No salvation from life’s let-downs in pub trivia

I haven’t run a pub quiz night in years but I still remember the odd bit of trivia.

I remember that the Hundred Years War actually went for 116 years and that Nicholas Cage once spent $150,000 on an octopus to help him with his acting.

But the primary fact I remember, the fact which I have burned into my Quiz Master’s memory, is that pub trivia nights are dreadful.

Quiz nights start out bad - invariably there is a team called Quiz in my Pants. Then, as patrons get drunker, allegations of cheating become so frequent you’d think you were watching Othello. Often, at the end of an evening, when the smug winners are celebrating, the most aggressive loser will attempt to dispute the result.

Two decades ago, Aussies thought pub trivia nights were "daggy", but since then they’ve exploded in popularity. Across Sydney, on any given weeknight, there are about 100 quizzes taking place.

What’s changed? Why do seemingly normal human beings, having spent a long day at work choose to spend their leisure time sitting tests?

The answer is clear when you look at the type of people who religiously attend quiz nights: they’re almost all extremely intelligent people who’re stuck in unfulfilling jobs.

The ex-seminarian who now stares down customer complaints at David Jones, the man with a major in creative writing who folds T-shirts in retail, the ageing indie-rocker who’s turned to teaching - these are the people who never miss a quiz.

It’s no surprise the number of pub trivia nights has risen while rates of graduates working in their field have declined. Pub trivia affords an opportunity for the growing class of over-educated, under-challenged people to prove, to themselves as much as anybody else, that they really are smart and capable.

Quiz nights are an outlet but they’re not a very good one. You’re never a better person after you win at pub trivia. The glimmer of hope quiz nights offer is false.

  • James McCann, comedian and writer.