Irish Chaser and scientist Darragh 'The Menace' Ennis tells Ray D’Arcy about raising money for his old school, loving The Chase and using his knowledge of brain science to study for the ITV quiz show. Listen back above.
Darragh ‘The Menace’ Ennis is a household name since becoming a fixture on the ITV game show The Chase; but he hasn’t forgotten his Rathcoole roots. The Chaser – a neuroscience researcher at Oxford University – will be back in his home place in November to emcee a quiz in aid of his former secondary school Holy Family Community School, Rathcoole. He spoke to Ray D’Arcy about the event, working on the wildly popular quiz show and how his day job comes in handy on the show.
Darragh’s old school has been attempting to build an extension for the past 20 years, as they now serve many more students than the building was designed to accommodate. The build is due to start very soon and Darragh says that any money raised at the event in November will improve the options the school can offer to students, inside and outside the classroom.
"I was talking to the Parents’ Council about potential fundraising and they thought this would be a great idea. We thought we might be able to sell a few tickets, you know, raise a few quid; especially for things like student services, that aren’t part of core funding. You know, extra-curricular things."
They’ve sold more than ‘a few tickets’, as the event is already booked out. Darragh says he’s passionate about the need for add-on programmes in schools:
"I think that they’re a vital part of school: you know sports programmes, arts programmes, that sort of thing. All that kind of stuff – that’s what the money’s going to go for."
The professional quizzer will emcee the event and he’ll be setting the questions; except for the "Beat the Chaser" round at the end, where people will have a chance to go up against Darragh’s mighty brain power:
"There’s going to be a competition at the end where people can take me on in multiple choice and whoever beats me, I’ll give them a few quid out of my own pocket. So it’s going to be a prize put up by me, if anyone can beat me."
Just to keep it fair, Darragh will be bringing along a sealed box of questions that can be used in the challenge round:
"I’ve bought a box of multiple-choice quiz questions from a local supermarket and I’m going to hand them to someone else to read, unopened."
Although the event is sold out, the Rathcoole man is hoping at least some of his old school mates have bought their tickets already. He's sure to spot a few familiar faces in the crowd, especially family members, who, he says, keep him grounded in spite of his celebrity status:
"My brothers will be going along and I’m sure they’ll definitely love to give.. take me down a peg or two!"
Ray asks Darragh about his day job as a research scientist at the University of Oxford, where he studies memory - especially in the brains of insects. It’s a fascinating chat about building physical structures in the brain to hold memories, and about how memories can be lost and sometimes regained. A crucial piece of the picture, Darragh explains, is making associations. For example, if we associate a place with a certain smell, or words with music. It’s certainly comes in handy when he’s packing new facts into his brain for The Chase:
"You can essentially prioritise certain memories, usually by repetition or by linking things together – which is how I learn stuff for The Chase. You link facts that sound like things, or work together; and that makes things a lot easier to remember. So, the words of a song are way easier to remember because they fit the tune."
Darragh says fans of the show can look forward to new episodes and a new series of the spin-off show, Beat the Chasers coming in the first quarter of 2024:
"We’re just finishing recording our latest block over the next few weeks. New Beat the Chasers is coming in the New Year; we haven’t got an air date yet, but really, really soon, so It’ll be January or February, probably."
Darragh says he feels lucky to be able to combine his day job with his appearances on The Chase, and he’s grateful to the hard-working production staff who make it all run so smoothly:
"It’s literally the best job I could ever dream of doing. I do almost nothing. The crew work absolutely, like they work so, so hard. If you add up the amount of time that on camera for each episode, I’m only on camera for a few minutes; and I’m sitting around, basically being looked after by these wonderful people who are working really hard. So yeah, no complaints from me."
Darragh talks more about the nature of memory, the Chasers’ nicknames and what it’s like working with Bradley Walsh in the full interview, listen back above.
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