Monday, August 29, 2011

Hosting Pub Trivia

It takes me a long time to make friends, and settle into social circles. I have talked about this before, how it's about a year to get fully situated in a new place. But then by the time I've settled in, I really enjoy developing the friendships I've worked so hard to create. And life is good. I've never actually been in one setting past the three year mark, so now that I'm heading into my fifth year of grad school, I feel like I'm moving into uncharted waters. On the one hand, I'm restless, and all around me people are moving on, but on the other hand, I really love the comfortable grooves I've worn doing the things I enjoy.

And, my goodness, at times I even feel popular. After five years of being really involved with a lot of activities, a lot of people know me (for better or worse, I suppose...). Who knew? I was in a situation recently where I actually felt like I had - believe it or not - some level of street cred.

A few weeks ago I hosted the weekly pub trivia.

Now, trivia at the bar is a common activity nationwide. There are a lot of bars around Boston that hold weekly trivia, all run by Stump Trivia. (In fact, the bars hold them on different nights, so if you are sneaky you can go to a Tuesday trivia, learn all the answers, and then clean up at a bar holding trivia on Thursdays... But that takes a certain combination of dedication and deviousness that is generally just not worth it. Especially just for a $20 prize.)

World's Best School has two bars on campus (this is a majority grad school, after all), and one of the bars runs trivia on Wednesdays. I used to go quite often with a set of friends who were really good at trivia (I wasn't, but I'm good for moral support). Those friends graduated, so now I don't go as often - maybe once every month or six weeks, when I have friends that invite me. But I have always really enjoyed the laid-back, trash-talking type of atmosphere. Trivia is sort of a whole experience unto itself.

For instance, a big part of the trivia experience is the choice of team name. The team names are read over the microphone several times during the night by the trivia host as they report the scores of the teams. So it's a bit of team pride to come up with a name that is either a) funny, b) relevant to current political news, or c) a historically significant name for your team. So for instance, a funny name might be "My Couch Pulls Out But I Don't" (yes, it's a classic, but I've heard it used, and yes, the funny names are usually dirty...), or "Drinks Are On the House Tonight" (imagine that one read out loud). A political name might be "Client #9" (when the Spitzer story was big), or "8 Lost Miners" (when the rescue of the trapped Chilean miners was happening). There were lots of riffs on Charlie Sheen when that happened, Lindsey Lohan, the hurricane... you get the idea. Historical names are used by teams that come back every week, and like to have a reputation built on the name. At our pub, one of the historic teams is the "MechE Warriors." Lots of my friends on that team. A friend of mine told me his team is always known as the "Cracked Windshields." Whatever works...

The trivia at World's Best School is not standard trivia, though - nope, in reason #1361 that I love World's Best School, the trivia here has a flavor all its own.

Instead of a professional running the show, the pub trivia is hosted every week by two grad students. The students are paid $30 between the two of them as a thanks, and are usually either bartenders on their night off, or trivia regulars, or just anybody close enough with friends in that social circle to be asked (say, me). So you get an incredibly entertaining range of hosts - the hosts will respond to hecklers from the audience, make rulings on questionable calls, and generally set the tone for the night.

Instead of the standard categories, and standard number of questions per category, the style runs the gamut. Usually there is a Sports category, a Music category, and almost always a TV/Movies category (all of those are taken from standard national trivia), but you might also get a Math category, or a Technology category. Sometimes you get a Boston History category, and once there was a category dedicated to World's Best School Insider Knowledge. Everybody's favorite is always the Picture category, though. And the number of questions per category also varies - most of the time you get the normal six, but sometimes you get multi-part questions, or twelve tiny questions. Up to the discretion of the host!

Instead of getting the questions from a standardized national database, the students are in charge of making up the questions. That, I think, is my favorite part of the World's Best School trivia - the pure randomness of what you might get hit with. One time the picture round was a map of Africa - label as many countries as you can. Or once it was maps of the subway systems in major cities around the world - name the cities. One time we had a British host, and there was a question on snooker - how much is the pink ball worth? I think the whole bar just laughed and scratched their heads on that one.

Instead of typical bar music, the music is run from the iPod of the host. So some weeks you get classic rock, some weeks you get hiphop/R&B, and some weeks you get Korean pop.

Anyway, my friend and I were the two hosts a few weeks ago, and I really felt like I was part of that elusive "cool crowd" that every highschool kid dreams of being included in. I had a whole lot of fun making up the questions, and a whole lot of fun reading answers, scoring, and just all 'round running the show. It felt very Cheers-like. I know all of the bartenders (they are all students, and more than half are MechE students), I know all of the trivia regulars, and people would banter with me as they brought up their answer sheets. It was a good night.

The World's Best School pub trivia is so popular that even though it starts at 9pm, you have to show up 8:15-8:30 to get a table in the bar. It's a part of the popular culture here at World's Best School, and I am so pleased to be a part of it during my time here. So the best way for me to conclude this post, I think, is to share with you the basic truth that all trivia players knowingly whisper amongst themselves at the end of each week... My friends, it all comes down to the wager round.

Figure: Grading trivia answer sheets. Red pen, oh yes indeed.

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