When I was a wee tyke of a lad, and gangs of miscreants yelled ‘egghead’ at me on the playground, the connotations of their cries were largely negative. If only, as I sat mopping up my tears with the sleeve of my second-hand, fraying jumper, I knew that by 2014, it would have become cool to be known as an Egghead.
Nowadays, it’s a hard earned title, held by only the creme de la creme of the quizzing world. Those unfamiliar with the show Eggheads should know that it’s a quiz show airing on BBC2 which sees a team of amateur quizzing wannabes trying to outsmart an expert panel in all things general knowledge for a cash prize. And, in coming episodes, following a very public but successful audition on spin off show, Revenge Of The Egghead which saw her pit her wits against the frustratingly endearing CJ de Mooi, Lisa Thiel makes her debut as the newest Egghead. She was gracious (and blackmailed) enough to give PauseliveAction an exclusive interview about her debut on the hit show. So without further ado, let’s crack ‘er open and see what’s beneath the shell of the latest Egghead…
What was your experience like on ‘Revenge Of The Egghead’ and did you know beforehand that there was a chance you might be recruited to the Eggheads team? I had a really nice time on ROTE. With the more established TV quizzes, contestants can feel like they’re roadkill under the rolling juggernaut of the show, but because it was a new quiz there was a real sense that everyone was willing you on to make the very best impression that you could. CJ, for all his reputation, was extremely charming to all the contestants and willingly chatted away following the recording.
I know there’s been a fair bit of speculation about whether I knew I was going to be an Egghead, or if this was some kind of audition but I had NO IDEA. Then the next day I got a ‘do you fancy it?’ phone call while I was doing the weekly shop in Aldi from a fella named Andy Culpin, who’s the managing director of 12 Yard. Anyone who was in the same checkout queue as me that day will be able to confirm that I was absolutely floored by the call!
What is your previous experience in the quizzing world? Have you appeared on any other shows or taken part in any quizzing championships?
I’ve done a few other TV quizzes – I was on The Weakest Link as a callow 21-year-old, and the Chase as a not-so-callow 31-year-old, as well as a very short-lived show called Headjam which Vernon Kay presented. I managed to make the final of all three shows but I never won any cash til ROTE. My finest hour was probably getting a job offer from Anne Robinson after filming on The Weakest Link – they were looking for question writers and thought I might be worth a punt. Sadly it never came to anything but I do always wonder ‘what if?’
How did you feel when you got the news that you were officially an Egghead?
I actually thought I was being wound up at first – I mean, who gets rung up in a discount supermarket less than 24 hours after being a random quiz contestant and asked if they want to be a professional on one of British TV’s longest-running quiz formats?! The first filming session was only six weeks after I signed on so it was all a bit of a whirlwind and I turned up for the first day thinking ‘hang on, are they sure about
this? Did they really mean me?’
Can you describe what your first day was like on set? How did you feel, how did you perform and what the good and bad points were?
You have to understand that I was – and am – a huge fan of Eggheads. Petrified doesn’t cover it. I was worried that I wouldn’t be anything like up to the job and that I’d let down the rest of the Eggheads and the producers who’d put their faith in me. I think the weirdest thing about it was that once I got going, it didn’t feel weird at all. People commented on how quickly I seemed to get the hang of what was required and how I’d fitted into the setup – perhaps it was all those half-hours in front of the telly in my living room, shouting out the answers! Performing solo was OK, but I had trouble in the early group discussions when I needed to have the courage of my convictions and didn’t. We probably lost a couple of questions we could have answered if I’d been a bit bolder in those first few shows.
How are you getting on with your fellow Eggheads? Do you have a favourite?
I really thought that the existing Eggheads would be quite ‘who does she think she is?’ when I joined. But there was absolutely none of that. Every single one of the other Eggheads – and I mean every single one – has been unfailingly kind, helpful, and supportive when I’ve got something wrong or done something silly on camera. It helps that they’re all genuinely nice people – there can be a bit of ‘fake nice’ in the telly world, but not
among the Eggheads. That cosy teatime world they generate is entirely due to their lovely personalities.
Asking if I have a favourite is a bit like asking me to pick between my husband and my daughter – both wrong and impossible! The one who’s gone above and beyond for me the most would be Barry, bless him, who lives not too far away from me in Leeds and immediately invited me over to his house to pick up some top tips when he heard I’d got the job. He’s like my quiz dad. Is there a rivalry with other shows such as Pointless and The Chase?
Not a daggers drawn rivalry, but certainly there’s a bit of friendly competition between our professionals and the ITV professionals. All the Chasers and a number of the Eggheads are regulars on the professional quiz circuit and so know each other pretty well. I think there’s been scenarios where all of them have been in quiz finals against each other and both won and lost against each other – it’s more incestuous than Corrie at the top of the quizzing world!
What is your biggest ambition and what is next in the world of Lisa Thiel?I’m the original girl whose dreams came true – one minute I was sat at home wondering what it would be like to be a professional quizzer and the next minute I was there on the telly having a brilliant time! Having any further ambitions seems a bit greedy in the face of luck like that. But I would like to branch out a bit and do more telly, panel shows and such, perhaps. My ultimate dream would be to do Strictly Come Dancing, but as I said, one telly dream fulfilled is probably my lot, per lifetime.
What do you think makes Eggheads such a success?
Like all the best ideas, it’s the fantastically simple premise – how do you match up against the professionals? – that keeps people applying.
What keeps people watching is the fact that they can see the professionals are beatable, which is the joy of general knowledge – on any given day, anyone is beatable. However staggered I am by some of the things that Kevin and Pat know, I’m invariably more surprised when they don’t know things which I think are common knowledge. It’s that little shred of hope that makes it entertaining.
How will you be spending the evening of your first episode airing? Will you be watching?My husband is insisting on holding a viewing party for our local friends – I think mainly to use up some of the champagne we received as gifts at our wedding! I may spend more time cringing behind a cushion than actually watching, but I think it’s probably important that I do, if only to spot my annoying tics and try to iron them out before the next block of filming starts.
If you fancy your chances against the Eggheads, why not apply to be on the show by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org Are you looking forward to seeing Lisa’s debut as an Egghead on Friday October 3rd? Let’s have your thoughts in the usual way below; in the comments box which is aching for your thoughts. Also, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for more titbits from the quizzing and television worlds and beyond, as well as my scintillating company https://twitter.com/Our_manPLA
Posted By Our Man In The North