No, we don't know the name of Calvin Coolidge's pet gerbil. (He didn't own a gerbil, but he did have a host of other creatures, including an antelope, a pygmy hippo, a wallaby, two raccoons, at least 12 dogs and countless birds, including two olive-green canaries named Nip and Tuck.)
No, we don't know how many nipples opossums have. (That'd be 13.)
But you know who does? The Daily Show regular John Hodgman, author of the pluckily irreverent, faux-factual The Areas of My Expertise. If he looks familiar, it's because he plays the PC in Apple's new line of commercials. And perhaps Ken Jennings, the greatest Jeopardy! player in history and author of the memoir/cultural overview Brainiac: Adventures in the Curious, Competitive, Compulsive World of Trivia Buffs.
Both Hodgman and the Stormin' Mormon will be in Portland on Tuesday, Oct. 10. In trivia terms, that's a question category known as the meaningless coincidence (sorta like Buzz Aldrin's mother's maiden name: Moon).
Trivia is our last remaining area of meritocracy—you can buy your way into the presidency, but you can't buy or fake your way into knowing Captain Kangaroo's real name. (Bob Keeshan.)
And Portland's full of fact-finders. "This town's specialty seems to be taking fun things...bikes, knitting, soapbox derbies, video games, swimming the Willamette and trivia, and making them even funner by adding alcohol!" says Shannon Donaldson, whose three separate ShanRock's Trivia nights host more than 100 local quiz mavens each week.
Really, could there be anything cuter than watching nerds duke it out? (No.)
A comprehensive list of smartypants smackdowns this ain't, but once you master these Portland bar trivia nights, can Alex Trebek's undying love be far behind? (No, but since he's from Canada, be sure to get a tetanus shot and proper papers before proceeding.)
The Moon and Sixpence, 2014 NE 42nd St., 288-7802. 4 pm. $3. Alisa Stewart founded Pub Quiz (pubquizoregon.com), arguably the first fully organized trivia game in P-town—now at multiple venues around town. WW's undercover trivia detectives note that because not all of the hosts write their own questions, there isn't as much personality—but on the flip side, the winner gets to take home all the cash that's collected from players. (visit pubquizoregon.com for more weekly quiz venues)
"Dr. Oritz's" trivia challenge, weekly at The Goodfoot Lounge, 2845 SE Stark St., 239-9292. 7:30 pm. Free. Expect tough questions from the good-natured "Dr. Ortiz." Prizes include beer deals and free food, and a checkup from the good doctor himself.
The Basement Pub, 1028 SE 12th Ave., 231-6068. 9 pm. Free. There will be smoke, and unless you come early, there may not be a place to sit.
Calling master orthographers: The Night Light Lounge, 2100 SE Clinton St., 731-6500, hosts a Spelling Bee on the last Sunday of each month. Registration 7 pm, bee starts at 8 pm. Free.
The Bitter End, 1981 W Burnside St., (971) 222-2000. 8 pm. Free. Team limit of seven. Trivia night with "Quizzy" (real name: Roy) earns a place on top with ShanRock as one of the most challenging, varied and personality-filled Q&A nights in town. As a bonus, Quizzy has been known to kick back a few while he asks the four rounds of 10 questions each, before doling out money for booze to the winners. Translation: fun.
Greater Trumps, 1520 SE 37th Ave., 235-4530. 9 pm. Wanna answer questions about which presidents had hooks for hands in a setting replete with cigars, tawny port and single-malt scotch? Look no further.
Trivia Jock ShanRock, The Slammer, 500 SE 8th Ave., 232-6504. 7:30 pm. Free, with tip jar. ShanRock hosts. Teams limited to five—expect a physical challenge, a music round, plenty of old rivalries and more personality than you're ready for. Winners get everything from gift certificates to cash. (visit shanrockstrivia.com for additional weekly gigs)
The New Old Lompoc, 1616 NW 23rd, 225-1855, 7:30 pm. Free. After a hiatus, former Mercury associate editor Katie Shimer hosts this "Legends of Leisure" trivia night once again.
Beulahland Ale and Coffee House, 118 NE 28th, 235-2794. 9 pm. Free. Jimmy Langen hosts this consistently busy night; expect the competition to be fierce, the room to be smoky and the winners extra cocky while ingesting cheapie pitchers of beer. (Cenosillicaphobia is the fear of an empty glass.)
Team Trivia Tuesdays with John and Bill, Greek Cusina, 404 SW Washington St., 224-2288. 7 pm. Free, with happy-hour pricing on food and beverages. Prizes have included T-shirts and gift certificates. Know your local politics, souvlaki recipes, Hellenic discourse.
Ladd's Inn, 1204 SE Clay St., 235-7831. 9:30p m. Free. Surly, smoky. And, yes: you'll spend your winnings on beer. (Go figure.)
Peter's 19th Hole, 5701 NE Fremont St., 460-0544. 8 pm. Free, with tip jar. Limit teams of five. Trivia Jock ShanRock.
Quizzy strikes again at Billy Ray's Neighborhood Dive, 2216 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., 287-7254. 7 pm. Free. Team limit of seven. Think friendly dive, cheap Pabst.
Strip Jeopardy!, 10:30 pm Fridays, No Fish Go Fish, 3962 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 235-5378. Free. Contestants are picked in advance. To be picked as a contestant, sign up before hand or visit John Doyle, the co-owner of No Fish! Go Fish!, at his day job working the lunch cart downtown at Southwest 5th Avenue and Yamhill Street. Contestants answer questions in two or three categories of their choosing. Winner leaves with gift certificates and their dignity intact.
After spending six consecutive days killing neurons while strengthening connections between your remaining brain cells, Saturday is the official day of rest. Read up on Brainiac, or The Areas of My Expertise. Or, for another good trivia laugh, try Bob Harris' Prisoner of Trebekistan: A Decade in Jeopardy!, an improbably hilarious look at the National Lampoon writer's wins and dismal, dismal failures on the game show. (One of his egregious losses was briefly shown as in-flight entertainment.) You may not win worldwide fame. But hey, it can't hurt to know the term for the phenomenon in which meat becomes so rotten that it begins to glow. (Bioluminescence.)
Jennings reads from
, at 7 pm Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Barnes & Noble, 9078 SE Sunnyside Road, Clackamas, 794-9262. Free. Hodgman reads from
at 7:30 pm Tuesday, Oct. 10, at Powell's City of Books, 1005 W Burnside St. 228-4651. Free.