History of the Pub Quiz

Cultural anthropologists are still debating the precise origins of today's hugely popular Pub Quiz, a 'live' trivia quiz show administered by a 'Quizmaster' to teams of bar goers everywhere. Traditionally scheduled for an 'off' night (usually Sunday - Thursday), the Pub Quiz is a revenue boon for bar owners and provides lively entertainment in a friendly, social atmosphere for anyone old enough to go to a bar.

Though the truth is still shrouded in a barroom haze, most likely the Pub Quiz evolved in Britain and Ireland in the early days of television. Pubs, of course, have always been places to drink, socialize and relax. But in the 1950s, many pubs had another draw: unlike most homes, the pubs had television! The growth of televised game shows drew great attention of the imbibers. Pub regulars often called out answers to game show questions before the studio contestants did, prompting fellow pub goers to shout, "Why don't you go on that show?" to the most knowledgeable bar 'contestants'.

The friendly rivalry, lighthearted banter and increased bar business attributable to the television quiz shows inspired pub owners to offer 'live' quiz shows as a regular feature on their pub entertainment calendars. At one point, as many as 500 teams competed in weekly inter-pub matches in Lancashire County, England. To this day 'live' pub quizzes enjoy immense popularity throughout Britain and parts of Ireland.

In the United States, Pub Quiz Shows thrive in San Francisco, Boston, New York and other cities, particularly with those of Anglo-Irish descent. Bars in these cities host weekly pub quiz shows, packing the house with trivia fans eager to show their prowess. Teams formed of friends, co-workers, family (and even people flying solo at the bar) battle each other over rounds of questions fired at them by the host or pub 'Quizmaster'.

More Americans now enjoy the fun and excitement of the Pub Quiz at their favorite local bar or restaurant as bar owners realize the potential for new business. Besides offering a great way to meet new people (including members of the opposite sex!), the Pub Quiz invites participants to flex their trivia muscles and perhaps even win a prize or two and the associated bragging rights!

(Copyright © 1999-2008 Liam McAtasney. All Rights Reserved. 'The Irish-American Pub Quiz')

Finbarr Fleming from County Armagh, N. Ireland writes:

"The first league that I took part in, to raise money for local charities, would have been in 1974. There were over 30 teams from different pubs in the district. It was divided up into 4 league areas and there were home and away leagues with 2 points being awarded for a win. The leaders from each section went through to the knock-out stage and the winners of the whole competition received trophies and were naturally well treated by the owner of the pub that they represented! Local charities did well also. The quiz was always held on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday night, so if your team wasn't competing, you would go to spectate at another match, partly to look at the opposition plus perhaps pick up more answers to trivia questions.

The only people who really had to work hard were the compilers of the questions.

I still go to quizzes every week, usually two, but the season will be coming to an end soon so I'll be cutting down, not out of choice, but because there are none going on!"

Many thanks to Carol Farrand and Finbarr Fleming for their help with this article.

If you have any ideas as to the origins of the Pub Quiz we'd love to hear them. Please Contact us!


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