Trivia Pursuits

Trivia nights are sweeping Denver, without question.

While living in a small Spanish town, my friends and I regularly attended a weekly pub quiz at the local Irish bar. On any given Monday, thirty to fifty people of various nationalities would be there, tackling trivia that definitely skewed toward the operators' native Emerald Isle. Every contest had stumpers that no one but the proudest Irishman could even pretend to know, so my teammates and I would either leave these blank or take shots in the dark. Once, responding to a question about an obscure Irish boxer, I jotted a name down on a piece of paper and handed it in. As the emcee went over the answers, he stopped and demanded in a thick brogue, "Who wrote 'Piss Drunk Fighting Patrick?'"

"I did," I admitted nervously.

"Three extra points!" he shouted as tension melted to laughter. We didn't win, but the Irishmen bought us drinks, and the evening ended with us sipping cold beers and trading jokes, sultry Spanish women seated nearby. The night had nothing but possibility -- such is the power of good trivia.

Sultry Spanish women may be hard to come by in this city, but bar trivia contests, thankfully, are not. Tuesdays seem to be the hottest night for the overeducated Denver masses to prove their intellectual worth. And where do such brainiacs head? Glad you asked.

At the Irish Snug, 1201 East Colfax Avenue, team trivia gets started at 8 p.m. Tuesdays. The emcee leads three rounds of trivia, with questions increasing in difficulty and worth; after each round, players can wager their points on the final question. Because New Belgium sponsors the evening, the winner of each round gets free New Belgium brew. Top teams earn gift certificates to the bar. A few blocks away, at the Uptown Tavern, 538 East 17th Avenue, the show starts at 7 p.m. Tuesdays. An announcer leads the $2-Michelob-Ultra-drinking contestants through two rounds -- one regular, one speed -- and for the victorious, prizes include bar tabs, Comedy Works tickets, T-shirts and pizzas. The College Inn, 4400 East Eighth Avenue, chimes in on Tuesdays as well as Saturdays, with cranium challenges starting at 8:30 p.m. both nights. John Dicker, ringmaster of the 9 p.m. Tuesday sessions at Nallen's Irish Pub, 1429 Market Street, proclaims, "We arrogantly think that ours is the best quiz around." Modeled after the popular sessions at a New York City watering hole, the gathering offers audio and video segments.

Quiz mania appears to be spreading. Susan Warhover, Mike Buckheit and Mark Wiggins were loyal Snug trivia devotees who left (with no ill will) to start C-Flop productions. The group now oversees a contest at 8 p.m. Thursdays at Scruffy Murphy's, 2030 Larimer Street. Sponsored by O'Dells, the evening offers rapid-fire queries washed down by suds for the winners. T-shirts, hats and gift certificates shower down on the top three know-it-all squads, although all prospects of victory can disappear during a camaraderie-straining final Double Jeopardy-style wager.

"It's a kick," Warhover comments. "Good trivia gets a whole bar fired up, with teams pounding their foreheads, like, 'I know this one, I know this one!' Who doesn't enjoy that?"

So join the big-head brigade as its members embark on these quests, because there's no sweeter feeling than trumping some egghead who has correctly answered a question about World War II politics by nailing the band's name on the T-shirt worn by Stuart in Beavis and Butt-Head. (It's Winger, of course -- but you already knew that.)

 
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