Local Film Fanatic Hosts Trivia at Bourbon


The Bar: The Bourbon is the surprisingly formidable bar that was attached to the Columbia City Theater as part of the venue's extremely impressive renovation. With a combination of upscale mixed drinks and cheap domestic swill, Bourbon is sure to please the after-show palates of fans with tastes as motley as the theater's set calendar.

You also have to respect any reasonably priced drinkery with such little bar room that still has the integrity to stock relatively rare liqueurs for specialty cocktails. I challenge anyone to find another bar in Seattle that offers Creme de Violette alongside $2 pints of Miller High Life.

The Bourbon isn't necessarily the most spacious watering hole in Columbia City, although it used to feel even more cramped before the decision was made to take all of the windows out of the cozy interior. Seattle's most recent display of its complete inability to deal with any amount of snow packed the Bourbon to capacity, forcing Quizmaster Tony Kay to turn away a few would-be competitors. Kay feels an amused but modest glee at the idea that rising trivia crowds had at least some part in busting out the bar's windows.

The Quiz: Tony Kay started Trivia Night at Bourbon in late September, claiming a wild ride of format tweaks and a steadily growing crowd of regulars ever since. There are three rounds of 10 questions with an outlying theme usually announced through Bourbon's blog beforehand, although Kay does concede that he's usually a little slow on the advertising front.

In an awesome show of question-writing humility, Tony Kay actually writes four rounds of trivia, letting the audience vote on which of the last categories they'd prefer to hear. It's a simple gesture that both allows crowds to shape their trivia experience and lets Kay show that this isn't just a forum for him to regurgitate any old thing he thought of that week--it really is about who shows up and how they want to play.

If this totally free quiz weren't exciting enough, the grand-prize winner of each trivia night wins free tickets to one of Columbia City Theater's shows. Lesser winners get whatever Tony Kay has in his magic bag of consolation. Bizarre comic books, lucha libre wrestling figurines, and other things you can find either at Archie McPhee's or at the bottom of a garbage might not match Sera Cahoone tickets, but they're a nice reminder of Bourbon's offbeat yet rewarding nature.

The Host: Tony Kay has long identified as a trivia nerd, and made his largest stride toward monetizing the fact after an impressive showing in IFC's Ultimate Film Fanatic 2005 season. While plowing through the other Northwesternly combatants, Kay says that Kevin Sur, Columbia City Theater booker/Doe Bay Fest organizer, was "the Mickey to his Rocky" throughout the grueling battles for geek supremacy. It was after this trial of competitive minutiae that Sur realized how perfect his proverbial Italian Stallion would be on the other side of the answer sheet.

Another dramatic change to Bourbon Trivia came with the addition of Bob, a younger quiz nut who was immediately drawn to Kay's passion and overpowering friendliness. Bob is now about four weeks into his role as Bourbon Trivia's inter-round DJ/quiz scorer/banter supplier, and the night seems to be all the better for it. While two-person hosting teams are far from rare, it's both unique and refreshing to see a non-franchised trivia night with a distinct division of labor, as opposed to just two windbags wrestling for the microphone.

IFC acclaim and sensible production aside, Tony Jay is just damn good with a crowd. He's charismatic, his passion for the quiz's content shines, and he knows (or at least does a good job of pretending to know) what he's talking about. Unfortunately, Tony's kindness sometimes translates into an uncomfortable amount of gimme questions and applying a multiple-choice format to questions that really don't need it (Did "Who is the protagonist of Shakespeare's The Tempest who used magic to protect his daughter Miranda?" honestly need any more massaging?). However, Bourbon's crowd seemed definitively pleased by the end of the quiz, and there are far more severe errors you can make in hosting a trivia night than letting people get too many answers right.

Drink Specials: Luckily for you, Tuesday at Bourbon means both Trivia Night and an all-day happy hour. $3 wells, cheap Miller High Life, and a dollar off all drafts keep spirits high even through Bourbon's more robust scoring breaks.

The Verdict: Bourbon Trivia is one of the few nights that really puts an emphasis on its playful attitude towards the obscure. The answers portion of the quiz is much more celebratory than the usual rattling off of random knowledge against either cheers of triumph or moans of late revelation. Often enough, answers are used to dig a little deeper into the body of knowledge behind it.

A friend of mine once said that he'd never go to any pub quiz, because she'd taken enough quizzes drunk in high school. I can understand the sentiment, but this night in particular seems a lot like a couple hours with that kooky history teacher you always loved to listen to--only now you don't have to sneak in party shots.

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