How Portland’s Most Prolific Pub Quiz Host Is Keeping Her Bar Trivia Empire Alive Without Any Bars

Winning and losing is less important than the interaction among players—especially the trash talk

Virtual ShanRock Triviology competitors shouting out their favorite shuttered quiz venues. IMAGE: Courtesy of Shannon Donaldson.

In the days after the governor shut down bars across Oregon, Shannon Donaldson's inbox flooded with messages from addicts in desperate need of a fix.

They needed their trivia, and they needed it badly.

"Teams have emailed me jonesing," says Donaldson, Portland's most prolific pub quiz host, "like, 'Oh my God, we need trivia! Please tell me you're moving it online!'"

Pub quiz host Shannon Donaldson.

Virtual trivia is an idea Donaldson, known to regulars at Cruzroom, the Waypost and several other local bars as ShanRock, has toyed with over the years, but it took being displaced from her usual venues to finally figure out how to do it. She learned quickly: Two nights after the bars closed indefinitely, she held her first quiz over Zoom.

In function, the "TeleQuiz" isn't much different from those she and her "minions" have hosted around town since 2005. Games are held three nights a week, and teams of up to five players pay $20 to enter. Answers are submitted through Zoom's chat function, and each round is scored by one of Donaldson's "scoring czars."

Of course, there's nothing to stop unscrupulous participants from simply hopping on Google. But even in person, Donaldson says her games have operated on an honor system.

"If you really want to cheat at goddamn trivia night," she says, "you're going to find a way to do it."

Besides, winning and losing are less important than the interaction among players, particularly right now—exchanging playful trash talk is half the fun, and players can still exchange insults, whether through instant message or creative use of the background function. But that's where Donaldson has seen the biggest change.

"The shit talk has been less," she says. "Now, everyone's more supportive and the teasing is quite gentle, like, 'My cat is cuter than your cat.'"

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Related: From Beer-by-Bike to Stripper Food Delivery, Portland Businesses Are Adapting on the Fly to the Coronavirus Shutdown.

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