Bookish glasses are "in," gadgets such as the iPhone have become status symbols, and VH1's World Series of Pop Culture is hotter than ESPN's World Series of Poker.
In Hudson County, people have also realized that it's kinda cool to know stuff...especially if you can win prizes for it. As a result, trivia nights have taken off as a popular bar activity, with many bars offering prizes such as Yankees tickets, cash, and the highly-sought-after reduced bar tab.
For bars, team trivia is a good way to draw crowds in early in the week. Over half a dozen Hoboken bars offer the activity on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights.
Walk by Sullivan's in midtown on Mondays, and you will hear the emcee calling out the questions. On Tuesdays, tons of trivia buffs gather at Mikie Squared, The Gaslight, or The Shannon. And uptown residents stroll over to Liberty. On Wednesdays, 10th and Willow is the only game in town.
For customers, the allure is bragging rights, pure and simple.
"People like seeing how smart they are," said Hoboken resident Jason Lucy.
Prizes sweeten the deal. During baseball season, Sullivan's awards Mets and Yankees tickets. And second place is even a hot prize at the Gaslight, where winners get money taken off their bar tab.
Besides the handsome rewards, the game also encourages teamwork and a little friendly rivalry.
It also doesn't hurt to have confidence. Weehawken resident Lee Soffel, a friend of Lucy's, said he has never played trivia, but he is convinced that he would be a natural at it.
"I would be good at it because I'm good at 'Jeopardy!'" he said.
Many Hoboken trivia regulars, like Soffel's friend Lucy, know that it is not as easy as it seems. Uptown resident Karen said she often studies CNN.com before going to trivia, to make sure that she is up on the latest current events.
And Lucy, who has played at Liberty and Gaslight a number of times, told his friend that it wasn't that simple. "It was pretty tough," the Hoboken resident said. "The questions were on a pretty diverse [range of topics]."
How it's done
Whether you play at Mikie Squared or 10th and Willow, the rules are more or less the same: Customers form teams of two to five people, come up with a team name, and pick up an answer sheet from the DJ or Quizmaster.
The emcee then asks questions aloud, and team members have a certain amount of time to brainstorm with each other for the answer. At most places, the bar trivia buffs fill out answer sheets and turn them in after each question, round or the game. Teams are entrusted to follow the honor system.
But this is bar trivia, where the beer flows along with the conversations, and cheating runs rampant. Many teams not only consult with each other, but also ask the bartender, or the waitress, or friends at home (via sneaky text message) for answers.
The questions can range from art to music to sports, but they also cover everything in between. A recent trivia night at The Gaslight featured questions such as "Which New York fashion designer is famous for her wrap dresses?' and "What was Chrissy's full name was on Three's Company?'
(The answers, for the non-pop-culturally-enlightened, are Diane von Furstenberg and Christmas Snow).
A trivial pursuit
The different contests across the city have different game styles, different types of questions and different degrees of competitiveness.
For those going on a more complicated trivial pursuit, Gaslight and 10th and Willow ask the more obscure questions, while Liberty's trivia game-goers like it because it is a little more laid-back.
Jessica, a Hoboken resident, said she has played at both Gaslight and Liberty, said that Liberty's round bar adds to more of a relaxed atmosphere.
"Everyone sits around the bar and shouts 'Oh! I know that!' " she said. "It's different because you sit around the bar and you can see everyone," she continued. "It's more fun, and there are not as many current events questions."
One place where the game is a little different from the rest is The Shannon, where bar patrons can play NTN Buzztime trivia on Tuesdays, as well as most other nights.
With NTN Buzztime trivia, players watch questions on the television screens and have wireless buzzers that allow them to compete against other contestants at other bars across the country.
Whether they're competing with the people across the bar or with people across the country, Hoboken's bar trivia buffs have found the game to be a fun mid-week break.
Soffel offered one suggestion on how to improve the game:
"They should do strip trivia," he said. "Every time someone gets a question wrong, he or she strips."
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Where to play trivia in Hoboken
Sullivan's, 600 Washington St., Hoboken, (201) 420-9849
Gaslight, 400 Adams St., Hoboken, NJ 07030 (201) 217-1400.
Mikie Squared, 616 Washington St., Hoboken, (201) 792-0001.
Liberty, 61 14th St., Hoboken, (201) 222-6322.
The Shannon, 106 First St., Hoboken, (201) 656-9820.
10th and Willow, 935 Willow Ave., Hoboken, (201) 653-2358.