A wise old cynic once said, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." And it's true. Probably. We haven't seen the statistics so it's hard to say for sure. Nevertheless, there is one thing we can thank statistics for, and that's the existence of 8 Out of 10 Cats, a panel show that somehow takes polls, surveys and heaps of percentages and – by some sinister alchemy – converts it all into comedy gold.
By "sinister alchemy" we mean "using the finest comic minds in the nation", so perhaps it isn't ALL that surprising the programme will literally make tea jet out of your nose. Even if you aren't actually drinking tea while watching it. That's how powerfully amusing it is.
Overseen by the dark jester Jimmy Carr, it pits two teams of comedians against each other. Although we're sort of half-fibbing when we say that, because the teams tend to include hapless soap stars and out-of-their-depth newsreaders and the like, all gamely trying to hold their own as the comedians wield their one-liners at each other. Carol Vorderman, Patsy Palmer, Krishnan Guru-Murthy and Jedward – yes, actual Jedward – are among those who've survived the onslaught. (Although Jedward were probably left slightly traumatised by the apocalyptic ribbing they received. And being asked by Jimmy Carr if they know how babies are made.)
Meanwhile, on the professionally funny side of things, there's been a… what's the proper collective term? A cackle of comedians? A guffaw of wits? There's been loads, is what we're saying. Josie Long, David Walliams, Kevin Bridges, Rhod Gilbert, Charlie Brooker, Josh Widdicombe… pretty much everyone, really. Cannon and Ball will be on soon, we shouldn't wonder. In fact, we literally can't think of anything better than that happening.
What's rather ingenious is how the show mines so much from statistics. There are rounds such as "What Are You Talking About?", in which the teams have to work out what the public has been officially obsessed about that week. And "And the Winner Is", where they've got to guess the most popular answers to recent polls. Of course, all of this is just an excuse for them to josh and jape and jest their way from subject to subject. We also end up learning things we never thought anyone would think to find out. Such as the answer to the question: which do Britons like the most: the Queen or a full English breakfast? (Mulling over this dilemma, someone points out that nobody ever wakes up after a heavy night of drinking just GAGGING for a picture of the Queen.)
The show has also gifted us with the revelation that the majority of British kids would choose Wayne Rooney as Prime Minister. Which proves that children are idiots. Although even they would probably think twice about that after Brazil 2014. Another choice fact delivered by Mr Carr is that "44% of American dads say that religion features in their sex lives." We're not quite sure why the survey was limited to "dads" specifically. And we definitely don't want to know what those 44% actually get up to. Stop thinking about that right now.
The show's been going since 2005, which is a frighteningly long time when you think about it (even though we steadfastly refuse to accept that the Noughties now count as a "long time ago"). So, rather than excavating the oldest episodes, we're showing it from series 8 onwards. That means Sean Lock and Jason Manford as team captains, with Jon Richardson replacing Jason in later series. So, while statistics may be open to debate, with talent of this calibre you'll laugh yourself silly. And that's no lie.