Even 10 years ago, Orange County's pub-quiz scene was mostly sad electronic games or drunks yelling out answers as a blurry television broadcast Jeopardy! But in this decade, trivia contests have become a mainstay at nearly every craft-beer bar and neighborhood dive in OC, as bars realize the money nerds spend and nerds have finally found a place to show off to hot waitresses. Some draw a couple of contestants; others regularly draw hundreds, with teams openly recruiting ringers and trying to one-up one another with the most ridiculous names around (what exactly does "Who, Mortimer?" mean?).
We profile four of the county's most-known promotions: Geeks Who Drink, Kiss Kiss Bangs Bangs, Brain Party Trivia and Pop Quiz Trivia. Each has a different format and crowd, but all are awesome experiences worth a visit. And it's also a convenient excuse to announce our sponsorship of our own trivia contest!
OC Weekly and Pop Quiz Trivia are joining forces for a one-of-a-kind pub-trivia tournament this month. Teams of two to six players have the chance to win our grand prize of $1,000 American. 'Murica! Teams are invited to compete in one of the four preliminary rounds, and if you have what it takes, you'll advance to our final round. The first round of prelims will be held at Kelly's Korner in Placentia and the Anthill Pub & Grille at UC Irvine on Sept. 25. The second round will be held at the Olde Ship in SanTana and Slater's 50/50 in Huntington Beach on Oct. 2. You only need to participate in one preliminary round to be eligible to advance to the finals. The top teams from each location (probably top three, but let's see how this goes) will be invited to participate in the final round on Oct. 9 at Golden Road Brewing in Anaheim. (All quizzes start at 6 p.m.)
The first-prize winners of the championship round will receive $1,000 cash, the second-place team takes home $500, and third place wins the prestigious award of a set of steak knives, probably bought from the Cypress Swap Meet. Depending on how many freaks participate, we might make this an annual event and bump up the moolah next time around—BOOM.
Participation is free, but your team must register at www.playpopquiz.com before Sept. 28. We at the Weekly consider ourselves a bunch of smart-asses, too, so Weeklings may participate in the competition but are ineligible to win prizes. They are, however, permitted to slaughter the Special Olympics as they see fit. See you there!
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POP QUIZ TRIVIA
Philly Gloom Meets HB Nice
The guys behind OC's largest homegrown trivia empire are a modern-day Mutt and Jeff. Dougie Craig is a Philly-area native, average of height and acerbic and funny AF. "I came to Orange County in 2006 only knowing how to wash dishes and make cheesesteaks," he says, deadpan. "When people find out I'm from Philly, they'll say, 'Congrats on the Eagles winning!' and then ask why I'm not happy. And I tell them, 'Because it's the Eagles.'"
Huntington Beach-born-and-raised Niki Kollar is a tall ginger who teaches sixth grade at the city's Isaac L. Sowers Middle School and seems to always have a smile on his face. "Niki is all about patience and being kind," Craig says. "I'm a hater—I hate everything. I do everything I can to challenge the best people in the room."
Together, they run Pop Quiz Trivia, with 14 weekly trivia nights from Rancho Santa Margarita to Anaheim Hills, Brix at the Shore in Long Beach to C4 Deli in SanTana. The two also do private tournaments. "We've done 350 realtors at a hotel," Kollar says.
Adds Craig, "Ten lesbians in a living room for a birthday party."
And they are hiring and looking to expand.
The two only started in 2011, after attending a quiz in Hermosa Beach and wondering why there weren't more in Orange County. "Quiz culture is the first thing I've seen from the East Coast to go to the West Coast and win, and not vice versa," Craig says. "Back East, it's a religion; here, it's still not where it should be."
Part of that, he says, can be attributed to the county's douchebaggery. "Best example: We had a location that was an upper-crust, white-collar place," Craig says. "Telling those people they were wrong about something is something they don't want to hear. They'll just get up and drive off in their Audi and never come back."
While Kollar and Craig want their company to get bigger, they also understand the need to foster a scene that makes it worthwhile for their hosts. "It's an actual business," Kollar says. "Our selling point is we're not coming to do trivia here to get paid. We're coming to do trivia so it's mutually beneficial. We want restaurants to make good money [from] the crowds we attract."
Pop Quiz Trivia (originally known as OC Pop Quiz) has gained its following for simultaneously being welcoming to all and hosting some of the hardest questions around. Its notorious for its picture rounds, in which players have to identify 10 things (a recently brutal one involved lizards), and the Guess Who category, in which hosts will give 10 points to any team that can answer off a ridiculously arcane clue, but they knock off two points for every subsequent clue.
That said, Kollar and Craig strive to make the trivia as egalitarian as possible. "We want at least one person on every team to say they contributed," Craig says. "Balance is the biggest thing. So you got a guy who's getting all the sports questions at Longboards. What about his wife? She doesn't care—and she needs to care." Find their schedule at www.ocpopquiz.com.
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KISS KISS BANGS BANGS
Crashing the Sausage Party
Cosplay-wearing trivia junkies Nicole DeLoach and Morgan Pratt met while playing trivia in 2011. "My ex-boyfriend was hosting it at the time—he's long gone, but we're still together," DeLoach says. The quick-witted duo, who have a habit of finishing each other's sentences, bust up laughing.
"I remember being like, 'OMG, I'm having so much fun; this is like school but with alcohol,'" Pratt says. "Why aren't we doing this?"
Their friendship and mutual addiction inspired the girls to start their own trivia outfit, Kiss Kiss Bangs Bangs, last year, and now they dominate Costa Mesa, with events at Hi-Time Wine Cellars, Pie Society, Barley Forge Brewing, Costa Mesa 55 Tavern & Bowl, and more.
They're also eliminating the nerd-bro stigma associated with quiz games. "We employ almost all women," DeLoach says. "There didn't use to be a lot of female hosts; it's a lot more women-friendly now."
Kiss Kiss Bangs Bangs events follow a format based on how DeLoach and Pratt like to play. Most games feature a host reading a lot of questions, with the audience writing down answers and handing them in after a round. "We wanted ours to be fun, cool and relaxed, so you get the paper and do it on your own time," says Pratt. "We tell you how much time you have; you finish it up and turn it in. It's a social event. You're not here to take the SATs, so we wanted it to be that you can play trivia, eat, drink and still talk to your friends."
The questions lean toward pop culture, and range from movie quotes to Name That Tune. "We're all over the place," DeLoach says. "We do themed trivia night at a couple of our venues. We dress up for that, and we give people extra points if they dress up in theme." So if they're doing Harry Potter, go as Dobby, people.
OC trivia has grown a lot since they started playing, the two admit. "It's a huge thing now; it's everywhere, and people are into it," says Pratt, "We met at trivia, and we've met so many of our friends while playing—I think it's become a real cool thing to do other than just go to a bar and drink."
If you're new to trivia, they suggest forming a squad of people who have different knowledge—a ringer for each subject, so to speak. And a team name is just as important. "I don't know why I find it so funny because it's inappropriate, but Five Inches Collectively—that one has always stuck with me it's so funny," Pratt says, laughing. Go to kisskissbangsbangs.com for more info.
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BRAIN PARTY TRIVIA
Quiz Master of Many Talents: Comic Books, Working Out, Fucking
"There are no groupies in trivia," says Phil Acosta, the mind behind Brain Party Trivia. "Nobody walks up to me after the rounds are over. They think of you as an authority figure, I guess? Or maybe I'm just an asshole."
It's a thankless job, but Acosta does it every Monday night at Alex's Bar in Long Beach. The rules are simple: sign-ups start at 8, rounds begin at 8:30, there's a $5 buy-in per person, and don't cheat. Winner gets the cash pot at the end. But it's not easy; Acosta is proud of Brain Party's reputation as one of the toughest pub-trivia nights in Southern California. "Is my trivia really that hard?" he asks skeptically.
"You have to be a glutton for punishment to keep coming back," says Alex Hernandez, who owns the bar. Acosta himself has been gluttonously returning to Alex's, wearing a variety of hats for six or seven years now—he's not entirely sure. In addition to hosting trivia, he MCs the bar's famed Wednesday-night karaoke and spins as DJ Bespin.
His journey to Quiz Master began with the rest of us plebeians: as a participant. The original host was the bearded brain with the memorable, gruff voice, David Thornton. Then, approximately four years ago, Thornton and Acosta had a bit of a Padawan/Jedi moment: Thornton had Acosta co-host trivia nights, not unlike C3P0 and R2-D2 ("I was the comic relief," Acosta says), for about a year.
"[Acosta was] like the sidekick. [Thornton] was kind of like Win Ben Stein's Money—very dry. [They] had good back and forth," Hernandez recalls. After about a year or so, Acosta became the Skywalker to Thornton's Yoda, inheriting the night after Thornton left. From there out, Acosta began flying solo (okay, we'll stop).
He came up with the branding and name for the trivia night. "I eventually wanted to brand it and do it at multiple bars, kind of like Geeks Who Drink," Acosta says.
But this has yet to pan out. "I get kind of lazy," Acosta said candidly. "I tend to do the bare minimum; like, I haven't really gotten around to building a website yet." He did create a Facebook fan page, which he updates with a clue a few hours before that evening's trivia. Themed nights are often the most popular nights and are held on the final Monday of the month, and games about Star Wars, Game of Thrones and Harry Potter can leave the relatively large bar without an open seat.
As nearly any trivia host can attest, cheating is one of the biggest problems he faces. "So many people cheat," Acosta says. "People think they're slick." Slick as they may think they're being—Googling answers in the bathroom or out front while having a smoke—Acosta does his best to ensure the cheaters don't win. He won't call you out (rivaling teams usually will, though); he simply won't grade your rounds.
Then there are the hecklers. "I like heckling—I encourage it," Acosta says.
But, Acosta says, the hardest part of hosting a trivia night isn't the cheaters or the hecklers or even the know-it-alls who love to argue. It's that "you don't get to play," he laments. "I have fun in a different way, though. I envy the people down in the crowd. They have the real fun."
When asked what his trivia-knowledge specialty was, he quickly replies, "Comic books. Don't put just that, though—I'll look lame. Umm, working out and getting laid and stuff. My specialty is fucking—put that in the paper." For more info, go to www.facebook.com/brainpartytrivia.
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GEEKS WHO DRINK
Do Drink and Diva
Part of being a geek is the ability to rebel against a big corporation's one-size-fits-all experience. We never go for that shit! So the fact that national quiz organization Geeks Who Drink (GWD) can make their trivia empire feel personal, despite running 700 events in 43 states, explains why their weekly games kick so much ass.
Founded in Denver in 2006 by John Dicker and Joel Peach, GWD is the biggest player in the pub-trivia branding. What other quiz organization do you know that has its own TV show on SyFy based on its popular brand of rapidfire, themed trivia rounds? The annual Geek Bowl, now in its 11th year, features more than 230 teams across the country who compete in a different city every year for upwards of $20,000 in prize money. That's quite a payday, considering most of us just do trivia for the pleasure of yelling at a rival team, "Boom! In yo face, fuckers!"
There are plenty of head scratchers and hangovers to be had at local GWD events, including at Costa Mesa bars Durty Nelly's and the Harp Inn, along with Brix Brews in Sunset Beach and Wursthaus in Santa Ana. Long Beach has a rowdy bunch of players at the Blind Donkey and Hamburger Mary's in Downtown. (True story: Our Mexican In Chief gave them a list of bars to try when they first moved into our fair county.)
Josh Wittge, a PR coordinator for Blizzard in Irvine by day, is also a GWD host, or "Quiz Master," who came to oversee the LBC game two years ago after running another successful quiz night in Austin. Wittge brings his own flair to renowned drag bar Hamburger Mary's, which keeps his players coming back each week. "I have in the past done the quizzes in full drag, and then performed in the drag show afterward," Wittge says.
As with hosts in the other local markets, Wittge regularly blogs about his venue's trivia night on the GWD website, as well as the individual Facebook page on which teams can go to interact, check out photos, and read funny recaps and commentary from the hosts after each game. "Just doing that and doing a little bit of self-promotion on that blog can pull in new teams," he says. "It's also a good way to sell to a new bar that not only do we have the event and bring people in, [but] within the next 24 hours we're also promoting the night and getting people excited for the next week."
Part of being a good host, aside from being tapped to help write questions for the organization, is being able to mix it up with the crowd and slay drunk hecklers with ease. "I tend to have a crowd that loves to see people get eviscerated, so every now and then, a loud drunk gives me a chance to give them just that." After all, nothing makes a geek feel at home during a quiz night like a pint, a few laughs and a good, old-fashioned, drag-queen bitch slap. For more information, visit www.geekswhodrink.com.
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We asked each trivia crew profiled to give us some questions that usually stump the audience. If you can get all of them right, then you might have a chance at winning our tournament. Good luck, and remember: Wikipedia doesn't answer everything!
1. What's the term for a female swan?
2. Name the two Academy Award-winning actresses who played an actress who also won an Academy Award at one point in their career.
3. Self-shopping at grocery stores was pioneered 100 years ago by what rhyming Bible Belt chain?
4. Name the four universities that can claim a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and a president as alumni.
5. What's the line called in mathematics used to indicate a repeating decimal?
6. Name and spell the Middle Eastern religion whose main god is also the name behind a Japanese car brand.
7. Name the five world capitals that begin with H.
2. Cate Blanchett (played Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator) and Julia Roberts (played herself in Ocean's 12)
3. Piggly Wiggly
4. Stanford (Jim Plunkett and Herbert Hoover), U.S. Naval Academy (Roger Staubach and Jimmy Carter), Miami University (Ben Roethlisberger, Benjamin Harrison) and Michigan (Tom Brady, Gerald Ford)
6. Zoroastrianism (the god is Ahura Mazda)
7. Hanoi, Harare, Havana, Helsinki, Honiara