Thomas Suedhof, one of a trio receiving the Nobel Prize for Medicine on Monday, said he worked so hard his wife thought he was "crazy".
The German-born scientist was reached by the Nobel Committee hours after the announcement was made in Stockholm, as he was driving a car "somewhere in Spain" and feeling "a little lost".
"Are you serious. Oh, my God," he said, according to an audio recording posted on the official Nobel website.
When asked about his legendary productivity by the Nobel official making the call, he did not disagree.
"My wife thinks I'm crazy. I don't know. I'm incredibly driven," said Suedhof, born in 1955.
"I didn't think I was when I was young. I thought it was normal, but as I get older and I see the other people around me, I feel sometimes that that's the way I am."
Suedhof, who is a professor at Stanford University, received the award for breakthroughs in research into how molecules vital to cellular functioning are transported around in a microscopic freight system.
He shared the prize with American scientists James Rothman and Randy Schekman, and welcomed the collective nature of the honour.
"It's wonderful. I am actually extremely happy about that, because I think that that's incredibly fair," he said.
"Everybody has their own view of who deserves what, and one tends to overestimate oneself, but I think it's more than fair."
Suedhof is in Spain to attend a conference, according to the Stanford University website.
"I cannot tell you how much I enjoy what I do. I have always considered it an enormous privilege to be a scientist, and this honour is incredibly beautiful," he said.