No Such Thing As A Fish

QI elves share hilarious facts in first live tour of award-winning podcast

March 8, 2018
Cult podcast delivers slick and affectionate live show

Did you know that there is a bell in Oxford that has been ringing constantly since 1840? It’s battery powered. This whole time, for 178 years, it has been quietly ringing away to itself, in a little glass case. You can go and visit it if you like. Just a little bell that has been ringing since Queen Victoria married Prince Albert. I’ve lived in Oxford for 10 years and I did not know that.

The No Such Thing As A Fish podcast delivered this and many more fascinating facts in a high energy, lovingly produced live show. The podcast, produced by a gang of QI elves in an attempt to use up some of their surplus facts (I assume) has been running for four years. Every week they put out a panel show based around four surprising facts, which they chat about. It’s incredibly engaging and very interesting as a podcast, and equally satisfying to see live.

There is something so intimate about podcasts. You listen to them for years, the characters speaking quietly into your earbuds when you’re on the bus, making you smile on the way home from a rough day. I was surprised by how much I loved watching this show, and how nice it was to put a face to the voices. This intimacy also gave the show a lovely atmosphere - it was like being in an instant gang.

The first part of the show was made up of each of the four cast members presenting a shortish talk on some subject - normally a bit in-jokey, but nicely put together and not excluding people less familiar with the show. These were uniformly great and showed some very impressive stand-up skills from the panel. The second half was a recording of the podcast, which will go out, edited, in a few weeks. It was surprisingly delightful seeing the live recording. There were a smattering of purely visual gags put in for the live audience’s benefit and a pleasing feeling of being allowed to see behind the curtain. Despite that, the show was slick, consistently funny and as engaging live as it is in audio.

You’ll be able to hear the Oxford episode here in a few weeks.

November 9, 2015

Review from Friday 6th November, 2015 at the North Wall Arts Centre

If I'd known there's a job where you can 'sit around and tell each other facts' I would most certainly have applied, in the hope of being a Quite Interesting 'elf'. Four of these once elusive creatures, who research facts for the extremely popular TV show, QI, have emerged from backstage to host their own weekly podcast and tour to make live recordings of said podcast.

Tonight's show, at the North Wall Arts Centre, was sold out. If it's described as a 'fact-off' anywhere else, then surely in Oxford this show is going to be a double dork-out. I'd forgotten there was a QI bookshop here some years ago, and tonight's podcast conversation between Dan Schreiber, Andy Hunter Murray, James Harkin and Anna Ptaszynski, where each brings to the table an unusual fact, wouldn't have been out of place in any of Oxford's pubs on a Friday night. Apart from the Powerpoint presentations, of course. I hope.

Their props were sheets of facts, and alcohol, and at the end of the evening a somewhat flushed-looking Andy Hunter Murray told me that their show is called There's No Such Thing as a Fish because of a 'fact' in the QI TV series that is "all about the tree of life". We didn't establish much beyond this. My companion, who happens to be a biologist, said it's about fish not being a monophyletic group, and we ended up deciding that it might be more accurate to say that humans are fish… at which point we realised that (a) we are nerds and (b) the 'truth' on QI is, well, a little honeyed.

Facts like pills, varying in their degrees of sugar-coatedness (the more sugar, the easier to swallow), flew high into the wooden rafters and plunged low into the depths of the former Victorian swimming pool that is now the North Wall. Factoids about, say, mining for jeans (as opposed to 'genes', which, frankly, I think is just as interesting), Jesus's facial hair, Cornish pasties, and sleepwear. The future of apocrypha is secure.

Just like on the TV show, however, the vibe was on occasions tarnished by smut, which, to me, felt more schoolboy than hipster. The material was clever and witty enough to be able to forsake most of the toilet humour, but we'll see what makes it into the edited version.

For once, I don't have to feel bad for writing about a show that's trotting off somewhere else tomorrow, because you'll be able to hear the podcast next week. The QI quartet have elevated to an art their appealing blend of interesting information, funny banter, slick timing and crisp, podcast-friendly speech, which appears to be supported both by savvy marketing and genuine camaraderie. Two hours felt like twenty minutes, which says it all. A wonderful evening, filled with laughter – and I really, really want their job.

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