”…on no other television programme can the discussion of a whale’s genitalia be blended so seamlessly with high-brow Latin puns”


QI is the latest in the string of comedy quiz-shows for celebrity comedians to be screened by the BBC. Originally broadcast on the BBC’s high-brow channel, BBC4, QI has since found greater fame on the much more watchable, BBC2, with the next show in the series being aired on BBC4 as soon as it finishes. The show features Stephen Fry, as host. Alan Davies, as long-running panellist, and three other people who randomly change from week to week (so far, Bill Bailey has appeared twice, as has Rich Hall). As always the quiz element of the program is there only to provide material for surreal conversations and witty puns.

The Format

At first, you may be fooled into thinking that this is just another Have I Got News For You clone. Well, I say fooled, in fact it is a spin-off of the hit quiz, but it is also a satire of the entire genre. Where other quizzes pretend that there is an element of comedy or interest in the correct answers, this show accepts and institutionalises the fact that the best answers are “not necessarily correct, but are at least, quite interesting.”

The rules are simple, Fry asks the questions, the panellists have to answer, they win points if their answer is “Quite Interesting” and lose points if it is boring. For instance, if a question such as “how many planets are there in the solar system?” is asked, and the panellist answers “nine,” he or she will lose points, since this is the most boring, predictable, and unfunny answer there is. However, if the panellist answers with “eight” and proceeds to explain that Pluto isn’t really a planet, then they will gain points.

There are of course the obligatory themed rounds, joined together by Steven reading a joke from the autocue as if it was spontaneous, but that is to be expected. More irritating is the fact that the audience’s laughter is way too loud, sometimes causing you not to hear a joke correctly, the inept and obvious editing does not contribute to the experience either. Alan Davies is also slightly frustrating since despite possessing the audacity to be on every week, he seems not to have quite grasped the idea of the quiz, always giving the easy, but boring answer. Still, Stephen Fry is his normal, jolly, witty self, and on the occasions where the guests are not completely moronic, this is a very entertaining program.

The Set

The set is in the traditional quiz panel format, with three desks set at angles to each-other for the panellists and host to sit behind. Stephen Fry, of course, occupies the middle desk, with the longer desks at either side for the constestants/collegues/staff/whatever Mr. Fry is referring to them as this week.

Behind the players are three large television screens, which will generally show a picture of something relevant to the subject. For instance, in one episode in which the question was about polar-bears, a large polar-bear appeared on the screen. Of course these screens allow embarrassing pictures of the panellists to be displayed for the amusement of the audience when things are getting slow.

The walls, and floor are covered in intelligent looking squiggles, which may be algebraic equations, or may be some foreign language. These are set at angles to each other, sometimes covering an interesting looking picture, or simply a brown sheet of parchment-like-substance. Anyway, it all looks interesting, if slightly pretentious. The desk itself is a long curved chrome metal construction.

Covering the floor is the QI logo, of a magnifying glass with a lowercase i in the middle of it. This logo is also displayed on the back of the cards that the questions are written on, and the floor display's top half forms the desk mentioned above.

Each panellist also has a buzzer, the soul purpose of which is to get a cheap laugh at the beginning of the show when it is revealed that each buzzer makes and odd sound. My favourite so far was Alan’s when it caused an announcing of “cashier number four please,” to be played. I am reliably informed that if you are in the right frame of mind, the buzzers are very funny.

Other and Miscellaneous facts

  • The title sequence of the show involves a series of interesting looking drawings being super-imposed with the aforementioned intellectual scripting. I think I spotted some lines of C like computer programming in there.
  • Each half-hour show takes more than two hours to film.
  • The program was screened at 10:30pm on a Thursday night on BBC4, then repeated the following Thursday at 10pm on BBC2


  • BBC2
  • BBC4
  • www.BBC.co.uk