Which Patriot leader organized the Boston Tea Party in 1776?
What is the largest lake in Africa?
What is the fastest fish in the ocean?
I have always been a big fan of trivia. As kids , my brothers and I, grew up playing Trivial Pursuit. Sure, we used the actual board for full games, but those cards were pretty perfect for long card rides or to just kill time. My family always watched a lot of Jeopardy too, and while I was always confused about the need to answer in question form, I sure did love that show.
Now that I’m (at least in the eyes of the law) an adult, I still love getting my trivia on. The beautiful thing, is that today there are tons of different outlets where you can show off just what a brainiac you are. Not surprisingly, Jeopardy is still on the air and it’s joined by some other, lesser trivia game shows. Board games have continued to develop new approaches to the trivia mechanic.
Games like Kwizniac, Wits and Wagers and Fauna have approached the trivia genre in interesting ways. Kwizniac is a game fully designed for long car rides. Each card has an answer to it and ten clues. If you’re able to get the answer after the first clue you’ll get ten points. If it takes two clues you’ll get nine points and so on. One of the things I love about this game is that it takes away the board and dice rolling of Trivial Pursuit and just gets you right to that sweet sweet trivia.
Fauna and Wits and Wagers both turn trivia into bidding games, where you don’t necessarily need to know, the answer to a question, you just have to be good at hedging your bets. Fauna is concerned with animals around the world, but if that’s not your area of expertise, you can also try Terra, which tests your knowledge of places around the world and America, if you consider yourself an expert on American pop-culture.
Board games are a great way to show off your trivial knowledge, but in my opinion there’s an even better one! Recent years have seen a resurgence in the popularity of pub trivia. On any given night in Toronto, there are a number of options of places that hold trivia nights. Terrance Balazo hosts trivia three nights a week with his brain child, Another Round Trivia Nights. His trivia nights are some of the most popular in the city, with people having to show up, sometimes two-hours in advance to secure seating. Part of his popularity is due to the structure of the show and part is due to his charismatic performance itself.
“Three times a week I write 30 general knowledge questions, 10 questions based on a theme, think of 10 visual trivia questions and come up with 10 songs that fall in to a theme,” explained Balazo. “People show up in groups and listen to me read the questions out, make a few jokes, reveal the answers and then hand out prizes.”
One of the things that make for a good trivia host is having the ability to write good questions.
“I try to write questions that might appeal to the broadest audience I can imagine. That is, I hope my answer is something that someone on the team has heard about, knows or can logically figure out where the answer comes from.
Prizes for trivia nights range from free appetizers to gift certificates (almost always applied directly to the bar tab). However, more than any monetary gains, is the great pride of defeating 20-plus other teams and wearing an imaginary smarty pants crown for a week. I have a team of regulars that I play with, but we’re always welcoming new members. Although we came diligently every week for a long time, it was about a year and half before we won our first trivia night. Despite winning a bunch of times since then, the joy of that first victory has been pretty tough to match since.
“The greatest satisfaction I get on any of the trivia nights I host, is when that wave of ‘Oh Right’ spreads across the room as people start to figure out what the tricky answer is,” said Balazo.
“I have also met some of the best people I have ever met in my life while hosting trivia nights. I have personally made lifelong friends, been the conduit to relationships starting, and been offered career opportunities because of hosting trivia.”
There is a great feeling of friendly rivalry at a trivia night. When you come back week after week you get to know many of the teams that often win and feel a little sour grapes on the weeks they don’t do so well. Some teams will stick with the same name each week, but my group finds half the fun in coming up with a new name (usually some joke about something happening in the world at the time). There is a real art to coming up with a good, witty team name.
Balazo concentrates his trivia nights on general knowledge, but there are a number of themed trivia nights around the city too. Notably the long-running Simpsons trivia held at the Cadillac Lounge and Seinfeld Super Terrific Happy Hour Trivia held at Unlovable.
I highly recommend trying pub trivia some time if you’re a fan of trivia games and a possessor of useless knowledge in general. It is a great night out and can be really rewarding. On the nights I feel I’ve contributed a lot, win or lose, I walk out of there feeling awesome.
For someone who’s been hosting trivia for such a long time, Balazo has accumulated his fair share of information. “I really enjoy the research part of the question writing as I get to learn things about the things I have a great interest in. This probably sounds trite, but delving deeper in to why things are they way they are is really fascinating.”
So what is his favourite question he’s written? He has two actually:
In 1934, which fashion designer was given the task of designing the uniforms for the Nazi party?
If you have a Full House in Poker that is nicknamed “Motown”, which 5 cards make up that Full House?
The answers? Well, you just have to figure them out yourself.