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A Magazine for Sheffield

The venns: Pub Quizzes Explained


I first breezed through Sheffield from New York on a pen pal visit in 1992, and took two photographs - one of the cooling towers and another of the hole in the road. I returned in 1997 and have slowly been developing the fear that all the things I've subsequently photographed here will be razed to the ground by the council as well. If you see me with a camera, you'd be wise to duck. On my second visit, I became aware of the pub quiz phenomenon, and was so taken with the concept that I put my own embarrassingly narcissistic spin on it by having one read out as part of my birthday party, not in a pub but in a coffee shop, and all twenty questions were about me. Did I mention I was American? When I came to stay for good in 1999, I finally had the opportunity to assimilate properly, became more self-effacing and began drinking correctly. I also found that writing essays was far less rewarding than proving I knew that the name of the pink-haired woman on Are You Being Served was Mrs. Slocombe, and I developed a penchant for the virtually instantaneous gratification of placing tick marks next to correct answers thirty minutes and a pint after being asked the questions. Eleven years, one-and-a-half post-graduate degrees and over a decade of British pop cultural knowledge later, I'm still at it. Now that I am - to all outward appearances - sensible (married, mortgaged and gainfully employed), getting a team together at the last minute through a series of cloak-and-dagger texts and hand signals gives me a nearly forgotten thrill of youthful schemes and escapades. Pulling a right answer from the depths of some primal race memory is as enjoyable as shocking my teammates with my knowledge of UK pop culture references. I didn't even know it was happening while I ate takeaway to post-clubbing 4am broadcasts of Rainbow and I Love the 80s, or annotating Shakespeare with UK GOLD on in the background, but having enough trivia knowledge to win the whole shebang wipes out days of trivial annoyances. So if you haven't yet, find a pub and try it for yourself. Just make sure it's not one I've taken a photo of.


It couldn't be any simpler. I love being told I'm right. The feeling I get when I hear the words ''You make a good point'' or ''How did you know that?!'' must be comparable only to the feeling Lewis Hamilton gets when he overtakes on a hairpin bend and doesn't die, or the feeling Clinton Morrison gets when he doesn't balls up a five-yard tap in, for once. I was once asked by a visiting German friend to explain the reason for sitting through a quiz. He wondered why anyone would go to the pub to have questions shouted at them as a form of relaxation. The explanation I proffered was that in life, and particularly in Yorkshire, you don't get told you're right very often. If you make a mess of something, people have no problem calling you an idiot. But if you're right about something, you're taught that there's no need to show off. No need to brag. You're no better than anyone else. Same goes for losing. Chin up. Move on. Don't cry. This is a tough way to live for someone who feeds on praise like a unicorn feeds on the hearts of freshly slaughtered Care Bears. But that's not the pub quiz way, and therein lies its beauty. When a correct answer is scribed, judged and a large tick is scratched on the page, particularly to a quite obscure question, understated but enthusiastic cheers can be heard across the pub, all the way to the dart board. Conversely, when a group (or a bevvy, to use the correct collective noun) of players happens to jot down the wrong answer when they are certain it's right, let the arguing commence. Do not take it lying down. It's not about winning (although that's always nice). Winning is just the end result of being told you are right more times than anyone else in the pub. Oh, and you get to drink beer at the same time. The Venns is a zine, comedy show (coming soon) and research project about finding the perfect pub quiz. We'll let you know when we've found it. The Venns will be performing at The Riverside's Shoebox Theatre as part of the Shoebox Experiment on May 4th with their comedy performance lecture. There will be stats and diagrams. And cake. @thevenns )

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