Tom Leroux is not a stone-faced trivia announcer.
He seems to know everyone in the Bellevue Applebee's, which hosts a trivia tournament every Thursday night. This Thursday, Applebee's is packed: 107 players have crowded the booths to play trivia.
Tom teases players; he picks on Lois, a grey-haired regular, who calls out “I was there!” for questions about historical events. While announcing the answer to a quiz question about the inspiration for Madonna's “Material Girl” music video, he proclaims “Double M's, Marilyn Manson.” The crowd groans before he unveils the real answer: Marilyn Monroe.
Trivia nights give bars and restaurants a decent boost on nights that may otherwise be slow. Applebee's general manager Joe Chandler said people begin showing up to reserve tables for trivia at 6:30 p.m., a full hour and a half before the quiz starts. The restaurant is usually full by 7:30 p.m. “Alcohol sales have gone through the roof on Thursday nights,” Chandler said.
Quiz participants get a shot to win prizes and show off what they know. It's an excuse to meet up with friends and family, and to relax and drink a beer or two.
Rob Walters and Val Nelson have been helping to host the venue's pub quiz since 2007. Nelson said that when they started, they were one of the only quizzes in town. Since then, many more Omaha bars and restaurants have followed suit.
“It's giving people in Omaha a reason to go to the bar, in addition to just going out and getting drunk,” Walters said.
Rachael Groynom competed in Slowdown's trivia night last week. She and her mother, Dee, stopped in Omaha for the night in the midst of a big move to Cleveland. Rachael is no stranger to puzzles and trivia; she played trivia twice a week in her former stomping grounds of Las Vegas. She plans to play five or six nights a week in her new town.
“I like the fact that you don't have to be intelligent,” Groynom said. “You don't have to have a degree, you just have to kind of know what's going on.”
Pub trivia isn't just for quiz freaks; many attendees were brand new to pub quizzes and just looking for a good night out. Hannah Husman, Shelby Seier and Nathan Gregory, all in their early 20s, hadn't been to a trivia night before attending the Slowdown quiz. Husman said she liked being able to try something new and experience more of the downtown nightlife.
Marq Manner, one of the hosts of a monthly music quiz at The Waiting Room Lounge, says he was asked by the venue's founders to host the quiz on whatever nights they didn't have shows. Now the quiz brings in an average of 40 people, many of whom are part of the local music scene.
Applebee's trivia night is under the umbrella of League Trivia, a Midwestern pub quiz organization that hosts trivia nights throughout Omaha and in other states. Other League Trivia nights here are held at Fox and Hound, Maloney's and Nebraska Brewing Company, among other local restaurants and bars. Points are tallied at each League Trivia event, with the top 15 teams in Omaha invited to compete in regional championships three times a year. Applebee's trivia players come back week after week, and many end up going to the championships.
Kim Cleaver is part of “Team Medic,” which got its name because many of its members have jobs in the medical field. She comes with her family and friends every week, unless there's an emergency, she said. They also play at Nebraska Brewing Company, where Tom hosts on Wednesday nights. “We go wherever Tom is,” Cleaver said.
“They bring me brownies,” said Leroux.
The members of Bazinga, a team named after a phrase used on “The Big Bang Theory,” wear customized T-shirts with the team name and buttons that say “Keep Calm and Bazinga.” The team has been playing trivia with Tom for a few years; they started when Applebee's began their trivia night back in 2011. Veronica Smeby says the team has become good friends with Tom.
Slowdown has its share of regulars, too. Danielle Morgan goes to the venue with a team just about every week. She also competes in music trivia at the Waiting Room and movie trivia at the Pizza Shoppe Collective.
“It's fun to kind of test your brain and think about things you haven't thought about for 10 years,” Morgan said.
The beer is a plus, too.
Wanna play some trivia?
Itching to try out a pub quiz for yourself? There are tons of spots all over the area to test your smarts.
• Where: Maloney's Irish Pub, 1830 N. 72nd St. | When: Sundays, 7 p.m.; Tuesdays, 8 p.m.
• Where: Glo Lounge, 3201 Farnam St. | When: Mondays and Wednesdays, 7 p.m.
• Where: Fox and Hound, 506 N. 120th St. | When: Mondays, 8 p.m.
• Where: The Crook, 908 S. Fork Crook Rd. | When: Mondays, 8 p.m.
• Where: Twin Peaks, 17330 West Center Road | When: Tuesdays, 8 p.m.
• Where: Nebraska Brewing Company, 7474 Towne Center Parkway, Papillion | When: Wednesdays, 7 p.m.
• Where: Two Fine Irishmen, 18101 R Plaza. | When: Wednesdays, 8:30 p.m.
• Where: Applebees, 10402 S. 15th St., Bellevue | When: Thursdays, 8 p.m.
• Where: Deja Vu Lounge, 1021 S. 178th St. | When: Thursdays, 8:30 p.m.
• Where: Legend Comics and Coffee, 5207 Leavenworth St. | When: Alternating Mondays, 7 p.m.
• Where: Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. | When: Next one is Monday at 9 p.m.
• Where: The Sydney, 5918 Maple St. | When: Tuesdays, 8 p.m.
• Where: Pizza Shoppe Collective, 6056 Maple St. | When: Second Thursday of each month, 8 p.m.
• The Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. | When: Next one is Sunday, Aug. 18, at 8 p.m.