Who are the Eggheads? TV's cleverest quizzers revealed

BBC2's highbrow game show which pits the cream of Britain and Ireland’s quizzers against teams of amateurs for cash is in its 19th series. But who are the Eggheads, and where did the BBC find them?

Eggheads has become a quizzing phenomenon and a surprise hit for the BBC since it was first shown in 2003. For the uninitiated, every day a team of five friends takes on a team of five established quiz experts – the Eggheads – over a series of one-on-one rounds, with the victor of each round joining their colleagues for a final team general knowledge round. The losers are eliminated.

If the guest team wins, they take home the accumulated jackpot prize. If the Eggheads win, another £1000 is added to the jackpot, which rolls over to the next show. The biggest sum ever won by a guest team was a staggering £75,000.

The show is hosted by Jeremy Vine, who took over as sole host from Dermot Murnaghan in 2015. The two had shared hosting duties for seven series – Murnaghan hosting the first half-series before Vine took over at the midway point – after Murnaghan had presented the show alone from 2003 to 2008.

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It’s still a relative rarity for the Eggheads to be beaten, but it’s the possibility that they might slip up that makes for such compelling viewing.  But who are these towering tsars of trivia? Find out here…

So who exactly are the Eggheads?

The Eggheads are a collection of nine of the most skilled and successful quiz competitors from the UK and Ireland. Five of the nine take part in every episode of the show, chosen in rotation.

The Eggheads team currently consists of the following members:

Kevin Ashman

The bespectacled Ashman, who has been with the series since its inception, can with some authority lay claim to the title of Britain’s Greatest Quizzer. A winner of Mastermind (with the highest-ever winning score), Fifteen to One, Sale of the Century and Trivial Pursuit on television and Brain of Britain (again with the highest-ever winning score) on radio, he has also won five World Quizzing Championships and in 2009 was ranked number one quizzer in the world.

Chris Hughes

Mop-headed former railway worker Hughes is another ever-present in the Eggheads line-up.  Like Ashman, he has won Mastermind (as well as its counterpart show International Mastermind) and Brain of Britain. The 69-year-old is from Enfield and lives in Crewe.

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Judith Keppel

Keppel shot to fame by becoming the first person to win £1 million on a UK quiz show when she successfully answered 15 questions on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in November 2000. She was a garden designer in some financial difficulty at the time. An Egghead since the series began, the 74-year-old lives in London.

Barry Simmonds

Scottish-born Simmonds, an Egghead since 2008, was the first to be selected for the team from a spin-off show. Simmonds, now 68, won the series Are You An Egghead?, beating Shaun Wallace – now appearing on ITV as a Chaser – in the final programme. He won Brain of Britain in 2012 and the following year was ranked number 3 quizzer in the world.

Pat Gibson

A four-time winner of the World Quizzing Championships, Gibson won £1 million on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2004. Another former Mastermind and Brain of Britain winner, he joined the show in 2009 after winning the second series of Are You an Egghead?  Gibson is the only current Egghead not to be born in the UK – he’s from Galway in the Republic of Ireland – but has lived in England for many years.

Dave Rainford

An Egghead since 2012 after replacing CJ de Mooi on the team, Rainford – nicknamed ‘Tremendous Knowledge Dave’ – as a former semi-finalist and quarter-finalist on successive series of Are You an Egghead?  Hailing from Manchester, he won £250,000 on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? in 2005.

Lisa Thiel

Southampton-born Thiel joined the team in 2014 after taking part as a contestant in spin-off show Revenge of the Egghead earlier that year. A former contestant on the Weakest Link and The Chase, the 36-year-old read Modern History and English at Oxford.  Like Barry Simmonds, she lives in Leeds.

Steve Cooke and Beth Webster

Cooke and Webster joined the show in 2016 after winning the latest spin-off series Make Me An Egghead. Cooke, from Bolsover, won the 2014 Brain of Mensa contest, while Watford’s Webster has appeared on more episodes of Mastermind (five) than any other female contestant.

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What are the Eggheads like?

So, obsessed with trivia and the minutiae of facts, the Eggheads must be a bit of a boring bunch, right?

Not so, according to Beth Webster. “The other Eggheads are amongst the nicest people I have ever known,” she says. “They were so reassuring - and extremely kind in helping me learn the ropes.”

Lisa Thiel concurs. “I really thought that the existing Eggheads would be quite ‘who does she think she is?’ when I joined,” she says. “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.”

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