Trivia lovers put their skills to the test

The Appleton Post-Crescent, January 29, 2012.

Written by Cheryl Anderson
Post-Crescent staff writer
Spirit of annual contest alive, well at Lawrence

APPLETON — Steph Courtney, a 19-year-old sophomore from Janesville, has never lived at Plantz Hall on the Lawrence University campus.

But last year, she was urged by friends living there to participate in the XLVI Great Midwest Trivia Contest. And she was hooked.

"We won (last year) so I couldn't just not come back," said Courtney, who spent the weekend — from 10 p.m. Friday to midnight Sunday — researching inane trivia questions in hopes of repeating as last year's on-campus team champs.

The team's alliterative name was Morgan Freeman's Plus Plantz's Pacifist Plurality of Parasitic Paisley Paleontological Parliamentary Pirate Ponies with Pistachio-wielding Peppermint Prairie Pug Pancreases and Particularly the Pusillanimous Primate, Pustulio. Whew!

"The 'p' trend dates back at least six years," Courtney explained. "What happens every year is that we start out with the name that long and as the contest goes on the trivia masters give up on ever caring about all our p's. So the name they report as winning isn't even the one we were going by because the long names are obviously obnoxious."

About midday Saturday the Plantz team was in first place on campus. But low overnight participation placed the team securely in second place 24 hours later behind a master team — with an equally long and obnoxious name — who joined forces this year in hopes of beating Plantz Hall.

But Courtney and company weren't giving up hope. "It'll be tough to bring it back up with the normal questions, but as long as we keep it within 50 (points) then (Super) Garruda hour will really make or break it," she said of the Super Garruda, the final question worth 100 points.

While Courtney's a "pretty good Googler," she prefers action questions where every two and a half or three hours trivia masters situated at Lawrence's radio station WLFM, ask on-campus participants to do things such as heading to the Warch Campus Center to form a two-person show choir.

Courtney and fellow Freeman teammate Joram Zbichorski, a 20-year-old sophomore from Milwaukee, created a choreographed dance to the 1981 Loverboy song, "Working for the Weekend."

"That's my favorite part," Zbichorski said of the action questions, which aren't required but do allow teams to gain valuable points.

"If you don't do the action questions, it's pretty much impossible to win," said Avi Steiner, a 21-year-old senior from the Chicago area, who's been competing with the Plantz team, where he lived his freshman year, for four years.

Part of the key is not only to do the action questions, but also answer the trivia questions. "The biggest difficulty is making sure we have people here at 2 or 3 to 8 in the morning," Steiner said.

Sneaking in some shut-eye also poses a problem. By noon Sunday, Courtney had managed to take three short naps, totally about seven hours.

"I'm still going and that's all we really need," she said.

About the contest
The Great Midwest Trivia Contest was founded in 1966 by James B. deRosset. The contest, which is broadcast over Lawrence's radio station, WLFM, is held each January for 50 consecutive hours. It's known as the world's longest-running trivia contest because of its custom of asking the last question from one year as the first question of the next. At midnight Sunday, teams with the highest scores both on- and off-campus, receive prizes such as pink plastic flamingos and stainless steel bedpans. The event is governed by the credo: "Trivia is meant to be entertainment and should be perceived solely in that light." Source: