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Published November 28 2011

Trivia nights intellectual entertainment for F-M area

If you go

FARGO – Members of Team Fortune Cookies and Popsicles all look intently at the question projected on the screen.

Some shrug; others shake their heads.

“The last line is something like ‘Goes on and on and on,’ ” Cameron Battagler says.

He and his friends, all in their mid-20s, are playing trivia at Fargo Billiards and Gastropub on 45th Street South, and the current question has them stumped.

Lyrics from a popular song have been “translated” to Shakespearean English, and teams have to figure out the song that the lyrics come from.

Finally, Battagler snaps his fingers and says “Don’t Stop Believin’!”

He hurries to turn in the team’s answer and laughs when he sees that they got it right. The group has never won in the handful of times they have been coming to play these Tuesday trivia nights, and tonight they’re off to an OK start.

In any case, they always seem to pull ahead at the end anyway, Battagler’s wife, Jana, says.

Gastropub owner Mike Page says he got the idea to start the trivia night after hearing about how much fun his kids had playing in similar events on the East Coast.

So last year, Page turned to J.J. Gordon of Linebenders Improv Comedy Troupe, which frequently performs at the Gastropub, to host a trivia night.

Having played trivia at a few other places in the region, including one at Vic’s Bar and Grill in Moorhead and Zorbaz on the Lake in Detroit Lakes, Minn., Gordon says he was excited about the idea of hosting.

“People really like playing trivia,” Gordon says. “It seems like something that more places could offer.”

Although trivia nights differ from venue to venue, the Gastropub Quiz is split into three rounds in which Gordon and his co-host Phil Godel read each question aloud and then project the question on a screen. Teams have two-and-a-half minutes to turn in their answers.

Gordon and Godel try to add an interactive element to the event by throwing in things like theme nights or specialized categories (“Name that ’stache” was especially difficult during a recent night, as a close-up photo of Geraldo Rivera’s mustache threw many teams a curveball).

There are prizes for the top three teams, of course. Gordon and Godel like to give out medals to the winners, as well.

As with most trivia nights, participants aren’t allowed to use their smartphones or the Internet to help answer a question. Though it might be a little hard to police at times, Gordon says cheating isn’t usually a problem.

Enjoying a beer and a glass of wine, Page and his wife, Adele, are playing with two of their friends. The Pages attend most Tuesday nights and say they’re not very good – even though they have won first place a few times.

“We have a couple smart friends,” Adele says, smiling.

Even though they might not consider themselves to be the smartest people in the room, Mike and Adele Page enjoy trivia night for what it is – a fun, social event.

“People can count on it,” Mike Page says. “It’s here every Tuesday.”

One table over from Team Fortune Cookies and Popsicles, Shelley Pherson and Zach Fink confer after using a special lifeline to get a hint on a tough question. They get the question right, but tonight they’re not doing so hot.

“I’m just not filled with very much useless knowledge,” Pherson says, laughing.

Fink, who says he was on a pretty big winning streak when he used to attend these nights more often, is a big fan of trivia.

“It really validates all the useless facts in my mind,” he says.

There are 13 teams playing tonight (with a max of six people per team), a nice mix of young and old. Gordon says the most teams he’s had in one night is 22.

Many of Gordon’s questions on a recent evening had to do with Thanksgiving. Many team names, too, reflected the upcoming holiday. Some were dubbed Turkey Coma, Gobble Gobble and Terducken, along with sillier names like Tickle My Elmo, Ghost Ride the Whip, Twilight Is The Suckiest and a few more.

Gastropub isn’t the only place to play trivia in town, of course. Others include (but are not limited to) The Ground Round, Rhombus Guys Pizza, Dempsey’s, Big D’s Bar and Grill and The Bowler. Check with the establishments to be sure about details. Though the atmosphere, the crowd and the questions may all vary from place to place, the fun of the challenge of trivia night stays the same.

That’s the way it is at the Gastropub for Team Fortune Cookies and Popsicles. The group comes up short again, foiled by a difficult final question about a top-rated gravy mix. No prizes or medals for them tonight.

They’re not too upset about it, though. Tonight’s questions were pretty difficult. And there’s always next week to try for that elusive first victory.

“It’ll come,” Jana Battagler says.

Think you have what it takes to play trivia?

Try these questions

Question: Retired in 2004, what was the only passenger plane to cross the Atlantic Ocean in under three hours?

Answer: The Concorde

Question: In a blind taste test by Consumer Reports, what company makes the best gravy mix?

Answer: Knorr

Question: In the early 2000s, Derek Lowe pitched the first no-hitter since 1965 in what famous ballpark?

Answer: Fenway Park

Question: Halle Berry, Michelle Pfeiffer and Eartha Kitt all played what famous character?

Answer: Catwoman

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535