The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

The minor leagues of Jeopardy!

Every Tuesday night the best and brightest students in the country gather in a small dank basement pub to test their mettle in a no-holds-barred winner-take-all trivia extravaganza.

This all takes place in the Pub, a quaint little club (note: for legal reasons the Pub is NOT a bar) owned and operated by the University of Chicago, in the basement of Ida Noyes hall. It is dank, dark, and was recently closed down for health violations. It features a few pool tables, a pinball machine, shuffleboard (bar shuffleboard, not the kind with the old people), a foosball table, and a pretty good juke box. They have 100 different bottled beers, 21 on tap, and deliciously greasy bar food. No hard stuff though (D'oh!). It has a cracked cement floor, painted red sometime in the last 20 years. The lights are eclectic, placed randomly throughout, and often adorned with ancient lamp covers sporting a beer theme. If you are not a student, you pay a dollar for the privilege of entering. On the way in, you may see people practicing their box step or their capoeira in one of the other rooms. I laugh with these people, not at them.

When you get to Pub Trivia, the the first thing you do is stake out your territory. Jodi and I took a centrally located booth. You then sign up with the organizers, who conduct the contest via microphone over the Pub's PA system. It's 3 bucks a head, so we paid 6. There is no limit on the size of your team, but obviously your winnings decrease proportionally with a bigger team. Winners take all, except for a "random prize" at the end. There are 5 rounds of ten questions each. You write down the answers on a little slip of paper, and hand them in to be scored by the quizmasters every round. They keep the score, and announce the standings after each round.

Usually, the leading team is the Thundercats, who are composed of six of Jodi's fellow classicists. They won the Pub Trivia championship last year, which is proudly displayed on a sign above one of the pool tables. We had witnessed a savage thrashing at the hands of the Thundercats (who joyously yell out Hoooooe!! whenever their team name is mentioned) at a previous trivia night, and it was an impressive display. They were mercifully absent last night.

We chose the name "Valhalla" as the quiz began. This trivia is much more difficult than your average trivial pursuit game. We started strong, getting 6 out of ten in the first round, good enough for fifth place. We managed to maintain our position until the fourth round, when things took a rough turn. We encountered a few literature questions regarding books neither of us had read (a William Faulkner book, but not The Sound and the Fury, and Waiting for Godot, which I never read because I found out how it ends). A history of science question (two elements discovered in the early 1950s) followed by geography questions (3 countries that border Bosnia/Herzegovina), plus some military trivia (in 1985 the military made it illegal for male officers to carry what?) and some obscure political trivia (John Ashcroft just had what removed?) put us in a deep hole. But the worst part was the last round. Pub Trivia, it turns out, suffers from a common game show ailment: a final round that renders the rest of the game meaningless. Well, not meaningless, but you can make up a lot in the end, as the last round is worth twice the points.

Round 5 has two parts. The first part consists of questions about Chicago. As neither of us are from here, this was difficult. The second half consists of liquor trivia. As I slowly realized, whenever I'm in a position to learn about liquor I'm drunk. As Jodi and I struggled to come up with the liquor that Humpty says he will drink a bottle of in the Humpty Dance, we realized two things:

1. We were going to come in last, and
2. We need more people.

No other team had less than 4 people, and over the course of 50 questions, that makes a huge difference. The team that eventually won (Always comes in third, battle cry: We're number 3) had 5 or 6. I think we did well considering our small numbers. We were beating very large teams for most of the game. We also need someone who's lived in Chicago for a while for that stupid bonus round.

So this is a summary, and a recruitment letter. If you are in town on a Tuesday (or better yet, live here) you must come and play trivia with us some night at the Pub. We just need a few more pieces of the puzzle.

Plus it's fun.

Even if Jodi won't let us be "Team Mumm-Ra."


  • Quiz nights in bars are awesome. When I was in Eurpoe we played a few times but I've never found any good bar quiz nights in the states. Some bars have those stupid touch-pad games on the TV but that doesn't cut it.

    By Blogger DannyNoonan, at 4:13 PM  

  • This one is cool, but it's really tough. I think you basicaly need a science guy, a lit guy, a sports guy, a politics guy, and a history guy. Foreign language wouldn't hurt either.

    We covered most of these, but some teams get 8 or 9 right every round. It's crazy.

    And much better than the touch pad game too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:19 PM  

  • "As Jodi and I struggled to come up with the liquor that Humpty says he will drink a bottle of in the Humpty Dance, we realized two things:"

    Come on...what kind of liquor do they drink in EVERY hip hop track: cognac. Now narrow it down to the only two brands you've ever heard of: Hennessy and Courvoisier. You've got a 50/50 shot.

    By Blogger RyanSimatic, at 10:15 PM  

  • I think there is a limit on how many people can be on a team. Perhaps 6?

    -- Jodi, the one who ix-nayed "Team Mumm-Ra"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:07 AM  

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