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Everyone loves slumdog millionaires

Two University of Copenhagen students gambled their way to a full million kroner on TV Show 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?'. They dropped by our offices to rub it in our faces

Over a million viewers were well entertained when the TV quiz Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? hit the Danish screens on 12 March.

Not only was the DKK 1 million won for only the seventh time in the history of the Danish version of the programme – the winning team, Jon Mikkel Hansen and Lars-Ole Jørgensen, both students of Danish lit, made disarmingly charming and cool television.

A. Atlanta

All of their lifelines were used when the million kroner question came:

»At which of the following Olympics did Denmark win the most gold medals – A. Atlanta 1996, B. Sydney 2000, C. Athens 2004 or D. Beijing 2008?«

»Of course: Now the sports question,« said Lars-Ole, who doesn’t look like a man whose athletic interest matches his intellect. The two guys, who have remained friends since they met whilst studying Danish at the University of Copenhagen, were on thin ice, and it was clear to everyone watching … and still they chose to gamble:

»Rock’n’roll – we’re going for it,« was their final decision, and they explain that the minutes that passed from their choosing A. Atlanta felt like aeons, until host Hans Pilgaard finally broke the silence with a roar of »CONGRATULATIONS!«

No gamble, no million

When the half-millionaires drop by our offices, they still enjoy talking about the experience:

You could have lost a fortune – how did you dare take a wild guess like that?
»These shows are designed for you to go all the way. For example, if you’re listening to a music quiz on the radio, and people phone in and answer correctly twice in a row, but stop once they’ve won two LOC [Danish rapper, ed.] CD’s, then you get bored of it,« says Jon.

»If we had cut our losses then, we would have come home with DKK 25,000 each, and that’s obviously a nice sum, but we were pretty nonchalant about it. For us, it was just a fun day, that had the potential of becoming really, really fun,« says Lars-Ole.

»When Hans Pilgaard coached us before the show, he said ‘take your time, think out loud, and use your head and your lifelines – then you’re guaranteed 50,000. But you won’t make a million unless you’re willing to gamble at least once’, and that thought haunted us – us, who both love gambling,« says Jon.

Sceptical bankers

The boys believe that the laid-back attitude was possible because they hadn’t sought out the show themselves, and because no one was relying on them winning the money. The quiz-nerds were spotted by a talent scout from the TV production company Metronome, back then they were the hosts of a quiz in Mødestedet, the student bar at the Amager Campuses.

»We were invited to audition and were filmed while we answered one question correctly and another incorrectly, in an enlightening and entertaining manner,« says Lars-Ole:
»And we had almost forgotten all about it when they phoned and invited us to come to the studio.«

So how do you celebrate winning a million?
»Well, you don’t get the money on the day itself, and we were pretty far into our overdrafts, so we went to Lars-Ole’s work and got a few drinks« says Jon, and Lars-Ole adds:

»We still don’t have any money. The show was recorded in August last year, and the money isn’t transferred until two weeks after the programme is aired. That hasn’t happened yet [at the time of the interview, ed.], but we’re waiting for calls from sceptical bank staff any time now.«

IT and food

The boys tell us that they were contractually obliged to silence. A contract that included a paragraph stating that should TV2 [the Danish station, which airs Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?] choose not to broadcast the episode, then the winning prize would not be paid out. Lars-Ole explains:

»Say, if Jon was to molest a boy scout in the period between the recording and the broadcast – if if I was seen in a stolen car with a nose full of coke or … you know

Jon and Lars-Ole have been making university radio together for three years, where the aim was to make entertaining morning radio based on the news of the day. 29-year-old Jon has taken an IT-related post-graduate degree, and works a growing business at the IT University of Copenhagen. 33-year-old Lars-Ole is taking a break from KUA and is working with ‘food and wine’.

No more leeching friends

Jon explains that aside from the question ‘Who was the first male host ofVild med Dans [the Danish Strictly Come Dancing, ed.]?’, their Danish course and time at the University of Copenhagen came in handy.

»Yeah,« adds Lars-Ole, »even when we had to date the laws on abortion, the answer related to films we’ve seen and books we’ve read. That’s how you become good at quiz games. Knowledge is good, but organised knowledge is better, and that’s what you learn at university – to search your own knowledge, so to speak, so it can be utilised.«

They experienced a form of ‘fame and stardom’ in the days following the show, says Jon. Both were recognised in the city, and both say that they were met with smiles, shoulder claps and hi-fives on the bus and in the street.

»We hadn’t thought there would be any prestige in it, but people love that sort of Slumdog Millionaire-success,« says Lars-Ole.

»But when the money arrives I’ll toughen up – then I won’t need all those friends,« says Lars-Ole, »Naaah, people have been lovely. I had thought that all sorts of weirdos would phone me up and say: ‘Will you invest in these sneakers with FM-radio, but no.«

Pay off a loan or buy a gold watch

So what is the money to be spent on?
Jon is to be a father in August, and he has heard a rumour that this might cost him some money.

»My dad complains that he had to sell his Ford Mustang when I was born. Maybe I should buy him an American car. You can end up spending the money in your head several times, but after tax we’ll only end up with DKK 280,000 each, and there are overdrafts to be taken care of. We have, after all, been poor for the last six-seven years as students.«

Lars-Ole is taking an extended trip to the US, he says.

Don’t you have to have one thing that’s totally extravagant?
»I’m trying to convince Jon to host a party, so we can buy everyone, who deserves it, a drink. You can be smart and talk about paying off loans on homes and studies, and you can easily burn a quarter of a million on gold watches and tailor-made suites. It sounds blasé, but this isn’t a fortune – not these days,« says Lars-Ole.

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