Well…as I’ve gotten up to what is essentially 1 QI Series per year, thanks to my schedule these days, let’s crack open another one, as we venture towards the last legs of Stephen Fry’s QI career, and we come off of what many consider to be the golden age of the show. Unlike Mock the Week, it’s not like we can pinpoint someone leaving as the reason things slowed down (I’ve even heard that QI’s quality improved after Sandi Toksvig took over as host), but hopefully there will still be some highlights during these supposedly lesser series.
Tonight has something that seems to be a classic lineup: Jimmy Carr and Bill Bailey, along with…David Mitchell….’s wife. Victoria Coren-Mitchell. Who’s proved to be just as funny as her husband in subsequent QI appearances.
Jimmy seems to have a five-o’clock shadow tonight, which is kinda new to him.
All the buzzers are sounds of exotic instruments with j-names.
Victoria brings up, on these j-words, that a lot of them look like minced oves, or nearly swear words. The panel demonstrates.
Bill: “Shut the front door!”
Stephen: “FUCk-rying out loud!”
Bill: “Have you ever said that, really? Like, “FUCK…crying out loud?”
Bill: “Or to the photographers that follow you. ‘Why don’t you just ffffffff-photograph someone else?”
Stephen: “A jollop is actually a type of Turkish waffle”
Jimmy, with a board ready: “I’m gonna saaaaay bluff!”
Bill: “Is this what friends of Jennifer Aniston say before she goes out?”
Stephen has a whole screen of words that mean ‘jigger’, and starts listing them off: “An odd-looking person, sorry Bill-”
Bill immediately looks betrayed.
Jimmy: “Don’t say ‘vagina’ and then point to me…”
Victoria: “People do say there are no good words for vagina, there’s nothing nice. Jigger is not the right answer.”
Jimmy, earnest: “I think ‘twinkle-cave’!”
As this gets applause, Stephen gives Jimmy the most confused look.
Bill: “So jigger is…back-passage, vagina, penis-”
Jimmy: “Well that’s confusing right there!”
The whole panel has a lot of fun with the problems of having a word with this many meanings, especially with meanings like ‘golf club’ or ‘ouija board’.
Bill, still on this: “‘Potter’s wheel: that was usually what they put on the TV when they ran out of programs. ‘Yeah, put the jigger on….NOT DAT ONE!”
In the middle of the next question, the jigger definitions come back
Victoria: “D’you think that’s where ‘jiggery pokery’ comes from??”
Jimmy, on the ailments of Johnson: “The man that wrote the dictionary had TOURETTE’S? I have GOT to re-read that book!”
On what did Hitler, Stalin and Franco didn’t like, but Mussolini liked:
Stephen: “Stick with the letter j.”
Alan: “Jackets with Jeans, like Clarkson!”
Not even one show in and the Clarkson bashing begins.
Jimmy: “So you’re saying Hitler didn’t like jazz? I mean, the more I hear about this guy, the less I like him.”
Obvious joke, but still applies. Not quite as good as Bill’s thing on Hitler and the word cool from Groovy.
There’s a lot of really eye-opening discussions on the topic of why Hitler didn’t like jazz, and what jazz music, and comedy, meant in the eyes of fascists. Bill brings up cognitive dissonance, and that continues the discussion.
Victoria: “This is cognitive dissonance: here I am, on QI, like you see on television, sitting behind there- it seems nice, everyone’s quite nice, I’m having a nice time. And yet…we’ve had the question ‘What did Hitler get right?’, which is exactly what my grandmother told me would happen if I went on television…”
Victoria continues, bringing up a very funny point: “I had an anxiety dream about coming on QI, I was so terrified of it, and in the dream, I was sitting here, and and you [Stephen] were asking the question, very sternly, ‘Whhhyyy was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?”
Stephen starts laughing at this
Victoria: “I didn’t know the answer, so I went ‘did they worship it? AND THE SCREENS WENT ‘WORSHIP IT, WORSHIP IT’, which was absolutely terrifying.”
Jimmy: “Stephen…ask the question, let’s make it happen…”
Victoria: “I’m such an amateur, I didn’t even google the answer.”
Meanwhile, Jimmy’s trying to come from behind Victoria and scare her. This is all very funny, of course.
Jimmy: “Can I just make sure- this IS happening now, right? I wanna make sure we’re not all in one of Vicky’s dreams.”
Bill: “That’d be brilliant, though! You could be the March Hare, I’d be the Aztecs…”
Stephen reads out a detailed description of jazz, referring to it as a cacophonous, clattering noise
Jimmy: “I am now having an anxiety dream…”
Alan: “That’s the description of Jedward, isn’t it?”
This season continues the trend of playing to a panelist’s strengths, by giving a birdwatching question that benefits Bill, a noted birdwatcher. It also works, because, as funny as Bill is, he’s equally intriguing when he knows what he’s talking about.
Talking first about ‘giss’, then what the origin of of ‘gism’
Jimmy: “I could tell you where it comes from- I can SHOW you…”
Stephen, sighing:”…You’re not to do that.”
Stephen talks of measuring one single sperm in 36.7 Megabites
Jimmy, with another obvious joke: “…talk about your hard-drive..”
Bill: “Is this…just after you’ve logged off?”
Jimmy: “JUST GONNA PLUG IN ‘MA DONGLE, BILL.”
Bill, beginning to crack: “How many more of these can we get…”
Stephen, finally prevailing: “As long as it’s not a floppy…”
Victoria, as the other three are still talking about ejaculation: “I CAME HERE TO TALK ABOUT THE AZTECS…”
Observation: So far, this is the Jimmy and Bill show, which is indicative of the first stretch of the show’s history. Victoria, when she does say something, she says a lot, but her nerves might be preventing her from truly interacting with the other three. Also, Alan’s having a quieter night so far, which is odd.
Stephen names the bird on the behind-screen as the ‘Juan Fernandez tit-tyrant’
Jimmy: [raises an eyebrow]
Alan, breaking: “Oh GOD HERE WE GO AGAIN…”
Stephen: “There are points for knowing where the Juan Fernandez islands are.”
Victoria, drowning in lowbrow, throws her hands up: “BREAST-COCK LANE?”
The whole place explodes in laughter, Stephen facepalms, and Bill goes ‘THAT’S THE SPIRIT!’
Stephen: “If I tell you it’s a weaver-bird, you’ll know that it probably comes from…”
Man, Jimmy and Bill just keep hitting. Over and over. This whole stretch of the show!
Bill, flexing his bird knowledge, gets the next bird within 3 seconds, without breaking a sweat. Proof that, aside from making jokes about weasels, he also studies them
Alan makes the second Jedward joke of the night. Unlike Jo’s Michael Winner jokes, I imagine this was due to recency, and the topical nature of bashing Jedward. This went away after a while, thankfully.
This show also is patterned towards Jimmy’s knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle, in that he knows that the word ‘ejaculate’ was used as a synonym for ‘exclaim’, instead of an antonym for…something that was literally just discussed.
Stephen: “There are twenty-three ejaculations in the canon, as it’s known-”
Bill bursts out laughing at this, covering his head.
Alan: “ANNNNND one up the spout!”
Stephen, demarking all the ‘ejaculations’ in the Holmes book: “Of course, there is one where it’s quite hard to tell whose it is.”
THIS GETS VICTORIA. All the other ones, she was shaking her head, going, internally, ‘I’m above this’, but this one cracks her.
Stephen: “So he sat, as I went off to sleep…when a sudden ejaculation woke me up…”
Jimmy, to Victoria: “Have YOU ever been woken up by a sudden ejaculation?”
Stephen: ‘We’ve talked enough about your dreams…”
Stephen, rounding the last of the stats: “The only other ejaculator is Ms. Sinclair’s husband, who ejaculates from a second-floor window.”
Jimmy LOSES HIS SHIT HERE: “This is the most fun I’ve ever had on this show.”
Stephen, for the next question, rattles off a description of someone talking without much sense, and droning on, and asks who it being talked about.
Stephen asks who the first person to use ‘OMG’ to mean Oh My God was
Stephen facepalms for what must be the 20th time this episode.
There’s a great bit where Bill just gets the audience to say ‘lol’, phonetically like that, just in a commonplace type of voice, in unison. It’s amusing as all hell.
Stephen throws in another question that may have an obvious answer: “Where do arabic numbers come from?”
Jimmy, pontificating: “….I don’t know!”
Jimmy: “interesting fact, though, the Oasis is about 110 miles that way…”
Bill: “No, that’s the chart position, in, uh…the Yemen”
Stephen, explaining to Alan: “Roman letters, and…arabic numbering…”
Bill: “And…gregorian chanting…”
Victoria’s mental prowess is illuminated in the Hangman question, where she gives an answer that’s even more inspired, and correct, than the one Stephen has written down.
With 5 minutes left to go in the episode, it finally happens:
Stephen: “Why was the March Hare so important to the Aztecs?”
Victoria immediately facepalms, and the audience reacts in applause. This is similar to the quick-thinking writers on Buzzcocks, who’d take a lyric from early in the show, plug it back in to screw with contestants [like Jon Richardson and ‘Winds of Change’]. But…equally more humiliating for Victoria.
Alan: “The thing is, Victoria, whatever you dreamt as the answer, IS the right answer…”
Victoria: “No, but I know the answer isn’t…’Did they worship it…’
Victoria, a la her husband: “…I think you’ll find I said that’s NOT the answer..”
This does end in an amazing twist: the Aztecs definitely did worship rabbits, rather than hares, and Stephen goes so far as to say that people theorize that they worshipped jackrabbits, which are technically hares. AND A J-WORD. It’s the most perfect conclusion to an episode like this.
Instead of being intersped into the middle of the show, the contraption, or Jolly Jape as it’s referred to this series, is done right at the end, before the scores.
It’s pretty fitting that Victoria wins as well, as she probably got multiple points for being psychic and predicting knowledge she didn’t know she had.
Overall: This is a QI that couldn’t exist without the show having gone on for a while, much like Inland Revenue, but what made this one interesting was the entire subplot with Victoria, who did well in her debut appearance, predicting a question that actually made contextual sense within the episode. Proved how well she fit with this show, though she’d be more outgoing in later appearances. Bill and Jimmy were on fire throughout the night, though more of Bill’s jokes hit, and Bill’s generally a better panelist, as he’s still fantastic at collaborating with multiple panelists while making jokes. The entire middle stretch, with all the lewd jokes, was a joy to watch, even with the amount of lulls this show ended up having throughout. Definitely a net win, and an enjoyable, and at times unbelievable, episode.
Best Guest: Jimmy
Show Winner: Victoria
Best QI Fact: Holmes’ ejaculations
Best Runner: The March Hare