It's rather appropriate that the story behind QI is, in itself, quite interesting, and bedecked with delicious nuggets of trivia. For example, the creator of the show, John Lloyd, was an ex-flatmate of Douglas Adams, writer of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Lloyd, as it happens, also helped create Not the Nine O'Clock News and Spitting Image, and apparently spent the majority of the 1980s in a frenzy of work unparalleled since the days of the Soviet Gulag (though presumably with more cappuccinos, big hair and Spandau Ballet on the radio).
While being a wonder-worker behind the scenes, John almost became a celebrity in his own right when he was invited to take the helm of a programme called John Lloyd's Newsround. Not heard of it? Well perhaps you'll know it better by the name it was eventually given – Have I Got News For You. Having given way to Angus, John went onto have a bit of an epiphany (otherwise known as a mid-life crisis that doesn't involve buying red sports cars or wearing leather trousers).
What John Lloyd realised was that he didn't actually know very much. About just about everything. How stuff is made. What happened when. The small-scale trivia that explains the very world around us. And he realised most of everybody else didn't know very much either. And it was from this seed that the towering, many-branched oak of QI was born – a show devoted to stuff we either have no clue about, or THINK we have a clue about but in actual fact have no clue about. Like kilts, for example. You think kilts were invented in Scotland? No sir!
What began as a little show on BBC Four soon became a national institution. Which is hardly surprising given the unmitigated wondrousness of the stars it attracts. As well as regulars Stephen Fry and Alan Davies, who enact and represent the eternal symbiotic relationship that exists between the extremely clever and the extremely foolish (in other words, one's like a headmaster, the other's a daydreaming schoolboy), we also get… Well, everybody. From Jeremy Clarkson and Rich Hall to Johnny Vegas and David Mitchell. Plus David Tennant, Richard E Grant and Emma Thompson. Why, even boy wizard Daniel Radcliffe (as he'll always be known, even when he's 65 and bald) showed up to learn stuff even Dumbledore wouldn't have known.
Speaking of which, the sheer array of pointless yet extremely worthwhile information offered by the show is startling to survey. Did you know that the first man to die in a rail accident had previously managed to avoid dying after being hit on his head by a horse? Or that camels originally came from America? Or that one of the Marx brothers designed the clamps that held the Hiroshima nuclear bomb inside the bomber plane? Or that Mars is brown, not red?
And the other wonderful thing about QI is that it's not remotely nasty or snarky. The contestants sit around and josh merrily about random things, like mates in the pub. Except that these mates tend to be among the finest wits on our fair isle. Yes, QI is pure, distilled, stupidly entertaining televisual bliss. And on that subject, did you know that the world's first public demonstration of TV was made in Selfridge's department store in 1925? You do now.