Carol Vorderman’s brutal swipe at ‘dull as dishwater’ William Shakespeare

Carol Vorderman says her dream job would be a ‘fighter pilot’

The TV maths whizz, 60, is among Britain’s most known faces from the small screen. She became the first woman to appear on Channel 4, when it launched nearly four decades ago. Vorderman hosted Countdown for more than 26 years until she was replaced by Rachel Riley.

Vorderman, who claims to have an IQ of 154, graduated from Sidney Sussex College – part of the University of Cambridge – with a master’s degree in Engineering. 

She dreamed of being a pilot but after her mother Edwina made her apply to an advert looking for a “woman with good mathematical skills”, her life changed forever.

The casting call was for Countdown, which launched the 21-year-old’s TV career in 1982. 

Despite her success, Vorderman was “never involved” in any form of “media or performing” at school.

In 1997, She told The Independent: “I had no desire to be in the media.

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“It was my mother who saw the article on Countdown – and on Countdown, all that mattered was that you could do sums.” 

Vorderman claimed that due to having such a working-class upbringing she had never heard of Footlights at Cambridge. 

The drama and comedy club has spawned the likes of Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson and scores of others.

Vorderman’s passion was always for maths and was first identified by her teacher Palmer Parry.

Mr Parry featured on Vorderman’s episode of the BBC show This Is Your Life, in 1997.

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He said: “Her work was tremendous, whenever I had a pile of exercise books to mark I’d mark hers first… just to find out my own mistakes.

“Then I’d start marking the others. She’s a wonderful girl. We are very proud of her, all of us.”

While Vorderman is renowned for her love of maths and equations, her talent in other subjects was less well-known. 

This was put to the test when Vorderman made her first appearance on a celebrity version of the ITV show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? in 2000.

Thanks to her general knowledge skills, the star was able to reach the £125,000 mark but had used all of her lifelines.

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Then-host Chris Tarrant showed her cheques for several large sums during her battle to reach the £1million prize jackpot for charity. 

In one clip, he told her: “Are you a happy, happy, happy bunny?”

Vorderman continued to answer more questions – despite having used all of her lifelines.

After settling for a £125,000 prize for a good cause, she remarked: “That will make a big difference.”

Tarrant said “Oh, bless you” as he cuddled an emotional Vorderman and pointed to her sister and mother, who were crying in the audience. 

He added: “You’re an amazing woman Carol Vorderman.”

Vorderman told the BBC that it was “the most nerve-wracking experience of my life”.

On the show, she said: “It was a totally nerve-racking experience and I’m glad it’s over.”

She was stumped by the question: “Which Shakespeare play features a character called Sir Toby Belch?”

The answers listed were: Hamlet, King Lear, Twelfth Night and Othello.

The BBC reported that Vorderman “had a good idea that the correct answer was Twelfth Night” but doubted herself. 

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They explained that she “decided to play safe” because she knew “a wrong answer could have cost her chosen good cause £93,000”.

Vorderman faced criticism for failing to recognise the character from one of Britain’s most well-known playwrights. 

She stated: “I don’t read Shakespeare. I think it’s dull as dishwater.”

The Guardian’s John Sutherland felt that Vorderman “earned eternal fame” for her statement about Shakespeare.

In a 2000 column, he claimed that these words would haunt her even “long after this infuriatingly gimmicky programme is buried”.

He wrote: “Vorderman will have earned eternal fame in the dictionary of great philistinism with Henry Ford – ‘History is bunk’, Kingsley Amis – ‘Filthy Mozart’, and Bobby Fischer – ‘Girls are a waste of time.’”

Mr Sutherland continued: “But it was such an easy question – all over the country viewers must have been yelling the answer at their screen.”

He claimed it was “only one up from ‘Is Hamlet a place or a prince?’”

Two years after her appearance on the ITV show, Vorderman may have got her own back on the writer.

Her 2002 book Maths And English Made Easy made it to number 1 in the bestseller list for school textbooks. 

The polls, which was published in Bookseller magazine, saw Vorderman ahead of Shakespeare. 

The Guardian’s John Ezard wrote: “A total of 77 book versions of Shakespeare plays set in school exams came fourth in the list.”

At the time, Vorderman said: “This latest bestseller list seems to prove my point.”

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