QI (2003) s08e11 Episode Script

Highs and Lows

APPLAUSE Well, hi there, hi there, hi there, hiya, hiya, hi and hello! Tonight we scale the heights and plumb the depths for our theme is highs and lows and joining me tonight, the height of good manners, - Sandi Toksvig - APPLAUSE - .
and the highly-fancied Rob Brydon - APPLAUSE - .
the highly-regarded Fred MacAulay - APPLAUSE - .
and the depths of depravity, Alan Davies.
your buzzers, if you please.
Sandi goes - MID-RANGE # La! # - .
Rob goes - HIGHER: # La! # - .
Fred goes - HIGHER STILL: # La! # - .
Alan goes - DEEP: # LA! # Of course, what else? Let's start our journey in the heather-clad Highlands.
Fred, perhaps you can help us as a Scot.
I'm a non-Scotsman, as are the others, so which of the tartans here would I NOT be entitled to wear? Oh, good grief! - Do you recognise any of them? - I think the one on the extreme left could be a Stewart.
- It is! - Not just a Stewart.
- Royal.
- Royal Stewart.
- Royal Stewart.
- The next one, I think, is - A mistake.
- .
probably Burberry.
- Burp-erry.
- No, Burb-erry.
Ahem, forgive me.
Ermas is the next one.
I don't think you'd be allowed to wear anything other than the black and white one.
Well, it's interesting.
What you say is true.
That one is the Royal Stewart.
The one next to it, the purple and green, is actually known as the Sikh tartan and it's for the Singh, S-I-N-G-H, and a rich Sikh businessman went to the biggest of the tartan companies and said, "I want a Sikh tartan," and, of course, they obliged.
- It's the Wimbledon colours.
- It is actually Wimbledon, you're right, green and purple.
- Yeah.
The point is that the whole tartan business is very recent.
It's not an ancient clan thing.
It's only in the 19th century when the Highlands became the playground of the Royal Family and Balmoral and places like this, they were never related to families.
It wasn't like, "Oh, we're in Glen Coe and we're the MacDonalds, so this is ours.
" That all happened much, much later and was a sort of invention of the tartan-selling cloth merchants - of the Royal Mile and other such places.
- I fear I might not be able to contribute.
I'm welling up.
If there is one we CAN wear, it is the Royal Stewart because we can all wear the tartan of our chieftain, and, constitutionally, Her Maj is our chieftain - and therefore we, if we're British subjects - So I couldn't wear it, then? - You're not a British subject.
- I'm Danish.
- You're Danish.
- Is there a Danish tartan, made of pastry? - No.
That's our entire culture in a nutshell, um You forgot the porn films, you silly boy.
With an apricot plopped in the middle, so your people certainly claimed the tartan, and took hold of it, but there's nothing in history to show that that was the first place that plaid, - as the Americans call tartan Do you know what "plaid" means, where it's from? - It means tartan.
- No, it doesn't really, it's a Gaelic word - It's the same as plaiting.
- Is it blanket? Like a blanket? - Yes.
- The Gaelic for blanket is plaid.
- Plaid.
- And tartan is thought to come from the French "tertaine" He didn't know how to put that on, did he? Oh! Oh, I don't know! I don't know.
How's that? - Steady! - If I move, it'll fall off.
- Take the picture, take the picture.
- Funnily enough, that was the original tartan, - the long thing that went over your shoulders, and the modern - SCOTTISH: - "I've my sword in my toe! "Ha! God! "Take the picture, it hurts!" - The short kilt - "Is there a weed in my hat? Is there something growing in my hat? "It's a weed!" "No, no, it's fine.
" - It's a symbol of something - "I cannae move, my tartan will fall.
" Sorry about this offensive accent.
It's lovely to see you again There will be a lot of people watching who will wonder, "What does a true Scotsman wear under his kilt?" And I can tell you a true Scotsman would never tell you what he wears under his kilt.
- He will SHOW you at the drop of a hat.
- I've seen dandruff on the shoes.
That's a giveaway.
The short kilt - I don't feel well now.
How could you, with that information? Give me something else.
Give me another image.
Danish pastry, Danish pastry.
The short kilt, you'll be sorry to know, is an English invention.
It was an industrialist called Rawlinson who had an iron mill in Scotland, who thought that this long blanket was a waste of time, but that the short kilt with skirt, basically, would be a very handy and efficient way of dressing.
Do you know how to get the exact length of the kilt correct? You kneel down so the bottom hem - of the kilt just has to rest on the surface.
- That's how we measured our skirts at school.
- Oh, really? At boarding school.
Mind you, we all wore two pair of pants just on the off-chance.
- We wore a white pair with a blue pair over the top, in case any boy should happen - No! - Yes.
- Seriously? In case one pair would fly off accidentally.
- How extraordinary! - They were terrified of boys.
Meanwhile, I was in a dorm full of girls and quite happy.
- I was going to say that.
- LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE Well, there you are.
The fact is , the idea of being entitled to a particular tartan is fairly recent, comes from England, but you can't go wrong with Royal Stewart.
How do you win a caber-throwing competition? - Oh-ho! He's a big boy! - Good to see Mel Smith getting back out into the public eye.
- he looks like he's just caught that one.
- It does, doesn't it? - Whooar! I've got it! What's really unlikely is that I have taken part - in a caber - LAUGHTER - I know.
- Wow! - Yeah.
I took part - in some Highland Games.
You have to toss it and it has to flip over - Yes.
- .
and then it's the direction - It doesn't matter how high it is or how far it is, not like putting shot, - it's not about distance, it's how straight it is - 12 o'clock.
- 12 o'clock is the phrase.
You have points deducted for every minute off 12 o'clock you are from yourself.
We can see someone doing a very good one and it doesn't look easy.
- That must be very, very heavy.
- Yeah.
And you think, "It's going to fall back on him," - but no, it just goes over and that's impressive.
- It's disappeared.
It's completely disappeared into the long grass.
It could be a man in early January disposing of this Christmas tree.
- Or trying to.
- I love the Highland Games cos they do just what it says on the tin.
- Weight over the bar is one of them and you throw a weight over a bar.
- LAUGHTER - They have sheaf toss - A sheaf toss.
- A sheaf, and you toss it.
It's straightforward For those of us that loathe sport, it's straightforward.
I know what's going to happen.
- Hammer toss.
I'll get out the way.
I know what's happening.
- Putting the hot was putting the stone.
- Aye! - But again, it's a recent invention.
People have claimed it goes back to Malcolm III, you know, the son of the murdered King Duncan, the one that Macbeth murdered, but there's no evidence.
The first one was in the 19th century, the first gathering of these games and it was around the time of Queen Victoria, - and Prince Albert came to Balmoral and they liked it, there was one at Braemar - "Entertainment! - "We need entertainment.
" - Exactly.
And around the same time, or a little later, Baron de Coubertin, who founded the modern Olympic movement, he saw them and he liked a lot of the events, including - Which ones went into the Olympics from the Highland Games? - Poetry.
- No.
There was poetry in the Olympic Games, as you rightly remembered, but no.
- The hammer is still there, the shot.
- Not the caber-tossing.
- Not the caber toss.
- Never made it.
Dancing was another feature, which was originally all men, but now tends to be almost exclusively women.
- As is the man on the left.
- Oh, yes.
- Can I just say well done to whoever used the computer-aided design to put in a blue sky and some shadows.
Very good indeed.
- Did you ever try it as a child? - We had to do country dancing in primary school.
- I had to.
- I was in the lead-off pair with Nicola Raby.
- Wow! - That came out very quickly.
Nicola Raby obviously meant something to you.
- Yeah, she was a good dancer - - the best in the class.
- Do you know who the great, you may have heard of him, Donald Dinnie was? Donald Dinnie? That's an instruction in Scotland.
"Donald, dinnae! "Whatever it is you're thinking about, Donald, dinnae! "Jimmy, you can, but, Donald, dinnae!" Well, I'm afraid Donald DID! Those are all his medals.
He was far and away the most successful Highland Games exponent in all disciplines.
- "Remove these.
They're all going to fall off!" - He won, in one day alone, - in a Highland gathering.
- He doesn't look the build of a heavy - For 40 years, from 1850 to 1890, he ruled supreme.
- Can I ask, Stephen, what did he win the medals for? - Caber-tossing, he was most proficient at.
He was also a high jumper.
There was one high jumping thing and he failed twice, took his kilt off and managed it on the third attempt.
So, yes, caber-tossing is all about the straightness of the throw.
Caber-tossing is sometimes called spurning the barre, - not something you'd imagine any Scot ever doing.
- LAUGHTER What was regularly smuggled into the USA from Canada for the traditional Burns Night celebrations? - What do they have at Burns Night celebrations - haggises? - Is the right answer! - Thank you.
CHEERING We thought you might be tempted to say whisky, but this is from 1989 up until 2010, haggises were smuggled from Canada into America - why might this be? - Because the Americans don't approve of inedible food.
- Haggis is delish! - Why? I can't think - There is one element inside the haggis that was contraband.
- There it is.
What's the outer casing? - Stomach.
- A sheep's stomach, and inside is - It's called pluck.
Pluck is the correct word for the bits - Is it heart, liver and? - Offal, certainly, bits of that, - but one - Lung.
- Lugs, which is known, in the butcher's trade, as the lights, which are And those were outlawed in America because of BSE and indeed their own problems.
You couldn't eat them.
So there was a trade in smuggled Canadian haggis.
What do we know about the haggis? Which nation invented the haggis? - I wonder if we're not responsible.
- You think it might be Danes? - It might be.
The first reference in the British Isles is Lancashire but there are lots of theories about the haggis.
- Offal comes from Danish.
It's from the Danish word for rubbish - affald.
- Oh, really? - There must be some hideous Scandinavian connection.
- Some think it was Vikings who brought it over.
- It comes from Lancashire, does it? - The first reference to it.
- You know the Burns Address to the haggis? - Yes, it's a poem.
- It's a poem, which on Burns Night, at a Burns Supper, somebody would address it.
It would come in That's been cut open but before it's cut, someone addresses it and it starts with, "Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race! "Aboon them a' ye tak your place, Painch, tripe, or thairm - "Weel are ye wordy of a grace As lang's my arm.
" - Oh, bravo! - APPLAUSE And there it is being piped in, but somebody I know was doing a Burns Supper abroad, and they had sent the address over to Germany and it was translated into German, but the German translated it back and the line, instead of "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" translated back as, "Mighty Fuhrer of the sausage people.
" Oh, that's fabulous! That should stay.
It's a lot better than "Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!" - "Mighty Fuhrer of the sausage people.
" What is the date of Burns Night? - January 25th.
Yes, it's his birthday.
I like the way you get all your celebrations in one corner of the year.
Being Scottish, you have Christmas craziness, then Hogmanay insanity, Burns Night three weeks later - PRIM SCOTTISH ACCENT: - .
and for the rest of the year, nothing.
Just a long hangover.
- Abstinence.
- Abstinence.
There is no poet that has the same affection in the English culture.
We venerate Shakespeare in different ways.
Some people resent him because of school.
- But there is a deep love for Burns.
- Absolutely.
He was a great man and very forward-thinking.
He was completely and utterly anti-slave trade.
So much so that if you go to the Burns Museum, there is a photograph of Muhammad Ali, who came over to Scotland and visited it because he was a student of Burns, because of the humanitarian work that he'd done 150 years ago.
- And he was fond of a rhyme.
- And he loves haggis.
"I love all you sausage people," he used to say.
Scottish friends of mine used to say, "I don't know why you go on about our accent being impenetrable.
"Americans find it easier to understand than English.
" Then I saw Trainspotting in America all the way through.
Where is the Chinese Burns Night celebrated? - Beijing.
- No, oddly enough.
- There is one - Chinese Burns Night? - There's one where they combine Isn't that something unpleasant done to your wrist? LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE - I mean, fun, but a whole evening? - LAUGHTER It combines Burns Night with the Chinese New Year.
Because they often fall very close to each other.
And in Vancouver they hold them together.
It's called Gung Haggis Fat Choy, and they have haggis with bean curd sauce and things like that.
And the biggest Highland Games, with regular spectators of 50,000, is where, do you think? - It has to be in the States.
- It is.
- It's Arkansas, Kentucky or - No, it's actually in San Francisco.
- I was going to get there eventually.
- Quite camp, then.
- Quite camp, yes! - Pink tartan.
- Oh, dear me! Canadian haggis smugglers plied their wicked trade across the US border right up until 2010.
Now, once he'd conquered Everest, what did Edmund Hillary do for an encore? - He had a massive teeth-off with Sherpa Tenzing.
- LAUGHTER "I can notice no other Look at my teeth, they've grown! Look at my teeth!" "Mine too, Edmund, mine too!" Look at this.
Ready? Ready? > You DO look like him! - Oh, my God! - LAUGHTER APPLAUSE - Did he become a Welsh comedian? - No! - Me or him? I do look a bit like him, actually, but there's not much you can do with it.
- Not really.
- You've got to do a Kiwi accent.
KIWI ACCENT: Yeah, I mean, I've climbed a few mountains in my time, sure I hiv, but it's not something I like to go on abit.
I'm struggling because - Needs a bit of work there, Rob.
- I'm sorry, I apologise I apologise to any New Zealanders watching.
The Australians, they don't say Elvis, they say Ilvis.
I heard that New Zealanders are traditionally quite puritanical and it's quite hard for them even to say the word "six".
One, two, three, four, five Ooh, I can't say it.
There's a famous graffiti that was seen in Melbourne, which looked like a rugby score, "Australia 6, New Zealand 7", which of course they would pronounce as "Australia sucks, New Zealand's heaven.
" - Isn't that clever? - Doesn't really travel, does it? - No, it doesn't.
I should tell you, when this photograph was taken - I'll never forget it - we'd had a LAUGHTER We'd had a wonderful day and I'd just said a lovely joke to my good friend there - and as you can see he was pissing himself laughing.
- And his name was? His name was Bert.
- LAUGHTER - His name was? - Sherpa Tenzing.
- Sherpa Tenzing Norgay.
- Yes, but to his FRIENDS - Wasn't it cheating, having someone carry your luggage for you? - STEPHEN LAUGHS - Now, which one of them got to the peak first? - Sherpa Tenzing.
- No, Hillary.
- Edmund Hillary.
And not only that - Were they racing? - Not at all, they were friends, and Tenzing Norgay wrote in his autobiography that Hillary got to the top first, and that Hillary said, "No, we tell everybody we got there together.
" Then the King of Nepal said, "Everybody knows that Tenzing got there first," and Hillary didn't say a word.
- Oh - He was very noble about it.
And he actually devoted most of his life to raising money for the Nepalese people.
a very good man, but what did he do after Everest? - He went to the bottom of the sea.
- No.
- Did he climb something else? No, he didn't.
Well, sort of.
It was in the Himalayas still, but he went on an expedition He took an incredible challenge that tested the extremes of physical endurance.
- Not really.
It was a bit of a wild goose chase.
- Was he looking for the Yeti? - He went on a Yeti hunt.
He concluded that the thing didn't exist, but this is him preparing, looking slightly less like Rob.
- Who does he look like there? - Erm - Edmund Hillary.
- Basically, yes.
He does look awkward.
He does look like, "Yes, I am going to marry her, because I love her.
" - "I'm standing by her.
" - In that picture I look more like the chap in the drawing, actually.
Did he really think that it existed? He wanted to settle the matter, or at least attempt to, and of course they didn't find it, but one thing they discovered is this footprint business, and in shadows a fox print is small, but as it gets into a sunny area it gets elongated as it melts, and a human footprint can go up to 21 inches, and that seems to be an explanation for some of the footprint stories.
- They're like the crop circles of the Himalayas.
- They kind of are.
To be fair, one of the members said, "We were probably too noisy," because they didn't see a snow leopard, and we know they exist, so it doesn't prove that they don't.
- Are you suggesting that only an expedition that was fantastically quiet might find it? - Well - "Shhhh!" - Yes, basically.
They lost their mobile signal.
"Hello?! Yeah, we're nearly at the top! You're breaking up.
" "We're looking for the Yeti!" Ironically, you get fantastic mobile coverage high up mountains.
If you ever go on a skiing holiday, you Oh, good God, what's that? An artist's impression of a thing that doesn't exist.
- Edmund Hillary, after looking for a Yeti for 20 years.
- LAUGHTER Some people thought that actually they were on a spying mission, because two of the people with him were rocket experts, and that they were spying on Chinese rocket installations in Tibet.
- Who knows? - Some people now think that may have been - Yes, they still think that's what they were doing.
So, there you are.
That's basically the answer.
After conquering Everest in '53, Edmund Hillary went in search of the Abominable Snowman.
Speaking of Yetis, what would be the quickest way of getting Brian Blessed to the top of Everest? LAUGHTER Tell him they're putting on a production of Peter Pan, Ken Branagh's directing and he's a shoo-in for Captain - MIMICS BRIAN BLESSED: - "I'd do it like a shot!" - That's possible.
- He loves mountain climbing.
- Of course he does.
Has he climbed Everest? - He had a go.
- He's had several goes.
He got incredibly close.
He got to 28,000 feet without oxygen, the oldest man ever to climb that height.
He had to turn back to save someone's life.
His whole life, he'd been wanting to climb it.
He helped save someone's life, so that stopped him going to the top.
He's a Black Belt in judo, he was a boxing champion.
He's the oldest man to go to the North Pole and to 28,000 feet without oxygen.
He's extraordinary.
You say he went to 28,000 feet without oxygen, but he must have had some.
No, I mean Sorry.
Without the assistance.
He held his breath all the way.
> "Here we go, OK.
" BREATHES HEAVILY Using the very little that is in the atmosphere.
I think the fastest way to get him up is you get a big balloon full of hot air, then tell him to go up the mountain.
That would be quite There is a quicker way, but it's incredibly dangerous.
- It's only recently been done.
- Can't you be dropped by a plane? It's been done once by helicopter.
It's unbelievably difficult because with that little air, the rotor resistance And the hydraulic fluids all behave differently.
It's a pretty insane thing to try and do.
And the winds gust at 160mph.
It was done by a Frenchman called Didier Desalle.
He stayed on the surface for two minutes.
So it's the highest ever in history landing and take-off that has ever been made.
I thought you couldn't breathe at I went sky-diving once and it was at 17,500 feet.
AUSTRALIAN ACCENT: They said that's the highest you can sky-dive without oxygen.
This was in Lancashire, which was rather odd.
- How many people who attempt it die, would you say? - Quite a lot.
A lot of people don't even go halfway because of the altitude sickness.
- What is this condition? - Heart failure? - It's a cerebral oedema or a pulmonary oedema.
Fluid build-up in the brain or the lungs.
So you start to get a headache at about 14,000 feet or something and apparently there are signs saying, "If you're getting a headachego back.
" "Tiredness kills.
Take a break.
" LAUGHTER "Feeling woozy? Pull in for a coffee.
" "Moto - two miles.
" "M&S Simply Food - 12 miles.
" LAUGHTER We'll keep going to the M&S! It's so much better there.
There is the Dead Zone, which has a lot of bodies in it and a lot of equipment.
- Some Nepalese and Sherpas are planning to get rid of the litter.
- They're going to get a skip.
- Yes.
There will be a lot of dead bodies.
Brian Blessed is a lover of animals.
He has over 2,000 animals at his house in Surrey, apparently.
- In his house?! - His house and gardens.
He has a lot in his house as well.
- No wonder he shouts! Thousands? - 2,000.
- What species? - All kinds.
- Wasps, llamas.
- 2,000 creatures of various kinds.
- But that seems a ridiculous number.
- Am I the only person to be staggered by two - No.
- I know someone with 12 dogs and I think that's incredible! - He's a remarkable man.
- If it was bees, you could understand, but eland or zebra All mixture of creatures.
Some tiny-winy and lots of, some quite big and only a few.
He's also one of the few people to have boxed with the Dalai Lama.
- You're making it up! - No, the Dalai Lama was keen on boxing and they actually sparred together.
Few people can say they've sparred with His Holiness.
- He is one of the most remarkable men.
- I agree.
One cow.
When he dies, he'll be able to look back on a much richer life than just about anybody else.
Acted with the RSC, played Voltan in Flash Gordon! - "Fly, my beauties!" - LAUGHTER You can't ask for better than that, can you? - Why did he box with the Dalai Lama? - He met him and they talked about boxing.
He was a boxing champion himself in the past, Blessed, in Yorkshire, where he comes form.
- The Dalai Lama is a passionate fan of boxing.
- Not as prized as he should be, Brian Blessed.
- I agree, he's a remarkable figure.
- He's not held up the way he should be.
He calls me spunk bubble.
"Hello, spunk bubble! How are you?" - LAUGHTER - Don't know why, but he does.
Maybe that's the reason why he's not prized! "If only I hadn't called Stephen Fry a spunk bubble!" - Why does he call you - We don't want to know! - No explanation.
- Did he do it without oxygen? No-o-o! Enough, already! Since the record-breaking flight of Didier Desalle in 2005, the quickest way of getting to the top of Everest is by helicopter.
If you were on top of a mountain, how could you tell how high you were without electronic instrumentation? I went up the Old Man of Coniston earlier this year.
I have to say he was very accommodating.
I think he enjoyed it.
And at the top there they've got a thing that tells you where you are.
But that's not what you're getting at, Stephen.
You're thinking of somewhere fiendishly clever.
- Not really - Can you? - You can if you have a spirit stove and a kettle.
- I have one here - Is this to do with the temperature? - Not the temperature.
- The boiling point? The boiling point, yes.
At sea level it is 100 degrees Celsius, but every 1,000 feet up you go, boiling happens at one centigrade lower.
- Right.
- Right? Climb 1,000 feet and it's 99 degrees Celsius at which water boils.
By the time you get to, say, Mont Blanc, it's about 84 degrees and by the time you get to Everest, it's 70 degrees it boils at.
You could never be completely accurate.
Mountains must be sinking.
Actually, Everest is growing by a tiny amount every year.
- It's dead people - LAUGHTER That's basically what it is! That's a terrible thought.
Conversely, if you tried to boil an egg down in the Mariana Trench, in the deepest part of the ocean - You couldn't get the fire to light.
- There is that problem! But it would be 584 degrees before water boiled.
So it would be far too hot.
The higher you go, you could put your fingers in it and not get burned.
- Is it to do with air pressure? - Yes.
- Such a British notion.
"I wonder how tall it is.
Let's make tea.
" - This tea is cold.
- We couldn't live in this trench! You can't make tea.
It's called hypsometry, the art of determining your height according to various metrics.
There are other ways, not on a mountain, to tell temperature.
- Animal ways, which are surprisingly precise.
- Finger in your bum.
- Mm.
- LAUGHTER - No? - Mm.
- I was thinking of the field cricket.
- Of course, sorry.
Field cricket in your bum.
- Soif you count the number of chirps - Yes, you're right.
Below 13 degrees Celsius, it doesn't chirp at all.
At 13 exactly, it chirps at around 60 a minute, one a second.
- Yes(!) - And then the rate increases with temperature.
So 140 a minute tells you it's 22.
5 degrees Celsius.
- The quicker he's chirping, the hotter it is? - Yes.
- Gosh.
- And it's quite reliable.
In hot countries, you're tossing at night, you can't get off.
LAUGHTER No No! No! - I'm simply not having it.
- It sounds like it.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE You can tell what the weather will be like with your coffee.
If you get a cup of coffee, before you put the milk in, if the bubbles go into the middle Let me get this right.
it's going to be low pressure.
- So you can tell if it'll be a nice day or not.
Or look out the window.
- LAUGHTER - Bubbles in your coffee.
- The simplest way to calculate the height of your mountain is to boil a kettle.
More record-breaking international cooperation, this time at the bottom of the sea.
An Englishman and a Frenchman were drilling a tunnel under the Channel.
Who made sure they met in the middle? - Were they really dressed like that? - LAUGHTER The Frenchman is called Philippe Cozette and the Englishman is called Graham Fagg.
- LAUGHTER - Er, and they did meet in the middle.
They were just 300-odd millimetres out.
It was extraordinary how accurate it was.
But what would they use? - Sonar, I would imagine.
- Not sonar.
- Shouting? - Not shouting, no! - LAUGHTER - "Hello? Are you there?" "We are here!" "Oh, we've gone past you! We're coming back.
" Then they would just say it's two tunnels, - one's the exit tunnel.
- "We'll keep going!" - Have you read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks? - Indeed, yes.
- All about tunnelling.
- The saps.
It's a brilliant book.
They would tunnel underneath the enemy trenches and plant explosives.
But the other side were doing the same thing, so they would be It's a brilliant novel.
They're in the tunnel and everyone has to be completely quiet, and they can hear the Germans tunnelling.
Are they going to let their bomb off, are we going to let our bomb off? See how quiet it's gone? That's how good the book is! - I'm not going to tell you what happens, but it's really good.
- It is.
- Was it a Scot, the engineer? - It wasn't.
- Come on! - You'd think it would be.
Is that Superman up the top there? - LAUGHTER - It is Superman! What's going on?! They told him to wear high visibility clothing, and he did! Came straight from the party the night before.
- Obviously it was some celebration there.
- That machine they use, they had it at the side of the motorway for ages afterwards.
They had a large sign on it that said, "One careful owner".
The French, rather sweetly, gave them names.
Brigitte, Europa, Catherine, Virginie, Pascaline and Severine, and after the tunnel, they dismantled them, rebuilt them and kept them.
The British didn't give them names.
They made the machines burrow themselves into the ground, - where they just left them.
- Aww! That says it all, doesn't it? - I'm ashamed.
- I'm faintly ashamed.
- So who did get them to meet in the middle? - A German invented a machine to do it.
And the machine is called a gyrotheodolite.
You can't know where you are underground, you can't use a compass because of the magnetic ore.
- Or GPS.
- Or GPS, because you haven't got line of sight with the - "Turn left.
" - LAUGHTER - Yeah, so - the use is, being a gyrotheodolite - "Do U-turn where possible.
" - "PLEASE do U-turn.
" - "You are under the sea.
" - But what would a gyrotheodolite use to find out where you are, or where north is? "Gyro" means? - Revolving.
- Revolving, it's the rotation of the Earth.
- Ah! - So it can work out where north is.
- Why not just ask Superman? Ask Superman, who has a little place at the North Pole.
I love how Superman's got a hard hat.
"Come on, you're the man of steel!" So it was a German invention.
His name was Max Schuler.
So the French had one of these machines and the British had one? They didn't meet halfway, however.
Who had got furthest, the French or the English? - Oh, the English, surely! - We got furthest.
It was the French, cos the English were wandering about, disposing of the earth out of the bottom of their trousers.
Making sure nobody could see.
"We've just passed the guy vaulting the horse, we'll be fine, come on.
" We got further? Yes, but not because the French were lazy and workshy.
They were talking to their machines.
"My beautiful machine!" They had geological difficulties their end.
IN FRENCH ACCENT: "We are experiencing geological difficulties, mon petit cher, "but soon, it will all be good.
" They're giving them names! "Let the English do the work!" It reminded me of the German who made a gyroscopic theodolite.
I've got to say, a brilliant invention, but not a huge market! That's unfortunately true.
Not enough tunnels being built.
IN GERMAN ACCENT: "We have sold two!" LAUGHTER "All gone very well! "We were hoping for sales of one, but we're selling two!" There was a man called Colonel Barog, who could have used it when they were doing a tunnel for the railway there, and they missed, and he went home and shot himself.
He was so ashamed.
Did he hit? LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE The ends of the Channel Tunnel met in the middle thanks to a clever German invention called a gyro-theodolite.
Now the time has come to abandon the uplands of knowledge and plunge into the abyss of general ignorance.
Name a country where English is the official language.
LAUGHTER Go on, my children.
- Yes? - Wales.
Yes! It's the right answer.
Very good.
- APPLAUSE - Any others? Scotland! - EngEngland.
- England? HOOTER BLARES I'm afraid not.
- India? - Yes, I think it is an official language.
Absolutely right.
Very good.
- Yeah? - France.
LAUGHTER - No, darling.
No, it isn't.
- You know when you're thinking, "It sounds crazy, but - "Go on, be brave.
Leap into the abyss.
" - Odd use of the word "thinking".
LAUGHTER - So we haven't got an official language, obviously.
- The point is that it has never arisen here.
An official language is defined as one which, in statute, is enshrined in the legal system as a language that can be used in documentation.
So it's never arisen.
In America, nor has it arisen.
Theodore Roosevelt said everybody should learn English, but if it's suggested as an official language, Hispanics complain.
Maybe just make them both official languages.
In Canada it's an official language because French is there.
- Australia? - No.
Not in Australia.
- So what's the deal with the map? - To show English-speaking countries and lure you into our web.
- Yes, it worked.
- It did, I'm afraid.
Many countries have English as the official language, but not England.
Where do modern Huns live? Hungerford.
- Huntington.
- Huntington! - Germany.
- Germany? - HOOTER BLARES - Any offers? Come on.
- I can't think where they might be.
- Why do we associate them with Germany? - The Hun! - But why Germans? - The Huns are an ancient But it was only ever applied to the Germans in 1910.
- It was all the Kaiser's fault.
- Much was.
- He made a speech in 1910 - when he was sending German troops off to China.
- Look at that outfit! I love those.
Look at them.
- I know.
- You'd get up.
"Oh, God, I'm stuck!" - LAUGHTER He was sending troops off to China to fight in the Boxer Wars and he said, "Take no prisoners, we will sweep down on them like the Hun.
" - He was merely comparing himself to Attila the Hun.
The Huns didn't come from Germany.
- Mongolia? They came from the East, certainly.
They weren't a people.
They were an army you could join.
- Attila was the most famous.
- Did you ever in your time at Dundee drink in the Speedwell Tavern? - Yes.
- In the '70s, when I was a student there, it was owned by a chap called Ian Thompson, who had a German wife called Connie, - who used to stand at the cash register and her nickname was the Hun at the Till.
- Oh, very good! - Very good.
- APPLAUSE So the answer is that the Huns were an army, not a tribe and no modern country is descended from them.
- What do you suffer from if you are afraid of heights? - Vertigo.
HOOTER BLARES It's all Alfred Hitchcock's fault.
Vertigo is not a fear of heights.
It's a condition of dizziness.
People who are afraid of heights can get vertigo, - but most of them have a particular phobia.
- Heightophobia.
- Yes Usually we use Greek, don't we? - Not me.
- LAUGHTER - So there's a high city in Greece.
Acropol, as in Acropolis.
- Acropolis.
And an acrobat flies high.
So it's acrophobia.
- As opposed to agro.
- As opposed to agoraphobia.
- The guy's gone a bit far to take a photo of his shoes.
- Yes! You remember the movie Vertigo with James Stewart and Kim Novak.
The story is that James Stewart smuggled the Yeti's hand out of India and took it to the United States.
James Stewart and his wife, Gloria.
They thought they'll never check his luggage.
He put it in her underwear.
- It was transported out of India.
- Good Lord.
- A strange connection between Vertigo and the Yeti.
- It's a very good one.
- To weave and link.
- Quite interesting.
- Indeed.
Lots of people say they're scared of heights, but I don't think they are.
Everyone is, to a degree.
- Is it to do with perspective? - It's a pretty straightforward, logical evolutionary defence - against this not being a safe place to be.
- Like in I'm A Celebrity when they don't like the rope bridge.
- That's the perfect example.
- Well done.
LAUGHTER Fear of heights is acrophobia.
Vertigo is a spinning or whirling experienced when stationary.
Which point on Earth is furthest from the centre? - The centre of the Earth.
Which point is furthest from it? - The top of Mount Everest.
- HOOTER BLARES - Sadly not.
- You'd think it would be.
- Yes.
Very much so.
It being the highest point on Earth so furthest from its centre.
- The South Pole? - The Earth isn't round.
It's a funny shape.
- Yes! - Trick question! It's flattened at the poles so the South Pole is nearer to the centre.
It bulges at the Equator.
That's the point.
- Somewhere in Japan? - No, not Japan.
In South America.
The Andes.
- The Andes.
At the end of your armies.
- Annapurna? - Not Annapurna.
- Chimborazo.
- Of course! - Chimborazo, at the time, people thought was the highest on Earth.
Oh, yes.
Very, very high.
Because it's so close to the Equator, it's on the bulge part.
It's only a degree off the exact Equator.
So it ends up being 1.
3 miles further from the centre of the Earth than Everest.
- And snow on the Equator.
That's quite unusual.
- Yeah.
Do you know how you should say Everest? Because it's named after - Everest Double Glazing.
- No.
The boot may be on the other foot there.
It was named after George of that name, Surveyor General in India, but he pronounced it Ee-verest.
- Eeverest? - It should be Mount Eeverest.
- I like that.
Look! The tea is not boiling on Mount Eeverest.
Which brings us to the high point of our evening - the scores.
Suffering altitude sickness, in first place is Fred MacAulay with eight points! APPLAUSE Fred is closely followed by the high-flying six-pointer, Sandi Toksvig! APPLAUSE In third place, we have with one point the mildly adventurous Rob Brydon! That's good for me! Lurking down in a Mariana Trench of his own making with -39 is Alan Davies! Wow! It only remains for me to thank Sandi, Rob, Fred and Alan and to leave you with this timely proverb about ambition.
The higher a monkey climbs, the more you can see of its bottom.
Good night.
for Red Bee Media Ltd - 2010
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