The Museum of Curiosity

The Museum of Curiosity is a comedy talk show on BBC Radio 4 that was first broadcast on 20 February 2008.[1] It is hosted by John Lloyd (Professor of Ignorance at the University of Buckingham, and later at Solent University). He acts as the head of the (fictional) titular museum, while a panel of three guests – typically a comedian, an author and an academic – each donate to the museum an 'object' that fascinates them. The radio medium ensures that the suggested exhibits can be absolutely anything, limited only by the guests' imaginations.

The Museum of Curiosity
Other namesThe Professor of Curiosity (unbroadcast pilot)
Genretalk show
Running time30 minutes
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Home stationBBC Radio 4
Created by
Produced by
Original release20 February 2008 (2008-02-20) –
No. of series15
No. of episodes100 + 1 unbroadcast pilot
Opening theme
  • Bill Bailey (Series 1)
  • House of Strange (Series 2 onwards)
Ending theme
  • Bill Bailey (Series 1)
  • House of Strange (Series 2 onwards)
WebsiteBBC Homepage

Each series has had a different co-host, under the title of curator of the museum. Bill Bailey acted as co-host of the programme in the first series,[2] before leaving the show after deciding to "retire" from panel games.[3] Sean Lock, Jon Richardson, Dave Gorman, Jimmy Carr, Humphrey Ker, Phill Jupitus, Sarah Millican, Noel Fielding, Jo Brand, Romesh Ranganathan, Sally Phillips, Lee Mack, Bridget Christie, Alice Levine and Holly Walsh have all assumed the role for a series. Gorman also stood in for Richardson for one episode of the third series, after Richardson was stranded due to the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull. Ker also functioned as a stand-in, this time for Jimmy Carr, when Carr was unable to attend one episode in series 5.

The programme has often been compared to the television panel game QI. Both were co-created by Lloyd, several of the Museum's 'curators' and comic guests have appeared regularly on QI, and the QI Elves (QI's research team, who provide hosts Stephen Fry and Sandi Toksvig with live information as required during the programme) provide the research. As a result, some critics consider the radio show to be a spin-off of the TV programme,[2][4] and some have further ventured that The Museum of Curiosity is not as good as its forerunner.[5] Most reviews of The Museum of Curiosity, however, are positive.[6][7]

Format Edit

In series one, the programme began with Bailey introducing the show and playing its theme tune, which he performed in a slightly different way in each episode. In subsequent series, the theme tune was, instead, performed by House of Strange Studios of East London. The host/professor and the curator/sidekick introduce themselves. They then give a short guide to the museum, followed by the introduction of the "advisory committee", a guest panel made up of celebrities and academic experts, during which Lloyd reads their CVs aloud.[8] This introductory section takes up about half the programme.

Then, each member of the "committee" donates something to the museum. The donation can be anything, regardless of its size, cost, tangibility, or even existence. Examples of donations include a yeti,[9] the Battle of Waterloo,[10] and absolutely nothing.[11] Lloyd and the curator then decide what form the exhibit could take and where in the museum it could be displayed. In series one, the programme ended either with Lloyd and Bailey reading audience suggestions for additional exhibits or asking the audience curious questions[example needed]. Bailey ended the show by giving a humorous comment on a Bertrand Russell quote. Both of these ideas were dropped in series two.[8]

From series two onward, the show has maintained a standard format. It is presented in two-halves; in the first half, Lloyd and the curator introduce the three guests, provide an explanation of who they are, and the five engage in a general discussion. In the second half, the curator declares the Museum open for donations, and each guest explains what they wish to "donate" to the museum (again, as the museum is fictional, nothing is actually exchanged). Questioning of all three guests ensures that everyone says something about each donation.

Production Edit

The programme's pilot episode was recorded on 16 April 2007 and was entitled The Professor of Curiosity. The guests for this episode were Alastair Fothergill, Victoria Finlay and Simon Munnery. This pilot, recorded at the Rutherford Room at the institute of Physics, has not been broadcast.[12] The first series was recorded at the Pleasance Theatre in Islington and, since then, the show has been recorded at the BBC Radio Theatre, with occasional recordings at other venues, such as the Shaw Theatre and RADA Studios (formerly The Drill Hall), all in London.[12] The series was created by Lloyd, Richard Turner and Dan Schreiber. The show is produced by Anne Miller. The show's researchers are Mike Turner, Lydia Mizon and Emily Jupitus of QI.

A live version of the show was staged at the Natural History Museum, London on 9 November 2012 for charity. The guests for this edition were Terry Pratchett, Dave Gorman, Alan West, Baron West of Spithead, Helen Keen, Richard Fortey and Erica McAlister. The show was hosted by John Lloyd, with Producer Dan Schreiber taking the role of curator.

Further live shows were staged at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe featuring a number of top comedians and other guests.

Series 15 and Series 16 were recorded remotely during 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[13]

Episodes Edit

The front covers of the scripts for The Professor of Curiosity and episode three of The Museum of Curiosity.

Series 1 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 20 February 2008
2 27 February 2008
3 5 March 2008
4 12 March 2008
5 19 March 2008
6 26 March 2008

Series 2 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 4 May 2009
2 11 May 2009
3 18 May 2009
4 25 May 2009
5 1 June 2009
6 8 June 2009
  • A P-51 Mustang (James)
  • Tempting fate (Minchin)
  • Inventions being used for things they were not designed for (Pullman)

Series 3 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 10 May 2010
2 17 May 2010[fn 1]
3 24 May 2010
4 31 May 2010
5 7 June 2010[fn 2]
6 14 June 2010
  • Pictures of animals in clothes (Millican)
  • International Ignorance Day (Eagleman)
  • Jack Benny's vault (Gaiman)

Series 4 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 3 October 2011
  • God (Stavrakopoulou)
  • A Curta calculator (Bellos)
  • A book containing all the jokes in the world (Carr)
2 10 October 2011
3 17 October 2011
4 24 October 2011
5 31 October 2011
6 7 November 2011

Series 5 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 1 October 2012
2 8 October 2012
3 15 October 2012
4 22 October 2012
5 29 October 2012
6 5 November 2012

Series 6 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 30 September 2013
2 7 October 2013
3 14 October 2013
  • A sandbag (Stringer)
  • A funnyometer (Bussmann)
  • A machine to give judges electric shocks if they slept in court (Ingrams)
4 21 October 2013
5 28 October 2013
6 4 November 2013

Series 7 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 6 October 2014
2 13 October 2014
3 20 October 2014
4 27 October 2014
5 3 November 2014
6 10 November 2014

Coding Special Edit

Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
10 September 2015

Series 8 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 11 January 2016
2 18 January 2016
3 25 January 2016
4 1 February 2016
  • The New Emperor's new clothes, which change colour when you lie (Smit)
  • A star clock (Vickers)
  • The monkey mirror (Hound)
5 8 February 2016
  • A black pawn on top of an entire of pile of chess pieces balancing on top of a rook (Hartston)
  • A human tongue (Scott)
  • A fart (Lucas)
6 15 February 2016

Series 9 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 29 July 2016
2 5 August 2016
  • Some random dogs that wandered the streets in the 1970s (Godley)
  • A box used to detect microscopic alien life in the stratosphere. (Wainwright)
  • A deep fried wing of the Museum. (Taylor)
3 12 August 2016
4 19 August 2016
5 26 August 2016
6 2 September 2016

Series 10 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 9 January 2017
2 16 January 2017
3 23 January 2017
4 30 January 2017
5 6 February 2017
6 13 February 2017

Series 11 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 28 July 2017
2 4 August 2017
3 11 August 2017
4 18 August 2017
5 25 August 2017
6 1 September 2017

Series 12 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 8 January 2018
2 15 January 2018
3 22 January 2018
4 29 January 2018
5 5 February 2018
6 12 February 2018

Series 13 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 1 October 2018
2 8 October 2018
3 15 October 2018
4 22 October 2018
5 29 October 2018
6 5 November 2018

Annual Stock Take (2018 Christmas Special) Edit

Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
25 December 2018
  • Lee Mack
  • Sally Philips
  • Jo Brand
  • Jimmy Carr
  • Boredom (Mack)
  • Things that are so mediocre they normally they wouldn't be remembered (Philips)
  • The smell of an estate agent (Brand)
  • Laughter (Carr)

Series 14 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 30 September 2019
  • Test cricket (Agran)
  • A slotted screw (Somara)
  • A sign saying "Live, Love, Laugh" (Fostekew)
2 7 October 2019
3 14 October 2019
4 21 October 2019
5 28 October 2019
6 4 November 2019
  • A swarm of fruit flies (Perry)
  • A bionic arm (Ratti)
  • The feeling you get when a wild animal trusts you (Allan)

2019 Christmas Special Edit

Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
23 December 2019

Series 15 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 7 September 2020 Georgia Lewis Anderson (broadcaster and tech expert) A mobile phone inside a crystal ball
James Prichard (great-grandson of Agatha Christie) Agatha Christie's 900ml mug inscribed "Don't Be Greedy", from which she drank cream
Danny Wallace A giant balloon for transportation
2 14 September 2020 Helen Fielding The African plant Welwitschia mirabilis
Ainsley Harriott The Victoria Falls
Suzi Ruffell A Dutch upright bicycle
3 21 September 2020 Roopa Farooki A virtual patient
Eddie Izzard The centre of the universe
Miranda Lowe A moon jellyfish
4 28 September 2020 Ian Hislop All the printed material in the world
Josh Widdicombe Bowerman's Nose
Eugenia Cheng An equals sign
5 5 October 2020 Jo Frost A bottle of Mount Gay Rum
Ken Cheng The Starship Enterprise
Theo Fennell The perfect after dinner singsong
6 12 October 2020 Hannah Gadsby A tardigrade
Sarah Beynon A wildflower meadow
Ade Adepitan A headtorch

Series 16 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 18 October 2021 Jamie MacDonald[23] A Blue Badge
Jennifer Higgie A Self Portrait of Catharina van Hemessen
Francis Hamel Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights
2 25 October 2021 Evelyn Mok Dragon Gate in Sweden
Alun Withey[24] A mechanical beard
Allan Scott The Biggles books
3 1 November 2021 Jon Culshaw The view from the surface of an alien planet
Rosie Jones The missing piece of the jigsaw
Elisabeth Robinson The high seas.
4 8 November 2021 Mary Roach NASA's faecal simulant[25]
Griff Rhys Jones The River Lea.
Lemn Sissay A button which when pressed tells you your talent.
5 15 November 2021 Catherine Bohart A perfect soft-boiled egg
Elizabeth Day A red apple and a discarded hair extension, referencing The Real Housewives of New York
Bruce Dickinson A bible with a history[26]
6 22 November 2021 Daliso Chaponda A church of laughter
Sabrina Cohen-Hatton A pack of Xoloitzcuintle dogs
Kevin Fong The sunrise after a night shift

Series 17 Edit

Episode Air date Advisory committee Exhibits donated
1 20 February 2023 Bill Liao Drosophila melanogaster
Miriam Margolyes Charles Dickens and all his works
Chris McCausland A Vinyl record
2 27 February 2023 Rosie Holt The unwritten second half of Coleridge's Kubla Khan
Olivia Potts A jar of marmalade
Carlo Rovelli A white hole
3 6 March 2023 Polly Morgan A hognose snake in a tupperware box
Randall Munroe 1039 litres of soup
Steve Nallon His own larynx, posthumously
4 13 March 2023 Alasdair Beckett-King The Red Book of Appin
Sarah Storey A map of the world
Hannah Rose Thomas[27] The idea of getting lost
5 20 March 2023 Isabel Hardman A bee orchid, Ophrys apifera
Alfie Moore A Chis (covert human intelligence source)
Jess Wade A Raman spectrometer
6 27 March 2023 Sikisa Bostwick-Barnes A Game Boy Color
Bridget Nicholls A termite mound
Levison Wood A megalodon tooth

Reception Edit

Initial reaction to the series was mixed. Phil Daoust in The Guardian described the show as being "unusual" and "eclectic".[28] Chris Campling, who wrote a preview of the first episode, highlighted it in his "Radio Choice" column for The Times.[6] Gillian Reynolds highlighted the programme as one of her radio choices in the Daily Telegraph.[29] Rosanna Chianta in Scotland on Sunday compared the show positively to QI, also created by Lloyd,[30] while Frances Lass from the Radio Times said it was better, claiming it was, "QI with even more jokes. Made me bark with laughter",[31] that, "Lord Reith would be so proud" and the programme was, "Pornography for the brain!"[32]

Miranda Sawyer of The Observer criticised the show, saying that, "it's no QI, because the joy of that programme rests almost entirely in the host, Stephen Fry, and his subversion of the prissy, clever character we're familiar with (in QI, Fry is clever, but relaxed). The Museum of Curiosity is presented partly by Bill Bailey and mostly by John Lloyd, producer of QI (are you getting a theme?). Lloyd may well be a nice chap, but we haven't a clue who he is, and, on the evidence of this, he isn't a big or witty enough character for us to feel desperate to get to know him."[5]

Nicholas Lezard in The Independent on Sunday was lukewarm about the show, saying that the combination of comedian and scientist guests "more or less worked", but he felt the show may not have been greenlit without Lloyd and Bailey's involvement.[4]

Kate Chisholm in The Spectator found the show a welcome change from the "smutty jokes and banal innuendo" usually associated with the timeslot, and compared the series to Paul Merton's Room 101, "but without the ego".[7]

Elisabeth Mahoney in The Guardian was critical of the second series. While praising the discussion between the guests as, "funny and flowing, and quite endearingly quirky", she found that the programme "fizzled away when it reached what ought to have been its crux: the donation of kooky items to the imaginary museum. Instead, we had a reminder of what they were, and then a sudden ending that was both limp and abrupt."[33]

After appearing on the show in series 6, Richard Herring wrote on his blog:[excessive quote] "What a delightful and fascinating programme this is (and one that I think might benefit from an extended podcast release – two hours of material is recorded for the 27-minute show and it's pretty much all gold!). At times I was so enjoying listening to the others talking that I almost forgot that I was meant to be taking part. It was a wide-ranging discussion taking in ants on stilts, pianists with crippling, mechanical little fingers, the changing meridian and okapi sex (can you guess what I contributed?). The show has a dedicated team of nerds behind it who have dug out amazing facts and I love the way it has a panel comprising comedians, scientists and experts and attempts to link each contribution to similar areas of the different disciplines. While most TV panel shows (including to some extent even QI) gravitate to putting in the same well-known comedy faces, you get a lot more interesting stuff by mixing it up a bit. The zoologist, Dr Christofer Clemente, came up with the funniest lines of the show. But would they book him on Mock The Week? It's intelligent and stimulating programming that is increasingly being edged out of TV and even radio, leaving a gaping open goal for independent internet productions to score in. I discussed this with one of the razor-minded team after the show. The TV companies insist on getting big names into all shows, which takes up all the budget and seems to ignore the fact that the pool of possible contributors gets smaller and more boring. But glad that a few shows designed to expand the mind rather than crush the spirit still exist."[34]

On 13 September 2016, The Museum of Curiosity won the Rose d'Or in the radio talk show category.[35]

Footnotes Edit

  1. ^ Richardson was unable to attend the recording as he was stranded in Australia due to the air travel disruption after the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull eruption. His role was taken over for the show by Dave Gorman.[20]
  2. ^ For this episode, the museum was looking for "new members of staff", so all the donations were curious people.[21]
  3. ^ This episode was broadcast after Frost's death on 31 August 2013.

References Edit

  1. ^ Lavalie, John (30 March 2008). "The Museum of Curiosity". Retrieved 2 June 2008.
  2. ^ a b "Curious commission: R4 to make QI spin-off". 11 December 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2007.
  3. ^ Maxwell, Dominic (11 November 2008). "Bill Bailey: I don't mock the weak". The Times. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  4. ^ a b Lezard, Nicholas (24 February 2008). "The Museum of Curiosity, Radio 4: Try pitching this to the boss". The Independent on Sunday. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  5. ^ a b Sawyer, Miranda (24 February 2008). "Whatever the Doctor does is fine by me". The Observer. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  6. ^ a b Campling, Chris (20 February 2008). "Backstage at the Brits; The Museum of Curiosity – Radio Choice". The Times. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  7. ^ a b Chisholm, Kate (5 March 2008). "An English malady". The Spectator. Retrieved 5 March 2008.
  8. ^ a b Wolf, Ian. "A Guide Around The Museum". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  9. ^ "Episode 1". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 1. 20 February 2008.
  10. ^ "Episode 4". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 4. 12 March 2008.
  11. ^ "Episode 3". The Museum of Curiosity. Season 1. Episode 3. 5 March 2008.
  12. ^ a b Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity – Production Details, Plus Regular Cast and Crew". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 4 May 2008.
  13. ^ "The Museum of Curiosity – Series 15 – Episode 1 – BBC Sounds". Retrieved 14 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 20 February". BBC. 20 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  15. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 28 February". BBC. 28 February 2008. Retrieved 28 February 2008.
  16. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 5 March". BBC. 5 March 2008. Retrieved 5 March 2008.
  17. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 12 March". BBC. 12 March 2008. Retrieved 12 March 2008.
  18. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 19 March". BBC. 19 March 2008. Retrieved 19 March 2008.
  19. ^ "Images from the Museum of Curiosity, 26 March". BBC. 26 March 2008. Retrieved 26 March 2008.
  20. ^ Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity – Meeting Fourteen: The Great Exhibition, 10,000 Tigers, Spider-Man". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 10 May 2010.
  21. ^ Wolf, Ian. "The Museum of Curiosity – Meeting Seventeen: Barry Marshall, Humphry Davy, Saul Bellow, Mapun". British Comedy Guide. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  22. ^ "Marx of Respect". The Friends of Charles Darwin. 16 July 2012. Retrieved 27 August 2017.
  23. ^ MacDonald, Jamie (3 August 2021). "Comic Jamie MacDonald on being creative and blind: 'It's triumph with – not over – adversity'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  24. ^ "Dr Alun Withey". Retrieved 31 October 2021.
  25. ^ Wignarajah, Kanapathipillai; Litwiller, Eric; Fisher, John W.; Hogan, John (2006). "Simulated Human Feces for Testing Human Waste Processing Technologies in Space Systems". SAE Transactions. 115: 424–430. ISSN 0096-736X. JSTOR 44657698.
  26. ^ The bible was given to Dickinson by the RAF Regiment padre in 2008 in thanks when Dickinson had flown the regiment home from Afghanistan, and was the same edition of the bible as one which Dickinson's great-uncle had carried and annotated during World War II: sourced from Dickinson's words on the programme.
  27. ^ "About". Hannah Rose Thomas. Retrieved 4 March 2023.
  28. ^ Daoust, Phil (20 February 2008). "Pick of the Day". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  29. ^ Reynolds, Gillian (20 February 2008). "Wednesday's TV & radio choices". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 6 May 2008. Retrieved 27 February 2008.
  30. ^ Chianta, Rosanna (17 February 2008). "Radio". Scotland on Sunday. Retrieved 21 February 2008.
  31. ^ Lass, Frances (28 April 2009). "The Museum of Curiosity". Radio Times.
  32. ^ Lass, Frances (10 May 2010). "The Museum of Curiosity". Radio Times.
  33. ^ Mahoney, Elisabeth (5 May 2009). "Radio review". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 May 2009.
  34. ^ Richard Herring. "Sunday 23rd June 2013 - Warming Up -".
  35. ^ "John Cleese picks up lifetime achievement as 55th Rose d'Ors celebrate world's best entertainment shows". Rose d'Or. 13 September 2016. Retrieved 14 September 2016.

External links Edit