When I got the idea to start watching QI, I did the obvious thing, and went into youtube for funny bits featuring the people I knew were funny, like Phill Jupitus, Bill Bailey and people like that. Needless to say, several moments from this episode were well-reported on youtube, despite my friend Mick’s warnings that things would begin to go back after Series I ended.
With everything I know about this one, I’m excited to get to it.
I’m also excited because this is an intriguing panel indeed. Aside from having Phill, in full bearded mode, we have a return from Rob Brydon, who makes the first of his last two appearances this series. We also have the first entry into QI’s Oceanian expansion, as several Aussies and Kiwis appear on the show this series, starting with Cal Wilson, noted Kiwi humorist who would go on to recur on the Australian Whose Line (which reminds me, that show wasn’t bad. Steen Raskopoulos was a solid regular).
All the buzzers are travel related. Phill’s is a ship’s foghorn [“which you do, in fact”], and Alan’s is a bicycle horn.
Stephen says that Alan and he traveled to Australia, where they found Cal, lampshading that maybe some of these Oceanian imports may have come from this Alan-Stephen voyage. Though I imagine some, like Rhys Darby, would have happened anyhow.
After Alan tells a story about losing his passport between the airplane seat, ending with “and then I found it”, Rob, dumbfounded, looks over and goes “I’m sorry, is that Alan Davies or Peter Ustinov? If that’s the level of the bar this evening, I may go home!”
Stephen mentions that when you’ve lost something, it helps to say the name of the thing you’ve lost.
Phill, taking the opposite approach: “Your wallet has a NAME? “PEREGRIIIINE! PEREGRINE! baaah. PEREGRINE!”
Stephen: [loses it]
Alan: “IT HAS NOW!”
Stephen then mentions opening a drawer, and going “where the hell’s the garlic peeler?”
Alan, at Stephen’s poshness: “garlic peeler…”
Stephen, still laughing: “You’re missing my point about names…I meant the name of the thing you’re searching for…its normal description that’s found in a dictionary, not from a l-list of given names…it isn’t ‘Julian the cheese grater’…”
Rob, in subsequent appearances, has become great at pedantic explanations of things. Granted, I know he’s great at collaboration, but it’s not exactly clear if his stopping of the show to selfishly explain something by himself is ironic or not. It’s honestly just what Rob does.
The discussion turns to ‘should we let the queen eat a kiwi’, and Stephen says he’d say to her “stop eating that kiwi, you dreadful old woman…”
Phill: “I imagine you’d be a bit more polite. I mean, you are Stephen Fry, off the telly.”
Phill: “or, ‘YOUR MAJESTY…PUT THE PUFFIN DOWN’. Let’s just have a load of situations where we tell the queen to stop eating things.”
Stephen: “Okay, children, we now have a round of ‘Your Majesty, please put the puffin down.”
On the bird swallowing a live snail, Rob: “Does the snail go into his own shell? I don’t mean is he a little self-conscious…”
Rob talks about filming on a ship with James Corden: “Suddenly, the boat tipped, on an angle, one way-”
Alan, stating the obvious: “Did James Corden go to the other…”
Rob, under applause: “That’s very naughty, Alan…”
Rob: “A lot of people in Britain struggle with their weight, Alan.”
Stephen: “Yes, I do…”
Rob: “…I mean, I wasn’t thinking about you-”
Alan, still going: “Why, were you with him?”
Stephen: “Who used to go ’round in cabs with Richard Burton?”
Cal, giving a cheeky joke: “Was it Elizabeth HAILer?”
I’m noticing that the three guest panelists are all sort of keeping to themselves so far, though Cal is slowly getting better at collaborating. Rob and Phill are really only doing their own thing thus far.
Rob, in a callback to Series F, talks about a cabbie who recognized Rob from TV, but as he went on it became clear he was really talking about Ben Miller. And he was going along with it.
Rob: “And then he went “I tell you who you must get confused for…that old Welsh one!” And I said ‘oooh, Rob Brydon?’ and he went ‘yeeeahhh…’
Now, this runner starts innocently enough:
Stephen: “How long would it take you to bicycle from Land’s End to the, uh, northernmost point of Britain..”
Phill: “What, John O’Groats, you mean?”
Phill: ‘NO, ASK CLEAR…WELL DEFINED QUESTIONS. Ya don’t buzz-buzz me on CHIT-CHAT!”
Cal has a great anecdote about a talking dog statue in Sydney, that rewards donations with “THANK YOU……WOOF.”
Alan, on the child statue with a coin slot: “Some of them have two slots, in their box.”
Stephen, being Stephen: “Women, I suppose…”
Cal buzzes in just to say “I RESIGN!”
Alan, calling back to last show: “We’ve established that this is not your area…”
Phill: “It’s like you’re talking about Narnia or something…it’s just a fantastical land that you’ve only ever heard about…”
Cal, giggling: “You make your way through the fur coats, and suddenly…”
Alan: “WIELDING A SINGLE COIN!”
Phill: “And for a while, you have a magical time, but then you meet an ice-maiden…”
At this point, Stephen just looks at everyone, and goes, inwardly, “oh dear god.” I bet that’s the indicator that this show’s really kicked in.
After this, the dynamic kicks in- Alan, Cal and Phill all contribute to a conversation about a dolphin playing golf. Surprisingly, Rob is keeping to himself, though.
Stephen reveals that puffins’ beaks fall off after they’ve attracted a mate
Phill, floored: “THE DIRTY, DIRTY PUFFINS…”
Rob: “Is it the equivalent of a woman losing her figure after she’s gotten married?”
Stephen saying that a baby puffin is called a puffling gives a universally wholesome response from the audience.
Cal: “How many people now have a new nickname for their partner?”
Alan, confused: “For their PARTNER, you said? I got confused for a moment, I thought you said ‘for their penis.'”
Cal: “For some people, that is their partner.”
Cal may be a bit quainter than Rob and Phill, but she’s having no shortage of fun moments tonight.
Stephen, wrapping up that question: “Assuming you believe in evolution, like that, uh…what was the name of the naturalist onboard the beagle?”
Phill: “…Charles Darwin, you mean?”
Phill, outraged: “….OH *FRY!*”
Alan, cracking: “THIS IS A WHOLE NEW TACTIC HE’S DOING!”
Stephen: “There was a naturalist onboard the beagle, and it wasn’t Charles Darwin. He was the….”
Phill: “…I DON’T CARE ANYMORE!”
Stephen reveals that on one of the islands the beagle visited, during times of famine, people feasted on older women.
Phill: “MMMM-MMM! THAT’S SOME GOOD OLD LADY! I’ve got the GILF Cookbook!”
Stephen: “We travel to an exotic place where they had jackal-headed gods. Where would I be?”
Alan and Stephen are amused by this.
Stephen: “I mean, you didn’t quite say that-”
Cal: “Right, I should probably say it correctly- WHAT, EGYPT, YA MEAN???”
Sad Phill didn’t pull this one for the umpteenth time, but Cal certainly made it work.
The third act of this show starts out with some interesting segments that aren’t necessarily funny, but have a lot of good Alan and Cal stuff, and are at least intriguing. Again, Phill and Rob are keeping mostly to themselves.
Stephen concludes the tidbit about JFK keeping a coconut from the island he visited during the war on his desk as a good luck charm by saying “…didn’t bring him MUCH luck.” Rob laughs OUT LOUD at this one.
Stephen says he can even remember where he was when the JFK assassination happened.
Phill: “I WAS STANDING ON A GRASSY NOLL WITH A RIFLE.”
Stephen, laughing: “And a voice told me…”
Stephen tells a great anecdote about his mother telling him she was in the Dorchester hotel in NY the day Kennedy was shot, then performing there himself (with Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, and some bloke from some lager adverts who I may have covered on the blog mere months ago) the day Reagan was shot, and saying that no member of his family is allowed to set foot in the Dorchester ever again.
Phill: “Which is why, during W. Bush’s administration, Stephen dined at the Dorchester every night…”
After the applause dies down, Stephen straightens his tie and prepares to continue.
Phill: “Waiter? Any news?”
Stephen talks about this desert event, where people do a marathon each day
Alan: “People are weird, aren’t they?”
Stephen: “I know, I have a friend who does it. She does it twice.”
Cal: “Did she have to go back because she’d forgotten something?”
Phill mentions Eddie Izzard, and his penchant for marathons…and then goes into one of the most pitch-perfect Eddie impressions I’ve ever heard: “REALLY? Uhhhhhh…okAY. I’M GONNA DO….A HUNDRED ‘AN TWENTY…DESERT MARATHUNS…IN A WEEK. True story.”
I’d seen him do Eddie before, but even then it didn’t sound this good. Like…far from ‘ALLO, I’M NORMAN WISDOM’ are we, Phill?
Alan, on what Napoleon said to Josephine on his way back from a journey: “I SENSE A TRAP…the only thing I KNOW about Napoleon’s Josephine was he said…what was it, Rob?”
Rob’s reaction is priceless. He’s shocked, then sort of muddles his neck over, and goes, softly “…Phill?”
Phill, immediately: “Cal?”
Cal: “I’m gonna do it…I’m coming back! Don’t wash!”
KLAXON. AND NO ‘WHAT, DON’T WASH, YA MEAN?’ THIS TIME.
Alan even says “I only know the other one [he said]…Rob, what’s it…?”
Stephen, wrapping up regulation: “Journey’s end…in lover’s meeting. [beat] that’s, uh, from Shakespeare.”
AND COMMENCE THE JUPITUS GIGGLING.
Phill does end up in fourth, thanks to all of the WELL WORDED klaxons he fell into. Alan wins consecutive shows for the first time since Series G.
Overall: This did run a bit short of my expectations, as the panel felt a bit fragmented, especially Rob, who was either quiet or selfish for most of the night. There were also a few too many lulls without many jokes. But when this show was on, it was pretty great. Cal Wilson was honestly the best connector of the three guests, and was in a wonderful mood all night, while Phill had some funny jokes, though his funniest moments involved being at the brunt end of some traps by the QI Elves. I’ll also say that not all of Phill’s jokes landed tonight, and he felt more like his Series A & B self, quieter, and only popping up for louder jokes. But with Cal and Alan on, some intriguing bits of the show, and…the aforementioned Klaxon attack (you mean), this was definitely a nice enough show.
Best Guest: Cal
Show Winner: Alan
Best QI Fact: Missing 300 years
Best Runner: What, ______ you mean?