Secrets of the Quizmaster

If you've ever been to Mad Dog in the Fog on a Tuesday or Thursday night, you're familiar with Quiz Night — especially if you're up a tad later than you should be on a school night.

From the deceptively simple primary round up through the confounding music and picture rounds (Skeet Ulrich? Really?), Mad Dog's quiz is among the best in the city. Just try finding an open seat if you disagree.

Although you may have heard the Quizmaster's Irish brogue over the speaker or caught a glimpse of him collecting trivia cards, the brains behind the operation is more man behind the curtain than main attraction. But after 16 years of running Mad Dog's quizzes, Peter Malone knows a thing or two about trivia.


A Belfast native, Peter got his start moonlighting at The Pig and Whistle while working as a social worker in the Tenderloin way back in '94. Now, Peter is a full-time Quizmaster working weekly quizzes at Mad Dog, The Pig and Whistle, Blackthorn Tavern, and Durty Nelly's.

He estimates he's written over half a million questions since starting out, and he's saved every last one of them.

As for future quizzes, "I have every trivia quiz from now until the 5th of December started," he says. "But I always leave three or four 'til about half an hour before the quiz starts. It gets the adrenaline going a wee bit."


Although the competition can be stiff, trivia night is about more than just coming out on top.

"It's about treatin' bars like pubs back home in Ireland," says Derek Brennan, Mad Dog's longtime quiz night bartender.

Americans, he noted, can be less than outgoing when they hit the bars. "When a pub quiz is on, they interact with everybody, there's a camaraderie that you won't find normally in any other bar. I love to work it because it's more of a social aspect. The pub quiz reaches out to people on a common ground."


Want to get in on the action? If you're thinking of hitting quiz night for the first time, or honing your already stellar game, here are five quiz tips from the Master himself:


  1. Team Name. "I always like something lighthearted about something that's in the news," says Peter. "Team names that make you laugh are very good."

    But although he's all for using crass language in the right context, he says there are certain words he'd prefer not to say. After all, "People bring their mothers to the quiz."


  2. Team Size. "Four is perfect," advises Peter. "You don't want to have too many different answers for one question, because then you usually get the dominant voice that may not be the right one making the decisions."

    If you do reach an impasse, it's best to explain exactly how you got there. "Tell a story about why you think it's the right answer."


  3. Team Composition. "A good tip would be to get an eclectic team, people from different walks of life," Derek says. "I mean, if you have five accountants, they're not gonna win. Get a stripper in there!"

  4. Flying Solo. What if you don't have a team but want to participate? "Sit at the bar," advises Peter. "I've had times where there've been three individuals sitting at the bar who'd never met before and end up winning the quiz."

    Singles take heed: he even knows married couples who met during his trivia night.


  5. Preparation. No amount of studying can fully prep you for a pub quiz, but there are ways to get ahead of the game. "You have to watch the news or read the newspaper," Peter says. And be aware of holidays and special events. "I've got the St. Patrick's Day one done already and ready to go," Peter says.

    Big surprise: "It's got an Irish theme."



Mad Dog in the Fog is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, and they want you to celebrate in much the same way you celebrated your 21st birthday. From March 3rd-6th, celebrations will take on a retro flair with music and football (soccer) games from the '90s, as well as beer specials, giveaways, balloons and a rumored birthday cake.

Peter will even be dusting off questions from his first Mad Dog quiz ever for Thursday, March 3rd, so come prepared to revisit 1994 (you know you want to!).

Update 2/27: Mad Dog has just informed us that they've had to postpone their anniversary party night for a month due to unforeseen developments. We'll keep you posted when a new date is announced!