Hi! We are looking forward to answering as many questions as possible. Bear with us if we take a while with research-heavy questions - we like to be as thorough as possible! The 'K' series of QI begins this evening on BBC Two at 10pm with 'Knees & Knockers'

https://twitter.com/qikipedia Proof: https://twitter.com/qikipedia/status/376041970696613888 And from Einstein: http://i.imgur.com/dLlBebO.gif

edit 1: Extra bits on Knees & Knockers which is now airing on BBC Two here: http://qi.com/series-k/episode-k01-knees-and-knockers

edit 2: For all of you who have been asking about working at QI

edit 3: Cleaned up previous edits. Also, let us know what you think about more QI on reddit

FINAL EDIT: We're going to call it a night now, but thanks so much everyone for your amazing questions! It's been great fun. We've got QI badges & photos for some of our favourite questions & comments so we'll send them out next week...

There were also some really good but tricky research questions that warrant a proper answer, and we didn't have time to get to them tonight - so we'll do our best to answer as many as possible over the next few days, sorry if we didn't get to you!

We do actually do a Q&A online every week when QI goes out on BBC Two (Fridays at 10pm) - it's called Ask An Elf and it takes place at qi.com, so head on over if you have more questions.


Comments: 2099 • Responses: 47  • Date: 

TheQIElves2892 karma

Thanks for all your great questions so far! We're having great fun...

Over the last year we've expanded quite a lot on line, and we're trying out a few new things. So far we've steered clear of posting on Reddit as we didn't want to come across as self-promotional, but would Reddit like to see us post the occasional QI fact to /r/todayilearned, /r/quiteinteresting or somewhere? Upvote if yes, downvote if no!

capt_choob1680 karma

Qi Elves,

I just have one question. What do they say of the Acropolis where the Parthenon is?

TheQIElves1528 karma


edit: Thanks for the gold!

InternetTouchesMe803 karma

What's your favourite fact that has never made a show?

Edit: Also, do you reckon you could convince Stephen Fry to do an AMA? That'd be fucking brilliant.

TheQIElves1342 karma

My favourite non-TV (so far) fact is that the International Space Station is worth roughly 7 times its own weight in gold.

We'll ask him next time we see him!

d-signet933 karma

Its weight in orbit or its weight on earth?

TheQIElves1186 karma

Nice try.

craigdevlin693 karma

If, god forbid, Stephen decides to no longer host the show, who you like to see take over the chair? My money is on David Mitchell.

TheQIElves1966 karma

We will construct a new Stephen from the assorted genetic material that we have collected from the seat of his chair.

JimJamJahar654 karma

Can you please explain how the scoring system works? Does anyone know or is it magic?

TheQIElves1394 karma

All we know is that a man called Murray (formerly Colin) from a company called Lumina arrives at the studio in a big black car and is escorted to a blacked-out scoring room, where he does something with a proprietary algorithm and a cat. Numbers come out of a tube and we beam them straight to Stephen.

woggietree635 karma

Why won't the BBC air QI on BBC America? Will there ever be a QI dvd set so I can watch the show legally in America?

I love the show guys.

TheQIElves656 karma

Actually certain series of QI are now available on Hulu in the US and Netlfix in the UK: keep an eye on www.qi.com for further developments.

blaublau230 karma

I'm guessing this has to do with photo/video/audio copyrights and such?

TheQIElves532 karma

Yup. It's as frustrating for us as it it for you guys that all of QI isn't available to watch, but we're working on it; the main problem is the images behind the panellists.

pugi_226 karma

Can't you just release the raw recordings as Podcasts in audio only?

TheQIElves455 karma

We're working on that as well

CurlyDreadz482 karma


TheQIElves906 karma

They're all pre-programmed in - it takes a few minutes to set them up, so we can only add in new ones if we have enough time in the show -eg. Victoria Coren and the Aztec March Hare.

KingModest466 karma

DO you reckon you will make it to Z?

TheQIElves845 karma

We will start on the numbers. Once we have finished them, we will get started on symbols.

QOAL444 karma

What is Alan Davies cumulative score? And is it more than the audience's?

TheQIElves1512 karma

According to our calculations, Alan's total score stands at minus 2283. That's if you don't count the time he got minus 1 gazillion.

Stephen's score is currently 8000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000044. It's partly self-awarded.

Over the series the audience have racked up a total of minus 60 points; ASIMO the robot scored 32 points in the 'I' series, and despite never having appeared on the show, Barack Obama is on minus 10.

Panellists are allowed to appeal if they think their score is wrong - but so far no-one has exercised this right.

Highest ever score: 200 (Helen Atkinson Wood, C Series)

Lowest ever score: Minus 144 (Alan Davies, D Series)

Rich Hall is currently the most successful guest, having won 10 out of the 24 episodes he has appeared on.

roblevmil382 karma

Firstly I’d just like to say I’ve been a huge fan since my first ever episode and I’d like to thank you for both educating and entertaining me for so many series. I also have a few questions.

  1. What is the most interesting fact you know that has not been included in an episode?

  2. Do you have much interaction with the guests and if so who is the nicest off stage?

  3. Stephen once said that there is one guest who demands to read the questions before the show, would you dare speak their name?

  4. How much would it cost to hire Stephen to follow me around and tell me interesting facts relating to what I’m doing for a day?

Thank you so much for doing this and if you have time stop by /r/quiteinteresting, me and the rest of the subscribers would be chuffed if you poked around in there for a bit. Also tell Stephen I love him.

TheQIElves745 karma

  1. Every episode script is packed full of facts, but after a 2 hour recording to bend things out of shape and a ruthless edit, a relatively small proportion make it into the final show. But the TV series is only one bit of QI, so you can be sure that any good fact will end up on our Twitter feed or in one of our books, or our sister radio show The Museum of Curiosity. But our most interesting unpublished fact? QI creator John Lloyd, co-writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy with Douglas Adams, knows the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. He won't tell us though.

  2. Guests aren't around for much time before the show, but we insist on them staying after recordings for an obscenely raucous mead-fuelled green room party. We couldn't possibly choose a favourite guest...although David Mitchell is always brilliant fun...

  3. There isn't one specific guest - some guests do get to see the questions beforehand, usually if they're new to make them feel a little happier with what can be quite an intimidating show. They never get the answers or Gen Ig questions, and virtually everything you see coming from the panellists on QI is improvised - especially since the questions are largely incomprehensible anyway... Also, any suggestion that panelists get questions well in advance of the show grossly overestimates our ability to write scripts on time.

  4. An unbelievable amount. Plus in an incredibly inconvenient currency.

tobiasgreenich103 karma

We all know the answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything!

But what's the question?

Also, thanks so much for all the work you do on your amazing show!

TheQIElves218 karma

Oh we've all been told the question. It's the further question that it opens up, and the resulting answer that's the real secret.

martharose4336 karma

What does Stephen Fry smell like?

TheQIElves832 karma

Faintly of raspberries.

miramarco316 karma

Yay! I've been waiting for this AMA for years! So my biggest questions are...

  • In your opinion, what makes a source authoritative enough for your show?

  • Do you guys really work behind the scenes even while they are filming the episodes?

  • Are there topics you prefer not to talk about on the show, either because they are too touchy, or because they are not good enough for a panel show/comedy programme?

Thanks for the awesome show!

TheQIElves395 karma

We look at each fact's sources individually so it depends, but after a while you get to know which sources to trust and which need backing up. Our most senior researchers have a spidey-sense for that sort of thing. The trick is to not assume something is trustworthy just because when you Google it it comes up in a load of news articles - because usually they're copying each other.

Yes, we are behind the scenes, there's a special Elves' booth that we occupy from where we watch the recording through a window (we're not allowed into the control gallery because we shout at the TV like it's a football match). We mostly make notes on how the recording is panning out and check things that the panellists say. If there's time to correct anything they say before they move on, we message Stephen on his screen.

Aside from things you're not allowed to talk about on BBC Two, we don't really steer clear of anything, QI works best when it's an open and inquisitive look at anything and everything.

My_Boston_Terrier310 karma

What is the airspeed velocity of a unladen, European swallow?

TheQIElves559 karma

Unladen with what?

Boathead96284 karma

Firstly, thanks for all your hard work on the show, you deserve a lot more credit than you get. What's been your favourite part of making the shows all these years?

TheQIElves936 karma

Sometimes we get biscuits.

Bazzinho250 karma

Has the show ever received complaints? Are there any quips you revealed on the show that you know to be definitely false?

PS keep up the great work, love the show :)

TheQIElves454 karma

Sometimes we do make mistakes (we're only human/elves), and our eagle-eyed viewers usually pick them up immediately. And I mean IMMEDIATELY.

We post all corrections/retractions/explanations/clarifications/grovelling apologies/unwarranted abuse on the QI Quibble blog on our website (currently undergoing renovation).

Also we address this topic later on in the K series...

blaublau247 karma

What was the most obscure question that was actually answered by a panelist?

TheQIElves550 karma

Back in C series Rory McGrath demonstrated a knowledge of Latin bird names that blew our notes apart.

GenericVillain247 karma

Does Stephen Fry actually need the answer cards?

TheQIElves555 karma

Stephen does possess an impossible amount of knowledge for a human. But it's fun to give him an extra leg-up over the panellists, so we equip him with the cards, an autocue, an information screen embedded into his desk, and we also shout at him through an earpiece.

ThisKindNepenthe202 karma

How many elves work on QI?

TheQIElves461 karma

We have five elves working all-year round in the QI office manning the website and writing the books (the collective noun is 'a mischief of elves'). The number increases to about 12 in the run-up to recording season, and drops around Christmas when we're doing...other things.

MonaMonzano181 karma

On the rare occasion that you get something wrong, how hard do you take it?

TheQIElves743 karma

Usually the elf responsible endures days of abuse from fellow researchers and a healthy dose of Dobby-esque self-flagellation.

2th169 karma

Be honest, how much of your job simply involves reading Wikipedia?

TheQIElves450 karma

I personally use Wikipedia quite a lot as a jumping off point, but not as a primary source for QI facts. Wikipedia has an unfair reputation for being unreliable, and although the references themselves are often not up to scratch, a lot of the QI information I've discovered on Wikipedia has turned out to be correct, after being verified by different sources.

The brilliant thing about Wikipedia is that it covers everything, and it's all linked together - so you can get completely lost and go for a walk for hours just by clicking on anything that looks interesting - and that's a great way to find QI facts.

liamt25159 karma

What is your average day like at work?

TheQIElves703 karma

We all get in to the office appallingly late and then spend most of the day writing an illicit sitcom based around QI. Occasionally we get a phone call informing us of the Chief Gnome's imminent arrival, whereupon we grab the heaviest books we can find and get researching until he goes away. The show gets written in these five minutes bursts.

LobsterTache158 karma

How exactly do you become a QI Elf?

TheQIElves224 karma

There's always interest in jobs at QI, but we've had MASSES of questions about it today, so here are the full details:

If you're interested in being a QI elf, the best way is to start researching now - and post up your findings on the QI Talkboards (currently under renovation). We have someone who trawls the forums picking up on interesting posts, and many of our researchers started their new life at QI doing this.

We have a real mix of people here, so we don't look for any specific qualifications or backgrounds - it's all about a genuine enthusiasm and the ability to spot a glimmer of interestingness in a heap of the seemingly dull.

For starters you should read the 'Working as a QI Researcher' section on this page, and the QI Philosophy and Manifesto.

There are some non-research or part-time-research-based jobs as well, since we're expanding online and into other avenues - including IT, website design, databasing, and media management. We're not always hiring, but we're very happy to receive any applications/CVs etc and keep them on file, in case we get in touch in the future. Send them to [email protected]!

There's also some general information about jobs in media on our website here.

Planet-man137 karma

Just want to say, I'm Canadian but learned of QI from some Irish friends of mine. After getting into it, I showed it to my father who's always adored Stephen and the British wit but had never heard of it. He proceeded to watch every single episode of the show that had aired(about Series A - I at the time), loving every minute of it, finishing it long before I did.

He passed away last year, and there are a lot of things I watch for the first time now that I think "Oh man, dad would've loved this". But with Q.I., which I'm still making my way through, I can take endless joy in the fact that every brilliant moment my dad would love, he got to see.

TheQIElves94 karma

We are very sorry to hear about your father, however it is an absolute pleasure to hear that he enjoyed the show so much, and that for you, QI remains as an enduring connection to him.

calanya110 karma

How many moons does the Earth have, really? No, but really?

TheQIElves179 karma

See the KNOWLEDGE episode later in this series...

TomLambert90 karma

How much recorded footage is taken and condensed down to make one episode?

TheQIElves171 karma

Each recording lasts around two hours. This is cut down in the edit to 45 minutes for QI XL and then ruthlessly chopped again to 30 minutes.

Some material in the script won't be recorded at all as time is extremely tight.

Gav10079 karma

Has Stephen ever given you a sock?

TheQIElves180 karma


sleepycrab77 karma

I may not have any question..but I follow you on twitter and I have to say your account makes me feel smarter with every tweet. So thanks a bunch!

Rock on QI Elves!

TheQIElves94 karma

Aww thanks!

EpicJamo69 karma

Favourite Greek philosopher?

TheQIElves220 karma

Pliny the Elder - mainly because he annoys Alan, but also because most of his medical cures actually work on Elves.

Bluemechanic189 karma

But Pliny the Elder was a Roman.

TheQIElves193 karma

Oops sorry. I'm clearly getting chucked off my Classics course next year.

Pliny is the patron saint of QI, and our go-to guy for hilarious ancient wisdom, but I would pick Aristotle out of the Greeks.

whynotzoidberg8868 karma

How many shags do you guys get for being QI elves?

wickro57 karma

How exactly do you go about picking the theme of an episode. Do you have a bulk of research beforehand on the relevant subject or do you get given the subject and have find questions that could be asked?

TheQIElves211 karma

We're warming up for the next series at the moment, so most of our time is spent turning up great facts and then getting angry because nothing begins with L.

Anything that does fit gets put into a bit database and then sorted into a thing called a conflatus (we don't know what that means). Then we look at what we've got and try to divide it up into episode-sized themes. Once that's done, episodes get allocated a 'curator' ie. a senior elf who takes charge of that show and writes up the script.

Then we go back to meetings to discuss the questions, re-write the questions to meet our annual double-entendre quota, and then skew the show to make Alan look a ridiculous as possible. If we can find an excuse to dress Stephen up too then that's a bonus.

Night-Sprite48 karma

Have you ever been stumped on a subject?

TheQIElves237 karma

One of my fellow elves recently asked me the question "Why is yoghurt?" It's sent me into a bit of an existential crisis.

thejehosephat40 karma

Can I please come work with you? What is the hiring process?

For years, my favorite thing to do is research. I once spent a week learning the life cycle of jellyfish simply out of curiosity. It is my dream to do this for a living!

TheQIElves58 karma

We've had a lot of questions about jobs at QI so we'll put up a thorough response at the top of this thread at the end

Edit: There's a link to the answer of this question up the top now!

SpaceyAces31 karma

Qi Elves,

What is the one thing you have learned through all of these years that has changed your lives the most?

TheQIElves91 karma


ecatsuj25 karma

Hi Elves,

I love the show here in Australia. Thanks for such a great show. Cant wait for the new season.

One thing always intrigued me though..

Who is the baby in the opening credits? does he/she hold any significance?.. Or is it a random stock photo of a child?

TheQIElves43 karma

The baby in the opening credits is one of QI creator John Lloyd's daughters. He is almost certain he knows which (of two) it is. The other child in the opening credits is John Lloyd's son.

sinistarded20 karma

Is there a place where we can submit QI facts or suggestions for guests?

TheQIElves30 karma

Yes, the QI Forums (currently undergoing renovation) - go to qi.com

Bacteriophages19 karma

I just wanted to say thank you.

TheQIElves19 karma

You're extremely welcome. have an upvote.

Briggykins18 karma

Have you ever come across a fact which you'd like to have included in a show, but which was either too complicated or simply too far fetched to be believed?

TheQIElves30 karma

Cutting a fact because it's too long-winded or requires too much of a run up is the last the we want to do if it's ultimately interesting, but sometimes it does happen. What we did start to do in the J series was touch upon a topic (e.g. different theories on the subtext of Alice in Wonderland) and elaborate on qi.com.

Now that our shiny new website is nearly up and running, we'll hopefully be able to do this more - so far we've already begun to post a list of references for the show material, plus some of Stephen's notes, and the most exciting part of all, the INFOCLOUD.

ZlayerCake16 karma

How come that Alan Davies is in every episode, and when did it get decided that he should be?

Is he more or less Mr. Fry's co-host?

Oh, and tell Steven I said hi, and Denmark loves him :)

TheQIElves56 karma

He got his foot stuck in a hole under the set in the first episode, and we haven't been able to free him yet.

Morgs_huw10 karma

On a scale of 1 to 10, Steven fry is 11. I have read his book, amazing man. What is he like behind close doors just chatting, brilliant as ever or more reserved?

TheQIElves24 karma

Utterly genial, and very tall.

Hemmingways4 karma

Is it on purpose you chose this time, in the middle of football, to do this AMA ?

TheQIElves36 karma

We will be here for as long as we can, but I would point that we are missing the Quidditch World Cup Final.

nicknitros3 karma

I love QI!

What is your favourite fact or joke that was deemed inappropriate to air? Were there any?

Edit: Removed fave unaired fact, has been asked already.

TheQIElves2 karma

There was a bit about a chicken which most of us still haven't been allowed to watch...