QI Watchdown: J8 (Jumble), or What Have You Done with Stephen Fry?

This QI marks the final appearances for two QI mainstays who helped bridge the way for the show’s success: Dara O’Briain, who’s had numerous funny shows over the years, and John Sessions, the famous git, who’s provided numerous amounts of intelligent material, but in the years since his previous appearance has become more of a relic to the show’s previous emphasis on fact rather than funny. Jo Brand is also onhand, to make this feel…oddly enough like a Series B show. For a show that seemed to be zooming ahead and enlisting modern comedy figures, this seemed an odd move (and if you’d like an odder move by QI, check back in two shows).

The buzzers all seem to be J-related songs: Jo’s is ‘Jenny from the Block’ by J. Lo, which she responds to with a shrug.
John’s amusingly, is ’99 Problems’ by Jay-Z, which he bobs along to in one of the most ill-fitting things I’ve seen in a while.
Stephen: “I’ll give you 10 points if you know who that was!”
John, horrified: “Uhhh…Usher!”
Stephen, facepalming: “I think ‘J’ would have helped you”
John: “Jay-Z?”
Stephen: “Well, it’s too late NOW…”
Dara gets a Jessie J tune, which he guesses obviously, because Dara is generally savvy with music [see his Pliers reference from Mock the Week…or his Colonel Abrams reference from Mock the Week]

Alan’s is the Alphabet song by Perry Como
Alan: “Not a J name, is it?”
Jo: “I think it might have been his brother, Jerry Como”

From the very first question, John’s pedantic, answer-knowing nature is immediately relevant. A lot of people seem to think that John was the one that Stephen alluded to always asking for the answers in advance. While I still believe that person was Rory McGrath, I’m certainly not ruling out John.

John talks about a jockey who’d put the whip up his own arse. “It’s a variation on the photocopier thing.”
Dara, not completely following: “…whereas you put the photocopier up your own arse?”
Stephen: “Oh, surely we’ve all been there.”

Stephen, reading from his cards, says that “these don’t have the effect of horsing a speed up- speeding a horse up, sorry.”
They cut to Jo, who looks very confused.
Stephen inspects his glasses.
Dara: “I don’t mean to get all street on you, but when you horse your speed up…it’s when you get your meth and mix heroin in with it…THAT will make you run.”
Alan: “What have you done with Stephen Fry???”

Jo, on the camel-racing question: “Please, may I tell you the only camel joke that I know? Kay, there’s two guys in the army, out on the desert. And there’s a new recruit, and there are no women around at all, and the new recruit says “what d’we do for sex?”, and the guy says “I’m afraid it’s the camels.” And later on, they’re all let out towards the camels, and the old bloke’s running really fast, and the young guy says “what’re you doing, it’s only a camel?” And the guy goes “yeah, but you don’t wanna get an ugly one, do you?”
As Stephen moves on Dara holds up a hand: “I’m sorry, but…there IS another camel joke…”
Dara takes it from the exact same starting point, “I’m afraid it’s the camels, and late at night, the guy goes ‘I can’t take it anymore, I’m as horny as hell’, and he takes off and he rides the camel. And he comes back, and goes “well, that’s the best we can do”. And the older guy says, well, actually, when I said ‘we got the camels’, we normally, eh, ride them into town…”
Okay, THAT is perfect.

Stephen asks for another sport that involves camels. Jo guesses smoking.
Alan: “Chess!”
Stephen: “…I look at you, Alan, and I wonder…where these things grow. Where they come from…”
Alan: “…it’d just be nice to see, wouldn’t it?”

John talks of the 30s vaudeville act that named himself Nosmo King after the double doors that spelled out No Smoking.
Dara: “But he wasn’t tempted to call himself…’Fi Reexit’ or something like that?”
Stephen: “Emerge….Encyexit!”
Alan, as Stephen’s going on: “Toi Let!”
Stephen: “Roy…Alcircle!”

Stephen: “Complete the phrase…’pregnant mothers should eat…’
Jo: “…loads….uh, burgers…”

Stephen asks Jo if she had any weird cravings or behaviors during pregnancy
Jo: “I gnawed my husband’s leg occasionally.”
Stephen: “…and that was unusual?”
Jo: “…not as far as our marriage was concerned…”

John mentions that his mother smoked his father’s pipe while she was pregnant, which Dara mentions is such a lovely image. “Tapping it out on the table.”
Alan: “…i thought you were gonna say ‘tapping it out on the belly’
And Dara mimes getting the ash all over the belly. It’s an amusing bit.

Stephen, voicing the concerns of the audience: “…Johnny, you’ve got to stop answering every question…”

Jo completely guesses a definition of an obscure Stephen word…gets it right, and gets the question right, which shocks the hell out of her.

As John gets something wrong
Stephen: “Nice that you’re trying, and don’t be put off…”

Stephen: “If you really want NOT to pee, keep as still as possible-”
Alan: “Clench the end of your cock INCREDIBLY HARD…”
Stephen, post-facepalm: “I’d find it better if you’d get someone else to do that..”

Stephen: “Who gets the most use from Jacobsen’s organ?”
Dara: “Wouldn’t that be MRS. Jacobsen?”
KLAXON

Not a lot is happening in this one. Everyone’s playing really separate games, and John’s excessive knowledge keeps bringing everything to a halt. At least Jo’s disgusting stories lift the mood. She tells one about someone someone pranked with a severed hand, which Alan is repulsed by even before the punchline.
Alan: “Did she ball it into a fist? And then couldn’t get it out?”
Jo: “No, they went in, and she was sitting on the bed eating it.”
That gives an even BIGGER response.

Stephen: “What does a cockroach find absolutely disgusting?”
Alan: “Jeremy Kyle.”
Stephen: “YES! IS THE RIGHT ANSWER! Because, well almost, Jeremy Kyle IS…a human being.”

Stephen’s final note is that any shuffling of cards is a completely new combination of all 52 possibilities, making it a unique shuffle. There are so many different positions of 52 that each card can be that its probability of being repeated is this very, very long positive integer. Not really a math guy, but I’m fascinated by that fact.

Also, this show produced all four scores higher than zero, which is fantastic. It’d be more fantastic if this was a better show.

John technically wins, but Stephen awards the show to himself for that impressive card display, which…if it takes a win away from John Sessions, I’m fine with.

Overall: A very, very weak show. There were funny moments here and there, but the majority of the show consisted of facts that couldn’t get off the ground, John Sessions rattling on, or just lulls in humor. Jo and Dara had funny moments and stories, and that ending card fact is a great one, but I really couldn’t get into this one.

MVP: Dara
Best Guest: Jo
Show Winner: John
Best QI Fact: card combinations
Best Runner: horsing up speed

QI Watchdown: J7 (Journalism), or We’ve Found the Line!

A while back, when I covered the Geometry episode, I noted that QI gradually made a transition from being a fact-based show to being a more comedy-based show with facts, and I denoted that with an episode featuring Johnny Vegas in the same room as Rob Brydon.

This show leads me to believe comedy has won completely. Johnny Vegas, who I once feared but now really enjoy, gets to share a QI with Ross Noble, who I’m very interested to see how he gels with Johnny’s similarly bizarre humor. And…essentially watching, I assume, is Shappi Khorsandi, a comedian who I’ve only seen on an episode of Mock the Week…one where she looked absolutely bored and comatose the whole time. Hopefully she’ll bring a bit more of an A game.

All three primary buzzers are ‘breaking news’ themes: Alan’s is the theme to ‘It’s a Knockout’
Ross: “You’ve actually given us the It’s a Knockout theme, so at any point we can just play that, and just wrestle around in the middle…”

Stephen, asking who might have lived in ‘Daily Mail Model Village’
Shappi: “Initially you’d think a very angry person…who’s quite small…”
[I may have misjudged Shappi…]

The best part about these ‘urgent news’ buzzers is that they have multiple uses throughout the show. Shappi says that she’s afraid to press hers, as every time she does people will think a tragedy has occurred. Ross, to accentuate a point about the Daily Mail’s bombastic ideas, hits his, as an alternative to a ‘ta-da’ kind of thing…which Alan replies with by pressing his It’s a Knockout buzzer. People haven’t had this much fun with their buzzers since…I’d say Series D?

Stephen: “And they were overtaken, by the-”
Shappi: “Guardian village.”
HA!

Ross notes that the Wellyn village is full sized, not really model
Johnny, saying his first line of the show: “Did the Daily Mail believe in giants, and think that was a readership they were really missing out on? So they built a model village that for us was normal size, but giants would visit and go ‘OHHH, IT’S TINY!'”
Man, I missed Johnny Vegas…

Shappi talks about how model villages have gotten better now, and when she was a kid, her folks would think a tiny Big Ben was so breathtaking.
Johnny: “Yeah, well your dad didn’t drink. My dad would drink, go to a model village, and go I’M KING KONG!! And just start SMASHIN’ STUFF…Oh, how we’d laugh.”

Stephen: “Who founded the Daily Mail?”
Alan: “Lord Beaverbrook”
Shappi: “Satan.”
Stephen: “Not Lord Beaverbrook, he founded the Express. Satan is closer.”

There’s a digression about drowning being the ‘preferred method’ of suicide, though Johnny explains that it’s not the wildest one, as he mentions ‘gettin’ covered in dog food and going to the zoo’.
Johnny: “It’s not just been a last minute….[covers self] ‘LIOONNSSS..'”
Ross: “Shouldn’t it be…cat food, for the lions?”
Johnny: “ROSS-ROSS…THEY HAVEN’T THOUGHT IT THROUGH…unless they just drown themselves…”

Johnny has been shedding his character a bit more, as he’s been spilling a few interesting bits about people in Japan going to far places on the subway system to commit suicide to avoid high bills. I’m not saying he’s 100% genuine, but he’s not the complete buffoon he was in Series E.
[Also, note that Cockfosters is mentioned here, which immediately makes me think of David Mitchell arguing about it]

Shappi talks about being by Beachy Head, and having a moment of quiet, and all the priests who talk people out of suicide thinking she was as well.
Shappi: “I think it was a bit attention seeking of me, if I’m honest…I was quite down…”
Alan: “What, were you dangling your legs over the edge?”
Shappi: “Yeah, choking myself…”
Alan: “AAHHHHHHHHH…I’m fine, I’m absolutely fine…”

Stephen talks about all these obituary code-phrases.
Stephen: “Tireless raconteur means ‘a crashing bore.’
Alan: “Is it Nick Clegg?”

Alan talks about his wife working in an agency, covering a Rory who died, but thinking it was Rory McGrath: “So anytime someone rang for Rory McGrath, she’d say ‘I’m sorry…'”

Johnny Vegas, on obituaries: “Mine would just say ‘it’s safe to come out now…”

Alan jokes about saying to his wife “if it’s my funeral, tell the hearse driver to floor it”
Ross: “Instead of havin’ a coffin as well, just have the body, so as you’re goin ’round corners, you’re just slammin’ into the windows.”
And both Ross and Alan do impressions of bodies hitting windows. My gosh.

Ross tells a story about setting his dad’s ashes out to sea via a remote control boat, and it’s so ridiculous that everyone, even Johnny, starts cracking up at it.
Johnny, calling back: “And the people from the miniature village were going ‘HELP THAT MAN!”

You can tell this is a great show so far when, after the ‘after I die’ conversation, Stephen has to look at his cards and go “how did we get here???”

After Ross gets an answer spot on about a literal ‘piece of shit’ done up by a bank
Stephen: “How extraordinary you are, Ross Noble. For 20 minutes you’ve been jibbering like an idiot…SUDDENLY you’ve come up with a brilliant answer…”

On the viking poo this bank unearthed:
Johnny: “Did they find this within the bank, or was this…I’m guessing it was a staff day out…”

Then, Stephen tells the panel that there was a T-Rex poo that they found in Saskatchewan
Alan: “How did they know- was there a dead T-Rex next to it that’d pooed itself to death?”
Johnny: “No, it was found reaching for the toilet roll with its tiny claws.”

Johnny, mid-discussion: “If you’re at a party, and…communication breaks down…When you write something on the wall with your own feces…PEOPLE START LISTENING TO YA…”
Dear lord, the digressions this episode has conjured up. Even Stephen starts losing it.
Johnny: “You just have to do one big enough to write ‘I WAS NOT FOND OF THE CHEESECAKE…AND CONSIDERING YOU ARE OUT OF VODKA, AND I AM LOW ON TURD…I’D LIKE TO GO HOME NNNNNOW…”
[Only Johnny]
Stephen: “The strange part will be when the police come in and inspect that it was Johnny Vegas’ poo…but it was Lorraine Kelly’s handwriting.”
Johnny: “Yes, but the diction was perfect…and even the sweet corn was used for little commas-”
THE ENTIRE AUDIENCE WINCES AT THAT
Alan: “OH, NOW…THERE’S THE LINE. WE’VE FOUND THE LINE!”

Ross: “Are you find that, uh, you’re not sellin’ as much tupperware at these parties?”

Stephen sets up a question that obviously has a OWA of ‘Fort Knox’
Ross: “Ohhh…don’t do it, don’t do it…”
Shappi, with trepidation: “…Beckham’s house?”

Alan: “Is this a double-bluff, and it IS gonna be Fort Knox?”
….FIVE SECOND PAUSE…
THEN KLAXON.
Perfectly timed

Ross: “And where do Spandau Ballet fit into the whole equation?”
Ask Bill Bailey
Stephen misses this reference, and THE ENTIRE PANEL STARTS SINGING ‘GOLD’ BY SPANDAU BALLET. Johnny even attempts to get a sing-along going.

Stephen: “Can you think of a way of promoting railways that is guaranteed to get you into the papers?”
Shappi: “MAKE THEM WORK!”
Shappi’s doing great at these initial answers. Which begs the question: did she come on Mock the Week at the right time? Would she have fit better during the Chris Addison era?

On this story about an engineered train collision, Ross mentions “it sounds like a cross between Thomas the Tank Engine and Die Hard”. So, of course, he brings out his Ringo impression and narrates what that might have been.

Alan: “D’you know the Thomas the Tank Engine video game got the 18 certificate?”
Ross: “Grand Theft Thomas! [as Ringo] Thomas went chuggin’ down when he killed a prostitute for extra points…”
Alan: “I very much like this idea. We must write this down…”

Stephen: “There is only one foodstuff eaten in all five of the [Famous Five] books-”
Ross: “Oh, yeah…they eat the dog…”
Stephen: “…No.”
Johnny: “Asbestos! They had LASHINGS OF ASBESTOS.”
Ross: “The dog in Famous Five was Asbestos?”
Johnny: “No, not the dog…”
Alan: “Asbestos is a very good name for a dog…”

Ross: “It’s hard to do a lashing of eggs…except if you’re in an S&M thing with Humpty Dumpty. That’s why they couldn’t put ‘im back together again…”

Ross brings up a point on being on a plane with someone famous, and going “…If this goes down, who’s getting the headline?” It’s a point Noel Fielding made on NMTB once.
Alan: “I was on a plane with Sting once.”
Stephen: “Well, ‘Sting and Alan Davies Go Down’ would be, uh…”
The audience does the rest of the work there.

The Jolly Jape involves using a cardboard box as a vortex cannon, so that all four can create an air vortex to knock over cups stacked feet away. It’s a pretty cool science experiment, and Ross even uses it turned to his own face.

Then, they fill these boxes with smoke machines, and throw smoke around the studio, which is pretty cool. Alan even just hits Ross with a bunch.

It’s a fantastic sequence, and all four are hitting smoke rings all over, to the point when, by the time Stephen has to announce the scores, the studio is still filled with smoke, which is a very funny visual, similar to the NMTB show where a crew member lay dead the whole show, or the Whose Line where the audience kept filtering back in during Let’s Make a Date.

Overall: A ton of fun. The panel was pretty evenly balanced, as well, with all four giving an even amount of input and jokes, though our anchor Ross Noble does end up getting the edge once again. Shappi surprisingly was very funny, though she was quiet in moments where Johnny and Ross went on, as I figured. She wasn’t as bored as she was on MTW, which is nice. And Johnny had a surprisingly subdued-at-points game, even though his usual madness was very present tonight. There were just a number of really funny moments, some great dynamic between Ross, Johnny and Alan, and that fantastic smoke machine sequence. Heavy contender with J-Places for best show of the series so far.

MVP: Ross
Best Guest: Johnny
Show Winner: Ross
Best QI Fact: Cornflakes operation
Best Runner: Model village.