What is Trivia?


The Lawrentian, Jan 16, 2009.

By: Dorothy Wickens

For all of those new students out there, what you will witness and/or experience next weekend may shock, amaze or terrify you.

The madness that you will be witnessing is the Great Midwest Trivia Contest, started at Lawrence in 1966. It is a 50-hour competition, known as the world's longest-running trivia contest, deemed as such because the first question asked every year is the last question from the previous year.

This year, the contest kicks off at 10:00:37 p.m. Friday, Jan. 23, ending at midnight on Sunday, and is broadcast from Lawrence's radio station, WLFM, now streaming online.

Trivia questions are entirely written and then read on the air by the 13 trivia masters, led this year by Grand Master Erin Campbell Watson. Teams are given three minutes to furiously search for the answer to almost impossible questions and call in the answer to the studio, where many phone answerers are waiting to take calls.

Interspersed with these questions are action questions, in which trivia masters make ridiculous requests of team members, ranging anywhere from violating as much of the student handbook as possible to putting on a skit to inspire the topic of a trivia master's paper that is due the following week. Questions are also categorized to fit into theme hours, such as Ireland, Batman or Chuck Norris.

If by now you're still interested in this craziness, you may be wondering, how do I play trivia? Teams can be formed on campus by any students who are interested. These teams usually form in residence halls or through student organizations. In the past, residence halls, such as Plantz, Kohler and an alliance of Ormsby, Colman and Hiett, have formed teams.

In addition to 20 to 30 off-campus teams, other Lawrence teams typically include Co-op, Computer Science and the Yuais. Students can join these teams and play for fifteen minutes or all 50 hours, although Trivia Master Claire Gannon suggests that you find time for sleep at some point during the weekend, so that fourth week is not entirely painful.

Trivia players can contribute to a team by researching answers online -- which requires a host of computers and some reliable Internet access -- or by manning the phones to call in answers. Watson notes that phones may be a challenge this year, since halls are no longer equipped with on-campus phone lines.

If playing with a team sounds too intense for you, trivia masters are always asking for help to answer phones at the studio.

Answering phones is pretty simple, said Gannon. Not to mention, the off-the-wall answers that you will hear are bound to be entertaining.

For those who do decide to join in the fun, Watson says that it helps to keep the Trivia Credo in mind: "Trivia is meant to be entertainment and should be perceived solely in that light."

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