May 03, 2012|
The first time I went to a pub quiz, I was in England. A bunch of us arrogant, entitled boarding school kids went down to a pub, underage. We assumed we were going to absolutely destroy, and then they asked some questions on sports. The result was… well, let’s just say we did a lot worse than we expected.
In Hong Kong, I joined a quiz team founded by some of my friends and so far we’ve had a pretty impressive track record. I think the key to pub quiz success is to have a group of people that covers a wide area of interests. Also, if somebody has a proper feeling about a question, go with it—trust your instinct, don’t overthink.
When I was asked to be quizmaster at Brew House I was immediately on board. I’ve been doing it for two months. I prepare questions with my girlfriend Ailee, whom I could not be doing it without. We are each other’s sounding board for whether or not something is a piece of information other people may have heard of. We need to make sure that the questions aren’t too hard or too obscure.
As a quizmaster, you have to be completely perfect with your answers and you have to check everything. Because in a pub quiz, when people think there’s injustice or the quizmaster has the wrong answer, they can get very, very angry about it. They feel like they’re getting robbed. Once I forgot to announce the round score of a team, and by the end of the next round, they handed over their answer sheet— instead of answering any of the questions, they wrote “This pub quiz is a farce and is a tragic reenactment of the recent re-election of Vladimir Putin!”
It’s really hard to tell cheaters because everybody can be on their iPhone and you don’t know whether they’re just texting someone or cheating. We can’t have a “no phone” policy, putting cell phones in a bag till the quiz finishes and stuff like that, so we just have to trust the participants. The thing is, why would anyone go to a pub quiz and look up the answers with their phone? I don’t understand it. That practically takes the fun out of being in a quiz.
Why aren’t there female quizmasters in Hong Kong? That’s an excellent question. It actually never occurred to me until Ailee pointed it out just recently. I don’t really know why there aren’t quizzes run by women but I feel like there should be.
My first pub quiz experience is an awful lot like Ben’s. In England, me and my school mates would go to this geezer bar in the area because it’s the only place we could get in—they didn’t check our IDs there. We were too young to know anything and we couldn’t handle many beers so we always did poorly in quizzes.
I served as quizmaster a couple of times in university. We had quiz nights in society events or Christmas parties. It was different from how you do it now; back then there were just plain questions, but now you can have multimedia support, playing songs and showing pictures.
Coming up with questions are by far the difficult part for me. It’s a very time-consuming brainstorming process and that’s why Ben and I take turns to do it at Brew House. There’s a lot of sitting in a room by myself and googling. My goal is to always make the questions worthy of discussion. You want the teammates to debate on it, to go “I know this!” or “No, you’re wrong” or “But I think he’s right”—thus back and forth. I’ve seen cheaters in my quizzes, though. There’s one time when all four members of a team were on their phone, googling the answer. I didn’t want to yell at them or kick them out because it’s not a school exam, it’s entertainment. So I just went up to them and pointed it out. They were embarrassed and stopped.
But embarrassing things also happened to myself. Once the microphone wasn’t working so I basically had to shout through the quiz. And a couple of times I couldn’t pronounce certain words in my own questions. You know those weird chemical terms that you’ve written many times so you think you know them well, but when it’s time to read them out you just can never get them right? Yeah, that’s my advice if you ever want to run a pub quiz—make sure you can pronounce all the words in your questions!
Dr. Russell Williams
I was a trained professional musician as a young man,and kept performing in Hong Kong when I came here 20 years ago. I got into pub quiz by accident. One day I went into Old China Hand, and it happened to be pub quiz night. The manager had prepared the questions but was too busy to present them, so he asked me to do it for him because I was a “stage guy.” You see, I’d been to pub quiz before, but wasn’t all that interested to it; but it turned out that I was quite good at being the quizmaster. The next week, I was asked to do it again; then soon after the manager handed over the quiz duty entirely to me. That was about 10 years ago and I’ve been doing it since, every week.
I do quiz nights at four different bars. To all the bar managers that hired me, I always insisted on two thing: first, the quiz must be free, because I just don’t like the idea of charging people to be in the thing; second, every team gets something at the end of the night. Of course, as you go up the ladder, the prize gets better.
I think in order to be successful with your quiz and have people happy with it, you have to know who your general audience is and to write for them. I want people to do well. We have a lot of regulars at the quizzes and I usually get high-scoring teams. If I get scores in the 50s out of the 60 questions, that’s an indicator that I’ve dialed it in right; if I’m getting scores at 10, I know that something’s not right.
Another important thing of being a quizmaster is to be animated yourself. I have a kind of flamboyant, theatrical style when I present the quiz, and I like to interact with people and get feedback. I’ve seen people giving quizzes where everybody is dozing at their tables, and that’s just not good. You have to remember that you are an entertainer, and this is a game. For the participants, I think it’s also important for them to know that these are not A-Levels, so relax, put your iPhones away and have fun.