speaking on behalf of everyone in the room
when I say, "No, really, these are the only vegetarian ones?!
"Wow, let's get this down."
What are you talking about? You've lost your mind!
They live in caves in the northern part of South America.
Well, no wonder they're vegetarian - what is there to eat in there?
Well, the thing about them is they get so fat
from the fruit that they eat, that they become incredibly plump
and there's an annual oil harvest,
where people take the plump babies in their thousands,
the local people, and they render them for the oil.
Because apparently it's excellent for fuel, and also for cooking.
Do they still suck the goats?
Nobody sucks goats, it's... There is no goat-sucking.
-How do you get the oil out of the bird?
-This is like a...!
Well, you can render any bird for its fat.
If you've ever cooked a duck,
you can get an enormous amount of duck fat out of it.
-Imagine a world where I've never cooked a duck.
-Imagine - I mean, it's...
I mean, it's like...
We're not really on the same wavelength here at all.
But fat runs off a chicken.
Have you cooked a bird of any kind?
-You'll have a drip tray.
-Yes. Yes, you have a drip tray.
-You've got one under your bed.
Do you remember when Sandi had a breakdown on television
and she was talking about goatsuckers?
And then we just gave up, we asked about three times,
"What has this goat got to do with anything?"
and she just went, "Oh, it's a bird,"
and then she kept on talking about goats for ages, before,
but then we just let it go.
You could look back on it as the tipping point,
they say that was it, it was one show too many -
and she explained to everyone,
"It's the only vegetarian goatsucker,
"but it doesn't suck goats, doesn't do it,"
-and she thought it made sense.
-Yeah, and then...and then she was...
..she was someone's mother-in-law, and then she ended up in an asylum.
And we went to visit her. Yeah.
It was an ancient belief that they sucked
the teats of goats for the milk, but they don't.
Sometimes, in the old days, they got things wrong.
I'd quite like to live in a cave.
Would you? Why?
I don't know, I always like being in a cave.
Whenever I'm in a cave, I feel quite relaxed.
This is the weirdest therapy session of all time.
I went into some really big caves once, and it was great in there.
I'd say whatever Sandi's got is catching.
And do you know what?
If my calculations are correct, I think the wind's blowing that way.
I don't think Jason's got much hope.
But you talk about the things that -
you say they're called goatsuckers and you don't believe me,
-Oh, we're back to this, are we?
I mean, God bless Alan for taking one for the team,
but you really... Oh, yeah, no, back to the goatsuckers, yeah,
let's pull this round, because this lot can't believe it.
That is a thing, but it's also known as an oilbird,
but the type of bird it is is a goatsucker.
That's just the - what they became called
even though it isn't actually the...
Hundreds, thousands of years ago somebody went,
-"I bet they suck the teats of goats."
-"Let's call them goatsuckers."
-Yes, and it stuck.
Everyone else went, "But they don't do that."
-"I've named them now!"
"OK? I've written it down in the bird book!"
It's like that joke, "You shag one sheep..."
One of them mistook a goat's nipple for a berry...
..and the whole species was named.
Right, moving on.
The oilbird is the only vegetarian goatsucker.
It eats nothing but fruit. Right.
Let us move on to the outer limits of knowledge,
the odd world of General Ignorance.
Fingers on buzzers, please.
How many time zones are there in China?
-You're absolutely right, one.
-No, no, no, don't even explain, let's just...
Let's just enjoy that moment for a second.
I mean, I've never got anything on this bloody show.
-You're absolutely right.
-It's one, actually.
-Why do you think that?
Well, do you know what? That's not important. What matters is...
-..there's one time zone in China.
-You can take that to the bank.
I imagine the Communist Party decided what the time was
-and that was it.
-Yeah. You're absolutely right.
So, given the size of the nation,
-you would think that it would be many different...
-At least four.
At least four - but it's always Beijing time,
no matter where you are. So, if it is noon in Beijing,
then 3,000 miles away, it is also noon.
It was standardised, time, in 1949,
following the revolution and the civil war.
Is there people in the middle of the night like forcing lunch down them?
-"Ooh, lunch time again."
HE YAWNS Yes.
In the summer, there are places where the sun sets
in the middle of the night, and then in the winter
the sunrise might not come until ten o'clock in the morning.
First adoption of standard time in Britain?
-Why did we adopt it?
-Was that wartime?
No. 1847, so we're talking about the railways.
It's because there's no point in having the railways
-if you're all on different times.
You say that, but I don't know if you've used Southern Rail...
GMT. You start to get it -
1855, about 98% of the country is using it,
and then it became Britain's legal time in 1880 -
but there were still places,
some British clocks have got two minute hands,
so there is a still working public clock
over the old Corn Exchange in Bristol,
and it has a black minute hand for GMT
and it has a red minute hand for what was known as Bristol Time,
and it's ten minutes behind,
and that clock is still working.
Ten minutes behind!
-I've done some gigs in Bristol, that makes sense.
Sometimes they don't get it straight away.
I think they might be in.
-What should I do if my child has got flat feet?
Oh, store them on a flat surface.
Why would I mind?
Ah, well, you're absolutely right, it doesn't matter.
-It doesn't matter in the slightest.
-I've got very flat feet.
-Yes, it doesn't matter.
I mean it doesn't matter to me.
I don't give a damn about your feet. LAUGHTER
You've... You've really changed.
You were super friendly earlier.
Why has it ever mattered?
You used to be able to get out of military service.
-Pike in Dad's Army - it was his feet, wasn't it?
-That and his stupidity.
It's an old wives' tale, and we have no idea
why both the medical and the military establishment
decided to adopt it as something that was important -
and you could indeed be given exclusion from service
in the Armed Forces because you had flat feet.
-Not any more.
-Those are nice little feet.
-They're so... I love babies' feet.
-They're just so...
Like little slices of rare roast beef.
OK, that wasn't where I was going, but, yes.
-I've got a feeling the wind's blowing the other way now.
It's really, it used to be seen as a disability.
Some people thought it needed treatment, even surgery,
-but nowadays it's...
-That would feel like taking the piss,
if you parked in a disabled bay
and went, "Yeah, I've got..."
-Flat feet, mate.
-"I've got very flat feet."
What we think now is that feet just come in different shapes and sizes.
-That'll be it.
-Like ears and noses,
they come - you know, there's no right or wrong.
It's possible that the whole concept of arched feet
is just a cosmetic ideal.
People thought it was rather beautiful.
I don't really get the foot fetish thing.
-Do you not?
-Like, how did that start?
Well, there was a goatsucker and...
The best treatment for flat feet is no treatment at all.
When a boa constrictor squeezes its prey,
what is the cause of death?
Oh, that's so horrible.
No, snakes are brilliant.
It'll be something creepy.
-Snakes are real murderers.
Is the answer, you're beaten to death with a candlestick?
Oh! In the library by the boa constrictor.
They are the absolute Agatha Christie of killers.
Do you know, I normally quite like snakes,
-but that one is just rude.
Don't they, don't they sort of trigger a heart attack?
-Yes, that is exactly right.
-Is that their thing?
It used to be thought that they squeezed so hard
that the victim couldn't breathe,
and that each time the prey exhaled,
the snake would tighten its grip
until they couldn't breathe any more -
but what they've now discovered
is it's stopping the blood flow to the vital organs.
They've done these studies
to know how the snake knows when to stop squeezing.
Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, they gave their boa constrictor
dead rats into which little robot hearts had been inserted.
So, although the rat was dead, it still had a heartbeat,
and the snakes didn't relax their grip
until they turned off the heartbeat.
They seemed to have the ability to work out, to monitor the heartbeat.
They're like a, they're like a demon blood pressure cuff.
Listen to the things people have done,
you haven't even cooked a duck!
That's told me! That's told me.
Time to look at some odd numbers.
It is the final scores -
and our winner, with minus four, this is very exciting,
Oh, fair play.
In joint second place, with minus eight,
it's Jason and Alan.
We came second.
I've never even cooked a duck!
Or sucked a goat.
-Too much information.
-I had a fabulous gap year,
I don't want to discuss it.
With minus 23, last place goes to Jimmy!
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
So, it's thanks to Victoria, Jimmy, Jason and Alan -
and we leave you with a memory of Winston Churchill,
who was not only a great orator, but a great student of oratory.
He used to rehearse his speeches constantly
to make them sound natural.
He'd practise in the bath, for instance,
and it's said that the first time his valet heard him doing this,
he asked, "Were you speaking to me, sir?"
"No," said Churchill, "I was addressing the House of Commons."
Sandi Toksvig looks at some oddballs. Tune in for the odd ball games, but be sure to stay for the vegetarian goatsuckers - you won't regret it. With Jason Manford, Jimmy Carr, Victoria Coren Mitchell and Alan Davies.