Trivia Terminators | Mark’s Remarks


Sometimes when you talk too much and make a public spectacle of yourself, people ask you to do things like emcee trivia nights.  I’ve been asked a few times, and I’m always puzzled. I don’t find myself particularly entertaining, but maybe that’s not why they are asking me.  

I’m loud. I can read. Those may be the only reasons.

I’m so conditioned to having complete control during my work day that it’s hard being around a large group (of adults, mind you) where no one listens.  When I do a trivia night, I am always asked to read the rules, which no one cares about. It doesn’t bother me when no one listens to the rules, which, let’s face it, don’t really matter that much anyway.  

There have been times I’ve had a lot of fun and read bogus rules or made up stuff. A few people chuckle because they are actually listening. But most just keep chattering away. Trivia nights are social occasions, after all.

But there are times the crowd is a little crazy. They talk so much they can’t function and they ask you to repeat things several times. Even if you say, up front, you will only repeat a question twice. I always insist that the questions be passed out at the end of the round because people can’t shut up and listen.  But even then, people simply find it impossible to totally concentrate.

I kid you not, I once had a friend text me from the audience and ask me to repeat a question. I announced that I would not be repeating things, even if texted, and told the table that texted me to stop visiting so much and focus on the game. They all thought it was funny, but I wasn’t really kidding.

That was the year I almost decided to quit, because no one wants a crabby trivia host. A crowd of adults are the worst, I tell you.

And it doesn’t matter what cause the trivia night is being held for. Even when folks are being generous and charitable, some of them come in there with bloodthirsty motives, vowing to win at all costs.

Some angrily yell from their tables: “We can’t hear you! You’re reading too fast!” When an answer is announced that they don’t agree with, they boo and moan. I’ve had people come up to me and protest, right in the middle of a round.  Even when I say “tell it to the judge,” they stand there and complain.  My biggest complaint with the complainers is they disregard the feelings of the event planners, and complain to them, too.  

After all that work and planning, you’re going to complain about a little question in a trivia game? Wow.

This may be tacky, but when I hear a bunch of people complaining at a trivia event, I often remind them why they are there. “I know you are upset about the answer, but thank you for supporting this cause, which is helping little children.”

You know, I try to remind them why they are really there.  Sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn’t. 

There was a guy who came up to me a few years ago to protest an answer, and I thought he was going to cry. Seriously.  At that point, I decided to just keep my head down and follow the rules. I’m amazed at how serious and competitive people can be.

Some of the events I have emceed have been without alcohol, but you may guess that when such spirits are available, the place gets a little more raucous. At times, it can be a lot of fun. Other times, some of us old codgers sit in disbelief.

I went to a huge trivia event one year. It is a yearly event, generating a ton of money for a local organization. That particular year, the crowd was so loud they couldn’t hear the trivia questions. 

After that, there was an auction. I’ve never heard a crowd so loud that an auctioneer couldn’t be heard. And this guy was a pro. No matter how loud he got, the crowd was louder.  

I’ve never heard an auctioneer have to ask a crowd to quiet down, either.

So, I guess I need to ready myself this year. I’ve already been asked to help with a few trivia nights and I may need to start praying now for the demeanor of the crowd to be tolerable. 

I may need to start praying that certain people aren’t too serious about winning. I pray the sound system is good and I pray that the questions are handed out after I read them.

And most of all, I need to pray that I’m not my curmudgeonly self.

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Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.