How to Rule at Trivia Night
Follow pro tips from Chicago’s top barstool-quiz hosts to ace the trivia night scene in your own city.
Trivia nights, those friendly team competitions with questions on sports, pop culture and other pressing matters, just keep getting hotter. In fact, you can go out any night of the week in Chicago and, for the price of a burger and a beer, catch up with friends while testing your collective knowledge of important stuff like, "Where was Chandler sent to work after falling asleep in a meeting?" *
Formats vary, but often, a host reads questions and team members collaborate on their answers. Points are tallied, and another round begins.
Ace the scene with tips from some of the city's favorite hosts: Ashley Tribble (hosting as Tribble), Jeremy Cahnmann and Kostas Giannoulias (who hosts as Kosta).
What constitutes a winning team?
Tribble: You definitely want someone who watches a lot of TV and movies and knows a lot about pop culture. And you always need your book-smart person, the one who knows a little bit about everything-geography, science … your real-deal nerd. Variety really helps, too. If you have a diverse group of people you don't have everything in common with, you're probably in good shape.
What's the best way to come to agreement on an answer?
Kosta: Bring a quarter. Teams get frustrated when someone is very vocal and says, "No, guys, we've got to go with this," and it ends up being wrong. The entire team will turn on them. Successful teams all have a system like flipping a coin.
Jeremy: I'm going to tell you about a little thing called thunder. It comes from a popular podcast, Trivial Warfare. When someone gives an answer on that podcast, it's like, "How much thunder do you have behind it?" My philosophy is, if you want to overrule the rest of your team, you have to take $20 out of your pocket and put it on the table. If they go with your answer and you're wrong, that money goes as a general $20 off the bill. If you're right, you get to put it back in your pocket. If you're confident enough to wager your own money, you brought the thunder.
Any advice for what to do when you don't know the answer?
Jeremy: In any good question, they're going to give you enough information that even if you have no idea, you can formulate a reasonable guess. Listen to the question and don't rush yourself.
Tribble: I've had teams that will write down a funny answer when they don't know, which is always fun for the team and for me, too. I'll read the funny answers out loud.
What's the funniest thing you've had happen at a trivia night?
Kosta: Once when I was hosting, it was down to a tiebreaker to win $800 cash. The question was, "What was the name of the dolphin that was kidnapped in the movie Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, starring Jim Carrey?"
One team put the dolphin's name, which is Snowflake, and the other team put Dan Marino. The truth is, both are dolphins-one is a bottlenose dolphin and one is a Miami Dolphin-and both were kidnapped in the film. The whole place erupted in laughter. They both were right! I had Snowflake as the answer. We ended up giving both teams the money.
What's the real secret to winning?
Tribble: The real secret to winning is being the dumbest person on your team. Everyone else should be smarter.
Jeremy: It's not caring if you win. Go because you want to get something to eat and drink with your friends and have a good time. Winning is just the cherry on top.
*Answer: Tulsa, Oklahoma
The trendiest trend in bar trivia: Whole nights based on specific shows, with superfan questions like these.
• Who was the only actor to have a regular or recurring role on both The Office and Parks and Recreation?
• On Friends, what's "the Joey special"?
• What's the name of Blanche's favorite bar on The Golden Girls?
• Which actor from Star Trek: The Next Generation plays himself as Sheldon's nemesis on The Big Bang Theory?
• Which two Seinfeld characters were middle school friends?
Answers: 1. Rashida Jones 2. Two pizzas 3. The Rusty Anchor 4. Wil Wheaton 5. Jerry and George
Kostas Giannoulias Owns State Restaurant; hosts weekly trivia nights there.
Ashley Tribble Radio personality and stand-up comic; hosts trivia at Jefferson Tap and Grille.