Bringing Back The Bar Debate Through Pub Trivia


For people that don’t know, I’ve been doing several weekly pub trivia shows for several years now under my stage name, Dr. Seven Phoenix. I released a pub trivia book in 2012, American Pub Trivia, which to my pleasant surprise sometimes would top the Amazon bestseller’s list in the Trivia category.

So, I decided to write a second volume, American Pub Trivia : Volume II, which caused me to reflect on the popularity of trivia nights across the country.

The following is from the Preface of American Pub Trivia : Volume II to be released in print and on Kindle on 1/19/15 :


If it’s your first time reading one of my books: “Nice to meet you. You can call me ‘Doc’.”

As part of my introduction, I’ve probably opened up hundreds of live trivia nights with those exact nine words. And, I nearly always follow that personal introduction with the rules for trivia night. I always start the Golden Rule of Trivia Night: “Rule #1: Please no cheating, no Googles [sic], no cell phones, no iPhones. There is money on the line. So, please no cheating.” And, I think this one rule is what helps to explain the enormous and growing popularity of trivia nights. This rule is the reason why thousands of pub trivia nights have popped up all across the country.

One of the most important things that a trivia night does is that it artificially recreates one of our most time-honored American traditions: the bar debate. With the proliferation of smart phones and having access to high-speed Internet in the palm of our hands, until the advent of pub trivia nights, the bar debate had become all but extinct. How many times have we disagreed with a friend over a point or fact where after merely 30 seconds of banter, we say, “Screw it, I’m going to Google it”, and then we whip out our phones and within mere seconds we have an answer at our fingertips. So, what would have potentially been an hour long conversation is now reduced to an interaction where we are staring down at our devices.

That’s the really nice thing about trivia nights. For two hours people can come together and are forced to cut the cord to all the technology that we are constantly tethered to. We artificially recreate a situation that hasn’t existed in bars in over 15 years. It’s a situation where no one is distracted by phones, where people have to be present in the situation, where they look their friends in the eye and where they have to have actual conversations. Ultimately, it’s those relationships that matter the most, not the questions. But, hopefully what I’ve been doing at trivia nights for years, and also what I have done in this Volume II of American Pub Trivia is that I’ve created some questions that will foster some of those conversations and relationships.

One of the most common questions that I am asked at trivia night is, “How do you come up with your questions?” In some sense, it’s just how my mind works. For example, there was a brilliant movie called Rappin’ produced in the 1980’s that featured a young Eriq La Salle of ER fame in his very first film role and Mario Van Peebles as “Rappin” John Hood. At one point as Rappin’ John is walking down the street, a group of children surround him in awe and a little girl asks, “You’re gonna rap for me, aren’t you Rappin’ Hood?” And, John responds, “What should I rap for you, little lady?” The little girl smiles coyly and says, “I don’t know.” One of the other adoring youngsters in the crowd jumps in and says, “Let’s just give him a word. He can rap on anything.” The little girl then screams, “Yellow!” Rappin’ Hood just smiles and incredulously asks, “Yellow?” then as one of the other children starts to beat box, Rappin’ Hood affirmatively says “Yellow.”, then launches into his rap. “Yellow was my mellow. He’s a lot of fun. He’s the color I wear when I go in the sun.” As Rappin’ Hood finishes his rap on “yellow” another kid yells “Green!” as they all dance and rap through the streets going through the various colors. And, this was just how Rappin’ Hood’s mind worked.

For me, it’s kind of the same thing. I might just hear a song (generally a top 40 song that I want to play during the break at trivia) and then start thinking about how I can clue questions around the song. You can see examples of this where I do rounds on “Work” (p. 24), “Shake” (p. 25), and “Turn Down for What” (p.26) which are references to songs by Iggy Azalea, Taylor Swift, and DJ Snake and Lil Jon, respectively. All the questions or answers will have something to do with the word in the category. What I like the most about doing rounds based upon a word or on a play on words is the diversity of the material that I can incorporate into the round. My goal is to create questions that cover a broad range of topics, from book learnin’ to pop culture and everything in between that will, hopefully, fall within at least one person on any team’s wheelhouse.

Before I ever hosted a trivia night, I’ll never forget the second time I ever attended a live pub trivia event. I was on a two-person team and we had just won the previous week’s competition. So, we were really excited for our chances to win again. But, then we heard the category for the first round: “Little House on the Prairie.” Our hearts sank, we threw our pencils down, and we knew we were screwed. Of course, we still did end up winning first place again that night. But, still, upon hearing that category it made me resolve to never (or, at least, rarely) do such a specific and narrow trivia topic if I ever hosted my own trivia show. And, with a few exceptions, I don’t.

Similarly, people often come up to me and will ask me their own trivia questions. For example, “Hey, Doc, here’s a good one for you: What’s the serial number of the Millennium Falcon? ” But, is that really a good trivia question? Even the vast majority of the most diehard Star Wars fans aren’t going to get that question right. I put questions like that under the category of “Shit That Only You Know”, which isn’t really trivia. It’s a delicate balance to try to find questions that aren’t so easy that everyone will get them (those are things that are just common knowledge and also aren’t trivia) and to also find questions that aren’t so difficult that no one will be able to get the answer right.

This is one reason why I really like doing the Common Bond Quiz and the Alphabet Quiz that make up the second and third sections of this volume. For the Alphabet Quiz in Section 3, the questions are more difficult, but you have a hint because some part of the answer begins with that letter: a first name, a last name, some part of the title of a book, the first part of a country name, or last part of a country name…So, if the letter is “Z”, the answer could be New Zealand. The nice thing about this round is that you can kind of narrow down the answer and it will put answers on the tip of your tongue… if you can just access the information. Those are some my favorite kinds of questions. This is similar to the Common Bond Quiz in Section 2. All the answers have something in common. So, if you think of it like a crossword puzzle for trivia, and you write your answers down, you can see the pattern and the other questions will become easier. There are even some questions in the Common Bond quizzes that will be nearly impossible on their own, but once you figure out the common bond, then the answer will become elementary.

Some of the other more popular rounds that we do at my trivia nights, such as matching rounds, picture rounds, and audio rounds, just don’t lend themselves easily to a print format. In terms of the weekly trivia shows that I do, regardless of whether it is a common bond quiz, matching quiz, picture quiz, audio quiz, or alphabet quiz, since I am writing all new material and putting together all new music play lists for the trivia party that we are having each week, you can also be sure that when you come to one of my shows that all the information will be current. One of the main challenges that I have had in creating this volume is eliminating “meso-facts.” That is, questions where the answers change over time. Many sports records fall into this category. For example, in 2010, I wrote an “M” question for the Alphabet Quiz that asked, “Who holds the record in the NFL for most passing yards in a season?” The answer at the time was “Dan Marino” who had held the record for 24 years. Since I wrote that question, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and the current record holder (another “M” name) Peyton Manning have all surpassed him. Instead, I have tried to phrase questions such as this as “Who, in 1984, broke the NFL single season passing record at the age of 23?” Nevertheless, records are an important aspect of trivia and some records are always broken. Inevitably, during the period this book will be in circulation, some answers will become dated and will no longer be correct.

So, in the same spirit of bringing back the “bar debate” that I mentioned previously, if you do find any answers that are wrong, please feel free to email me at or hit me up on twitter @se7enphoenix. I look forward to the conversation.

Just for Fun…

A list of the Greatest Sociologists of All Time.

I can still recall on the first say of my first graduate level sociological theory class that the Professor, John Bellamy Foster, stated, “So, this term we are going to be studying D.W.M.” And, someone asked, “Does that mean Dead White Men?” And, Foster responded, “Well, yes. But, here we are actually talking about the Holy Trinity: Durkheim, Weber, Marx.” And, of course for John Foster, Karl Marx is at the center of the Holy Trinity where Durkheim and Weber are largely afterthoughts. My cohort and I joked that our two required theory classes should really be called “Marxism I” and “Marxism II”.

In any event, I do believe that my list is biased towards “Dead White Men”. However, I would note that this bias is more the result of centuries of oppression towards women and people of color where these individuals were not permitted to enter the field of sociology rather than a result of my own personal bias.