The world’s largest mammal is the blue whale. The singer who recorded “Rhinestone Cowboy” is Glen Campbell. The study of flags is known as vexillology. Paul Gauguin is buried in the Marquesas Islands.
Such are the kind and caliber of facts that you need to marshal if you’re to pass the muster of the Brainstormer Pub Quiz. Like first dates, cocktail parties and family reunions, all you really need to get by on Brainstormer night is useless stuff. Stuff that takes up just a few thousand brain cells to remember and a few seconds of dead air space to say. You know, intellectual filler. We each carry around a cranium full of it. To wit: The color of the cars in the chase scene from Bullitt are black and green. The artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The 21st president of the United States was Chester A. Arthur. Everything you need to know, basically, you probably learned by watching “Jeopardy.” Or by reading The World Almanac cover to cover. Or by spending your weeknights osmoting unthinkable amounts of pop-culture references, just in case they ever come in handy. No matter where you learned this junk, though, you’ll never have a better place to use it than during Brainstormer.
For the past eight weeks, the Brainstormer Pub Quiz at Sean Kelly’s has functioned—and I mean this in the most flattering way possible—as Missoula’s biggest geek magnet. Hardcore trivia buffs and soi-disant know-it-alls have been converging there every Tuesday night to go head-to-head with each other, battling it out to see who knows the most irrelevant factoids. I can say this with confidence because, just two weeks ago, the Indepenent’s own team of cranks, lackwits and hangers-on took first place in the two-hour contest. So I know you really gotta be something else to win this thing. I’m not sure what exactly—just “something else.”
If you’ve never done it before, here’s how it works. Pub-goers divide themselves up into teams, with each team receiving a scoring sheet for each of the eight or so rounds. Sean Kelly’s esteemed pub manager, Rob Evanger, reads aloud a list of questions, 10 per round. Teammates then mutter possible answers among themselves, arguing minor points, citing precedent, pulling rank. Finally, they arrive at an answer. Then they write it down. Repeat nine more times. That’s about it. The action of the game is restricted entirely to whispering and writing. (And drinking.) Observers have noted the eerie hush that falls over the bar on Brainstormer night, with patrons tippling back Guinness with one hand and scribbling furiously with the other. It’s like the SATs, basically, but there’s booze.
And to ensure that the spoils don’t always go to the brainy, there are rounds themed around topics other than pointless esoterica, such as film (Who was the male lead in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?), music (Which band released Mosaic?) and a particularly frustrating name-the-obscure-celebrity photo round (Think you know who Herbert Lom is? Try to dredge his name out of your brain after a couple of beers).
After all is said, remembered, written down, and done, the evening’s winners finally emerge. Spoils range from a $30 gift certificate for first place to a pitcher of beer for fourth. Everyone else can claim somewhat more residual benefits. Namely, getting to be competitive in a socially acceptable way, having a few drinks, and, if you’re lucky, pulling out a bit or two of really mindbendingly obscure trivia. Such as: The male lead in Breakfast at Tiffany’s was George Peppard. Mosaic was recorded by Wang Chung. Herbert Lom was the chief inspector in the Pink Panther movies. See what I mean? We’re talking the big leagues here. Start cramming.
The Brainstormer Pub Quiz takes place every Tuesday at 7:30 p.m at Sean Kelly’s. Admission is FREE. Call 542-1471.