A fairly standard lineup for this one- Bill Bailey and Sandi Toksvig are our seasoned regulars, and Susan Calman, who’d eventually become a mainstay as a semi-regular, makes her debut here. I’m not well-acquainted with her material, save for an admittedly disappointing turn on Mock the Week (which is more the show’s fault than hers). Knowing how well she gets on with Sandi, hopefully this will work well for her.
By the way, Bill is wearing a Mastodon t-shirt. Not quite as good as his Dragonball one, but there you go.
The buzzers are all travel-related, with the first three being sounds of jet engines of different sorts, and Alan being a car unable to start. Stephen even has him try it again, to get the full effect of the gag.
On the first question, ‘where does the phrase Chariots of Fire originate’, both Bill and Sandi are trying to hedge what could be a klaxon- Sandi, matter-of-factly goes “it’s a film”, while Bill points to the behind-screen and goes ‘could, uh…have something to do with that…”
After a bit of probing, Alan guesses Shakespeare, which I thought would get him a klaxon, but his guess of Jerusalem does end up being a forfeit.
Stephen: “It’s embarrassing how long it took you to get the wrong answer…”
Stephen: “It comes from a poem by William Blake called…?”
Alan and Bill: “…Chariots of Fire.”
Stephen: “I’m ASHAMED of you…”
Stephen, to Sandi: “You MUST know the first line of this poem…”
Sandi: “I must, yes, but I can’t be asked to tell you…”
Soon, the entire panel just starts singing the Jerusalem song in a very low key. Alan, to the audience, goes ‘COME ON!’, knowing it’s too dreary to sing along to.
On the story of Jesus coming to England:
Alan: “Is there a film about it?”
Stephen: “…not to my knowledge-”
Alan: “Well, then I’m in trouble.”
Such perfect timing on that
Alan even mentions that the phrase people have begun saying, instead of “I don’t know”, is “I’m out of my comfort zone”, which amuses the hell out of Stephen.
Stephen: “And he went with his uncle, what was his uncle’s name?”
Susan, who’d since been quiet: “Bob.”
Alan, chuckling: “Uncle Bob Christ?”
Bill actually answers where Jesus’ Uncle came from, but Susan is still ending her anecdote on it, so Stephen asks Bill to repeat himself for the camera…at which point, Alan upstages him again and presses his buzzer. My god, the dynamic already is hysterical.
And then Alan tries to give the answer, Joseph of Aramathea, but Bill grabs Alan’s buzzer, and, to the camera, yells “NO, I SAID IT! I SAID JOSEPH OF ARAMATHEA!”
Stephen: “I am going to throw cold water at you both in a minute…”
Sandi: “Did Mary come? The mother?”
Stephen: “I don’t think she did.”
Alan: “BOYS WEEKEND!”
Stephen: “And…I’ll be very impressed if you can tell me the greek word for sun-”
Alan: “Yeah, if I knew it, you’d be more than impressed. You’d have a heart attack!”
There’s a runner of Katie Price jokes: first, Alan calls her heliotropic, as in she gets a lot of sun. Then, Stephen asks what a mountain cow is
Alan: “…Katie Price.”
It’s not at Michael Winner levels of repetition yet, but…it’s close.
Stephen asks an amusing enough question [“why…might my pockets smell of fish?”], and then produces this visual:
The whole panel completely loses it here. Susan starts howling.
Stephen: “They’ve done that thing…where they take my body, and they put the head of someone who looks a bit like me…”
Susan: “God, that’s like a dream I had last night…”
Sandi: “It’s not like a dream I’VE ever had…”
Bill: “So people are dangling fish in front of babies…on…what? On a fishing line?”
And he does this little mime of reeling the fish back in. Very Series A/B-esque
Stephen goes on to say that the Japanese had 47 ways to cut carp as a way of signifying parts of everyday life.
Stephen: “For example, there was Departing for Battle Carp, where soldiers would have carp carved in a certain way before they went to battle-”
Alan: “They weren’t told they were going into battle, the carp was a giveaway…”
And he does a little representation of seeing the carp, pointing to it, and turning to the others beside him, pointing to it.
Alan gets a klaxon by saying that sake is rice wine.
Sandi, harkening back to an earlier question: “Is it from Jerusalem?”
Stephen asks what nation taught the Japanese to batter foods, and all four suggest Scotland.
Susan: “Surely there’s a ginger-haired man in some ancient scroll, going-”
Stephen, scottish accent: “You’ll wanna deep fry thaat?”
Susan: “That’d be magic, it really would…”
Then, on the ‘what do people in Java do for a pick me up’, there’s an obvious answer that everyone seems to know, Alan sacrifices himself by buzzing in, and, similar to Journeys, just asks Bill “…what’s it?”
Stephen: “oooh, you are so canny…”
Alan does eventually answer coffee, which sets off his umpteenth klaxon.
On a shot of Javanese people lying on the railway lines, Alan starts cackling, even under Stephen talking about it.
Sandi: “So, the pick-me-up part just depends on how fast the train’s going…”
There’s a runner with Bill, as early on in the show he does a brief miming for ‘washing up’, which Sandi wonders if he’s ever done before, as it’s similar to typing. Then, as Bill does a keyboardist mime for the melodramatic railway gag, Sandi says that it’s just like the washing up.
Bill: “I’m multitasking! I could be washing up-”
Alan: “He’s washing up WHILE tying his wife to the railway…”
Stephen asks Alan to name the infamous Javan volcano, and I half-expect it to be like the ‘naturalist onboard the beagle’ question, but it’s not a question, just an excuse to say that the film title, Krakatoa, East of Java, is geographically incorrect, which is a fun tidbit I knew of beforehand.
Stephen does put on an American producer voice, on changing the title from West to East of Java, and we get a chance to hear Sandi’s natural New York accent, which we rarely hear as much as her adopted proper 1930s British accent (there’s an As Yet Untitled anecdote on how she had to essentially change her accent to fit in, which is a great watch).
Alan, who’s having an incredible show so far, surprise Stephen by guessing the exact year of the Krakatoa volcano explosion, which is 1883. He’s absolutely floored.
Also, Stephen talks of an Indonesian volcanic explosion, and defers to part-time Indonesian resident Bill Bailey, who names the exact mountain.
Stephen: “What was the most hurtful thing Rambo’s boyfriend did to him?”
Susan: “I’ve seen this one, it’s a bootleg I think…”
Stephen, on Rimbaud: “He had a passionate, tumultuous affair with…dot dot dot…”
Alan: “Katie Price.”
Bill guesses another french poet, and Stephen mentions, while he’s not it, he did have a pet lobster. Bill…takes this and runs with it.
Bill, clapping: “VAIT, VAIT, MONSIEUR. MONSIEUR CLICKY.”
Alan, being Alan, just does an impression of an absent-minded lobster. And he and Bill just do this insanely funny bit where the poet fights with the lobster, and the lobster’s just being very doglike. And Bill ends it by harkening back to the Jerusalem artichoke from earlier. It’s all so ridiculous.
Stephen: “Anyway, let’s return to this poet, who was the lover of the young Verlaine- OH, SORRY-”
Bill, immediately buzzing in: “VERLAINE!”
Stephen mentions that Verlaine is the one ‘who looks a bit like John Malkovich’, and he forgets the name of the guy on the right.
Alan: “That’s Robert DeNiro…”
Sandi: “It’s like a nineteenth century ad for a hairdresser’s. All the different styles…”
Stephen mentions a poem of international acclaim that Verlaine wrote:
The Entire Panel, bringing it back to the top of the show: “ANNND DID THE FEEETT…”
Stephen re-reads the French line in a more recognizable way, in a more pompous voice
Susan: “…it’s the start of the Eurovision song contest…”
Stephen says that Verlaine ended up shooting Rimbaud in the wrist
Alan: “…whilst he was masturbating…”
Stephen: “…I’m gonna move on-”
Alan: “It’s for the best!”
Sandi: “I am SO out of my comfort zone…”
There’s a great sequence where Stephen keeps making euphemisms, as the french word for chicken is coc, and he keeps using it for coc soup and such, but it turns into a festival of Frankie Howerd impressions, all going “Oh, DON’T…” and such.
Stephen mentions the other name for this is Goat’s Head Soup, which immediately perks MY ears up, but Stephen turns to Bill for its pop culture significance. And Bill…somehow…doesn’t know.
Stephen: “The greatest rock’n’ roll band in the world? They call themselves?”
Susan, being Scottish: “PROCLAIMERS!”
Stephen, for the umpteenth time this show, facepalms.
Stephen talks about the Japanese custom of adopting 25-30 year olds from other households.
Sandi: “Yes, it’s called stealing.”
Susan talks about her personal Smurf village at home, for a question on blue houses: “Thing is, if I’m wrong on this one I’m gonna look like a twat.”
Stephen: “You’re gonna look like a twat even if you’re right.”
Susan, as the audience laughs at this, looks at them, kind of betrayed.
[Thankfully she does get the question very right]
Then, on a twenty point bonus question, Bill buzzes in…only to find that his buzzer has broken. Fantastic.
Knowing the town begins with J, Bill (and suddenly everyone else) starts yelling out all the things he knows begins with J in Spanish. Sandi even adds ‘Jerusalem!”
Stephen says that there’s no direct road to Juneau, Alaska.
Sandi: “Well, Sarah Palin can walk on the water all the way there..”
Stephen: “And do you know the biggest joke to come out of Alaska?”
Sandi: “……Sarah Palin, who can walk on the water…”
I’m honestly surprised there was no klaxon after this. So is Sandi, who raises her arms when she realizes there’s no klaxon.
Stephen: “…there’s no forfeit for that. We were gonna do one, but it was too obvious…”
Susan: “If you do a practical joke, like…er, clingfilm over the toilet or something simple…”
Alan: [immediately writes that down]
Overall: A new standard for this series, even if it wasn’t perfect. Not only were all four panelists very on, but they were very collaborative, and their senses of humor meshed very well. Plus, it was one of those shows where Stephen just kept looking not only astonished at the panel’s ineptitude, but impressed at their knowledge. There really wasn’t a weak link, though Alan was at his best in a while, Bill had a number of nice runners, Sandi had some great lines throughout, and Susan had a wonderful first showing, and a great preview of what’s to come throughout her tenure on the show. Just a really nice one, despite minor lulls late in the show.
Best Guest: Sandi
Show Winner: Susan
Best QI Fact: 47 ways of cutting carp
Best Runner: Jerusalem