The trivia night at the local bar is usually a fun time for pop culture junkies and folks who know a lot of random stuff. It’s a way for someone to impress their friends with knowledge of all …
The trivia night at the local bar is usually a fun time for pop culture junkies and folks who know a lot of random stuff. It’s a way for someone to impress their friends with knowledge of all sorts of things with a unique kind of camaraderie happening due to a bunch of teams taking part in the activity. When it becomes a regular thing, a community can form around it and eventually it’s an entire establishment full of friends playing against each other. This is what it’s like on Thursday nights at the Proclamation Ale Company on 298 Kilvert Street in Warwick. From 6:30 to 8:30pm, McCaughey Standard Trivia puts on five rounds of trivia where folks can compete for various prizes.
I recently had a talk with owner & proprietor Andrew McCaughey about how he started his own trivia company, what makes Proclamation stand out, a cool story about one of the regular trivia teams and how the people make the weekly trivia night unique.
Rob Duguay: How did you initially get started with McCaughey Standard Trivia?
Andrew McCaughey: A few years ago, around eight and a half years ago now, I was actually playing trivia with a couple of my friends in Cranston. I noticed that a lot of the substitute trivia hosts these companies were bringing in didn’t seem to have their hearts in it. I offered to be a substitute host and within three weeks I had my own spot where I was hosting for this group of bars. Then they decided to go with a specific company and I decided to go independent. The place I was hosting at the time was really into it and they wanted to keep me on board so I ended up hosting for them and it just grew from there.
I started with one spot and then friends would hear that I was doing it, they would tell me to check out another spot and it kind of snowballed from there. Before I really knew what was going on, I had three spots and I needed to bring people in. For a while it was a really fun side gig that was something I would do in addition to other jobs, but the last few years it’s kind of become a tentpole for me so I’ve been incorporating a lot of my efforts on that.
RD: When it comes to the equipment that you use, what’s your setup for these trivia nights? Do you bring a PA and a laptop with a program on it or is it more complex than that?
AM: It depends on the venue. A couple of the places we do trivia at have an in-house sound system so we can plug into those using mixing boards. Eventually it becomes a pretty intuitive process, you just have a board where you can control the volume from but a lot of the places do need full PA setups. I’ve got three PAs now so we can do multiple events per night which is really great because it gives us a lot of flexibility. The other night we had three separate events in Pawtucket, Warren & New Bedford and having the equipment & the personnel we can rely on is very important.
RD: I can totally see why. When it comes to the subject matters of these trivia nights, does everybody including yourself do some studying beforehand or is all the information right there in front of you so you don’t need to do any prior research?
AM: I write every game myself so every single question, every single picture round and every single sound clip is curated by me. I obviously take suggestions from my hosts and a few other folks, but what I do is assemble the game beforehand. I’ve already done the prior research on the game and I like to send the game out to all of my hosts at least 24 hours before their night so that way they can read over it. I’ll be honest, I am very human and I can make mistakes especially when it comes to typing so it’s really helpful for me to get the material to the hosts in advance so they can say “Andrew, this is terrible grammar please fix it.” This does happen a couple times a month, but for the most part it’s all researched by me.
RD: You’ve mentioned how you work with a lot of different bars and establishments, so what makes Proclamation stand out? What makes the Thursday night weekly trivia there different than other places you do it at?
AM: It’s the enthusiasm of the people. The folks who’ve been coming to Proclamation have been coming since we started and they are just wonderful to work with. The staff there are tremendous and so are the people who come to trivia. I make friends with a lot of the people I host for and a lot of people that I host with. I've hung out with a number of people who play trivia at Proclamation and they’re really, really awesome people.
I’m actually currently in Texas as part of a one-year around the country road trip living in an RV and before I left one of the teams gave me the loveliest going away card along with a copy of “The Histories” by Herodotus, which is a very nerdy gift that’s very perfect for me because I’m a very nerdy person. It was a super-kind gesture that made me feel really nice and it kind of made it hurt to leave a little bit. One of the other things about Proclamation is that we often have teams that do very well repeatedly. There are these dynasty teams that do well week in and week out. They might not win every week, which is something I try to avoid because it’s always nice to see different people winning, but we have one team at Proclamation that probably wins around 40% of the time.
They never, ever use the prizes for themselves so the main prize at Proclamation is that first place gets a $50 gift card. When this team gets the gift card they put it in an envelope and then they put the next one in an envelope and so on. After four or five months, if they’ve won 10 times they’ll have $500 in gift cards sitting in an envelope and what they like to do is show up, walk up to the host and buy everyone a beer. They’ll cover the first $500 of the bar’s tab so everyone gets a comp drink because they won at trivia, but they don’t want to spend the money on themselves so they buy everybody in the place a beer.
RD: That’s awesome, that’s fantastic.
AM: It really is, it’s the coolest thing. The first time they did it I said “Are you sure? That’s a really nice thing to do” and they’ve probably done it three times since.
RD: Say someone who has done other trivia nights hasn’t been to the one that McCaughey Standard Trivia puts on at Proclamation, or perhaps they’ve never done a trivia night before but they’re thinking of getting some friends together to do it. What makes these trivia nights better than staying home and watching Netflix or going to a bar and watching a game somewhere? What’s your selling point for it?
AM: Honestly, my answer for a lot of questions ends up being the same. It’s the people, all these places have their own community to them. Friendly competition and rivalry ends up being something where nobody on a person’s team wanted to play trivia on a particular night so people join up on different teams. They end up being really, really good friends and it’s really all about that community. A lot of these people start out as strangers but over time they end up developing really close friendships.
I’ve officiated weddings for three couples I’ve met because of trivia and I know a lot of people who have been to weddings for people that they’ve met because of trivia. After the lockdowns and everything, staying home and watching Netflix got old fast when you didn’t have the option of going out. Now that it’s back, it really is great to be with people again because you get that kind of interconnectivity that we were really lacking for a long time. It’s a great night out, it’s low pressure and it’s a lot of fun. You might actually learn something that you might haven’t thought about.
I have some pretty weird questions and I know that because it’s how my brain works but I try to make everything approachable for people. It’s not designed to be a quiz, it’s not a pop test or anything like that. It’s designed to be fun so maybe someone learns something funny or weird or odd and I try to figure out a way for that answer to be approachable even if people have no idea what the actual answer is before they sat down that night.
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