Flexing Those Memory Muscles: a Q&A With Bushwick's Trivia Masters
Here's the definitive round-up of where to prove your brain is the biggest.
In the past several years, Bushwick's trivia scene has exploded! Locals eager to demonstrate their powers of recall have lots of options for events at which they can earn the nerdiest kind of cred while occasionally getting their bar tabs covered by the house. The arbiters of these events, who use the term "trivia master" to describe what they do, gave Bushwick Daily some insights into their respective events: here's what they have to say about booze, friendly competition, weird but true facts and thinking in puns.
The Sampler with Tim Lotz
Mondays at 8pm; Prizes: 1st- free round; assorted shout out questions also get you some cool treats.
Origin Story: I'm not sure who came up with the initial idea but Steve [The Sampler's manager] and I ended up with a gig at Life Cafe (RIP) in Alphabet City some time back, but ended shortly before they closed. After a few months hiatus we ran for a good 2 years at Boulevard Tavern in Brooklyn before they closed (RIP again) I've always be a "trivia guy", retaining obscure shit that I pick up here and there. I've qualified for Jeopardy and Who Wants to be a Millionaire (nerd!), but were not picked for either (lame!). I enjoy working a crowd and showing folks they know more than they think they do and having drunken fun doing it.
Favorite Category: I would say music is one as I consider myself quite the music junkie and any ones that involve wordplay as it makes me think putting them together and folks playing think to figure them out.
Who should come? Any crowd is a good crowd player-wise but I always encourage a diverse group for your team as different people have different interests and spheres of knowledge which will certainly help as my rounds can go in any direction and if you want bragging rights and delicious booze as your reward you gotta work for it.
Small beer and whiskey-centric bar with 20 taps a relaxed vibe.
234 Starr St. (off the Jefferson St stop in the L train)
Mon-Thursday: 4:00 pm - 11:00 pm
Friday-Saturday: 1:00 pm - 2:00 am
Sunday: 1:00 pm - 11:00 pm
The Bad Old Days with Lucas Green
2nd and 4th Tuesday of every month at 9pm; Prizes: 1st- $40 bar tab
Origin Story: I always thought about hosting trivia, but I'd never done it before and I wanted to do something a little different that combined what I loved about other trivia nights and some proclivities of my own such as making it more game-based rather than esoteric knowledge-based. I passed The Bad Old Days while I was running one day and the gears started turning. I liked how it's a bar comprised of a bunch of intimate living rooms.
Favorite Category: My favorite type of categories are the thinkers. The other day I did a round called Movie-book smash-up where I looked for titles combining a movie and a book based on a plot description combining the two. Then I put the spaces for the words on the projection screen as a clue. For instance, Kevin Costner stars in this autobiographical adaptation written by the 44th president whose dad appears to him in a vision and tells him to build a baseball field. (projected: _____ __ ______ ____ __ ______). Answer: Field of Dreams From My Father. That one was a big hit.
Who should come? My main goal doing trivia is to make it equally accessible to everyone, however the main criticism I still get is that it can be very hard. Most people who come in have an equal chance of winning the big bar tabs we give out. I like to do one round of straight trivia about a category that interests me (next week I think I'm doing trick questions), but all the answers can be figured out from the way I word the questions even if they are a little obscure.
The Bad Old Days
Cobra Club with John Duda, Adam King, and Anthony Barker
Tuesdays at 8:30pm, 2 games; Prizes: 1st- $20 bar tab (2 chances to win)
Origin Story: We used to play trivia as a team and were pretty good at it. We were so good, in fact, that one night we got a perfect score and a bolt of lightning shot through the window and hit us. When we woke up, we found that we'd became the trivia hosts while the old host was set free. We've been doing it ever since. It's kind of a curse. (Sorry, the actual story is pretty boring.)
Favorite Category: The most popular rounds are undoubtedly the gimmicky-bullshit rounds we come up with. Like "stop" where each question is just a list of things that all have something in common (black, red, dead, caspian... all seas) and anyone in the audience can yell "stop" when they think they know what the answer is. If you can figure it out before everyone else does, then you can freeze out all the other teams.
We also do rhyme time (stolen directly form Jeopardy!) where each answer is a rhyming phrase. So if we say "cash that makes you laugh" the answer is "funny money."
Gimmick rounds are probably popular because they go much quicker than our normal round—where we tend to drone on about our enemies lists and the need to go back to the gold standard.
Who should come? Since there are three of us, you never quite have a shoo-in as we each have different strengths and weaknesses. It's like the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. Adam tends towards robots, science and comic book movies (just like the judicial branch); Anthony has a tendency to do audio rounds featuring strip club rap (legislative/executive); and I'm all over the place but always leave a "trail of breadcrumbs" in the question. So if you're paying attention, you can usually figure out the answer.
Also you should probably be into jokes. We do a lot of them. We're all basically failed comedians.
Lantern Hall with Adam Kesner
Tuesdays at 8pm; Prizes: Depends. Free alcohol (bottles to take home), shots, books, music, and concert tickets
Origin Story: I'm born and raised in NYC, and was a lifelong fan of pop-culture trivia and game shows. I actually first started doing this all the way back in 2007 in Bushwick at the late, lamented Wreck Room. Almost 10 years later, we host games at bars all over the city, but we couldn't be happier to be back in the neighborhood now that Lantern Hall opened.
Favorite Category: We like to do rounds that take something in the news and expand on it. Last week we did "Alcoholic Lemonade" as a round after Beyonce's album came out, and last month we did "Bad Affleck", Ben Affleck's worst reviewed movies. And then we do things like Heavy Metal covers of Disney songs, or Grown Men Named "Billy". Just something more than the loose "history/TV/music" rounds you see sometimes. And hopefully, you'll learn some weird, dumb facts to take home with you!
Who should come: We welcome know-it-alls, smart asses, and pop culture obsessives. The questions lean further towards "what was the name of the gangster film Kevin was watching in Home Alone" than "what minor war was ended with 1499's Treaty of Basel," but there's always a mixture of categories and questions. It pays to have a well-rounded team, nobody ever wins by themselves.
Large beer hall with a southern-inspired food menu and plenty of seating.
52 Harrison Place (off the Morgan stop on the L train)
Monday-Thursday: 8:00 am - 1:00 am
Friday: 8:00 am - 2:00 am
Saturday: 12:00 pm - 2:00 am
Sunday: 12:00 pm - 1:00 am
The Wheelhouse Triva with Mike Cabellon
Tuesdays at 9pm; Prizes for first and second place + bonus beer questions
Origin Story: A lot of the quizmasters are actors and comedians; I am both. I was in need of a job a few years ago and answered a craigslist post for a company called TriviaTryst, which later became GeeksWhoDrink. I've had a ton of different day jobs since then, but I've always stuck with hosting quizzes at night because it lets me flex different muscles as a performer. Plus it's just fun! You basically get paid to meet new people, drink, and be charming for a few hours.
Favorite Category: If I'm hosting, it's probably the audio rounds, because that's where you can see that look on people's faces like, "Oh god, I know this song, but WHAT IS IT CALLED?!" more than any other round, and I love that kind of reaction - that, like, "it's on the tip of my tongue!" kind of thing.
Who should come: It always weirds me out when people go "What kind of questions are you asking?" because that implies that if I said one particular thing, they wouldn't play. Like, personally I don't know that much about sports, but if I walked into a bar and they were doing sports trivia, it'd still be kind of fun and goofy to take some wild guesses. And that's kinda what trivia is supposed to be: fun and goofy. So those are my favorite kinds of people, the ones who don't take it too seriously, or who don't overthink it.
Gourmet cheese sandwich shop which also offers snacks such as tater tots and tomato soup!
165 Wilson Avenue between Hart and Dekalb, nearly right off of the B60 and a short jaunt to the Knickerbocker M subway stop
Friday-Sunday: 11:30 am - 11:30 pm
Monday-Thursday: 11:30 am - 10:30 pm
Pine Box Rock Shop with Nikita Richardson
Wednesdays at 8:30pm; Prizes: 1st- $50 tab; 2nd- $30 tab; 3rd- $20 tab
Origin Story: I started attending trivia nights back when I went to the University of Georgia and always loved it. About eight months after I moved to NYC, I randomly came across Pine Box Rock Shop (I was looking at an apartment nearby) and got my friends to join me for trivia every week. We were really good (RIP Khaleesi Navidad!) and I realized that I could usually tell what made a great round of trivia vs. what made a bad one. My opportunity came when a former trivia master had a baby and moved to Long Island. I asked Pine Box owner Jeff Rush if I could step in and after about a two-month trial period, they hired me "full-time." I now host the second Wednesday of every month.
Favorite Category: Well, I've always loved kicking off the game with a Start With A Bang round. It's a multiple choice round where teams can get a whole lot of points and it seems to put everyone in a good mood. Some of my favorite questions from this round include asking teams to name all 10 films in which Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson co-star and another where teams were asked to name the most populous U.S. states without any of the Big Four sports teams.
Who Should Come: Anyone who knows a little bit about everything, is naturally curious, and enjoys falling into Wikipedia k-holes is likely to enjoy my game of trivia. Overall, I try not to have questions that are too esoteric—though occasionally you need to reward people who know something extremely specific about a subject. Also, I put a lot of effort into the music I play in between rounds, so it's a great chance to hear some new tunes.
Pine Box Rock Shop