Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Sunday Night Trivia moves to Imminent Brewing

<y Sunday evening since 2008, Carls and townies alike—few Oles ever attend—have gathered in a local bar for Sunday Night Trivia.
English Professor Arnab Chakladar began attending these trivia nights as soon as they began, just one year after he started teaching at Carleton. In those days, Trivia took place at the Contented Cow Pub, with Jessica Peterson White ’98 (current City Council member and the owner of Content Bookstore) as “Quizmistress.”

“It started at the suggestion of Norman Butler, the owner of the Contented Cow,” said Peterson White. “I’m still not sure why he thought I should be the Quizmistress—maybe because he knows I’m good at insisting that I’m correct!”

If not for Peterson White, Trivia would never have come to fruition in the first place, said Chakladar, who substituted frequently before taking the reins himself. “I still see it as her thing, so I refer to myself as Quizmistress,” said Chakladar.

When the Contented Cow sparked controversy in 2015 by inviting and later cancelling a talk by Jim Fetzer, a conspiracy theorist and holocaust denier, Chakladar and Peterson White sought a different venue. The Rueb N’ Stein hosted trivia for the next two years, but when it closed up shop this past summer, the Tavern Lounge became Trivia Night’s home.

Then, at the end of 2017, the Lounge decided to explore other Sunday night programming options, said Chakladar.

“I’m not entirely sure what happened with the Lounge,” he said. “But I think part of what students forget sometimes is that the bars that host us are businesses, so it’s only attractive to them if the people playing are actually placing some orders. Most of the students are very good about that, but sometimes people come and take a table up for two hours and play trivia but don’t actually buy anything. Over time, that probably grates on bars.”

The most recent Trivia event took place on Sunday, Jan. 7 at Imminent Brewing, with fifteen competing teams.
“It was crazy! I’d never seen that many people at Trivia before. I don’t think Arnab even brought enough pens,” said Madison Chambers ’18, a frequent Trivia-goer. A given Sunday usually sees six or seven competing teams. Fifteen was a record high, relative to recent years.

But in Trivia’s heyday, said Chakladar—somewhere around 2010 to 2012—ten teams was the norm.

“Once upon a time, a lot of students on campus knew that Trivia was happening,” Chakladar explained. “A lot of people would come.

Many seniors would come out for the first time in the Spring before they graduated. Now that’s probably not there. But these things come and go in waves.” When a group of “hardcore regulars” graduated, he added, this golden age came to an end.

But the weekly tradition continues to spread among Carleton’s student body.

“I’d never heard of Trivia before,” explained Aaron Young ’20, who has participated for a term now. After being introduced to it by friends, he started attending nearly every week.

On Sunday, the environment was especially charged, reported Chambers. Imminent offered a $40 gift certificate to the winning team, a more significant prize than is standard. The young brewery does not currently offer food, but they are happy for Trivia-goers to order pizza to the bar to enjoy during the competition.

Alex Battiste ’19, who has been attending Sunday Night Trivia since the past summer, noticed many new faces on Sunday. “There were a lot of people you wouldn’t normally see,” he said, adding that about a quarter of the teams appeared to be first-timers.

Trivia regular Calypso Leonard ’19 attributes Trivia’s popularity this past Sunday to “a confluence of three factors:” students having a lighter workload first weekend, the move to Imminent, and the fact that the event was shifted to six o’ clock instead of eight.

“We go through these phases,” said Chakladar of Trivia’s popularity. “You get a bunch of regulars, they tell their friends, then they all graduate, and it takes time to pick up a bunch of new regulars. But it feels like a Northfield institution at this point.”

Trivia is frequented by many a Carl, but is not an official Carleton event. It has always been a staple of Northfield, not the College.
Most nights, a faculty team or two competes, in addition to teams from the larger Northfield community, said Chakladar. The winning team this most recent Sunday had no connections to either college.

“The intersection of communities is what makes Trivia great,” said Peterson White. “Well, that and the deep nerdiness.”

“It feels to me very Carleton,” said Young. “It’s not a Carleton event, but the spirit of it is very Carleton. Because some of the questions are very obscure, varied knowledge, and it celebrates having that very strange knowledge.”

At Sunday Night Trivia, teams of four compete in five rounds of ten questions each. Each round is themed: The first centers on the week’s current events, followed by two “General Trivia” rounds, a special themed round (which can vary from Harry Potter to Geography to Beer), and an audio round (from Broadway musical clips to soundbytes of celebrities giving speeches).

Each team is given a pen and a pad of paper. Chakladar reads out the questions and the teams record their answers—in an atmosphere Young describes as “quiet but tense.” Then they pass their papers to the adjacent team and Chakladar reads out the correct answers.
“He’s the dictator, so he gets to choose whether or not your answer counts,” said Chambers. Occasionally a detail will be worth half a point, and numerical answers usually get a certain margin for error, but most questions are black-and-white, Chambers added.

According to Chakladar, the average team gets 50-60% of the questions correct. “It’s not easy, but it’s also not meant to be punishing and difficult… It’s not hyper-esoteric stuff,” he said.

Nevertheless, “A big part of Trivia is being insulted by me over the course of the evening,” said Chakladar.

“Sometimes we’ll have a question for him,” said Young, “And generally he’ll give us some sass over our question—good sass, because our questions are usually pretty dumb.”

“Arnab makes everything he does special in his own way,” said Chambers. “He’s so calm and dry-funny about all the team names and the things people get wrong that it’s a fun night.”

When writing questions for the week, Chakladar finds it challenging to gauge what will be easy or difficult. “The stuff you know just seems obvious to you,” he said.

“A good round is one in which there are a number of things people can work out, even if they don’t know the exact answer,” continued Chakladar. “Sustaining that over five rounds is not always easy, but that’s the goal. It’s also always good to have a well-rounded quiz so that you don’t have to know every single topic but you have teams of four, and among the four of you, you might know enough.”
For most Carls, Trivia is not about winning.

“It’s more fun if you’re getting answers right throughout,” said Chambers. “But I don’t think there’s really high-stakes competition going on.”

“You’ll always have one or two teams that are just way below,” she added. “At that point people are just ordering more drinks and rolling with it.”

Young’s team won once, and his prize—a free drink ticket—hangs proudly on his dorm wall. “I like bragging to people about it. Like, ‘Hey guys, do you know what Trivia is?’ They reply, ‘I didn’t know we even had trivia,’ and I say, ‘Well, I won it!’”

“It’s always fun to have a goal to shoot for,” continued Young, “but if we don’t get it, I don’t really care; I still have a lot of fun.”
“Carleton students can tend to be a little bit on the intense side,” said Peterson White in an interview for the Spring 2012 edition of The Voice, Carleton’s alumni magazine. “So it’s really great to see everyone kick back and do something that’s intellectually engaging but really just all about fun.”

For Leonard, Trivia is a good study break. “It’s a community thing, which I think is really nice,” she said. “And it’s fun to check your own knowledge. Every now and then really specific things that you have no right to know just come out of your brain and that’s really satisfying!”

“When the quiz was at the Cow, there were sometimes nights when we basically filled the place with trivia teams, and we haven’t seen that in a while,” Peterson White said. “But I’m optimistic that with our new home at Imminent, Trivia will soon be the thing to do on Sunday night once again.”

Says Chakladar: “Check it out, come out, have fun! And buy a drink.”

Sunday Night Trivia will convene next on Sunday, Jan. 28 from 6 to 8PM at Imminent Brewing.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *