Things you only know if you're a: Pub quiz master

Alan Xie spills the beans on quizzing the Jing

Image: Sun Jianming
We know when you cheat
Don’t try to cheat, because I can see everything! And it’s fairly obvious: you’ll type on your phone, wait a bit, start scrolling, then click on something. Then you’ll excitedly talk to your team. I can tell when you are googling answers or just harmlessly replying to WeChat messages. We know our questions. So if you suddenly get a super hard and obscure question right, that no one else got, I know you looked it up. There was this girl whom I caught cheating, but she refused to admit it and proceeded to call me a racist and sexist, and tried to grab my mic and close my laptop. Don’t do that. It’s just a game, not your graduation exam!

It’s incredibly hard to put together a quiz
It takes me hours to put all the questions together. I have to try and balance how hard the questions are, the categories, and because we are in such an international city, I need to make sure they are in an international vein as well. I generally go on Wikipedia and other fact sites to look for material. It only gets harder the longer I do this as I don’t like reusing questions.

I don’t memorise all the answers in my quizzes
I don’t know all the answers to my own questions before I look them up and will most likely forget the answers after the quiz. Just like all of you, I’m only good in certain areas. I’ve been doing this for almost five years now so I’ve asked well over 20,000 questions. I’d be considered a national treasure if I still knew the answers to all of them. If I can’t answer a question you have related to a certain question I asked before, just remember that I’m not a walking encyclopaedia of trivia.

People hate math questions
As an Asian, I’m not amazing at maths. But I’m not bad either. I’ve tried to put maths questions in my quizzes a few times, but it’s not exactly the most welcome. Most people would go ‘ugh nooooo’ when I announce the next question or category would be maths. I secretly love that reaction. ‘Gotcha!’ Cue evil laugh.

It’s more than just reading questions and answers
Hosting a quiz is kinda like doing stand-up the same time. While the quality of questions and special formats are the meat of any quiz, making people laugh and keeping them entertained is also part of the job. You might not notice it, but a good quizmaster cracks jokes and interacts with the audience, keeping spirits up. Otherwise, anyone can do the job if it’s just reading questions. When I’m hosting, I tend to become extremely sassy in character, which people seem to like. Thank god.

Take part in Alan’s pub quiz every Thursday 8.30pm at Home Plate Sanlitun.

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