Three Texans and a Nebraskan play trivia in a bar.
No, that’s not the opener to another walk-into-a-bar joke, although that’s exactly what I was aiming for.
It was the name of my trivia team when three friends from the Lone Star State joined me at The Irishmen in Everett for the Irish pub’s Trivia Tuesday.
Yes, I was the lone Nebraskan.
If you’re a know-it-all whose idea of fun is answering general knowledge and popular culture questions for a chance to win prizes, then you gotta try this: Bring a team to a local bar or restaurant for trivia night.
While the pub quiz phenomenon exploded in Britain and Ireland in the 1980s with the popularity of the game Trivial Pursuit, the trivia fever has spread to the U.S., with an increasing number of restaurants and bars hosting games each week.
In Snohomish County alone, as many as 30 local pubs put on trivia nights. While most of them are held on Tuesday, a trivia junkie could theoretically find a bar or restaurant in which to play the game every day of the week.
Bars around the county are drawing new business and weeknight crowds with trivia nights, offering competition, camaraderie and a different kind of nightlife fun. Local businesses have popped up to fuel the trend, with professional trivia hosts working gigs like DJs at a dance.
“Bar trivia has become really popular in the last 10 years, but I was doing it in the ‘80s,” said Jeff Aaron, the owner of Fame Trivia USA, one of the larger promoters in Snohomish County. “It’s a nice form of entertainment. It’s a bit uplifting when someone asks you a question and you know the answer.”
I like to play games and I crave information, so when I was invited to be the “resident journalist” for trivia night at a local bar, I was more than ready to give it a go.
Though I was new to pub trivia, I knew what to expect when I popped into The Irishmen and added my $2 to the pot for a chance to play and win. One of my Texan friends loves Trivial Pursuit — if I bring up board games, that’s what he’ll grab for us to play.
Some bars hire trivia hosts, while others rely on staff members to research questions and on players to make category suggestions. If there isn’t a buy-in to play the game, prizes can range from cash off the bar tab, to tickets, to sporting events. Some award prizes for most creative team name and run drawings for raffles between rounds of questions.
The Irishmen’s game has printed answer forms, four rounds of multiple-choice questions, and categories that included photos, videos and audio clips.
Aaron’s company doesn’t host The Irishmen’s trivia, but it runs events at 14 other restaurants and bars on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays in the area. The Lake Stevens man hosts three weekly gigs himself.
Aaron, 55, was known for many years as “Mr. Trivia” on Seattle Radio station KJR-AM 950. Listeners would call in to the radio station with trivia questions for him, mostly about sports. If they stumped him, the caller would win a prize.
The radio station didn’t give out many prizes.
“I would get so many right, that they were kind of shocked, like ‘How did he know that?’” Aaron said.
“I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, but when it comes to ’80s pop songs, scores of Superbowl games or who was MVP in baseball in the 1940s, stuff like that just sticks with me. I don’t know why.”
Now an afternoon radio host, known as “The Fish” on Fox Sports 1380 AM and 95.3 FM, Aaron runs his trivia business on the side.
He writes all the Fame Trivia USA questions each week for his six trivia hosts. He’s written 250 quizzes since starting the company five years ago. He’ll spend hours at the computer looking up random facts to create the perfect set of 40 questions.
“I take my trivia question writing very seriously,” he said. “It’s kind of a passion of mine. It’s an art form because you have to have a question with a definitive answer, where players should be able to just guess with a feeling that they’ll get it right.”
Aaron recommends that players find a team of friends, family or co-workers with strengths in varying areas of knowledge. Maybe one of you is really good at answering the entertainment questions, while another is the master of sports.
“The world didn’t start when you were born, so if you have a team with Mom and Dad you’ll probably do better,” Aaron said. “If you have a trivia team with a nice variety of ages and interests, everyone can chip in.”
If you’re wondering, my trivia team didn’t win that night at The Irishmen — we placed fourth. That’s OK by me. It was just fun to see how many questions we could answer correctly when we put our brains together.
Now I’ve got trivia fever. I want to play them all.
Test your skills
1. Which three animals are mentioned in the song “Home on the Range”?
2. Of the five Great Lakes, which is the smallest when measured in surface area?
3. Published in 1920, “This Side of Paradise” was the first published novel by which famous author?
4. What happened to baseball player Craig Biggio 285 times in his 20-year baseball career, a modern era record?
5. Chronophobia is the fear of what?
6. Of the three types of rocks — igneous, sedimentary and metamorphic — which is most likely to contain fossils?
7. A.A. Milne created what famous children’s character?
8. What actress has the same name as William Shakespeare’s wife?
9. Who had a heart that is “two sizes too small”?
1. The three animals in the song are buffalo, deer and antelope.
2. Lake Ontario is the smallest based on surface area.
3. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote ‘This Side of Paradise.”
4. Biggio was hit by a pitch 285 times.
5. Chronophobia is the fear of the future.
6. Sedimentary rock is more likely to contain fossils.
7. A.A. Milne is the creator of Winnie the Pooh.
8. Anne Hathaway shares her name with Shakespeare’s wife.
9. The Grinch’s heart is “two sizes too small.”
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @sarabruestle.