Gynecologist Comfort Achuo (‘just say Commy’) may try to restore the tarnished honor of the former moles in The smartest person in the world: Gilles Van Bouwel was crowned the big winner in 2016, but Alina Churikova was out in her first episode three years ago. Come, Commy, give the citizen some courage.
Comfort ‘Commy’ Achuo: “Sorry, but I honestly don’t think I have a chance of becoming the smartest person in the world (this interview took place before she entered the game, ed.).”
In that case: thanks for the conversation.
(laughs) “I’m a professional idiot, I’m afraid: I know a lot about gynecology, but that’s it. After the café test, I had planned to brush up on my knowledge of politics and watch some films, but nothing came of that. Because of the hustle and bustle, but especially because of my procrastination.”
Erik Van Looy has the habit of personally calling the people on his wish list in the run-up to a new season. Did you also receive a call from him?
“Yes! I knew there was a chance that I would be polled, because right after the final of The mole the press representative of Play4 had told me that the mole is often asked for The smartest person. But I was still impressed when a few weeks later I suddenly received a phone call from Erik Van Looy himself. I’m just an ordinary person, right? He asked: ‘Don’t you want to come and do a café test? You’ll see, it’ll be fun.’ I’m someone who often says yes in life, so: I said yes (laughs). I’m glad, because it was fun.”
What should I imagine about such a café test? A room full of more or less well-known Flemish people who hope to be chosen?
“Yes. The problem was: I barely watch TV, so the two girls I had to do my test with – I now know that one is an MNM presenter, and the other an actress in Family – I didn’t know. And with them I had to pretend we were in The smartest person were sitting – Erik also asked the questions. When I was told a while later that I had been selected, I had some doubts. Not only because I wondered whether I could organize it with work, but mainly because I was afraid that I would make a fool of myself in front of the whole of Flanders watching.”
Mini quiz, as a test?
“No! Not again! (laughs)”
Who was the first presenter of The mole?
“Was that Bart De Pauw? Ah no, wait, I know: Michiel Devlieger.”
Correct. And who was the first presenter of The smartest person?
“Ooh! Hasn’t Erik Van Looy been doing that for 21 years?”
Nope. He was one of the contestants in the first season.
“Real? (Thinks) No, I give up.”
One in two. It was Bruno Wyndaele.
“Ah. Yeah, I’ve heard that name before, but I have no idea who it is. Before my time, huh? When we were in a student room, we always looked at it The smartest personbut then Erik already presented it.”
Gustaph, the singer, told me he was more nervous about The smartest person than for the Eurovision Song Contest.
“I understand exactly what he means. In the meantime, I have already completed a recording: what I found difficult was that despite the circumstances – the cameras, the spotlights, the audience, all those famous people – you still have to remain concentrated. But what I found most difficult was that Erik sometimes asked questions about my work that I really didn’t want to answer. Like: ‘Commy, you are a gynaecologist. Have you ever given birth to a baby with a funny name?’ Yes, of course, but I can’t reveal that name on TV, can I? Who knows, maybe that child’s parents will be watching!
“After The mole Everyone asked me if I shouldn’t have bitten my tongue a lot during the recordings, but that wasn’t the case. I really felt like I could say whatever I wanted as a mole, except for how I had tried to sabotage the games. In ‘The Smartest Person’ I really have to restrain myself. “And, Commy,” Erik asked me, for example. ‘Did you have a nice birth today?’ I kept it to a simple yes (laughs).”
Coincidence: I wanted to throw that question at you too.
“Have I had a nice delivery today? I just performed a caesarean section. The baby’s name is Archie: I think that’s a cool name (laughs).”
Was it your first time in a TV studio?
What did you notice?
“That everyone was so down-to-earth and friendly. I was sitting in make-up next to Jennifer Heylen and another well-known Flemish person, and after thinking for a moment, wow, I noticed that those people are just complaining about being stuck in a traffic jam. I’ve even forged a friendship with one of the candidates backstage! The atmosphere was very exuberant, also because the participants were from… The mole have come to encourage me. Toos and Lancelot (the two other finalists, ed.) were also there – they emptied the refrigerator in my lodge afterwards (laughs).”
However you do it The smartest person, one day you will probably no longer be in the spotlight. Won’t you miss the attention?
“I’ve never received that much attention. When The mole was broadcast, I worked in a hospital in Tournai: no one watched it. And now I am in Brussels in a Dutch-speaking hospital: patients sometimes ask me if they know me from somewhere, but it doesn’t go much further than that. It’s strange: if people seem to recognize me, I usually don’t get it until very late. Ah yes, I think, The mole!”
Suppose: after The smartest person you are asked for some panel program. Do you say yes?
“If it’s a great program, like The smartest person? Absolute. I don’t like to miss opportunities in life. For example, I was recently persuaded to run 30 kilometers for Kom Op Tegen Kanker. Someone came and asked me that with great enthusiasm: then the chance of getting a no is very small.”
Are you an experienced runner?
“Not at all, I’ve never run 30 kilometers before. But I think: fun, a challenge, I’ll do it.
“During my studies we all had to do an internship. I opted for an internship abroad, in my native country Cameroon. I met a doctor in a hospital there who asked me if I would like to go on a medical mission. So I don’t have to think about something like that, right? I went along and was able to consult and operate in the middle of the chaos. One of the craziest experiences of my life, which led to even more medical missions.”
Wasn’t that your excuse during the recording of The molethat you were on a mission in Cameroon?
“Haha yes! I thought: let me choose something that I have already done, because that is a bit easier to lie than saying that I am on a retreat to Iceland. To make my story completely credible, I even made a photo album with photos from previous missions that I had not used at the time because they were too crooked, too flimsy or too unflattering. (laughs). It’s also lucky that I didn’t have to show them often: I would have been shocked if someone had thought of looking at the date.”
Thanks for the conversation, Commy, and good luck The smartest person. Do you still have work today?
“Yes, my next patient only has a few centimeters to go.”
Quickly: what is the capital of Cameroon?
You didn’t have to think about it for long.
“Ah, of course not. If Erik only asked me questions about Cameroon, I would be 100 percent sure: I will become the smartest person in the world!”
The smartest person in the worldMonday to Thursday at 9:15 PM on Play4.