Born in the 1990s

At a comedy club I regularly attend, the compere will always pick on a young looking chap in the audience, and ask him what year he was born in…inevitably, if he is under 21 and the answer is 1990-something then the whole audience gasps “No way”, “1990! That’s so young!”, “How can someone born in the 1990s be allowed out at night” etc. etc.

It’s a cheap win for the compere, but for quizmasters such gasp inducing youth poses a challenge of its own. These children of the 1990s were foetal, at best, when Thatcher left office. ‘Thundercats’ means very little to them. Even PJ and Duncan means little.

If you go to quizzes from time-to-time (as I assume most of our readers do), then you will almost certainly have had the experience of finding the questions badly out of your knowledge zone. It is one thing to find that there are too many questions on (e.g.) sport or music for your liking, but another thing to find that you are a young person at an “old man quiz” or an older person at a “Radio 1” quiz.

A quiz master/mistress should know his/her audience, and equally you might say that a quiz punter should choose the right sort of quizzes to attend. However, it is always possible to set a quiz that caters to different age groups. At QuizQuizQuiz our quiz masters earn their plaudits by their ability to create an entire quiz in realtime that is perfectly suited for the audience, but here are a few pointers that can help with the age issue. We’ll deal with other demographic issues in future posts.

1. Include some content that very directly addresses a minority age group in the audience. Seems obvious, but I’ve been to plenty of quizzes which have ignored the young / old  contingent. Easy enough to throw on a bit of Buddy Holly or Kings of Leon to keep everyone happy that at least one thing was friendly to them.

2. Put the majority of questions in the middle ground – things that everyone should know, and for which age is irrelevant. This doesn’t mean you have to steer clear of popular culture – some pop culture is pretty much universal, particularly “event” TV / films. A question about The King’s Speech at the moment should do the trick for most age groups.

3. Think a bit laterally for suitable topics. Different age groups will know about different subjects in different ways. Take children’s literature, and specifically Roald Dahl. Almost everyone British (again – dealing with international audiences another time) will be familiar with his children’s books. They will either have read it for themselves when younger which could mean 50 years ago or 5 years ago (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, for example, is from the 1960s), seen a film adaptation, read it to their own children, or simply be aware of it by cultural osmosis, such is the cultural status of the books.

4. Ensure guessability – this is almost always a requirement for a fun and inclusive quiz question. You don’t need multiple choice for this. But many questions can be virtually multiple choice in the way you phrase them.

Here are some sample questions that I think would work at almost any quiz with any age spread, assuming the participants are all (or mostly) British:

1. In ‘The Wizard of Oz’, which one of Dorothy’s three main companions does she encounter first on the Yellow Brick Road from Munchkin Land to The Emerald City? (almost everyone young or old has seen the film and/or read the book, and even those who haven’t will probably be aware of at least one of the companions)

2. On British road signs, what symbol is used to indicate a zoo? (everyone has seen such a sign – can you remember what is on it?)

3. In the Superman movies, what colour is Superman’s belt, when he is in his full saving the world costume? (You barely need to have seen the films. Anyone and everyone will at least have seen a picture of Superman in his garb)

4. Which of your lungs is larger (assuming your organs are fairly normal) – Left or Right? (you can just guess if you like, but with luck you can try and work it out – and everyone should be able to contribute to the thinking process)

5. How many ball boys and ball girls are there on Centre Court at any one time during a match at Wimbledon? (find me a person who has never watched at least 20 minutes at Wimbledon on TV…you might know this from observation, or from knowledge, or you might be able to work it out, or try to visualise based on a match you enjoyed watching.)

Do you have any solid “age-inclusive” questions that you’ve heard or written recently?



5 replies
  1. Ben
    Ben says:

    I have this problem – I host a quiz where we have two teams where the oldest player is 19, and another team where the youngest player is in her 50s. Most of them are in their late 60s, early 70s. So I’m always on the look out for ‘guessable’ questions. In past weeks I’ve done ones like:

    In a Cadbury’s Fruit & Nut, what is the fruit and what is the nut?
    Which Disney character is oldest? Donald Duck, Minnie Mouse or Pluto (or a different set)? (Sometimes I do such questions as part of the picture round, and it always goes down well if there are family teams, as there sometimes are)
    or I go for trick-logic questions such as From the top of Ben Nevis on a clear day, what is the furthest thing you can see?

    Also when writing make sure I have four questions aimed at the OAP crowd and four aimed at the yoof team. So back to back we can have a question on the Carry On films and the next on the Twilight movies. Or Frank Sinatra and Frankie Coccosa. It evens the scores up – except when they OAP crowd know who plays Bella in Twilight, or that Cher Lloyd sung with Mike Posner on her second single (I think secretly they love yoof culture!) But yeah, writing a quiz for all ages, it’s tough, but fun.

    • admin
      admin says:

      Those are really good “age general” questions. I remember being a contestant in the very early days of Eggheads, and we picked Daphne for sport. She proudly announced that she had been “learning” sport and went on to beat our team’s sport guru. So yes, sometimes you can be surprised about what people know.

      Also, very young people often know more about some “adult” topics than young but not very young people. The teenagers may well have just done something in 20th century history at school which the 30yr olds will have forgotten but will have been in the lifetime memory of your OAPs.

      When we used to run a weekly pub quiz, we occasionally did a round in which teams would submit their specialist subject requests the week before, and we would read out all the requests and choose three to do 5 questions on each. That allows you to perfectly tailor questions to a certain team (potentially the youngs or olds) but with good question writing you can make 2 of the questions completely accessible to everyone, 2 a bit more detailed, requiring a passing interest/understanding of the topic, and the fifth really specialist but should be easy for the requesting team.

      Under this system we had questions on Microsoft Excel functions, Soft Drinks of the 1980s, Glee, The Life and Times of Frank Sinatra, People being hit by falling things, etc.

      We found it quite a good additional tool for aiming your quizmaster’s arrow at different teams.

  2. Chris Philpot
    Chris Philpot says:

    With a little creativity, I think most middle of the road questions can be phrased in a manner that makes them feel more accessible to younger quizzers. For instance, from today:

    “On Tuesday, the acronym OBR was trending on Twitter. What is this short for?”

    Makes it seem much more guessable than phrasing the question with a direct reference to the Chancellor or Autumn Statement.

  3. danceuptown
    danceuptown says:

    Me and some friends (all 1990-1991 d.o.b.s) went to a quiz night for the first time in about 2 years this summer. We were disappointed to learn the first 20 questions related to events from each year from 1970-1989!

    I go to a quiz night at a student-y pub and they do a round of acronyms of phrases/ well-known sayings with a clue, I think that would be a good, all age inclusive round.

    • admin
      admin says:

      Hi Melissa – thanks for your comment. I can sympathise with your experience. One way of addressing this from your side, if you are a pub quiz regular, is to befriend an old(er) person in the pub and get them to join your team. Can be quite entertaining. Or merge with a team of old(er) people so you have a good balance.

      Word puzzle type questions are always popular, in their various guises, and work brilliantly for almost all demographics.

      Here’s a couple for you (or anyone else):

      12 MoaJ
      5 OR
      3 BM
      1 PiaPT


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