QI (and Its Flaws)

QI is a celebrity quiz show starring Stephen Fry as a quizmaster who asks four1 panelists questions about a range of subjects. The panelists are usually well known comedians based in Britain, though once in a while, there are special guests like David Tennant or Daniel Radcliffe. An actor named Alan Davies is always the fourth panelist. The title stands for Quite Interesting, and the premise of the show is that the panelists aren’t likely to get the answers right so they’re awarded points for being interesting.

If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know I’m a fan of Stephen Fry, so I do like QI. But I have to say, I feel rather guilty about that.

QI has a problem with racial and cultural insensitivity. The targets generally seem to be East Asians and Mexicans. On several occasions Alan Davies has attempted a Mexican accent à la Speedy Gonzales, and they frequently do impressions of East Asian languages that are nothing more than nonsensical syllables. In addition, most of the panelists are white. In fact, Meera Syal2 is one of only two non-white panelist that I’m aware of, and both were only on once.

And as long as I’m complaining about the show, it does bug me when they get things wrong, especially about Americans.3 Oh, and Stephen Fry’s French accent is rather painful.

Despite all the things I’ve complained about, I still keep watching QI. Why? Well, because I still sometimes learn things. For example, did you know that the difference4 between flotsam and jetsam is that jetsam has been purposely discarded?

For now, I’ll continue to watch QI, though I suspect that sooner or later, I’ll get fed up with its flaws.

  1. In one episode, John Hodgman was a fifth panelist. Hodgman won.
  2. Meera Syal guest starred in the Doctor Who episodes “The Hungry Earth” and “Cold Blood.”
  3. We do say tadpole. A pollywog is considered by some to be the same thing as a tadpole, but other people seem to say they refer to different stages of development. I’d love to know if there are regional differences within the United States in the usage of these two words.
  4. I wonder if I can work that into the Shipping Project somehow.

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