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Triviality Podcast Brings Pub Trivia Into Your Home

Written by on March 4, 2020


Triviality is a weekly, Chicago area based trivia podcast …

Each episode brings questions from every nook and cranny of the nerd spectrum. Hosts Ken, Matt, Neal and Jeff all met playing local bar trivia and can’t get enough. They decided to create Triviality- a weekly trivia show where “a lack of seriousness meets a little bit of knowledge.”

Ken, Matt, Neal and Jeff will also be the de facto co-hosts of all sorts of activities surrounding Geek Bowl 2020 taking place March 7th at Navy Pier.

Neal Fischer joined Jill Hopkins in the studio to tell us more about the podcast and the events.

Jill Hopkins: Tell me about the podcast. It seems to be a perfect combination of trivia games, podcast, and friendship.

Neal Fischer: That’s that’s what we would like to say over here. Basically,  “it’s a lack of seriousness and a little bit of knowledge.” We’re not the best trivia players by any means, but we love the camaraderie about hanging out, that sort of pub trivia experience when you go with your friends to the pub and to play.

We’re a weekly podcast and we just have a have a lot of fun. I mean, we’re not there to win necessarily. We have corny team names and guest hosts, but we’re really just there to enjoy each other’s company and answer some questions and maybe learn something. But for me, personally, I edited almost all the episodes up until a few months ago, and I still do not retain any information.

What inspired you to start this project? I mean, there aren’t a lot of trivia-specific podcasts out there.

It’s funny. Nowadays, I feel like everyone has a podcast. From fitness to health to advice business and what have you. But for us personally, we all started going to pub trivia. I’d always been sort of interested in trivia: I did scholastic bowl in high school for maybe a year, and I wasn’t too into it. But I am a huge movie buff. I’m a filmmaker. I love movies and pop culture and history.

And so I’ve always been into trivia. My friend Ken told me “hey, there’s this pub trivia going on down the block, we should maybe go sometime.” So we went, it was a lot of fun. And we kept going more and more. And then another friend of mine who was younger, Jeff, who went to my grammar school, he came along, and Jeff is super smart. And I was like, wow, we’re actually like getting close to winning or winning. This is fun. But I really noticed what I enjoyed more was the banter that we had in between question answering. And so I said, “Wow, this is this could be really cool.”

So we collectively decided, there’s not too many trivia podcasts at the time. Why don’t we start one up and see if we can do this? Let’s see if we can make it happen. We did a bunch of test recordings, like maybe three or four that were not good, but we were okay with that. We were okay knowing that they weren’t good. Then we added our friend Matt, and it sort of just clicked. I think having the sort of Four Horsemen of the four different personalities, the the sports guy, the history/science guy, the potpourri music person, and then the film nerd kind of all coming together and it, it really worked out nicely.

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The pacing of the podcast allows the listener to play along without having to press pause after every question. And the length of the show is comfortably concise. Was that something that was always baked into the show when you when you started coming up with ideas?

It was! There were other programs out there that were also very good, but they had varying lengths that we just didn’t think we could hit or that we should hit. They were all somewhere between very short, bite-sized shows that were 10 minutes long, to 90 minutes to two hours. And from the very beginning, Ken and myself said “let’s keep this to an hour or less and never go over that hour.” People commute to work. That’s sort of the perfect time for that.

As far as time for the listener to answer the question. We said, you know, if they really want to mull it over, they can press pause, they can think about it,  press pause again and then hear what the answer is. But for the casual listener, someone who likes to ingest a lot of knowledge and trivia and sometimes comedy—if we are funny or not.

The shortened time span is nice. It keeps things moving along. And we’ve heard from a lot of listeners that say, I listened when I walk to work, or I drive my truck, or when I’m babysitting, or watching the kids. And it’s one of those things where we don’t mind being in the background. And as far as my brother is concerned, my brother David, he’s really funny because he always says, “Oh, I put you guys on to fall asleep, too.” Which is totally fine. I know he doesn’t want to hear our content. But as long as he can get a good night’s sleep, that’s fine with me.

The dynamic between the four of you is so pleasurable to listen to, which makes your ability to welcome other people into the studio so impressive. Who do you invite to the studio and and why do you give them the opportunity to join you as either a contestant or as a quiz master?

What’s most important about a show like this and and about, well, any sort of content, in the world, in my opinion. But as far as this is concerned, I think you have to be as inclusive as possible. Trivia knows no demographic. It’s something that everyone can do. It’s knowledge. It’s something that everyone can enjoy together. That pub trivia experience is something where you have friends from all different walks of life coming in to spend some time with you. And I think what’s most important with our show is that we know each other pretty well after a few years. We have this shorthand now. We know how to interact with each other.

What is most interesting to us is meeting new people getting experiences that we’re not exposed to being from the suburbs. So just inviting people from different countries, different demographics, different orientations. I think what’s great about trivia is bringing in people who are going to ask questions that we’ll never write. And and we’re going to learn something too. If there’s one thing that’s lacking in this world as a whole, it’s always going to be knowledge. I think more knowledge is a good thing. And even though we’re peppering it with jokes, any chance that we have to have someone on who’s going to teach us something, and then also give them a pleasurable experience, then that’s what we want to do.

Who has been the most surprising fan or group of fans that you have come across?

I think it’s maybe the people in different countries. We didn’t think that we would ever be listened to, you know, in the Netherlands. There’s a really dumb character that we do called Dutch Boy.  It was like the third or fourth episode, and I will take the blame here, but I love doing impressions or just do random voices. For some reason it caught on and people kept talking about Dutch Boy. Then we got a letter from two different listeners in the Netherlands, and they were like, “Hey, just you know, we love Dutch Boy, your accent is terrible, but we love you and we love the show.”

So it’s been nice. I mean, getting that little punch on the shoulder letting us know, hey, we enjoy you. But what really makes it worth it is we’ve been getting emails from people who say “Hey, I enjoyed this show, I worked at a very toxic workplace. And it gets me through the day or lets me ignore what I’m dealing with.” And it touched us all.

One of our supporters on our donation page on Patreon, he passed away suddenly, and we hadn’t heard from him. His fiancée reached out and said, “Hey my fiancé was a huge fan of yours, he passed away. I’m really sorry, he can’t donate to your page anymore.” And I said, it’s not about the money. It’s not about the donation. The connection that we had for him being a listener to our show is what’s important. And then we, we just did a little thank you on the show to thank him and his family just to let his family know that this trivia community is something that someone can be a part of, and we should all be supportive of each other.


Let’s talk about Geek Bowl 2020. It is the 14th year for the event, but it’s in Chicago for its first time, but not Triviality’s. When did Triviality start attending Geek Bowl?

So we started two years ago when it was in Boston, and it was our first experience with a Geek Bowl. It’s basically a big trivia tournament. There’s teams from all over the country, all over the world, playing a “Geeks Who Drink” format. If you’re in the Chicago area or wherever else you’re listening, there is Geeks Who Drink I’m sure at different pubs that you might frequent. It’s a great format, but this Geek Bowl tournament is just a huge gathering of people who love trivia. Some people just go for fun and some teams have Jeopardy champions. Some teams have people who’ve maybe never played trivia before, but what’s great about it is it brings everyone together. It’s a fun time, and there’s always great events beforehand.

So we went in Boston, we did our first event we had I think, 25 to 30 people come and that really threw us for a loop because we said, “Why would 30 people want to come see us in person?” 30 people we’ve never met, that maybe we’ve corresponded with over email or Skype. And then the following year, last year, it was in Vegas, which was even bigger. We had a bigger event for more people with close to 50 people and that still shocks me. This year we’re doing a huge get together with six other podcasts. So it’s just crazy how in three years we’ve been able to grow with no ads, through word-of-mouth, through recommendations, and it’s been really inspiring, but also just like… I don’t know, it’s just crazy to me.

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