November 2021

Moneybags - Interview with Craig Charles

Moneybags - Interview with Craig Charles

Craig Charles hosts Channel 4 all-new big money afternoon quiz show filmed at dock10 studios in Media City, Moneybags, devised by the team who created The Million Pound Drop and Pointless.

Ten contestants join host Craig for their chance to win a life-changing cash prize. Every week, there's an incredible £1 million up for grabs, including a £100K bag. In each show, players are hoping that they'll be randomly selected to take their place in front of the money belt for one of the three head-to-head battles. Whoever banks the most cash in each round will compete in the ‘triple-header’, a tense three-way battle in which whoever grabs – or steals – the most cash will play to win it all in the Moneybags final. There's mega money at stake, but who will grab it? And more importantly, can they hold onto it?

We chatted to Craig to learn more about the game, his own quizzing skills, and his multi-skilled work life from Red Dwarf to radio DJ.

Can you tell us about Moneybags and what viewers can expect from the series?

It's a high-value quiz game. There's £1 million a week going down the money belt. It's lots of fun and there are major reversals of fortune within the game. If you're one of the contestants, one minute you can look like you're going to be going away with a load of money and perhaps be way ahead of your opponents and then in the next minute you could lose it all in a bankruptcy. Or you could be someone doing really badly, and then you get a Steal bag, and you can steal your opponent's value, it's really quite exciting and quite tense. We've got some excellent, engrossing games.

This is your first time hosting a quiz show, how have you found it?

I've been offered quiz shows before, and they've never really seemed right to me. And it's one of those things where, if I do a quiz show, it's got to be right. There are so many quizzes on the television now. Some of them are brilliant, but some are really quite complicated. I just wanted it to be the right one for me. And when this came along, it just felt like the right fit for me. It suited my personality and the tone of the game was really working for me. Plus, the fact that there's a lot of money up for grabs for the players really appealed to me as well. There's a chance to be in the middle of somebody's life changing moment and that's what got me really excited.

Do you think the pressure of potentially bagging £100k makes the questions feel more difficult?

Definitely, I think people second guess themselves, so questions that you'd answer while watching it on telly become really difficult when you're in the studio. The bags come down the conveyor belt at quite a pace too, so you've got split second decisions to make and you haven't got that much thinking time. I think that's what makes contestants sometimes take a punt on them knowing the right answer. I also think people's tactics might differ depending on if they're independently wealthy or not. If you're somebody who feels well-off, you might decide to take more risks once you've got some money in the bank and you're playing for that.

Is it hard to keep a poker face when you know the contestants have gone wrong?

Yeah, I do. I also find it hard not to unintentionally indicate what the right answer is. In the studio, of course, I've got lots of people looking at me to make sure I don't give any tells. You do have to keep a straight face because you don't want to give anything away.

How do you think you would get on if you were playing as a contestant?

I have done a few quizzes lately where I've done really quite badly. Me and my son and daughter did Britain's Brightest Family – it turns out, we're Britain's Thickest Family! So I've not done very well at quiz and I don't know if I'd do so well as a contestant on Moneybags. The questions are also very clever. I'm good at quizzes when I'm watching them on telly. It's just I'm not so good at them when I get into the high-pressure situation. When I'm being filmed, I'm just like everybody else. I'm much better answering the questions laying on my couch.

Are you into trivia? What's your specialist area of knowledge?

I suppose funk and soul music I'm quite good at, although I'd never go on Mastermind and use that as my specialist subject. With my luck, I'd probably get them all wrong and come across as a right moron.

Have you learnt any fascinating facts from the show?

I can say, yes, I have, but I can't tell you what they are because I'd be giving it away!

There are a few afternoon quiz shows out there – do you think you'll see them as rivals or are you happy doing your own thing?

I see it as doing my own thing. This is a Channel 4 show, and I think it is happy in its own skin. I don't know if they've kept it in, but we did take the mick out of some of the other shows. Sometimes I'd tell a contestant, "Fifty thousand pounds in that bag! You'd have to win Pointless 50 times to take that much home, you know!" So yes, I did have some slight digs but they're only playful. It's only when you decide to do a quiz show, you realise how much competition there is out there! I just hope that viewers give this one a chance.

What is your all-time favourite quiz?

I do like Pointless. And I like The Chase. I like Eggheads as well. I like quizzes a lot, actually. I love Countdown... I suppose you wouldn't call that a quiz, really. I've just recently filmed some episodes of Countdown where I'll be in Dictionary Corner and I did quite well. I really enjoyed that one.

You've recently started a brand-new show on BBC Radio 6 Music after nearly 20 years as a stalwart on the station. What do you enjoy about doing radio?

I enjoy the immediacy of radio. I think it was brought home during lockdown just how intimate radio can be as a way of entertaining and communicating with people. It's like you get directly connected with the listener. I love music and I love talking nonsense, put them together and it kind of makes for decent listening. I've always been a radio person. I asked Terry Wogan "Terry, how do you feel broadcasting for eight million people a morning?", and he turned around and said, "I don't, Craig. I just broadcast to one". So, he used to broadcast like he was just talking to YOU, and that's what made it so special. I've been on the network since the start. I'm like the Ken Barlow of 6 Music.

We can't not mention the legendary Red Dwarf (where you play Dave Lister). When did you first realise that the show was a success?

I think we realised fairly quickly, because the overnights came in at around four and a half million or something like that, and for BBC Two at the time, that was a really healthy figure. And I suppose I noticed quite early on, walking down the street – I was in London at the time - and cab drivers were winding their windows down and shouting "smeghead" at me. I kind of knew that it was catching on.

It very quickly became that we had this community building up around us - Science fiction fans are so passionate. They love it so much and they're so vocal and supportive. I think people were starved for science fiction because Doctor Who wasn't on at that time. The combination of science fiction and comedy really seemed to catch the zeitgeist. It just went mega really, really quickly. At our peak, we were getting something like 8.9 million viewers on BBC Two, the highest rated BBC Two comedy ever – I don't think that'll ever get beaten now. And they called it a cult! We were getting twice the viewing figures of Top Gear and they still called it a cult. I don't understand that.

What other projects do you have coming up?

I've got an album coming out now, comes out November called Craig Charles Trunk of Funk Volume 2. I've got The Gadget Show. And I've got a Sky History series on UFOs about all this new material and footage that has been released by the Americans. We've interviewed all sorts of people like pilots, and crew on aircraft carriers who have seen unidentified flying objects or have had close encounters. I've done that with Sarah Cruddas, she's an astrophysicist and that's coming out in January. And then of course I've got six days a week for the radio.

You're a busy boy then?

You could say that! It's taken me a long time to become a media darling. You'll all be sick of the sight of me by January!

Moneybags airs weekdays at 3pm on Channel 4 from Monday 8 November and streams on All 4.