I love trivia. I’m not quite sure why: it’s not the competitive element, and I’m certainly not particularly good at it. But I love it.
- I’ve gone to bar trivia everywhere from NYC and Columbus to San Francisco and Milwaukee.
- Sometimes, I won’t go to bed before doing just one more Sporcle quiz (you’re welcome).
- And for a team-building event at work, I once hired a quizmaster to run a tournament at the office.
So, it comes as little surprise that I wanted to attend a pub quiz while in London. Our friends L and R read about one in north London, so we headed up there. The place was large, with picnic bench-style seating and high ceilings; it resembled more of a big German beer garden than a small London pub. We grabbed a table and some pints for our six-person team: B, our friend R, and me (Americans), L’s cousin and his friend (Brits), and our friend L (originally British, but lately, American).
It turned out that the quizmaster was a man who had once starred on the British soap opera ‘The Road to Coronation Street.’ He looked to be in his late 30s and reminded me of a slightly-creepy, class clown character – with charm and a heavier British accent thrown in. In between rounds of trivia, he held hokey contests:
- A paper airplane flying competition
- A contest to throw bean bags at a poster of Lauryn Hill’s face
- A competition to draw the best three-boobed woman possible
- A twerking contest
The trivia itself covered recent news, British bands/music, and an assortment of other things we didn’t know much about. I did answer two questions correctly: one about the three-boobed woman (above) and one about something else equally pop-culturally-based. What does that say about me? The remaining questions were about things like former UK counties and bands I know not of.
This self-flagellatory proof of my ignorance was apparently not enough for me, because I again headed to a pub quiz the following week. This pub was smaller, and my co-quizzers were younger: my sister and her friend G. We named our team ‘We are Americans,’ on the expectation of facing questions more familiar to UK audiences. And we were not disappointed. The first round consisted of photos of British TV shows from the 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s, which were to label with the correct show name. Now, mind you, most British shows have not been syndicated to the US, so they may as well have shown us Vietnamese TV shows from the 50s. Against all odds, I actually knew one answer: a computer support team TV show that B has streamed before. Another photo pictured a man with a priest collar, so I decided to guess randomly that the show would be called something like Father Tom, never thinking for one second that I would be correct. And I wasn’t: except that my handwriting was a bit messy, so the ‘o’ and ‘m’ of ‘Tom’ were a bit obscured. So, they gave it to us, since the correct answer was ‘Father Ted!’
Other than that, my only real contribution was in knowing what a computer ‘CPU’ stands for and that the Japanese eat fried maple leaves. The other questions about polo, British bands and artists, and the news weren’t just obscure to me: they were obscure in general. For example, even if you know the British museum festival called Glastonbury, why would you have memorized exactly how many minutes it took for it to sell out in 2014? And even if you knew that a specific team had trounced another team in rugby that week, would you be likely to recall the exact score? This is where one of my exes, and his encyclopedic memory for all things, would have been quite handy.
All the same, the pub cheered our losing team with enthusiasm. And the man at the table next to us, who appeared to be my father’s age, lauded our bravery. His team took second place in the quiz, and he earned himself a free pint by guessing a British pop star’s name after only two clues: that she was born on September 22, 1982, and that she first had a hit in 1996. And that right there is the extent of my encyclopedic memory of the night’s events. Maybe a bit more Encarta than Wikipedia.