How interesting: 'QI' is surprise Christmas hit

Not all the critics were convinced when Stephen Fry began hosting QI, a kind of posh and severely eccentric pub quiz on BBC2.

A TV executive even telephoned the producers to request the removal of a question on the painter Caravaggio from the first programme four years ago, fearing it was too difficult.

But despite criticisms that QI ("Quite Interesting") was a radio show masquerading as television and was too clever for its own good, ratings have risen with every series and some recent editions have attracted more than 3 million viewers - 4 million if Saturday's repeat is taken into account. Research has shown that 16-34-year-olds thought it the best show on BBC2.

And now The Book of General Ignorance, written by the show's creator, John Lloyd, with John Mitchinson on the back of the TV hit looks set to be one of this Christmas's favourite stocking fillers with publisher Faber and Faber having already reprinted eight times.

It is in second place on Amazon UK's bestseller list, behind the scientific trivia tome Why Don't Penguins' Feet Freeze?, and has been tipped by The Bookseller magazine for success.

Lloyd, who has produced shows such as Blackadder and Spitting Image, hailed the public enthusiasm for the esoteric trivia of QI as deeply heartening.

"The educated classes have suffered a terrible loss of nerve, that it's somehow not democratic to know stuff and that somehow it's not done to say Beethoven is a more interesting musician than Oasis," he said.

"But my stance in life is that the average person is a great deal more intelligent and has a much more acute sense of humour and knows a lot more stuff than the media gives them credit for."

The defining feature of QI is that Fry sets his unruly guests, led by the comedian Alan Davies, almost impossible questions on anything from koala bears' fingerprints to Pliny the Elder and rewards answers according to how interesting they are.

In particular, the show debunks commonly accepted "facts" - such as that Nelson wore an eye-patch (He didn't).

The show stemmed from Lloyd's mid-life crisis. "As a result of being underemployed and overpaid shooting commercials, I had too much time to think and started reading and almost everything I thought I knew wasn't true," he said.

Faber is already working with Lloyd and Mitchinson on a follow-up, The Book of Animal Ignorance, which will include facts on creatures from aardvarks to zebras.

The Book of General Ignorance has been sold in a two-book, six-figure deal to the US. Julian Loose, the editorial director at Faber, saw off competition from four other publishers to win the rights. "I am thrilled we are now spreading ignorance around the world," he said.

Mitchinson, who runs the QI bookshop in Oxford, said the "halo effect" of Fry and television success was helping the business.

"But we do feel that we're hooking on to something that's a little deeper than the usual story - that everyone loves trivia. Interestingness is what we try to do. There are few programmes on television, albeit lighthearted, about sub-atomic particles or the universe or the sex life of the barnacle," he added.

Joel Rickett, deputy editor of The Bookseller, said: "There has been a lot of copycat publishing since Ben Schott but what is nice about QI is it's an intelligent riposte to some of the stuff that is swilling around the charts."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing