Trivia, Dogs and Pabst Blue Ribbon Reign at Norm's


The Bar: Norm's Eatery and Ale House (Ballard, 60 N 36th St), Thursdays at 8 PM. Norm's trivia night is a hectic, packed affair -- and has been for quite some time. A far cry from the amicable handful of teams at The Living Room and the small crowd of regulars at Jabu's, Norm's hosts a raucous Thursday night crowd composed of anywhere from 15 to 25 teams.

Showing up early to Trivia Night at this famously dog-friendly Fremont staple is all but mandatory unless you're a fan of answering questions standing up. On the other hand, if you do show up late, you might be in prime position to pet all of the adorable things that paw their way through Norm's. You can't lose!

The Quiz: There were four themed categories of ten questions, arguably without a single "freebie." Trivia at Norm's is TOUGH, favoring universally hard questions rather than those that may skew to members of any one generation. By the end of the quiz, scores topped out at just over 50 percent with most teams barely breaking double digits.

Strict scoring is typical -- part of every week's buy-in goes toward a gigantic jackpot, going to any team that can solidify an incredible 35/40 score. At the time, the jackpot had reached well over $200 dollars and hadn't been won in over a half a year.

In a bold, unique, and time-economical twist, all answer sheets are peer-edited. One might think this opens up all sorts of opportunities for trivial foul play, but Norm's chaotic din makes it tough to call any treacherous audibles and most of the teams have run with Norm's for so long that the sheets practically transfer themselves. Furthermore, the answer-sheet-swap is a great solution to the inherent group alienation that occurs with any competitive quiz night, forcing teams to have at least some contact with "the enemy."

The Host: Steve does not claim to "write" his own questions, but rather "collect" them. He draws knowledge from a myriad of sources, from Wikipedia to the books of trivia impresario Ken Jennings. It's been upwards of four years since Steve started hocking questions at drunks -- by far one of the longest trivia runs I've run across in a scene mostly dominated by babyfaced twenty-somethings fresh out of whatever English department would have them (Go Vikings!).

With Steve's experience comes the ability to shrug off hecklers and barstool fact-checkers, the understanding of what makes a trivia question both difficult and accessible, and the mettle to deal with a sea of cocky, vulgarly-named trivia gangs all interested in the $100+ pot. He also recommends Tuesday's trivia night at The George and Dragon's, just a little farther down 36th Street.

Length: Another upside to having such a seasoned quizmaster is just how much trivia is packed into just over 90 minutes. The fact that teams correct each others' sheets really does shave a lot of time off waiting for one or two people bottleneck their way through a mountain of answer sheets.

Special Effects: One "guess the world capital by landmarks" round finished the quiz with a visual flare. No Washington Monuments or Eiffel Towers were to be found, only nuances like Dublin's Temple Bar or Moscow's monument to Yuriy Dolgorukiy.

Drink/Bar Food Specials: None in particular, but the infamous Pabst 40-oz. (limit 5 per person) is always a cheap and dirty way to knock a few space-wasting inhibitions out of your brain as it tries to recall what the hell the name of the furniture store in Raising Arizona was.

The Verdict: Norm's has a reputation for being one of the best trivia nights in Seattle, and it's not difficult to see why. An electric atmosphere, formidable questions, a fantastic host, great food, big cash prizes and the opportunity to snag perhaps the biggest pot known to Seattle bar trivia all hallmark Norm's Thursday night entertainment. It's no surprise then that general knowledge buffs from all over the city cram into this friendly Fremont bar every week for a mindbending good time.

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