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Trivia Night at the Bar- Suggested Topics to Study

Updated on April 8, 2013
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Do You Have What It Takes?

Have You Ever Played Trivial Pursuit?

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Which of These Monopoly Pieces Represents The Working Class?

What is Trivia?

n pl trivia [ˈtriviə] unimportant matters or details I haven't time to worry about such trivia.

adj trivial

1 of very little importance trivial details.

2 (especially of people) only interested in unimportant things; not at all serious She's a very trivial person.

adv trivially

n triviˈality [-ˈa-]


1 the state of being trivial.

2 something which is trivial He is always worrying about some triviality or other.

Things That Pop Up A Lot On Trivia Night

Trivia Night Things to Know

1. Monopoly: game pieces new, old, discontinued, rules; IOW, just know your monopoly

2. Presidents: chronology, assassination attempts, what they wore and when and why, who their lawyers were, myths, antebellum period

3. WWI and II: leaders, battles, alliances, weapons, strategy, theme songs, movies about them, directors who directed them, actors who acted in them

4. Literature: nursery rhymes, Shakespeare, suicidal poets, horror, romance, iambic pentameter, The Canterbury Tales

5. Bland Vegetables: beets, turnips, squash varieties

6. Movies: all decades and don't forget about the 1930s, whatever you do, they will name a bunch of movies and will ask for a not-so-obvious actor that starred in all of them

7. History: American History, especially the Revolutionary times and not just people and wars, but also obscure folk customs, such as bundling bags. Don't know what that is? Find out.

8. Cartoons: specific characters, specific decades so don't forget Mighty Mouse and Mr. Magoo

9. States: second largest cities, state quarters, state songs, state mascots

10. Government: branches, people in power, former people in power, people past or present who were in power in other countries

Trivia Nights Bring Friends Together


One night last year, when I was spending my third summer vacation away from the humid and foul madness of a New York City summer in upstate New York, my best friend suggested we try Trivia Tuesday at a rocking brewery up in Ulster County, New York. I was just thrilled to be hanging out with my coolest friend and another awesome friend who came along. Little did we know we were in for a real trivia night.


In the past, other trivia nights I've attended involved the bartender reading off clues from old Trivial Pursuit cards. So my impression was that it was a pretty casual thing. But not so this bar's trivia in Ulster County, so I quickly realized. Perhaps I am a novice at this thing, so this article will bring about no new revelations, but you never know.


Here is the story of a newbie’s journey into successful trivia-playing.


That first night the three of us picked the team name. I believe the name we chose was the Bad Mamas. Two out of three us are moms, and as a disclaimer, the two are actually awesome moms but when we get together we are bad. I am not the mom.


The game is very structured, which made a great impression. The structure is as follows. The game is divided into "semesters". Each semester has four categories, so for example, Semester 1 may have the following categories: American History, Old Movies, Medieval Literature and Basketball Heroes. As you can see, a person needs either a large team or some really smart people to guess the answers. The first two semesters, the scores are as follows for the four questions: Semesters 1 and 2 have odd numbers, so the scores add up by first, 1 then 3 and up to 7. Semesters 3 and 4 use even numbers and go from 2 to 4 and up to 8. After each semester, the emcee announces how many points each team has. At this time, each team waits in anticipation, and sometimes it is downright dangerous, especially if you need to go to the bar for a refill, and you are deep in enemy territory. That is when I try to nonchalantly scope out the scene to see if our competitors are cheating on their Smartphones. This is forbidden, but has been known to happen.


Between semesters there is a "midtern" where, for example, they will distribute photocopies of movie t-shirts, or band logos, or something that is pretty easy, but there are always moderately difficult ones that stump us. That is when having up to six team members is helpful, unless, or course, you are on a smart team. The midterm can add ten points to your score.


After the third semester, the bar has a music challenge. That is when pieces of songs are played and you have to identify the artist, the song, and the theme for the songs. Last time the theme was "cover songs". This is worth ten points.


Somewhere between semesters there is a challenge question. The emcee will read a vague clue, and if you get it, it's ten points. Next, he will read the eight point clue, which provides more information. He will keep going in this style, until the final two points. The last time we played, the eventual answer was Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. We got the 8 points as soon as he said they had fled to Hawaii.


After the fourth semester, there is yet another ten point challenge. For example they will name the names of ten people named Nick, with their last names. It is then up to the team to figure out what this Nick is associated with. So it is helpful to know about things like Boy Bands, because you'll never know what you need to know in trivia, like Nick Lachey, from 98 Degrees. Sometimes we know the answer simply by guessing. Other times, when the topic is about Presidents, I kick myself for not memorizing all of the Prezzies, even though I am (was) a history teacher.


The first night the Bad Mamas had a little cognitive dissonance catching up to the rules. But by the end of the night, including getting in trouble for using smartphones, we did come in second place. It is probably helpful to know that the three of us are teachers of History, Science, and Elementary Education/Art. It helps that the establishment caters to the demographic of the late thirties and up crowd, which means most of the music questions are in our league and we are really good at guessing.


After the first game, we felt like we were on our way. My best friend and I work well together because we know lots of stuff-she with the science, which includes math, and me, with my huge knowledge of history and my storied history of studying liberal arts up the yin yang in college. She also stops me from being too hasty in swaggering up to the emcee with my answer and reigns me in when I think too deeply. And in turn, I remind her that, as teachers, we always encourage our students to go with their first thought if they are confused on a question, which we have decided works for us to. Plus, I am a Cancer and she is a Taurus, which makes us astrologically compatible teammates.


When we can get him, our other team member is our secret weapon. He is a newspaper editor and knows just about everything and anything, from sports to seventies heavy metal, World War II battles and everything in between. He also does a mean air guitar and is so confident that when he walks the answers to the podium, the other teams give us the side-eye.


Anyway, the second time we played, we changed our team name to The Hangovers, and that has been our name ever since. The second time we played, as The Hangovers, we won, and the team who had had a winning streak all summer decided not to stay a second longer. They walked out in a huff. So much for good sportsmanship. For our success, we received a gift certificate to be used in the brewery.


At summer's end, I had to go back to the city, but fate delivered me from a terrible teaching job and I moved upstate permanently. The Hangovers have reentered the trivia arena again, and are rolling with the ups and downs of competitive barroom sports.


Most recently, the Hangovers consisted of two players: My best friend and I. By now everyone knows us as The Hangovers, that we are a force to contend with and that the two of us can beat a team of eight. I had tried to recruit a large band of new team members through Facebook, no less than 87, but since Trivia is on a Tuesday, and this means that most normal people are not available on Tuesdays. Anyway, despite being blown off by everyone that we invited, we came in third place, beating out the top two teams. That same team that walked out after losing the last time was similarly curmudgeonly, but the other top team congratulated us, not only for doing so well, but for having only two players. By the end of the night, top teams have accumulated up to 200 points.


In the last weeks we have been feeling great about ourselves, and since we have almost become regulars at this point, we have come to appreciate the familiar sights, sounds and faces of the Trivia Tuesday scene.


Of the 87 people I invited to join our team, many have suggested that if the event had taken place on a weekend, people would have attended. But here is the truth. Trivia nights, no matter how awesome, take place during the week for a reason. It's so that bands can play on the weekends and so bars can make money during the week. Pretty simple.


My friend and I have turned this trivia thing into a commitment. We are good at it, and have found something to do together. It's reignited our strong friendship, and we have realized what Smarty-pants’s we are! I highly encourage it to anyone. I seriously believe that people know more than they think they know and trivia is a way to prove it.


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