Monday, 26 August 2013

Samesun Trivia

Where: Samesun Hostel, 1018 Granville Street

When: 9:00pm start time every Thursday. Be careful with parking; a lot of nearby spots become no-stopping taxi zones after 10pm, at which point you will still be quizzing and your car will be towed. 

Web presence: A facebook group with quiz info and a preview of each week's "web question."

Registration fee: Free

Prizes: Each member of the winning team gets two free drink tickets, though they can't be redeemed the same night

Format: Five rounds of 10 questions with no intermission

Food and drink: Fries, burgers, quesadillas, and nachos at prices to fit the backpacker's budget

If your university put on an end-of-semester open air rock concert, you’re already most of the way to experiencing the Samesun quiz: a lopsided and disoriented event packed to the gills with excitable undergrads, best (only?) enjoyed with liberal volumes of alcohol, offering a decent chance of a hookup, and, decidedly, being a less than a cerebral undertaking.

The Samesun Hostel on the Granville strip is the setting for this quiz, which runs every Thursday at 9pm. Given that it takes place in the bar of one of the city’s more popular youth hostels, the crowd is a cosmopolitan melange of young and roisterous backpackers. One benefit of this venue is that even if you can’t find friends to go with you, you can drop in solo and free agent yourself to a table of strangers.

Nevertheless, this one is not for the competitive quizzer. Thunderdome rules apply at all times, permitting oversized teams to compete unpenalized--and often win--and smartphone use to run rampant. The tiebreaker, should two or more teams come in with equal points, is, I kid you not, a boat race. The questions are generally weak, vacillating between bafflingly ambiguous and drop-dead easy. (That said, the waitresses make a circuit of the tables after the first round and will give you a “hint” on one question of your choosing.)

Are there brainy questions? Sure, there are some, though not often, and they have a nasty habit of self-destructing courtesy of the house. One asked what was banned in Mississippi in 1907 and not legalized until 1966. This is pretty good. I myself was mulling several options: interracial marriage and integrated education both, more or less, fit the timeline and locale; so does teaching evolution. Others spring to mind as well. It was here, unfortunately, that the emcee saw fit to neuter the question and declare to the roomful of tippling millennials, “IT’S SOMETHING WE’RE ALL DOING HERE RIGHT NOW.” Oh, well, thanks--points all around then.

That was in round one. The remainder was escalating pandemonium. In round two, the name-that-tune round, six of the ten song clips included the vocalist singing the title of the song. Six. Round three, the “memory round,” featured a raft of questions on an out-of-sync and nigh-inaudible YouTube clip. Round four, the picture round, asked players to identify famous cinematic animals; again, points all around for the giant ape swatting at biplanes from atop the Empire State Building or the extreme close up of the gaping maw of an especially angry looking great white shark.

Rounding things out was the “turbo round,” a ten-pack of true-false questions of doubtful veracity. To give an example: imagine our joy, having three genuine Frenchmen on the team, to be asked whether the average French citizen eats 25 kilograms of snails per year; only a brief tête-à-tête was necessary for them to return an emphatic and unanimous non. Imagine then our surprise to learn that we were “wrong.”

On top of all this, the production is a bit of a mess. The whole thing runs at a sluggish pace, in particular the marking, with about 30 minutes between handing in your answer sheet and the announcing of the scores. Expect to be done no sooner than 11pm, which can be a bit daunting for those with work the next day. The emcee is generally competent, but don’t expect much in the way of amusing badinage or crowd interaction; reading questions aloud is the order of the evening, and even on this there are some stumbles with mispronunciations.

Conclusion: Pub quiz puritans, steer well clear. Head instead to Darby’s quiz, which takes place the same night and is the better product by some distance.

Still, Samesun may have a certain appeal as the head-banging Daytona Beach spring break of the Vancouver quiz scene, and if you can get past the notion that you will probably lose to a visiting cohort of Arizona State sophomores, the cheap drinks and anarchic atmosphere could make for an enjoyable evening.

In fact, the timing makes possible a kind of Thursday night pub quiz golden mile, that might go as follows:

(1) Start at Darby’s at 7pm. For best effect win this quiz and power down your victory pitcher. This usually finishes up about 9pm, at which point...

(2) Pile in a taxi and floor it to Samesun, which begins at 9pm. (If possible, have a confederate be there in advance to snag a table).

(3) Play this one for fun and have lots of drinks.

(4) Ooze out of Samesun around 11pm towards any nearby watering hole to spend the remainder of the evening.