FOUR RULES FOR ONE-ON-ONE TRIVIA
1. DON’T STUDY. The questions for a trivia match should arise naturally out of the participants’ mutual interest in a subject. The whole point is to prove that your mastery of the subject is superior to your opponent because you have had a greater interest over a long period of time, not that you stayed up late last night memorizing a book. You might be able to learn the name of D.W. Griffith’s cameraman for today, but a month from now you’ll forget. Won’t you look like an idiot when the same opponent asks you to name him?
2. THE ANSWER SHOULD BE SOMETHING YOUR OPPONENT KNEW AT ONE TIME BUT FORGOT. If your opponent never knew the name of Napoleon’s favorite haberdasher, he’ll just give up immediately. Not much fun for you! But if you ask him to name Colonel North’s secretary, you can have a wonderful time watching him screw up his face as he tries to wring Fawn Hall out of his memory. Except for special areas of interest, it’s probably best to confine your questions to events and people that made news since your opponent learned to read or watch television. In other words, if your opponent is 30, don’t ask him about the Battle of Midway.
3. NAMES, NOT NUMBERS. This is particularly true with sports trivia. For example, every football fan knows the NFL single-season rushing record is held by Eric Dickerson, but who knows or cares that it’s 2,105 yards?
4. THE ANSWER SHOULD BE UNIQUE, SURPRISING, OR AMUSING. Just stumping your opponent is heartwarming, but extra fun can be had when the answer is completely unexpected. A favorite sports trivia question is ‘Name three Hall-of-Famers who hit home runs in their first major league at-bat.’ Most third-graders will remember baseball greats Earl Averill and Hoyt Wilhelm, but the third home run hitter will elude them. You’ll enjoy zapping them with Ace Parker, who is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but had a brief baseball career, and indeed homered the first time he batted. A movie question might be ‘Name the biggest star to appear in Peter Bogdanovich’s first film Targets.’ Although Boris Karloff was the biggest name in the credits, the climactic scene takes place at a drive-in theater and several times we see that the film playing there boasts an uncredited Jack Nicholson.