boston.com Arts and Entertainment your connection to The Boston Globe
Pete Fallon and Sean Ryan confer on a question
And the answer is: Pete Fallon (left) and Sean Ryan confer on a question at P.J. Ryan’s Pub in Somerville. (Erik Jacobs for the Boston Globe)

In search of trivia

Want to challenge your brain while drinking your beer? Grab a chair (or laptop) and test your knowledge.

At first glance, the barroom and classroom have little in common. One has stools, the other desks; one serves beer, the other facts. But local pub trivia nights are the perfect next stop for the students, professors, graduates, and all-around nerds who abound in this college town. Without a championship team to track, Bostonians can form their own teams and compete in that most Yankee of pastimes: out-witting one another. ‘‘You have all this useless knowledge in your head,’’ says Will Finke of Waltham, a regular at the Mad Raven. ‘‘Now you can finally use it somewhere.’’

COOLIDGE CORNER CLUBHOUSE

Mondays 8 p.m. 307A-309 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-566-4948

Walking among the poster-size photos of Orr, Bird, and Haggler, Morgan White Jr. is another kind of Boston legend, the king of trivia. Headset in ear, he walks through the bar, soliciting categories from the crowd. On a recent Monday, the mix of college students and neighborhood residents opted for Jude Law, the Cold War, hockey, and ‘‘The Simpsons.’’ He also makes up questions on the spot from memory. Attempts to stump him (jai alai, and A.L.F.) fail miserably. The man knows the questions, the answers, and the details the rest of us have long forgotten. Unlike pen-and-paper games, it’s OK to shout out the answer here. Don’t worry about the other players: White’s steel-trap memory is your biggest competition.

P.J. RYAN’S PUB

Tuesdays 10 p.m. 239 Holland St., Somerville. 617-625-8200

For the past six years, trivia host Will Shepard has turned his knack for random facts into an eclectic quiz that allows the crowd of students from nearby Tufts University to display their intellectual prowess. ‘‘If you followed me around during the week, you’d see that my life shapes the questions,’’ he says. For example, after a weekend visit to Ikea, he created ‘‘Swedish swear or Ikea chair,’’ in which contestants categorized eight Swedish words to great comic effect. Shepard thinks the best questions are ones that people think they can answer but can’t be sure about. ‘‘One of my favorites is how many holes are there in a Ritz cracker? Everyone has had one, but unless you took the time to count, you’re going to have to guess,’’ he says. Shepard’s quirky style has earned him a band of rowdy loyalists. Says regular Jeff Roberts: ‘‘At other bars you either know the answer or you don’t. Here we spend time thinking up the answers and arguing over them.’’ And how better to argue than over a pint of beer?

STUMP! TRIVIA

Visit www.PrimeTimeTrivia.com or call 781-837-3392 for nights and locations in and around Boston.

Stump! is to trivia what Starbucks is to coffee. With more than 80 different games, you can get trivia when you want it, where you want it, every night of the week. While the format is standard — four rounds of play in which teams answer four questions, assigning each one points based on their confidence in the answer — founder Bob Carney tailors questions to each venue. ‘‘A lot of people who play are in their 20s,’’ he says. ‘‘If I asked a question about ‘WKRP in Cincinnati,’ they’d have no idea what I was talking about.’’ To cover the city, Carney employs a small army to write and host but still takes the helm himself three nights a week.

MATT MURPHY’S

Wednesdays 10 p.m.14 Harvard St., Brookline. 617-232-0188. mattmurphyspub.com

The door to Matt Murphy’s reads ‘‘Public House’’ in large gilt letters, and that’s exactly what you’ll find inside: a bar that feels like your living room, even though it’s filled with strangers. Become a regular at trivia night, and you’ll soon be one of the family. Christian Hayden of Brookline has been playing for more than three years with a team of 20-somethings known as Skeletor. ‘‘We win more quizzes than anyone else because I cheat. By any means necessary, I say.’’ They have resorted to extreme measures for good reason: This might be the toughest quiz out there. But in keeping with the friendly vibe, hosts Justin Hebenstreit and Maria Pinto mercifully dole out hints to teams in need. The B-Sharps, a group of jazz musicians who rent practice space nearby, claimed they didn’t know any of the answers, because it was ‘‘all pop culture, not enough history or trivia,’’ but at the end of round one, they were tied for first place with Skeletor. At two and a half hours, this is also Boston’s longest trivia night, which may give youngsters the edge they need to win.

THE MAD RAVEN

Tuesdays 8:30 p.m. 841 Main St., Waltham. 781-894-8188.

It seems only right that an unkindness of ravens (carved) presides over quiz night at their eponymous bar: The humor is dark, and the questions might drive you to dire tactics. So surround yourself with your smartest friends, like the folks from team No. 9 (named after a favorite beer; this is a game played while drinking, after all), take a seat at the bar or in a booth, and put on your thinking cap. Host Joe Pleiman doesn’t consider himself a trivia buff, but he doesn’t mind stumping you — or mocking you with his dry wit. The crowd is laid back but still intent on winning. Will Finke of Waltham and David Cullen of Arlington, a team for nearly two years, know well the spoils of victory. ‘‘We’ve racked up $650 in gift certificates,’’ says Finke. ‘‘We hope to eventually buy the bar.’’

POP QUIZ TEAM TRIVIA

Visit mcoproductions.com or call 617-901-7701 for nights and locations.

Boston’s original trivia franchise is no longer its biggest, but Pop Quiz boasts a twist the others don’t: musical clues. ‘‘For instance, after I ask, ‘Which car company’s mascot is the Spirit of Ecstasy?,’ I play the song ‘Car Wash.’ The band who sings it is Rolls Royce, which happens to be the answer to the question,’’ explains founder Michael O’Neill. He shares hosting duties with 12 employees but writes the questions himself — 25 a week for 10 years. He says his best questions don’t come from books, however, but arise out of everyday life. ‘‘I was watching ‘Hot Shots’ the other day and saw Jon Crier and Charlie Sheen on screen together and thought, ‘There’s a question: What movie features the stars of ‘Two and a Half Men’?’’

Also in Calendar:
Calendar for Feb. 1 -- Feb. 7 2007
 DINING OUT: Z Square
 CHEAP EATS: Mike's
 INCOMING: Coming soon
SEARCH THE ARCHIVES