Now read on…
SH: Apart from those TV appearances, you’ve also long been a fixture on the Australian Quizzing scene. In fact, you’re a six-time winner of the Australian Quizzing Championships (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018) and six-time Pairs Champion (2012-17). Can you tell me a bit about that area of your life? Just how all-consuming has it been?
IS: It is probably my favourite part of quizzing nowadays. I discovered Quizzing Australia (the organisation that runs these events) back in 2008, and I decided to fly myself to Sydney to compete. I came second that year but was instantly hooked. It really is “next level” quizzing. It is run concurrently with the World Quizzing Championships and consists of a whopping 240 questions over eight categories, done in two hours with a break in between. As the questions are the same worldwide, you get a massive range, and the difficulty is very high. Last year I was fortunate to win Aussie title No. 6 and reached 57th in the world – absolutely delighted. For the first time, I finished ahead of Anne (The Governess) and she wasn’t necessarily thrilled!
SH: Do you still have time to compete in this arena, now that you’re working on The Chase Australia? If so, has becoming a Chaser helped your game there?
IS: Oh, absolutely. If anything, I am probably guilty of studying for international competitions more than The Chase. There is a little bit of a crossover, but naturally many questions in a world championship aren’t going to be suitable for a televised Australian quiz show – too obscure and many are too long, for example. But doing The Chase has definitely helped my general knowledge across the board. I remember one year at the World Quizzing Championships, Brydon and I had a little chuckle because a question asked had just come up at a recording the week before. Every month, there are two international quizzes of 100 questions each called ‘Hot 100’ and ‘Squizzed’, both of which are excellent and I always put time aside to compete in both. We have groups meet up twice a month to do these in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth. It’s great just to socialise and be guaranteed a decent, interesting quiz.
SH: Issa, your general knowledge is obviously very vast and wide-ranging… I wanted to get your thoughts on a theory of mine; that we are currently witnessing The Death of General Knowledge. Here’s what I mean; 100 years ago, American captain of industry Henry Ford was not a highly educated man, and he credited much of his success to The
Mastermind Principle. This can be summed up by the notion “Well, I don’t know the answer to that question, but I know someone who does”. Ford surrounded himself with knowledgeable people – an ‘external brain’, if you like – and would consult with them, and reap the benefits of their collective wisdom in his decision-making. This was seen as radical back then – successful businessmen were expected to be educated,
knowledgeable, intelligent, and have vast amounts of information in their memories that they could draw on; they were expected to have all the answers. Ford was the exception to the rule. Fast forward 100 years… and now, all of us have access to the entire world’s collective wisdom in our pockets (on our phones) 24 hours a day. The Mastermind Principle has now become the rule, rather than the exception. Arguably, none of us need General Knowledge anymore, since “Google knows the answer to that!”
Personally, I think this is sad, and I’m trying to teach my daughter to value and cultivate and exercise her general knowledge. It’s part of being a well-rounded, interesting human being, after all. What are your thoughts on this?
IS: I confess I wasn’t familiar with The Mastermind Principle, thank you very much for teaching me this! It is an excellent question, and a topic I often think about. The Internet is obviously a wonderful innovation which has changed the operation of the entire world over the last 30+ years. But I am in dismay when I look at quizzing / General Knowledge in 2019 compared to say, 2000. I think of chats around the dinner table with my parents where we would talk things out over dinner “Who was in that movie?” “What was that TV show we used to watch?”, “Who was Prime Minister when…?” or any query, really. And then 15 minutes later someone would remember, or we’d reach a conclusion via a lengthy chat. Or perhaps we wouldn’t remember or reach a conclusion, and that was that. But either way, we’d had a marvellous discussion along the way. I cherish memories like that. In 2019, all of that is gone. “Who was in that movie?” Ten seconds later, after checking a phone, “Oh, it was Marlon Brando.” It sounds almost cold and robotic, doesn’t it?
SH: I think so. Why do you think it’s important to have a good working General Knowledge?
IS: I think having a good General Knowledge just enriches life! Even if you aren’t a quizzer, surely life is more enjoyable knowing a little bit about the world around you. I still love the surprise / joy I get when I stumble across a new topic and find it really interesting.
SH: What do you think is the future of general knowledge in our developed, interconnected, civilised society?
IS: This is something that does trouble me at times. I DO think we were smarter before the advent of social media – the 21st century Black Hole from which few people escape! I’ve met youngsters who hadn’t heard of The Beatles or Margaret Thatcher. After my initial shock, I say to them “Please, check them out – such wonderful music!” Err, The Beatles that is.
I AM heartened, though, when I see youngsters at quizzes – we do get plenty on The Chase, and University Challenge back in the UK is still one of the highest rating programs on BBC2. I have a total of nine nephews and nieces myself, and I try and mail them lots of fun reading material – Enid Blyton, Diary of a Wimpy Kid (AKA my autobiography) whenever I can. I’m not against them using tablets/phones, but I do think they should do actual reading as well.
Hear, hear, Issa.
And on a personal note, I’d just like to thank Issa – not to mention all of you – for indulging my question about General Knowledge, which, at 253 words, sets a new record for The Longest And Most Convoluted Question I’ve Ever Asked In A HowToWinGameShows.com Interview.
Next week, the interview continues… and you’ll be pleased to know that in Part 4, I do manage to rein in the verbosity.