Monkmania lives on: Canadian Eric Monkman 'still a hero' despite TV quiz show loss
Oakville, Ont., man, 29, became social media sensation from his appearances on BBC's University Challenge
In the end, the intellectual prowess of Canadian quiz contestant Eric Monkman — whose appearances on a popular British TV trivia show generated headlines in the U.K. press and made him a social media star — wasn't enough to secure victory for his university team.
Still, to the thousands — perhaps millions — of people infected by #Monkmania, the 29-year-old Oakville economist will always be a champion in their hearts.
"Even in defeat the great man applauds and has a beaming smile across his mush; history will treat the Monkman well," tweeted Monkman fan Miles Evans, shortly after the match.
"Retweet if #Monkman is still your hero even though his team didn't win the #UniversityChallenge final!" tweeted Hacker T Dog.
Monkman, who was captain of the University of Cambridge's Wolfson College team, had helped lead his squad to the finals of University Challenge, a trivia tournament airing on BBC that pits teams of four against one another.
Although the finals took place months ago, the last show aired Monday night, revealing the heartbreaking news for all Monkmaniacs that the University of Oxford's Balliol College had bested Monkman's Wolfson College.
"The people's prince: that's how he will stay, how he will remain in our hearts, in our memories forever," tweeted Catherine Flanagan in a twist on the tribute paid to Diana, Princess of Wales by former prime minister Tony Blair.
With his loud, exuberant introduction — "Hi, I'm Eric Monkman. I'm from Oakville, Canada, and I'm studying for a master's in economics" — it was hard not to be immediately hooked. (He has since received his master's degree).
Described by the British tabloid The Sun as "the beloved nerd" who "has stolen the heart of a nation with his quizzical style," his uncanny breadth of knowledge certainly led, in part, to his large fan base. (According to the Guardian, he scored 120 of his team's 170 points in the semi-final match against Emmanuel College.)
But his celebrity status can also be attributed to his intensity, his gritting teeth, his enthusiasm, and his furrowed brow and other facial expressions when answering questions.
And then there was his appearance, wearing a signature sweater over a collared shirt (with collar sometimes tucked in), along with the moppy hair and ever-shifting bangs that may soon inspire some fans to adopt the "Monk cut."
Even in defeat the great man applauds and has a beaming smile across his mush; history will treat the Monkman well <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UniversityChallenge?src=hash">#UniversityChallenge</a>—@milominder
In a recent interview with the Daily Telegraph, Monkman said he didn't understand all the fuss made about his appearance.
"Maybe it's because I don't play as if I'm on television," he said. "[With informal quizzes], you don't have a microphone, so you have to speak up. That's maybe why I have interesting facial expressions.
"I wore the same outfit for every recording, because it was one fewer thing to think about. I try to keep all my mental capacity [for questions]. The only thing that changed was whether my collars were tucked in or not, which people noticed."
Finally, something we can all agree on. All hail The Monkman. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/UniversityChallenge?src=hash">#UniversityChallenge</a>—@milominder
Monkman was always a fan of the trivia game show Jeopardy, and while in high school he joined the Reach for Top trivia team, his sister Katie told the BBC's Radio 4.
He also played "Quiz Bowl" during his undergraduate years at the University of Waterloo, but spent nearly two years working for the public service in Ottawa before heading to Cambridge in 2015, he told the Globe and Mail.
"When I decided to go back to school at Cambridge, I decided that I wanted to try out for this University Challenge," he said.
I never knew true love until watching Eric Monkman on University Challenge. What a guy.—@krewsterrr
He told the Globe that he watched watched old episodes of the show and read a book on University Challenge questions that he found at a church yard sale.
"Quizzing is an activity I love and one I don't think people in Canada are as interested in [as the British]," he told the Telegraph.
But he seems to be taking the social media fame in stride and has been a good sport about some of the humourous memes created in his honour.
"#MonkmanAtTheMovies is hilarious!," he tweeted. "Even I need to get in on the fun."
Eric Monkman, the bestest and greatest of all University Challenge contestants, ever. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/monkman?src=hash">#monkman</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Monkmania?src=hash">#Monkmania</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/culthero?src=hash">#culthero</a> <a href="https://t.co/2KvLw6cKNQ">pic.twitter.com/2KvLw6cKNQ</a>—@Norman_Hunt19
Mostly though, he said he really appreciates from all the viewers and followers.
"I never expected such a response," he tweeted.
"HERE'S MONKY!" <a href="https://twitter.com/ThePoke">@ThePoke</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MonkmanAtTheMovies?src=hash">#MonkmanAtTheMovies</a> <a href="https://t.co/LfewxvOmRc">pic.twitter.com/LfewxvOmRc</a>—@monkey_wrangler