As regular readers may know, I am a fan of University Challenge, the British quiz show. I even wrote a little appreciation of it for Standpoint magazine last year (here).
This season, a standout was Eric Monkman, of Oakville, Canada. He captained the team from Wolfson College, Cambridge. They went all the way to the final round, before losing to an Oxford college (Balliol).
Monkman became a huge star, all over the world. (Many of us watch on YouTube.) There was even a hashtag: #monkmania. Why?
I could write an essay on this, but I think these are the basic reasons: his staggering knowledge, yes; his speed in answering; his obvious generosity of spirit. But I think the biggest reason of all is the following: Monkman is absolutely himself. Not trying to be anything else. Not wanting to be anything else. Not adopting a different persona for television.
I don’t pretend to be a societal shrink, but I think that people — monkmaniacs — reacted to a certain authenticity.
Anyway, Eric is my guest on Q&A. We recorded this afternoon (go here). I ask him a slew of questions: about his acquisition of knowledge; about such concepts as “elitism”; about the Internet. (He thinks that Wikipedia will be remembered as one of the great achievements of the early 21st century.)
In podcasts and elsewhere, I’ve interviewed many, many people, from many walks of life. It was a kick to talk with this quiz hero.