Answer Me

Originally published by 225 Magazine on June 27, 2014. 

By Amanda Wicks

On any given weeknight in Baton Rouge, in any one of the many bars around town, there’s a battle taking place. A battle for knowledge. A battle to be the best. A battle to remember the name of that long-forgotten actor’s most popular character from that cult classic movie—all after having a few rounds. You know the one! Ugh.

Trivia nights are nothing new to the city, but their popularity is spiking, and the fun to be had is undeniable. From the well-attended trivia night at The Chimes to other popular versions at Red Star, the Cove, Mud and Water, Pelican House, The Bulldog, Bald Eagle and Hound Dogs, area restaurants and bars are embracing competitive question-answering like never before. And trivia’s appeal is proving a popular night out for groups of friends and a great way to win prizes like gift cards and bar tabs.

Michael Hatfield, owner of MonkeyBR, the company behind the Let’s Get Quizzical trivia nights, oversees and hosts many of these events in Baton Rouge. The trivia-loaded landscape that exists in the Red Stick today largely grew out of the Monday Night Football bingo Hatfield hosted at Fox and Hound six years ago. At those games the questions revolved around football, but he quickly saw the potential for attracting more patrons with other categories. It’s clear from the turnout at The Chimes and the other Let’s Get Quizzical trivia nights that people enjoy Hatfield’s approach to this brain game.

Hatfield spends hours each day preparing questions for the various trivia nights he and other LGQ hosts will hold throughout the week. The time he puts into the questions has expanded as his trivia nights have developed regulars. Hatfield’s goal isn’t to stump everyone, but he does want to make the questions a real challenge. Trivia night regular Mike Rold enjoys Hatfield’s approach.

“His questions are harder and cover a broader area,” Rold explains. Another regular at The Chimes is Jon Harsch, who puts it simply: “Hatfield’s questions are better quality.”

At times, the true fun comes not in getting the answer right but in challenging Hatfield. Members of the team Zombie Strippers admit that at least once each game a debate over the correct answer arises. “He’s fun to argue with,” says Harsch.

Let’s Get Quizzical involves two rounds of 10 questions each. Most questions have a 5-, 6-, or 7-point system built in so teams don’t lose points for incorrect answers. There are special questions that involve the wagering of points or trying to get closest to the correct answer. Most trivia nights are themed R.A.T.—for “Random Ass Trivia”—but Hatfield does specially themed trivia nights, such as a highly anticipated Mustached Heroes night, once a month.

Unlike other trivia nights in town, which tend to share only the correct answer, Hatfield and his hosts revel in displaying people’s creativity—and their ignorance. Before getting to the correct answer, Hatfield likes to announce the many wrong answers he often gets. But it’s all in the spirit of good fun and always causes a few chuckles.

Mike Chalaron hosts Let’s Get Quizzical at Red Star and Bald Eagle. After befriending Hatfield, he saw an opportunity to bring the popular drinking game to one of his favorite bars, Red Star.

“I like the people that come here and the familiarity,” Chalaron says. The regulars who attend Red Star’s trivia night enjoy a smaller crowd, but that breeds an intimate friendship among teams. Kent Bollfrass, who often plays trivia at Red Star, likes the low-key atmosphere therecompared to the larger version at The Chimes.

Over at Pelican House, things run a bit differently. The bar hires Geeks Who Drink, a company based in Colorado that caters exclusively to trivia’s popularity. Jade Berlin, who hosts Geeks Who Drink on Tuesdays at Pelican House, enjoys the bar’s “laid-back and comfortable” atmosphere. Things move a bit quicker here, too. There are eight rounds of eight questions each, and each round revolves around a theme. Rather than turn in answers after each question, teams answer on a piece of paper that they eventually submit.

“It’s a good reason to get out on a Tuesday,” says Pelican House regular Russell Pitts.

Such trivia hounds are proof that these competitive nights are as much a social event as they are tests of mental acumen. The mere act of working together to find an answer harkens back to the days when smart phones didn’t sit waiting in people’s pockets and purses, answers at the ready. People once relied upon each other for information. This is known as transactive memory.

Now smart phones act as the primary form of transactive memory. It’s more common to turn to a tiny screen than a friend to discover the answer to just about anything. Trivia’s social nature stimulates its mental component and vice versa. The game is about more than knowing the answers; it’s about the camaraderie involved in finding them.

“That’s how trivia should be,” Hatfield says. “It’s a time when people can have fun and chat.”

Use of smart phones to find the answers is strictly forbidden, and Hatfield is quick to label those he spies using them as “dirty, dirty cheaters”—a designation that does not wash off the playing floor with ease.

The goal of these nights, then, is not just to pit brain against brain and crown a victor—though this happens with verve—but also to foster a greater sense of conviviality and community.

Emily Avery met her husband Brent McLellan at a Let’s Get Quizzical Invitational. The two recently married.

And here’s another interesting piece of trivia: Hatfield attended the wedding.