It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for another installment of ‘Meet the Geeks!’ This week, we’re talking to Eric Keihl, Geeks Who Drink’s long-time Managing Editor. Eric, who currently lives in Pittsburgh, talked to us about his impressive trivia background and shared the secret to writing a good trivia question — and we also learned where you can find some super filthy limericks.
I understand that you have a pretty long history with Quiz Bowls and things like that? I do, yeah. I played Masterminds in high school, which was team trivia. My senior year of college, we actually won a National College [Quiz] Bowl Championship. That was where I first got experience writing questions, because tournaments wouldn’t let you go unless you wrote a packet of questions for them.
How does writing Quiz Bowl questions compare to writing for Geeks Who Drink? It’s very different. The questions [for Quiz Bowl] were much longer, and they tend to be a lot more academic and not so humorous. They weren’t trying for entertainment so much, it was just a sheer test of knowledge. But it gave me a start in trying to understand what makes a good trivia question, what makes a bad one, and what kind I want to hear, so it was valuable in that respect.
So what does make a good trivia question? There are so many little components. It’s such a small room to work in, and it’s only 20 to 25 words. But in that small space, you can fit something that people haven’t heard before, or that teaches them something, and has that quality of surprise to it. A good question is also entertaining, and maybe slips a joke in that they weren’t expecting. The best are the kind where people are both laughing and saying at the end ‘Oh, I didn’t know that.’ That’s amazing.
Backing up again, how did you originally learn about Geeks Who Drink? I worked for a long time at a very small trivia company based in New York City called TriviaTryst that had maybe a dozen venues. Actually during that time I applied to be a writer at Geeks Who Drink; I was just sending my resume to every major trivia quiz company there was. [Geeks] never got back to me at the time, it was just complete silence — but I got a lot of complete silence. But then in 2015, Geeks Who Drink bought TriviaTryst, where I was sort of the only real editor. Geeks brought me on as a temporary editor, which kind of became permanent, and I’ve been hanging around ever since.
During your time with Geeks, what trivia moments really stand out for you? I’m sure you’ll hear this from everybody, but doing our big Geek Bowl event was just spectacular. Every single department, I think, has different kinds of good memories of Geek Bowl, because it was such a big song-and-dance, almost like a Super Bowl halftime production. It was where we did our big high-wire round concepts that would be too much to do in a daily quiz. We spent a whole weekend in a rented house just writing this thing, and throwing all of our high-concept ideas at the wall – and then to see those played out on a stage with They Might Be Giants playing songs in-between stuff we’d written was a really magical moment. Hopefully we’ll get to experience that again one day.
When you were writing for Geek Bowl, did it just feel like you could pitch anything, no matter how off-the-wall those ideas might be? Yeah, when we started pitching, we all brought our craziest ideas, like rounds that needed physical objects. We actually did a round at the Chicago Geek Bowl where we handed out Scrabble tiles and people had to arrange them to form the answers. The practical limitations came in later, when we’d start thinking ‘Can we actually do this?’ but to start with, the world was ours. You could throw anything at the wall, and that was half the fun.
On a more regular, non-Geek Bowl basis, what do you enjoy the most about this job? I love learning. I stumble across things I didn’t know every day, and that’s really gratifying. I don’t know if most jobs will allow you that opportunity. The opportunity to see other people be really creative in this small, confined space, and find new ways to expound upon a question or look into an idea is really wonderful for me. And frankly, I’m glad I don’t have to wear a suit and tie every day.
What’s one of the more recent things that you’ve learned during a workday? This one just came up and we haven’t written a question about it so this may spoil it, but I learned that science fiction writer Isaac Asimov wrote three entire books of dirty limericks. And they’re all very, very dirty.
Are they sci-fi and dirty or just dirty? They’re just dirty.