In an effort to find out what is behind the not-so-trivial numbers of people flocking to the quizzes, I decided to go undercover as a geek and embed myself at Jilly’s Music Room. Okay, so maybe it’s a stretch to say “undercover,” but the embedded part –I take my job seriously and will continue to embed myself at the Jilly’s bar long after this story runs in case something needs an update. I am dedicated.
Jilly’s has been home to Geeks Who Drink since last fall when Jill Bacon Madden, owner and general manager there, decided to bring a pub quiz to her space. I asked Madden why, with all the other options out there, she chose Geeks Who Drink.
She responded, “Geeks Who Drink is a wonderfully established live-hosted trivia program based on something that already existed. The program sends a live host to run the quiz every week who brings a really fun, cool vibe and creates a community here, which is why I chose them.”
The host Madden spoke of is Kevin Ankney, and he takes his job as quizmaster and fun-maker very seriously. Ankney sits at a table on the stage and runs the quiz from his laptop computer, which is plugged into Jilly’s sound system. From his center-stage perch, he directs the quiz and sets the tone for the geeks in attendance.
Ankney’s style is geeky, yes, but it is also confident and fun. He maintains control of the room without being too serious, right from the beginning when he lays out the first rule: Don’t mess with the quizmaster. He says it with both an, “I’m not kidding,” look and a playful gleam in his eye.
There is a set format to the game. Teams may consist of one to six players, and advance reservations are not required. There is no cover charge or fee to play, so players can afford to buy a cold beer or two and something yummy off the menu. I personally enjoy the Parmesan cheese and bacon popcorn and a glass of Cabernet from the bar.
Each team receives answer sheets on which they are to write their answers to the nearly 70 multimedia questions that are offered in eight rounds of eight questions (some questions are multi-part). Answer sheets are turned in to Ankney at the end of each round.
At 8 p.m. the quizmaster begins to read the questions aloud. The questions start out relatively easy, becoming more difficult as the game goes on. Rounds can be about anything: pop music, world history, literature, video games, sports, movies, etc. Each round brings a new topic, so the more versatile the team’s knowledge, the better its chance of scoring well.
If the fun alone is not reason enough to play, there are prizes. Each week’s top three teams get bar gift certificates. There are also chances to win a free beer for being the first to answer one of the five bonus questions asked throughout the game.
There are teams of geeks that play every week as well as folks who play once in awhile. One geek who shows up every week on a team called “Get Off Your Feldman” is John Burke. Burke’s team usually places in the top three and often lands the top spot. When asked why he keeps coming back to Jilly’s for Geeks Who Drink, Burke said, “It’s the people. I come back for the servers, the quizmaster and people from the other teams. That’s the best part.”
Another regular (and my teammate), Emily Durway, plays on a team that changes its name each week to something topical such as “Suffragette City Council” as a tribute to David Bowie. Emily said of Geeks Who Drink, “It’s a different kind of trivia. It requires a wider breadth of knowledge. I like that.”
As much as his fellow geeks look forward to Tuesday evenings at Jilly’s, Ankney is just as happy as they are when quiz time rolls around each week. A lawyer by day whose job addresses much less trivial matters, Ankney enjoys his side gig and the chance it gives him to bring the fun to his very own collection of Geeks Who Drink – and to do so in such a welcoming space as Jilly’s Music Room.
To learn more about Geeks Who Drink, go to www.geekswhodrink.com/venue?id=1027187.
To learn more about Jilly’s Music Room, go to jillysmusicroom.com.