What’s in a Name?

For more on pub quiz team names, follow @quiznames on Twitter.

“And before we get started, one thing you can do for me is think of a team name – it can be something funny, something topical, something rude, something about someone here, whatever you wish. Please think of a team name and write it at the top of every answer sheet”

I say this at the start of nearly every quiz (unless I’m told they already have team names) and the ensuing quiz night team names are always a key part of the quiz night experience. There are various types of name that confront me every quiz, but equally it is true to say that there are a few names that pop up more often than others…

QuizQuizQuiz has run over 2000 quizzes down the years, and I would conservatively estimate that within that time we have encountered at least 1500 ‘QuizTeam Aguilera’s. It is the definitive quiz team name, no doubt about it. So often do I encounter it, I sometimes make a wry aside when i read it out – “Nice to see them here again” – before realising that, since these people have not been travelling around to 100s of quizzes, there is no reason why they should be amused by the repeated use of QuizTeam Aguilera – indeed, it may have been made up fresh on the night, and who am i to steal their thunder?

QuizTeam Aguilera is the king (or queen) of that common name type – the “quiz” pun – not far behind, we get, Quizzee Rascal, Quiz Akabusi, sometimes Quiz Eubank (though not enough Quiz Quiztoferssons) – I once had three teams called Quiz on My Face and two called Let’s Get Quizzical at the same event. Confusing.

What other types of name are there?

  • The tongue-twister – Ken Dodd’s Dad’s Dog’s Dead is a good one, and more originally Pete Postlethwaite’s Preposterous Posthumous Pizza Party;
  • the rude play on words – Norfolk and Chance the most famous, and within the bounds of acceptability, though others push it;
  • the insult to someone there – So-and-So is a So-and-So etc (often to much hilarity);
  • the cry for help – Need Help With the Picture Round, And in Last Place, We’re rubbish, Can We Bribe you Quiz Master? etc.;
  • the casual – Only Here For the Beer, We Thought It Was a Disco;
  • then, a nice option, the pun on your company. Recently, I saw Deutsche Wish Your Girlfriend Was Hot Like Me?, which I liked;
  • the somewhat desultory, when I know my instructions at the start haven’t really been heeded properly and I may need to do a bit more work to get the atmosphere going – Team 1, Team 2, Team 3, (mixing it up now) Table 4, The A-Team perhaps;
  • the topical – in April last year, there were a lot of ‘SuperInjunction’s and ‘Can’t Be Named For Legal Reasons’;
  • the gratuitously offensive, often relating to something sexual or to someone who has recently died, or both;
  • and, of course, you often get something totally original, where you can’t even guess how they’ve come up with it.

Quiz team names are a massive part of the fun, and surprisingly hard to come up with, as I know from my own experience of pub quizzes. Initially, my teams used to come up with tortured laboured puns which we thought were hilarious but were met by silence after being mangled by the quiz master. Then, in a successful team I was part of, we were Lovely Touch for a Big Man – a reference to Peter Crouch which we were pleased to discover was amusing to different people in different ways.

I know people who are daring enough to go for rude jokes about topical stories, though I’ve always been a bit timid for that. I couldn’t tell you the best pub quiz team name I’ve ever heard, nor even give that much advice – [I have a soft spot for little twists on the name of your company, i’m less enamoured of flat out insults of colleagues in general, but if they are funny, they bring the house down]. I’ve one which anyone who wishes to can steal – this was the name which got the best reaction I ever heard – a simple mishearing of a lyric in a Weathergirls song – ‘Israeli Men, Hallelujah, Israeli Men’. Not sure what magic ingredient that name had on that particular night, but it worked.

What other favourites have you heard down the years?

What is your best team name?

For more on pub quiz team names, follow @quiznames on Twitter.

Professional quizzers

Is it unfair for seasoned quiz masters – i.e. proper quiz professionals who get paid for running quizzes – to take part in another pub quiz?

My own quiz hosting schedule doesn’t give me much spare time for taking part in pub quizzes, but there are two local to me on Wednesday nights which have generally excellent questions, and good food to enjoy during the quiz.

We were a team of two last night, in an unusually busy pub, and prospects didn’t seem great. Despite doing this professionally, I find that my actual quiz knowledge has deteriorated (or at least not improved) over the years. Most of the time I’m thinking about quiz questions that non-quizzers would enjoy answering, rather than picking up on new things that I should know more about.

Nevertheless, we were in luck, as the pub’s sound system wasn’t working which meant that the music questions had to be scrapped. This is almost certainly why we won, as we are ordinary, at best, on music questions. The quiz master did a remarkable job shouting over the crowd (and even singing one of the music questions well enough for most teams to get it, before he started losing his voice and gave up on the other music questions. If you’re wondering: he sang the theme tune from ‘The Crystal Maze’).

The quiz master suggested that we looked like we might have been genetically engineered to win pub quizzes, the other teams seemed happy enough, and our food bill was taken care of by the prize fund.

Sample questions:

  1. How many points is a drop goal worth in Rugby League?
  2. Solve the anagram: NONDIALECTIC
  3. How was William Joyce better known in World War II?
  4. Identify the only actor or actress to feature in all of: Talladega Nights, Sweeney Todd (2007 film), Madagascar
  5. Identify the book that begins with the line: When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.
Feel free to submit your answers in the comments below.
Q4 (which I think is very hard) and Q5 (which we should have known) were 2 of the 6 that we got wrong.



Bright Jackets and Sparkly Bow-Ties

What should a quiz master wear?

Of  the hundreds (and thousands) of clients for whom we have run quizzes over the years, the vast majority, say 99%, are entirely happy that we will dress appropriately for the event. Sometimes they don’t even tell us that the event is Black-Tie (luckily, we always ask, so we can dress suitably).

However, some people are desperate for us to wear bright jackets and sparkly bow-ties (but the majority would be desperate for us not to!). Events companies seem keen for us to wear black, when we’re meant to be in the foreground and not fading into the background. We’ve even had a client worried that the quiz master would be wearing clown shoes (I think she might have been confusing a quiz master for a clown – generally, but not always, they are different).

In my view there are only two rules, one obvious, one less so, but both about not making an issue out of clothing:

1. Dress at the same level of formality as the audience (and find out in advance, if necessary, what that will be). Let your quiz running impress the audience, and don’t let your attire (whether too formal, or too casual) distract from that.

A good example of this was Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee running a quiz with us the other day. It was Hallowe’en fancy dress, and they played along spectacularly.

2. If it is hot, and/or you are the sort of person who sweats a lot, then wear an extra layer under your shirt to absorb sweat, thereby avoiding unsightly patches emerging during the quiz which could distract the quiz participants!

What do you think a quiz master should wear? Is a quiz not a quiz if the quiz master isn’t dressed ostentatiously?

The Golden Cheer

So what, at a quiz night, gets the biggest cheer? Though I will, at the end of this post, give a definitive, cast-iron answer to this, I will provide a little musing and analysis on the subject beforehand.

The loudness of a cheer at the answer to a quiz question is dictated by two important factors 1. How many people are cheering 2. The amount of noise each person is making. Rocket science this, isn’t it?

People cheer if they get something right, so, first of all, you want a question that loads of teams get right. That deals with issue 1. But how much noise will they make? They will make more noise if they are delighted with themselves for getting something right than if they knew they were going to get something right. So that deals with issue 2. It is no good just asking lots of questions that every team is guaranteed to get right and they know instantly they’ve got right – the resulting cheer will be desultory at best.

You want a question, therefore, that most teams will get right, but they won’t be sure until you’ve given the answer that they have right. You want them to have considered more than one option and then chosen the right option. But rather than pure multiple choice questions, where you give them the options, you want teams to have come up with the options themselves. People cheer loudest if they think they might be the only team in the room to have got a question right, but of course the loudest cheer of all comes when every team thinks they are the only team to have got a question right.

Cheers are lovely for a quiz master, as they are for anyone with a microphone, I suppose. [Never having been a rock star, my experience is limited]. I remember at the first corporate quiz I ran in 2006 there were teams cheering answers, and me thinking “Gosh, this actually works. I can do this”. Not only are cheers good for the quiz master’s ego, they are a good gauge of how the quiz is going and the nature of the crowd. In giving the answers to Round 1, I’ll usually have included one guaranteed “big cheer” question (to which the answer is often Antarctica!) and until I’ve heard that, I can’t be entirely sure what kind of night it’s going to be.

There isn’t a formula  – some times the cheer is a bit of a surprise. I have a question at the moment to which the answer is ‘Snakes on a Plane’ and I have no idea why saying that answer sends teams into raptures and makes middle-aged men in suits bang their tables and spill their drinks in delight, but it does. Part of the fun of asking new questions at corporate quizzes is getting that first surprise cheer when testing a question and thinking “That one’s a keeper!”.

Anyway, I said I’d give a definitive, cast-iron answer and i’ll be true to my word. Here’s how it goes. One of my colleagues last week was assisting a “celebrity host” at a big charity quiz (we love doing charity quiz nights, but they can be challenging because of a typically very broad demographic) . This celebrity host is a famous, well-liked, extremely funny (in my opinion), clearly intelligent stand up comedian who is often seen on telly performing to large audiences. Before giving the answer to one question on the music round, my colleague said to him “Just say “And all those songs were UK Number 1s in Ninety Ninety (pause) One” and you will get the biggest reaction you’ve ever seen” “Really?” said the comedian. “Really” said the quiz master. So, he read the answer as instructed, got the expected reaction, and turned to my colleague with a smile on his face.

And that’s how it is. I’ve run hundreds of quizzes, but i know without doubt that the greatest eruption of joy and noise, the golden cheer of the evening, will greet me saying a year with a little pause in the middle.

Quiz Nights around the World: New York City

Do other countries have pub quizzes? Well, yes, but not necessarily as we know them in the UK.

In January this year, I attended an event run by Noah Tarnow of The Big Quiz Thing (@bigquizthing on twitter) who, broadly speaking, is to  New York and Boston (and that general area) what QuizQuizQuiz is to London and the UK.

I met up with Noah the night before the quiz (once I had got enough information from my friend who was taking me to the quiz night to work out who was running it and how to track him down). We compared notes about the “pub quiz circuit” in our respective countries, and the US market is massively different. For a start you’ll need to call a pub quiz a trivia night to avoid suspicion that it will be like a quiz in the classroom at school. Amusingly, we both also had a shared fondness of the excellent quiz question: “Which country would you come to if you travelled due East from New York City?” *

The quiz itself was very much an event…not something that happens every week like a British pub quiz (although of course there are weekly pub quizzes in NYC, and occasional big show quizzes in the UK). Entry was £10 per person, and the bar was somewhat trendier than I’m entirely comfortable in. My team ended up being called Quizteama Aguilera, which is one of the most painfully common quiz team names over here, but my team in New York had never heard it before in all the quizzes they had been to, and thought it was funny (which it is, I suppose).

The set-up was impressive: big screen, DJ type person to play the music and visual questions, and a sparkly jacket for quiz master Noah.

There were 4 rounds if I remember correctly (possibly 5), of varying formats: straight questions (albeit very good ones), an “images from around New York” round, a speed round, and a stunningly witty  music round. You had to write down the song titles, and all the odd numbered answers were questions (e.g. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”) and all the even numbered answers were possible answers to those questions (e.g. “Stay Another Day”). There were quite a few gimmicks which went down very well with the crowd (jingles to announce “the three part answer” etc.)

There was a buzzer finale for the top three teams (not including my team, alas, as the topic was British Royalty).

All in all, a lot of similarities to a British pub quiz, probably closer to one of the full multimedia extravaganzas that we run for some of our corporate clients than a normal pub quiz, and an exceptionally high standard of quizzing from the teams. I can absolutely see how a low-key pub quiz might not take-off in the US, and that the gameshow style of The Big Quiz Thing is bang on for that market.

Next edition of Quiz Nights around the World will tell the tale of a pub quiz that I attended in Cebu City in the Philippines in May.

And if you have any tales of pub quizzes outside of the UK, please get in touch.

*Answer to the question: Portugal