‘I just see through the quiz maker mechanics faster while playing’

There is no shortage of strong candidates in ‘The smartest person in the world’, but we were still slightly impressed in recent days by the flexibility with which Bart ‘Pluis’ Cannaerts beat himself through the quiz rounds. That is not entirely surprising, because the comedian was the only person in the world to hold all positions in ‘The smartest person’: he was a jury member dozens of times, he was a presenter for two episodes and now he is working on his third series as a candidate. The question arises: which place is the best?

Joris Bellwinkel

BART CANNAERTS “This place. I like to play games, and ‘The smartest person’ is a really fun game to play.”

HUMO The playing pleasure is visible.

CANNAERTS «The first two episodes I was very nervous, but as a jury member I am every time. Then you feel the pressure: I have to be funny now. By the way, presenting was also very intense and exciting, because I wanted to Erik (Van Looy, ed.) and don’t disappoint the editors. As a candidate it is a lot more comfortable, the only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself.”

HUMO Do you put a lot of pressure on yourself?

CANNAERTS “Not very consciously, but I am competitive. I can handle my loss very well, but winning is a little bit more fun. Especially because I know: if I win, I can come back.”

HUMO As a child you already designed your own quizzes. That love has never gone away.

CANNAERTS “No, I think both taking quizzes and thinking up are keitof. In the past year I have worked behind the scenes on four TV quizzes. Putting it all together, coming up with the right questions, it’s a bit nerdy, of course, but I like it all a lot.”

HUMO You are gradually becoming the quiz expert in Belgium.

CANNAERTS (laughs) «That is quite a difference with when I took part in ‘The smartest person’ ten years ago: then I had never participated in a quiz. Hopefully the experience will give me an advantage this time.

»I already notice that I can see through the quiz maker mechanics faster while playing. That I have to list five keywords for a certain writer and I can quickly get to the essence: they are still looking for the title of that one book anyway and I don’t know it, so I’m not going to list all the other things I know about that writer.”

HUMO I note: it is a beginner’s mistake to immediately display all your knowledge.

CANNAERTS “Yes, you should not be distracted by everything you know about a topic, but think about what the quiz creators want to hear. Especially in the final, every second is crucial, so you have to talk as little as possible and shout ‘stop’ as soon as possible.”

HUMO That’s what Erik meant when he said prior to your participation: ‘Bart knows the tricks of the trade.’ Are there still gaps in your general knowledge?

CANNAERTS «I’m now over 40, so I’m not completely up to date with what young people are doing. When you are 30, you go to parties more often, you go to the cinema more often, you know the popular music.

»Last spring I was allowed to make ‘Today’s Day’ for five weeks, then I learned a lot from current events. Then I heard that Rihanna had a child with A$AP Rocky and I thought: ah yes, now I know A$AP Rocky. I work for that program with a very young editors and that also keeps me young. (blows) Now I sound very old, don’t I?”

HUMO As a quiz maker you undoubtedly watch many other quizzes. Which one do you look up to?

CANNAERTS “I’m a big fan of ‘Pointless’ on the BBC. Then a hundred Britons are asked to name a Greek god, for example, and you as a participant must then name a Greek god who has never or as little as possible been said. That’s such a wonderfully quizzical thing: wanting to know something that nobody knows. It is often completely pointless knowledge, but that is exactly what is rewarded in that quiz.”

HUMO During your first participation in ‘De smartest mens’, in 2008, you played Philippe Geubels home after just one episode. To do this, you had to lower yourself for 40 seconds in the final game. 40 long seconds, because Geubels kept calling ‘what a loser’ you were.

CANNAERTS (laughs) “Yes, there you saw how completely different we approached our participation: the difference between a player who really wants to win and the comedian who is just his funny self. My only plan was: I just have to win that game here, because who knows, maybe I can reach more comedy fans this way. I was only doing quizzes and nothing else. In the meantime, Geubels was mainly being himself and everything that came out of his mouth was hilarious. He did what a comedian should do: joke. And he did it in a legendary way.

“I stayed in it for four episodes myself, I’ve never been funny and it hasn’t impacted my career. Four years later I was allowed to participate again because nobody really remembered my passage (laughs).»

HUMO After the final, Geubels said that he did grant a ‘comedian on his way’ the victory. But look, fourteen years later you are more famous than ever, with your own quiz on One, participations in ‘The very smartest human being’ and in ‘The Masked Singer’.

CANNAERTS «I have become more widely known. Thanks to ‘The Masked Singer’, for example, children suddenly know me. On holiday by the sea, the number of selfies with children went from zero to a hundred last summer (laughs).

»My participation in ‘The Masked Singer’ and the fact that I was allowed to replace Erik twice as presenter of ‘The smartest man’ may have led to me being more top of mind was with the bosses. That because of this I was asked to present ‘The day of today’ for One and then suddenly came up with my head on TV every day.

“I wouldn’t call this the pinnacle of my career, but it’s probably the pinnacle of my fame.”

HUMO This year it has been fifteen years since you won the Humo’s Comedy Cup. Did you spend a lot of time on career planning during that time?

CANNAERTS «No, there was never a clever plan behind it, I especially had the incredible chance that everything overtook me or came my way. Of course I signed up for Humo’s Comedy Cup because you know it opens doors when you win. That turned out to be the case: I was soon asked to work for television. Called a little later Tom Lenaerts me: ‘Do you want to present ‘The Pappenheimers’?’ Well, yes. At one point he asked: ‘Do you want to set up a production house with me?’ Well, yes. VTM asked if I wanted to participate in ‘The Masked Singer’, Het Geluidshuis asked if I wanted to write a radio play… Well, yes.

“They weren’t all big dreams or things I was desperately waiting for, but I thought each and every one of them was super cool to do. The lump of butter I fell into is huge.”

HUMO Are you not only at the height of your fame, but also at the height of your happiness?

CANNAERTS (thinks) «I’m doing well, but I don’t often ask myself: how happy am I now? And is that happier than last week? Happiness is in many things, isn’t it? Can you really measure that?

»I just took my 6-year-old daughter to school, she is now going to first grade and a few friends immediately came running up to her to play together. The realization that my daughter likes to go to school, has friends and is healthy, we have all the luck in the world in that area too. Yes, I can tell you that I cycled home this morning with a big smile on my face.”

The smartest person in the world
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