Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

The Seven Annoying Friends You Meet At Trivia Night

Those who say clubbing baby seals is the cruelest activity imaginable have clearly never witnessed a group of "intellectuals" and/or "pop culture enthusiasts" try to work together in an evening of casual trivia at a local bar. With the right mix of hubris, self-doubt and pun-making, this simple game of knowledge can render an evening into a series of heated silences and hurt egos. (The only solution to which—or perhaps a cause in and of itself—is copious amounts of alcohol.)

But what makes trivia in particular socially taxing are certain traits that become manifest in our friends. Among them:

1. The friend who insists on using the same Ron Burgundy Anchorman joke for a team name. Every. Single. Time. First things first, that was seven years ago. Second, hell no. Then there's the friend who never gets tired of lobbying for "I Quizzed In My Pants." It's not that I don't understand the desire to be clever and funny, but you can only make the trivia jockey cringe so hard.

2. The friend who doubtfully whispers the correct answer, often too softly for anyone to hear. Then when the team happens to choose the wrong answer, he wonders aloud—now at a perfectly normal volume—why no one heard him. This irritating attribute aligns this friend with another trivia companion: the friend who claims to have known all the correct answers but never bothered to say them. Hindsight is 20/20; in trivia, however, it's Hawkeye/Hawkeye.

3. The Debbie Downer/Doubter who wrinkles her face and injects an ominous “I don't knooooow" to every suggested answer. Which is all well and fine, except she is also unable to produce alternatives.

4. The friend who will fight the rest of the team to the bloody end in defense of a singular, outlier answer. You think you know someone, until his vehement confidence in knowing Agent Dale Cooper's favorite style of pie overrides all the goodwill built over ten years of friendship. (It's cherry, motherfucker, it was always cherry.)

5. The friend who instinctively shouts an answer like a retiree who has just won a round of Bingo at the country house. Thank you, the entire bar would now like to repay your public service with mocking smirks and snickers.

6. The friend who opens his smartphone to check a text and/or email and gets the team called out on for cheating, thereby causing the entire game to be put on hold as we, embarrassed and flustered, have to clear our good name to those around us.

7. The friend who calls everyone else out on the above traits.

Which brings me to this point: an acknowledgment that I'm guilty of manifesting a good handful of these traits whenever playing this most dangerous game. But at the risk of never being invited again, I swear I've never been all seven of these people. Not in one night, anyway.

The recipient of both an English and journalism degree, Julie Leung is living proof that two useless degrees is more or less the same as having one. When she’s not tweeting as Middle Earth’s PR agency, you can find her marginally normal, New York City self on and @mad_azn.

Photo by ilovememphis.

34 Comments / Post A Comment

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

While I share the writer's hostility toward Friend 1, I think it's important, if you're playing at the same place consistently, to have a consistent team name. Oedipus and the Mama's Boys built up a lot of goodwill and a received a lot of leeway on borderline answers at Harry's in Allston, because we were there every week and the trivia guy knew we were regulars.

jfruh (#713)

@boyofdestiny My only bar trivia night experience was with a group of regulars, all of whom selected new and more ludicrous team names every time. I guess the culture differs from place to place? I can't even remember what we called our team, but our friends sitting next to us — one of whom was an actual elected state legislator — called themselves "Nature's Reach-Around." That's … I'm pretty sure it's not even a pun or anything.

deepomega (#1,720)

@jfruh Shit, now I've fallen down the brainhole of coming up with trivia team names.

"The Blow'Jays"

ejcsanfran (#489)

@boyofdestiny: When I used to play semi-regularly, our team name sucked. But there was another group of regulars who all worked in a law office. They went by "The Firm Members."

melis (#1,854)

There's got to be a significant overlap between the kind of people who attend trivia night and the kind of people who pick the names for their a cappella groups.

lovelettersinhell (#13,711)

@boyofdestiny HA! The one time I did trivia at Harry's, one of the bartender dudes hit on me… and asked my now husband, then dude-i-was-dating, for info on me.

So are you a fan of the better menu and drinks, or are you sad it isn't as divey anymore?

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@lovelettersinhell Gah! I abandoned this thread after I left work. I don't remember it as being very divey at all? But I only started drinking there in 2006. And I haven't been there in at least a year. Are you talking about the Elbow Room days?

@melis Or rec ice hockey teams. I've been in plenty of leagues playing against The Money Shot. Someone once suggested the more erudite Bukkake Hockey.

@boyofdestiny Wow, haven't seen your team in years. Where did you guys go?

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@Will LaTulippe@facebook Will! We all parted ways. I moved to the Theater District, and schlepping out to Allston just didn't make sense. I play at the Living Room down in the North End now. Doesn't hold a candle to Harry's, neither in competition or quality of host!

SeanP (#4,058)

@Clarence Rosario or really, any team names. I once knew a bunch of math & science geeks who had a team in a local basketball league. Team name: the Parabolic Trajectories.

I've been hosting bar trivia nights in NYC every week for 5 years, and let just say- you've nailed it!

Where do you host? (I promise my trivia friends and I aren't as irritating as I portray) ;)

The Bell House in Brooklyn, & Social Bar in Manhattan. Used to host The Gael Pub as well, but gave it up recently to focus time on my trivia production company.

If you're avail. next week, 6/14 we're producing a huge trivia event in support of VH1 Save The Music, hosted by NY1's Pat Kiernan- info below:

Hope to see you there!

keisertroll (#1,117)

I am the LeBron James of bar trivia. That is all I will say.

Abe Sauer (#148)

@keisertroll A petulant goon who blames others when things go wrong?

keisertroll (#1,117)

@Abe Sauer Which one is the petulant goon who blames himself when things go wrong? I'm that guy.

Vicky (#7,168)

I ran a trivia night for a spell. Can I make an addition? #8, the blowhards that take the whole thing waaaay too seriously and argue with the host when they think they're right and refuse to let it go? Or is that just a DC thing?

keisertroll (#1,117)

@Vicky I am TOTALLY #8. Can't remember the amount of times I ran off crying because I thought not knowing who sang with Phil Collins on "Easy Lover" made me retarded.

(And it was Philip Bailey.)

vespavirgin (#1,422)

@Vicky Fights almost break out every week at The Big Quiz Thing in NYC. And we will never let the quiz master forget when he asked a question about a BRITISH playwright and the answer was Samuel Beckett. Oh, the humanity!

@vespavirgin British Isles.

@vespavirgin Wow, that's an old-school one! The fights are part of the show, I always say…

I have three others. 1) What about the person who shows up late and knows correct answers for questions you have handed in already and got wrong. 2) The person who shows up and just eats all the spoils from the previous weeks bar tab winnings without answering a single question. 3) The person who shows up using the words "I know this one" but struggles to actually tell the scribe an answer. This type of person is common and some people actually say this for every question. You don't get points for writing "Tim knows this one" on the answer booklet.

Debussy Fields (#9,962)

I don't want to be on anybody's team who knows stuff I don't. And my one man team's name is Trivia Newton John.

bananalise (#13,738)

#8. The mopey girlfriend/boyfriend of a team member who sits in Silent Trivia Misery the entire night. Optimally, she/he is taking the spot of someone who would actually participate, but it is not permissable to leave her/him out because that would be a much bigger shitshow.
"What's wrong?" "…nothing."

La Mareada (#510)

8 – The team who work at a education/encyclopedia/archives/photo-news organization who spend all day, every day, learning the answers to every freaking question. I had co-workers(a news photo archive) banned from trivia nights for this, between geography, science, history, sports, and pop culture they had every area covered.

Tony Hightower (#6,129)

@La Mareada Those people are going to happen. You can't ban people for being good at trivia. Down that road lies madness.

I too run a weekly night in the East Village in NYC, and all these people happen. None of them are a dealbreaker, and I've been many of them myself, so maybe I'm just glass-housing this, but fuggit, all you can do — at a quiz night or out — there — is to keep the drama to a minimum.

@Tony Hightower You don't happen to run it at Common Ground on 13th/Ave A do you? Because a particularly arduous night of trivia was totally the inspiration for this entire piece. :D

Tony Hightower (#6,129)

@Julie Leung@twitter No, I run the one at Dempsey's (2nd Ave @ 4th St).

It's the same night (Wed), and theirs runs way later, so sometimes I'll head over, and yeah, they do tons of things differently than I ever would: cast-of-thousands teams, picayune questions all about one esoteric topic, months-long breaks between rounds… euch. They clearly have their audience, and that's cool, but I have fun there about half the time I go, which isn't a great conversion rate. Which sucks, because I like the bar, and clearly the neighborhood is big enough for the both of us.

LindsayC77 (#13,745)

The person who claims to know an answer but can’t actually recall it is the worst. My aunt did this every time we played Scene It over Christmas, usually when it was not her turn. It’s infuriating.

We are the Electric Mayhem at Smarter Than You trivia (each person gets to Choose Their Own Muppet). My coworker’s team is Horatio’s Sunglasses of Justice (a CSI: Miami reference). Last year someone named their team Amy Bishop’s Tenure Committee. HA.

Jeff Carpenter (#3,752)

We made a female bartender gasp and say 'EW!' when we used the team name 'Kitten Fisters.' Even though I didn't come up with the name I still felt a bit of pride at that.

shelven (#1,992)

I was just thinking of these and how much I hate them, even though I've never been to one! (If there are any that offer cash, do tell me and I'll change my tune.) Thank you for settling the matter forever.

Lady, your language is vulgar and juvenile, and you take crap like that far too seriously. Grow up.

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