Recap of 2020 & The State of 2021 (AMA answers!)

February 17, 2021

 S o much has changed this year. I mean, I don’t have to tell you that. You were there. 2020 was the year for best laid plans to be laid out… and then set on fire for warmth. Still, if you could say home there was comfort and safety in that, and personally I had comfort in knowing that we were able to keep Trivia Club going in 2020, on-line streaming from the Trivia Clubhouse. One and all, I am your host Russel Harder, writing to you a recap of 2020 and a look ahead to 2021. Thank you for reading as much of this as you’re interested in.

Yes, before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to thank you all, for the first of no doubt many times in this post. Thank you for joining us any Tuesday (and the odd Wednesday or Monday) we put together Trivia Club, my producer and partner Krissy and I, which no doubt gave me and continues to give me a bit of normalcy in what we call life this past year.

Trivia Club had built itself into quite a large part of my schedule, and attention, and once the ability to hold in-person events with as large a crowd as you could muster ground to a halt… well, it took a while for me to fully adapt.

This past year Trivia Club began the calendar by saying goodbye to our home away from home in Hitch, a location that became our longest-running location when it came to time spent within the doors if not total number of events. Luckily at the start of March we were able to celebrate the Trivia Club community with the Trivial Awards at Farside, because by the end of March Trivia Club had gone on-line just like the rest of the world.

With so many more impactful and important moments this year, it’s tough to dwell on what this year meant to Trivia Club for too long, but suffice to say the loss of how much Trivia Club had grown throughout 2019 and was looking to continue into 2020 meant a step back for Trivia Club as a whole. As quickly as Trivia Club had been able to travel across Canada, with further licensed events planned thru The Rec Room in British Columbia, Manitoba, and Ontario, those plans didn’t just change as much as they ended.

Still, Trivia Club went on-line. Life persists, so what more can you do but pivot, and we were able to stream first from Facebook and then on YouTube live every Tuesday from the Trivia Clubhouse. You came out and played, and as some of you have told me it helped you through this first year of the pandemic. It’s helped me as well. The world changed in 2020, so any routine and familiar feelings were incredibly helpful. Thank you, from me to you for allowing Trivia Club to continue in 2020. For playing along every Tuesday. I said last year in this Recap/State Of write-up that “more people played Trivia Club then ever before”, and while I can’t say that’s entirely true for this year as well, I am happy to know that more people then ever before could play Trivia Club. With an adapted version of Trivia Club streaming on YouTube, it allowed past participants of Trivia Club live events, as well as my friends and family who hadn’t had the chance to play in-person, a chance to join in on the game show.

Trivia Club also returned to Patreon. With no more in-person events, simply enough Trivia Club was no longer making any money. So in asking you if you wanted to support Trivia Club, you truly are helping it continue to be available as an event in 2021 and beyond, as a patron of these trivial arts, and we are so happy and have appreciated that you agreed to do so! You of course can still continue to support us by playing every Tuesday, and to further support and get the perks of doing so you can become a patron at Patreon.com/TriviaClub or give on-time support through paypal.me/russelharder!


 Ask Me Anything: Answers 
Now before I recap 2020, and then look forward to 2021, I would love to answer the questions that were asked of me across all of Trivia Club social media! A few times, during January of 2021, I asked everyone to ask me anything! Thank you for asking, without further ado here are my answers.

Matthew Smith of the Electric Mayhem/The Bastards/Smartly Pretty asked on Patreon: Do you have any plans/desires to do an online version of a Grand Prix championship, or does the honor system nature of that format make it untenable?
I do have a desire to bring back the Grand Prix for the Grand Championship (THE GOLDEN VCR!), even if it means holding those events over YouTube.

I don’t think the honor system nature of the current format makes it untenable, though for this upcoming anniversary month of April, I believe I would want to make the Grand Championship Grand Prix a celebration of regular teams. Including something of an “appearance number” gateway allows for a wide selection of teams while hopefully helping to establish that honor system amongst everyone who conceivably hasn’t cheated yet, and so won’t do so for the Golden VCR.

@taniahowells asked on Instagram: Favourite animal?
I honestly haven’t thought about this question since childhood, and even growing up I never really landed on a favorite animal that felt… legitimately mine? I remember saying Dolphin or Eagle growing up, but that was more to have an easy answer that included something uncontroversial so we could move on. At this moment I find Octopuses pretty incredible and weird and fun (though it should be noted that My Octopus Teacher is a psychological horror movie), and I have also been convinced that Pigeons are deeply misunderstood and unappreciated simply because they’re yet another sterling example of the western world being actively harmful for the sake of short-sighted fancies.

@chelseaonthebay of Down by the Bay asked on Instagram: What is your favourite song?
What day is it, and what mood am I in? Okay, I can pretend that this is an impossible question to answer or I can honestly tell you:

“In Spite of Ourselves” by John Prine and Iris Diment is my favorite song. It’s probably not even close. John Prine will always be the plain spoken poet singer-songwriter that echoes through my mind, and “In Spite of Ourselves” encapsulates everything I love about John Prine… and it’s easy to sing… and it reminds me of home. It’s romantic and dumb and fun, and it’s home. So it’s perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

Still, I want to make this give you another nine songs so that this can be an otherwise unranked top ten of songs. I’m currently really enjoying/have always really enjoyed/like to sing to myself at random moments of the day/am especially happy to hear on the radio/find myself watching on YouTube. “Last Night” by The Strokes. “Mr. Grieves” by TV on the Radio. “The Weight” by The Band. “Tiny Dancer” by Elton John. “Home” by Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeroes. “Marry Me Archie” by Alvvays. “Motion Sickness” by Pheobe Bridgers. “Send My Love” by I’m With Her. “Blue Spotted Tail” by Fleet Foxes.

@TmF1979 of the Fighting Mongooses asked on Twitter: How are this year's Trivial Awards gonna work?
They are something I want to do, and in the next month or so. As an annual event, it was the incredibly rare one that we were able to do in 2020 because of the timing of it all. So how would the Trivial Awards work from within the Trivia Clubhouse? My initial thought is to do it over Zoom as a special event. Have people actively sign-up and gain the necessary information to join the Zoom call. Part of the fun of the Trivial Awards (other then getting a little award, which won’t be as possible) is celebrating specific teams. I think doing a private Zoom event would be both a fun trivia event, and a give us all a rare chance to see the competition/community. Zooms’ screen sharing feature would allow for further visual possibilities too of course. Finally, the chance for me to interact with everyone might even allow for something like, I don’t know, Combo Breakdown?

Dylan Morgan of the M. Night Shaym-Aliens asked on Patreon: Are there any old game mechanics you've tried in the past that you'd want to re-introduce into the Trivia Club game?
Combo Breakdown! Maybe not as an everyday food, or even as a piece of the YouTube-centered Tuesday event, but maybe as a special event and hang out tool of its own on Zoom. Even if it isn’t part of an already busy Trivial Awards night, I do like the idea of getting a group together for a game of C-C-Combo Breakdown! Also every time I see blue paper in an old picture, actual physical categories for the “Jeo-Pardo” round at Cardinal Rule, that featured random points on the back, or even a Choose Your Own Points adventure… I remember how fun and chaotic and chaotically fun that was.

@chelseaonthebay of Down by the Bay asked on Instagram: What is your ultimate favorite build it yourself sandwich?
The bread is from the No Knead Bread recipe my sister (that’s you) gave me, and the protein is seitan. The cheese is President’s Choice Lactose Free Old White Cheese. Pesto, mayo, mustard, vinegared Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Yeah, that all sounds really good.  

Ryan M. of Pushing Daisy/Biscuits asked on YouTube: Favourite cocktail you'd be ordering at Farside if real life still existed?
Important note for this, actually! Farside still very much exists in Toronto, but when you’re able and if it’s safe for you to do so, you can indeed order pre-bottled cocktails from Farside! And when you’re able to safely do so, I also recommend renting VHS tapes (yes, VHS tapes!) from Farside as well, and that includes a few Golden ones (which are indeed playable, though you’ll have to ask them which ones they are) and a HDMI-compatable VCR as well if you’d like to play your own Golden VHS tapes! Wait, you had a question too didn’t you? I don’t drink alcohol actually, so I’m going to pick from their mocktail menu whenever I get the chance to! Until then, Ginger Beer.

@chelseaonthebay of Down by the Bay also asked on Instagram: If you could have dinner out (pre covid of course) with anyone who would you go with. And you can't pick Krissy.
I’m going to swing big, and using the time travel ability of pre-covid in this question, say Alex Trebek. Stephen Colbert is a close second.

@carlo.conda.music asked on Instagram: What is the meaning of life?
Understanding. There’s a reason Trivia Club’s sign-off has always been “It’s not what you know, it’s what you learn along the way.” I think that the act, or nature of understanding is instrumental to life and living. This isn’t even a “understand both sides” politically-minded thing either, because in some senses you have to understand that some people don’t deserve your energy (see: those who live in a world of “alternative facts”). Understanding isn’t always something that equals intelligence either. Understanding is living in comfort to the best of your ability, it's the process and not the destination, and that is a beautiful to me.


 Trivia Club Recap for 2020 
In 2020 we held 112 live events across ten different locations, as well as special and private events, including our Red Carpet Oscar Trivia. Of those 112 live events, 63 events were hosted by me, Russel Harder, in Toronto, which makes up 56% of events. It’s no surprise that this is the least number of events we’ve held in and from Toronto since 2013 when he hosted 58 events in our first full year of Trivia Club. Live from the Trivia Clubhouse we hosted 7 events on Facebook, before shifting our streaming to YouTube for another 31 events. Also on-line over Zoom he held 6 private events that included a Wedding Reception, Birthdays, an (American) Thanksgiving dinner, and corporate events!

Our in-person events during the first two and a half months of the year included 9 events at the flagship The Rec Room Roundhouse, including our third annual Red Carpet Oscar Trivia event that brought a refined night of trivia and viewing party in those final weeks of live events that also saw your host and a few participants appear live on CP24 television interviews! The Black Label location of Hitch, our Home Away, and our longest-running location, held it’s 3 final events. Our Friendly Neighborhood Farside held 3 events as well including the fourth annual Trivial Awards!

 January  saw Trivia Club begin 2020 on the 7th, with Cookiefaced scoring 108 points to win their thirteenth Golden VHS at The Rec Room Roundhouse. On the same night in London, at The Rec Room Masonville hosted by Justin Gayle, Last Decade’s Losers broke a 100 point tie and won the night against Trifecta! Matt Smith returned to the winners circle at our longest-running location of Hitch on January 13th, winning the night as Cuba Gooding Junior Bacon Cheeseburger for his second solo Golden VHS and joining an even rarer club with a solo Sesquicentennial Mark of 158 points! On January 15th, 2 Fast 2 Curious became the winningest team at Farside with their ninth Golden VHS at Friendly Neighborhood ‘side, and ninth Sesquicentennial Mark all-time with 168 points on the night. At the penultimate edition of Trivia Club at Hitch on the 26th, the new Mongoose order would win their twenty-third Golden VHS, bringing them within one more win of the all-time mark at the Black Label location. Closing out the month Cookiefaced would win the night at The Rec Room Roundhouse, bookending a strong start to the year in the round.

 February  with the 45th edition of Trivia Club at Farside, and a repeat win for 2 Fast 2 Curious inside those same warm walls. With their tenth win at that location and twenty-ninth overall 2 Fast 2 Curious took sole possession as the fifth-winningest team all-time at Trivia Club. Unfortunately we had to cancel our next event at Farside at the last minute, but we would be back in March for the Trivial Awards! Speaking of Awards, February 9th saw the return of the Red Carpet Oscar Trivia at The Rec Room Roundhouse and the return of Matt, Rob, SK, and friends to the winners circle under the name of It’s Not What Joon-Ho… Pitt’s What Pugh Dern Along Renee! A day later on February 10th it was the One Last Round at Hitch. Joining other Legacy Locations in that “former” column, 2,345 days after our first event at Hitch, One Last Round saw us given One More Round for the first time at Hitch as the night ended with a tie! Yes, for the first time Hitch would have to break a tie between Matt Smith as Going Off Without a Hitch and 2001: A Mongoose Odyssey! The Fighting Mongooses had left points on the board, giving us this need for a Sudden Victory Box-Office Bullseye to end the night with one final winner at Hitch… and the night ended with the Fighting Mongooses winning their twenty-fourth Golden VHS at Hitch on their fifty-eighth consecutive appearance at the Black Label location! Also on the night, the Fighting Mongooses became the sixth team to score 5,000 points or more at a single location. To end a massive three-day span for Trivia Club, on the 111th edition of Trivia Club at The Rec Room Roundhouse, on the 11th day of February, Cookiefaced threepeated as Champs! This had only ever happened six other teams, from five other teams, though it was the fourth threepeat that included February events amazingly. The final Golden VHS champ of the month on the 25th of February, at The Rec Room Roundhouse, were the M. Night Shaym-Aliens which brought together the O.G. Shaym-Ali-Boys the further cemented those Shaym-Aliens as Trivia Club staples no matter the location.

 March  continued the years early trend with another win for Cookiefaced at The Rec Room Roundhouse on the 3rd, a win they would follow up with yet another repeat victory on the 10th for the final in-person victory of the year! Cookiefaced would finish the first quarter of 2020 with five victories in seven events! Though we did not make our final event of the year, in-person at least, one of pomp and circumstance past the usual live event of Trivia Club… we had luckily held the fourth annual Trivial Awards just a week prior on March 4th at Farside! Long-time Hitch participants The Man with the Candy played under the name Ajulmah and won the night 190 points, what would be the years highest score, to also join the Five Timers Club a wild 6 years and 166 days after their first appearance at Trivia Club. Runners-up on the Trivial Awards night were the Super Mongoose Bros., with Cookiefaced in third place, a point ahead of the Cunning Stunts! The Questionables would win the Socratic Shield, for more VHSes in 2019, while Cookiefaced would score the most points overall in that year, and the Fighting Mongooses would be awarded that Iron Mongoose moniker for their impressive appearance streak in 2019 and the years prior. Dead on the Inside would win the Team/Player of the Year for 2019, while the High Score of 2019 belonged to Not One, Not Two, Not Three, Not Five… Four Gregs, and the M. Night Shaym-Aliens would win that Hustle & Desire Award! Our world, of course, would truly begin locking down by the 13th of March and Trivia Club would not make it to its next in-person event scheduled at Farside for a St. Patrick’s Day hangover on March 18th.

And of course...  

Like everything else, after taking a week to breath, become close friends with my sweatpants, and plan (and still feel a million miles from normal), Trivia Club went on-line on March 24th LIVE from the Trivia Clubhouse. In live streaming events from home we had to learn as we went, changing the style and shape of a traditional Trivia Club event. Agatha Quiztie, a team with Vampire Weekend at Bernie and M. Night Shaym-Alien connections, had the top score at our first event on Facebook with 22 of the 27 potential points. We were honored to have nearly thirty participating teams, that included much of our in-person community along with family and friends from outside of Toronto. After May began with technical difficulties for our seventh Facebook live stream, Trivia Clubhouse streaming shifted to YouTube on May 12th, with Down by the Bay grabbing the top score with 22 of the 26 potential points! Though the shift to YouTube changed the number of teams who were actively participating in the live chat, it brought a stability to the livestream and an easier to follow chat. We brought back the Trivia Royale, with helpful insight from Matt Smith, for the second event on YouTube and ninth overall from the Trivia Clubhouse, helping round out the size and shape of the potential night, and almost doubling the points in the process. We’ve been incredibly lucky to have approximately a dozen teams returning each Tuesday on the live chat (or playing along on taped delay, like the Fighting Mongooses who have been able to play every single edition of the Trivia Clubhouse, up until this point, any day of the week), establishing the Clubhouse community, while also mixing in new faces that we wouldn’t have otherwise had in-person at physical locations.


 The State of Trivia Club in 2021 
With the world continuing to be on-line for the foreseeable future, Trivia Club will continue on YouTube with our Tuesday events live from the Trivia Clubhouse.

As noted in the Ask Me Anything, I want to hold the fifth-annual Trivial Awards this year during late February or early March. This event would be held on Zoom, which allows for image sharing of the awards, as well as copyrighted audio clues, and further visual clues as well.

We’ll also want to bring back the Grand Championship Grand Prix in some way, hopefully in April. 2020 was the first year since our first anniversary where we weren’t able to hold any annual events, so I would love to bring the Grand Prix to the Trivia Clubhouse.

Thinking of what we could do with Zoom special events, I believe there is potential for special events outside of the Tuesday night norm, like Combo Breakdown competitions. Over the years, especially since it stopped being used as a Game Show Game, Combo Breakdown has been revealed as noted favorite to return. As a highly competitive game, I think it also has good potential for fun in a group chat.

And more too, something to make up for lost annual events in the fall or winter, and of course the forever changed Summer Movie Wager or the privately run Saturday Night Live Fantasy League (a public thank you to Rob Moden for keeping that going, by the way).  

Every year a keyword is chosen for Trivia Club, a single word as a mission statement. It works as a broad concept to keep as a mantra in the back of my mind to push the year forward and remind me of what I’d like to accomplish in the year ahead. Not as much a resolution as it is a good habit.

For Trivia Club’s first year that keyword was “CREATION”, the reason for which goes without saying, while in our second year it was “EXPANSION”, as Trivia Club found its way to four different locations including our longest-running location, Hitch. Still, in our third year we needed to think about “STABILITY”.

As Trivia Club did indeed stabilise after expansion, in our fourth year we wanted to concentrate on the “LOYALTY” that made it happen, building triviaclub.ca into what you see today, while also beginning the Trivial Awards. In my fifth year working on Trivia Club, I made the keyword public for the first time with my intention for “MOBILITY”, which meant new locations and an entry into podcasts! For year six my mind was on “COLLABORATION”. Though I originally intended that collaboration to be more person to person, I was pleasantly surprised with the steps Trivia Club took as a business, working alongside international corporations, or licensing Trivia Club across Ontario with The Rec Room.

Year seven had “CONNECTION” as a keyword, with a weekly cross-Canada Top Five helping bring together our nation-wide competition on this website. Year eight had the best intentions with “CONTINUITY” in mind, looking at our growing footprint across Canada and wanting to keep in mind a sense of history and consistency. Of course that blew up a bit, however I was glad to keep Trivia Club going at the Trivia Clubhouse, while also inevitably building stats and achievements from Clubhouse events into the .CA!

What does the State of Trivia Club for 2021 inspire in terms of keywords?

PLAY”.

With so much stress in the world, in the day-to-day, I want to try my best to simply keep the game in the game show. I want to make sure to keep the stakes as low as possible, to remember to have fun, and remember to play around. With the expansion of Trivia Club having halted, and the game itself needing to change since going on-line, I need to keep remembering that Trivia Club shouldn’t be too precious or taken too seriously by me. Yes, I know I’m saying this at the end of a 4,000 essay buuuuut stay with me, I still love Trivia Club so I want to just keep it fun, I want to remember to play around. I look forward to doing more of that in 2021.

It’s not what you know, it’s what you learn along the way.

- Russel Harder

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