During the lockdown, we took part in Zoom quizzes in droves and took advantage of every opportunity for virtual gatherings with family and friends.
et, Alan Flanagan, a London-based author and quizzer from Lanesborough, Co. Longford, believes the Irish have a special affinity for quizzes.
“Having lived in different countries, I find that the Irish are very, very curious. Since we can’t do anything outside, the only way to raise money for anything is with a table quiz,” says Alan, who performed with us countdown, The hunt, The Answer Trap and Just connectand stars in The Silver Bell at the Edinburgh Fringe until August 28th.
“I always remember taking quizzes and really enjoying it, partly because I like trivia and I’m a bit of a nerd, but also because it’s a really fun way to pass time.”
Dan O’Malley of the Irish Quiz Organization agrees: “You go into the pub and play a game while you’re at it and there are prizes. Sometimes it’s a round of drinks, sometimes it could be a better prize – the best prize I’ve ever won was a trip to Las Vegas for two.”
Although tempting prizes are often offered, most Irish quizzers are not in it for the money.
“I enjoy the challenging aspects because I’ve always been very good at memorizing things. I would just get creative and go binge on Wikipedia – you end up down a rabbit hole and you grab all this random stuff,” says Courtney Campbell, who recently graduated from Queen’s University Belfast, where she ran the Quiz Society .
She is now studying Medicine at Ulster University. “I also really enjoyed the social aspect – a lot of my uni experiences have been impacted by Covid but the Quiz Society has helped keep that social aspect online.”
Courtney captained the Queen’s team in the upcoming season of University Challenge – Jeremy Paxman’s final season as presenter – which will air on BBC2 from 3 October.
“I remember walking in and seeing all our names on the big table. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re actually doing this!’” she recalls. “But once you settled in, it was great. I was always very afraid to go alone. At least that was a team, that kind of relieved me.”
For Darragh “The Menace” Ennis, the Rathcoole-born laboratory director at Oxford University, known as one of the “Hunters”. The huntThe quiz was an occasional pastime until he got the ITV job.
“I’m still on the same pub quiz team but we don’t take it too seriously, we’re a midfield team at best,” he says. “For the show, because it’s my actual job and I get paid for it, I have to sit down and learn lists, I have to do a lot of quizzes, I watch a lot of quiz shows, I do a lot of online games. This side of it is a bit more serious.”
He notes that it took two years of preparation before he made his chasing debut.
“I was really behind. I would imagine if you were transporting someone from (UK) to the Irish quiz league they would bomb because there are Irish specific questions about geography, history and cultural references. So I had to deal with that,” he explains, noting that he focused on British history, memorizing the names of monarchs and prime ministers.
“It’s not really about depth of knowledge, it’s about breadth of knowledge – I know very, very little about a large number of subjects. Quiz questions don’t require deep knowledge unless you’re in it thought leader make a specialty. It becomes a boring quiz show when they ask a question that nobody knows the answer to.”
The work didn’t stop when Darragh took the podium. “Right before that I was reading a quiz book, and for anyone I don’t know the answer to, I’m writing them into an app that turns them into flashcards. When I’m waiting for a bus, where people would normally be scrolling through Twitter or something, I’m going through flashcards.”
Even for those not paid to maintain their knowledge, practice is key. To keep fit, Courtney keeps up with current events and takes part in weekly pub quizzes in Derry, but she felt University Challenge called for additional measures.
“We watched old episodes and memorized things that would have come up fairly regularly. I memorized the periodic table and the kings and queens of England using online quizzes that you can take to test your memory,” she says.
Before the competition The Answer TrapAlan recalls taking a similar approach with teammate Tinu.
“We were on the train to Glasgow and we just dumped sports knowledge into ourselves because we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves when a sporting question came up. Obviously there were no sporting questions,” he says.
“They go through lists: World Cup host countries, European Championship host countries, Olympic host countries. But I find cramming very stressful and very boring, so I don’t go crazy about it.”
The best preparation, says Alan, is the cryptic crossword he picked up from his father. “It requires a lot of knowledge, but also constant lateral thinking.
“Every time you read a word, your brain immediately cycles through all possible definitions of that word. I think it’s really healthy for the brain to keep making connections and I think that was really useful Just connect,” he explains.
Dan prefers to brush up on his skills by taking more quizzes: he takes part in two pub quizzes a week as well as the weekly online Irish Quiz League. “I don’t study much because I think it’s homework — I left school a long time ago and I’m doing it for fun,” he says.
“The more tests you do, the more you realize, ‘Oh, we were asked this question a few months ago, can I get it out?’ If you remember, there’s this nice feeling of ‘okay great mastered that’.”
Different games require different skills, from lateral thinking to memory to teamwork. “Just connect is my favorite because I’m not a perfect trivia fan, but what I have is a pretty broad knowledge base because I work as a writer, so I’m a big magpie, I gather info here and there.
“Just connect It’s not necessarily about what you know, it’s about whether you can make connections between seemingly unrelated things,” explains Alan. “Something like University Challenge would completely overwhelm me because it requires so much hard facts and knowledge.”
The Irish Quiz Organization (quizireland.ie) regularly hosts quiz events across the country and will be hosting the Irish Quiz Championships in Boyle, Co Roscommon next month which will feature inter-provincial team tournaments and an individual competition to find the Irish Quizer of the Year.
If you’re not up for a tournament, Dan says there are plenty of ways to get involved. “Your casual pub quiz at your local eatery is a good place to start, as the questions tend to be a little easier and a team format is more forgiving. You don’t need to know everything,” he explains, adding that if you don’t have a group to play with, the Irish Quiz League can put you in an online team.
“Zoom Quiz is a nice, easy entry point because you can try it from the comfort of your own home.”
Quizzes, according to Dan, offer a healthy way to exercise our brains and fight smartphone-induced brain drain.
“Information comes at us from all directions and the quiz is about trying to make sense of it and remembering the important parts of it later. I like being able to use this useless knowledge that’s hidden in my head – otherwise it just sits there and takes up space,” he says.
“Maybe I’ll forget my wife’s birthday, but I won’t forget the capital of Uzbekistan. And at least the second one could get me an award!”
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/family-features/i-memorised-the-periodic-table-and-the-kings-and-queens-of-england-meet-irelands-professional-quizzers-41937853.html “I’ve memorized the periodic table and the kings and queens of England” – meet Ireland’s professional quizzers