Smash-hit panel show Would I Lie to You returns to BBC1 tonight for its 10th series, with Rob Brydon, David Mitchell and Lee Mack back to work out whether they or their celebrity guests are telling true stories from their weird and wonderful lives, or spinning a tall tale based on a lie given to them by the production team.
To mark the occasion, RadioTimes.com sat down with Brydon, Mack and Mitchell then watched an episode being made to peek behind the curtain and find out exactly how the show’s format and rules are put together – and whether there are more lies hidden in the “truths” than many viewers might realize.
Speaking of which…
Not all the “truths” are entirely true
Diane Morgan, Lee Mack and Bob Mortimer in the new series
It’s always been a little unclear whether the genuine real-life stories panelists tell in the series have to be accurate down to the last detail, or whether it just has to be the statement they read out at the beginning that contains the “truth” – and the regulars say that that’s because they’re not entirely sure of the rules themselves.
“Someone like [surrealist comedian] Bob Mortimer (pictured) will tell a truth, but obviously you do wonder ‘well how much of that is the truth?’” Brydon says. “But Bob is so sort of individual, such a unique presence that you don’t question.
“It could be a little bit annoying if you had someone else on and you thought hang on a minute, they made that bit up. But with Bob, it doesn’t seem to matter. But I think that’s the idea, isn’t it?”
Mack added: “The fact that we’re having to ask each other shows that we’ve not fully understood the rules after 10 years, but I think the basic unwritten rule is that if you’re saying a truth, everything you have to say has to be true.
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“Unless you tell a joke – that was just a joke. But most of it has to be [true]. But people bend that rule a bit…”
Case in point: when we watched this week’s episode being recorded, one panelist visibly blanched when informed the entire wild story he’d just told was supposed to be true, and not just the lead statement. Whoops...
The research into weird true stories is updated every year
Lee Mack in the new series
If you’ve ever wondered how WILTY’s researchers keep finding weird true stories about Mack and Mitchell after a decade, wonder no more – because the pair have a backlog of facts still waiting to be used, which they update every series.
“Obviously from series 1 this happened, someone comes and asks you about your life,” Mack said.
“And then every series we do that, and then they end up using stuff they’ve had in the backlog anyway, from years ago that we haven’t quite used yet.
“We just have a little get-together each year to see if anything interesting has happened, we say no, and then they say ‘alright, we’ll use that story from childhood that we haven’t used yet then.’”
The show doesn’t make you a better liar
David Mitchell with guest David Haye in this week's episode
“I sort of thought I was getting better at it for the first few series, but now I just guess,” Mitchell says. “Neither has it made me better at spotting lies.”
“They’re quite minute details,” Mack agrees.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if your own wife came on, or husband, on this show, and you could still play the game.”
But there are definite giveaways for when someone is lying
Team captains David Mitchell and Lee Mack with host Rob Brydon in the new series
While contestants are allowed to pretend to fumble or forgot true information to make it seem less likely, Mack says it’s “always a giveaway.”
“People tend to overdo that a little bit,” Mitchell agrees. “You think, oh if you were lying, you’d make it slicker than that.
“When they pick up a card and chuckle at the thing on it, that’s a giveaway that what’s on it is true and has happened to them. Because they’re in front of an audience, they’re on television. You’d have to be a sociopath have such sang-frois that you could just chuckle. It’s a fake chuckle.”
“I’ve never noticed anyone fake a ‘oh this is nonsense’ chuckle on a lie to make it seem like a truth that they’re badly concealing. That’ll be the next step. I might give that a go…”
“Sometimes you will get panelists who think they can see the little physical giveaways,” Brydon added. “A few people have said ‘oh, so-and-so touched their nose,’ – they’re called tells. You can look for things like that.”
The vast majority of what's recorded isn't broadcast
Contestant Romesh Ranganathan with David Mitchell
For the episode we watched around 3 hours of footage was shot, with 2 and a half hours of the material left on the cutting-room floor before broadcast – though that's pretty normal practice for any panel show.
The excised material included extra rounds of the episode (some of which usually turn up in a compilation towards the end of the series), drier and more in-depth periods of questioning and a LOT more discussion about how the most bizarre real stories came to be after they’re revealed as true.
And finally… there are some contestants who just don’t get it
The trio agreed that over the years some guests have struggled with the format, especially when it came to spinning convincing lies.
“I’m thinking of someone,” Rob Brydon teased – but the three gallantly and successfully refused to name any names. After all, they definitely know how to keep a poker face…