The getting of wisdom, or merely making the trivial seem more important than it really is?

It’s a Tuesday night staple for hundreds of pubs, but school holidays brings an entirely different crowd to test their knowledge, writes Rebecca Levingston

Apr 10, 2024, updated Apr 10, 2024

Schooners are full and frosty tonight. I love the look of a freshly poured beer. Carried back from the bar by a mate with a steady walk because they’ve got three schooners in two hands. Elbows out.

I’m on holidays and this surf life saving club is heaving midweek because tonight is trivia night. It’s on. And the punters are keen to compete. Sound system set up. Tables are chockers. There’s a buzz in the salty sea air. What a time.

Food orders are in: snapper and chips (with chicken salt), 200g rump (with pepper sauce), kids nuggets or spag bol and someone will always get the Thai beef salad. It’s a staple on pub menus now. Up there with the schnitty.

No one’s lashing out for the seafood platter. Don’t be silly it’s a Tuesday and all hands and heads will be needed shortly for several rounds of pub trivia. What a tradition.

“23 minutes” is the time call over the loud speaker. The countdown til the first question. Such is the anticipation ahead of the first of eight – yes EIGHT rounds. This is serious man.

Tonight’s host is confident and curt. He’s just funny enough to let people know he won’t be taking a backwards step while weaving though the crowd with a cordless microphone.

I get it boss. You have to be firm but fair. Establish who’s in control from the get-go. Things can spiral very quickly and trivia trauma can scar.

Years ago I was part of a regular pub trivia team where occasionally the host would engage with tables when questioned. That was always a mistake.

People would argue a loophole or ask for leniency. No. Don’t argue. The host is always right. If you don’t like it, play the pokies. Or go and order a cheesecake with raspberry coulis.

One of my team members was particularly *ahem* aggressively competitive. I think trivia was her one outlet in an otherwise stressful week.

She’d berate us for being unsure and occasionally heckle the host for asking questions “too slowly”. I can’t remember our team name (always a pun) but I do recall the giddy joy the night we won a bar tab. Jugs of beer for all!

Not long after the team disbanded gradually. We stopped going one by one. Until one night when our smartest team mate was the only one who turned up. He was strong on geography and politics but always struggled with pop culture. You cannot play trivia alone.

The key to a good pub trivia team is diversity. Age, interests, experience, occasional nerdiness, obscure fact retention and team work.

Group think is a fatal flaw. You need to be able to disagree. Challenge. Half speak words in the hope it jogs someone else’s memory. Rhyming is often helpful. It sounds like “chicken hatch” – Cumberbatch? Benedict. Got it.

Back to the surf club. Minutes pass while pre-made answer booklets and tiny pencils are distributed. Precision organisation. Meals are scoffed. We are ready.

Each round has a theme. Our table tonight consists of three generations. Spelling, contemporary politics, movies and music are strongholds.

International travel and culture also well covered. Anything relating to art or mechanical theory would test us.

It started with a multiple choice spelling test. We nailed it. Mississippi. Ideology. Cantankerous. Facetious. Charcuterie. Too easy.

Then things got trickier and that’s where I got distracted because I love to people watch. Suddenly the focus of each table is super tight.

Huddled heads and whispered thrills when someone knows the answer. They have to tell the scribe. But don’t let other teams hear.

I especially love when someone has to hum song lyrics to get a specific line or title. They shush their team mates. Don’t interrupt. Almost silent speed singing.

Once I needed to draw on my teenage music brain for a lesser known Take That song lyric. The ecstasy of memories. Possibly my greatest triumph.

You never know what a trivia host will ask. You never know what you’ll be able to answer. Unknown knowns are the ultimate weapon on these nights.

According to Deee-Lite, groove is located in which body part?
What was the classic movie remake starring Denzel Washington and John Travolta?

Which country hosted the first ever automobile race?

If he were alive today, this month Marlon Brando would turn 100, 90 or 95?

Which train refers to a situation where someone makes a lot of money for little effort?

So how did we go? Dunno. We had to leave. My youngest son couldn’t make it to the end of eight rounds. So much in the world has changed, but trivia was simple, welcome fun.

I’m happy they tried it. It won’t be the last time. When we got home my eldest wrote a message on his steamed up bathroom mirror. Inspired by tonight’s trivia. A riddle…

I make you grow taller and shorter.
I make boys become men.
I turn seeds turn into trees.
What am I?

Answer: the last word in the second paragraph of this column.


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