Question: What word means, “Details, considerations, or pieces of information of little importance or value?”
Well, it turns out these pieces of information only hold “little value” for some. In Mammoth Lakes, they hold enough value to attract 50 people to the top floor of Mammoth Brewing Company (MBC) on a Tuesday night for the brewery’s weekly trivia competition.
What is it about proving to friends and strangers that you know Marty McFly’s mom’s name that can bring life to a bar on the sleepiest night of the sleepiest month of the year? (by the way, it’s Lorraine).
MC Billy Calhoun says, “People use their bodies all day in Mammoth. It’s fun to use your brain.”
Calhoun started hosting the trivia competition two and a half years ago when the former host “got blackout drunk and almost got in a fight”
His MC style: “piss everybody off equally but not to the point where they leave or beat me up.”
He cracks jokes, plays songs with hints between questions, and calls out especially off-base answers. For instance, this week he made fun of the whole bar for their guesses at the name of the Malibu rehab once attended by Britney Spears. No one got it right, but the common answer was something like, “New Sunrise Horizons.”
The questions come from a trivia service out of Southern California. Calhoun gets them at the beginning of the month but promises that he never lets any leak before the competition.
Collusion would be tragic because there are prizes on the line. First place gets a $25 gift card to MBC, second gets $15 to the Eatery, and third gets $10 to MBC.
Eatery Owner and Chef Brandon Brocia said that he likes giving out prizes because the crowd is so local. 100% of the trivia-lovers at last week’s event were locals. The farthest that someone traveled for last Tuesday’s competition was from Lee Vining.
“It’s like investing in our local clientele,” Brocia said. “If we’re bringing in locals, then let’s hook them up.”
The competition has grown substantially over the years, Calhoun said. The first year he hosted, the bar shut it down during the spring when town slowed down. After running it through the summer, the owners asked when in the fall he wanted to shut it down.
“I said no,” Calhoun said.
“We’ve gotten such a loyal, local following that it is almost busier in the offseason than it is during the busy season because people have time.”
Teams come back every week searching for glory, and you can tell because they use the same names. Some perennially returning teams are “Better Late Than Pregnant,” “Rehab Is For Quitters,” and “Amy Nipplehouse.”
This week the competition was won in a landslide by the “Cliff Clavin Fan Club,” or C.C.F.C. Their name is a reference to a Cheers episode wherein Cliff Clavin loses Jeopardy by betting all his money on the final question.
C.C.F.C. has two core members, Dave Leonard, owner of the Booky Joint, and Jamie Godoy, History teacher at Lee Vining High School. They only got two questions wrong all night and have become the team to beat with a healthy handful of wins over the last couple of months.
This trivia competition has a points system that involves wagering. It is broken up into six rounds of three questions each, with a middle question of ever-changing value, and a final jeopardy question where you can wager as many points as you have. In each round you are given the category of each question and you decide whether to bet 1 point, 3 points or 5 points depending on your confidence. In the second half those values grow to 2, 4, and 6.
Here are some sample questions from last week. Answers will be provided at the end of this article.
“Who played Sean Connery in the Saturday Night Live skit, ‘Celebrity Jeopardy?”
“What month is named for the Roman God of Time, Transitions, and Gates?”
“In what city was Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated?”
“In what year did Roger Maris hit 61 home runs to break Babe Ruth’s single season record?”
The last question of the night is always preposterously difficult and involves putting a list in some sort of order.
This week’s was, “Put these musicians in order from the highest to lowest one of their songs has ranked on the U.S. Billboard chart: Nicki Minaj, David Guetta, Nirvana, and Adele.”
Half the time no one gets it right, but the exciting nights are when a team in seventh place risks it all on a shot in the dark and wins.
One of the most welcome and unlikely virtues of trivia night is that people put their cell phones away for the evening. If you’re caught looking at a phone you will be accused of cheating, so contestants leave them in their pockets.
“It’s like 1987,” Calhoun said. “No one is on their phones, and everyone is engaged. Everyone is talking to each other.”
Another unlikely aspect of trivia night is that drunk people actually get quiet for a moment. The room will be typically raucous but as soon as Calhoun starts up on the mic with a question, everybody shuts up to listen. The bar drops silent.
“Everybody is in it because everybody wants to win,” Calhoun said.
Over the course of the years Calhoun has seen teams grow and team names meld together as friendships form.
“Random people will walk in and be like, ‘Oh hey, I want to play trivia,’ and I’ll say hey join that team. There are communal teams, communal tables,” Calhoun said.
“It’s just a nice friendly activity for the evening. Nobody has died yet.”
Answers: Darrell Hammond, January (for the god Janus), Memphis, 1961, Adele-Nicki Minaj-David Guetta-Nirvana.