Monkmania takes U.K. by storm as Canadian student leads team to final in ‘University Challenge’
A Canadian university student has captured the hearts and minds of the British public.
Twenty-nine-year-old Eric Monkman, from Oakville, Ont., took the U.K. by storm while competing in the popular British quiz show, “University Challenge.”
“Why University Challenge’s Eric Monkman is the hero we need right now,” a headline from the Telegraph reads. The BBC reported that he was a “top trend on Twitter” in January.
He says he’s always had a knack for trivia and last year he was invited to take part in “University Challenge” — a televised quiz tournament in the U.K. that features teams from different universities.
The Cambridge University student and his team have advanced to the final round, which will air on the BBC on April 10.
Monkman’s school, Wolfson College Cambridge, hadn’t qualified for the tournament in years.
But with Monkman as captain, the team of four has proved unstoppable.
“I thought Wolfson, which is a team that hasn’t traditionally done this well [in the tournament], might get a few mentions in the press,” Monkman says.
“But I didn’t expect there would be so much interest in me, particularly.”
Since his first appearance on the quiz show in September 2016, the British public have gone mad for Monkman.
The hashtag #Monkmania has flooded the British Twittersphere, with fans fawning over his intellect as well as his quirky, enthusiastic personality.
“I love him more than my children,” one fan told the BBC.
Monkman has become famous for his intense facial expressions (including a fiercely-furrowed brow), and for shouting his answers with unbridled enthusiasm.
“They like my pronounced expressions, the pointy collar that I have, the various things that make me me,” Monkman says. “I wasn’t thinking: ‘How do I look on TV? Am I acting like everybody else?’ I think the fact that I was different from the other contestants brought viewers in. And then the fact that I was playing well kept them interested in me.”
Monkman’s teammates, including fellow Canadian Justin Yang, understand his appeal.
“At first I think some people were put off by him. They thought he was loud and a bit scary,” Yang says.
“But I think people now realize that it’s not that he’s weird or strange; It’s that he genuinely loves quizzing. And he’s very, very good at it.”
So good, in fact, Monkman’s team has now advanced to the final round of “University Challenge.”
Win or lose, Monkman says he’s already set his sights on a North American quiz show.
“I would love to be on ‘Jeopardy,’” Monkman says with a smile. “It’s a trivia show that I’ve always really enjoyed. I’ve tried out for it before. Someday, I’m going to get on that show.
“So watch out for me Canada!”
Monkmania is coming to town.
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