In our ongoing “Meet the Geeks!” series, it’s time to introduce you to our Quizmaster Recruiter Jonpaul Guinn! Alongside getting to know him a bit better, you’ll also learn about how he successfully convinces people to take on the microphone by becoming a Quizmaster. Let’s get to it.
If you’d like a guaranteed conversation-starter, you can just ask him where he’s from and see where things go from there. “I’m from…well, it’s complicated,” he said, when we did this very thing. “I’m originally from New Braunfels, Texas, but I grew up all over the place. My dad was military and then after that was a minister, so I grew up in Texas, England, Arkansas, and Iowa. Then I was in the Army for 14 years, and that took me to El Paso, Oklahoma, Saudi Arabia, Germany, and Rhode Island. I’m kind of an all-over-the-place kid.”
After years of packing and unpacking, he now lives in Austin, Texas, less than 50 miles from where he started. Jonpaul’s ten years with Geeks Who Drink have been similarly “all over the place,” both when it comes to geography and his job descriptions. We recently talked to him about hosting the quiz, hiring Quizmasters and the best thing he’s ever heard from an audience member.
When and how did you originally hear about Geeks Who Drink? I heard about it from a poster in a laundromat in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2011. I was bicycling across the country, but I got caught in the middle of a heatwave and didn’t make it. I only biked from Virginia to Illinois, but I was in Charlottesville doing laundry, and I saw one of their posters. I’d already been hosting and writing pub quizzes at that point, and I tried to go to a Geeks Who Drink quiz that night, but it was too packed and there was nowhere to sit. A couple of months later when I was done with all the cycling and everything, I went to a Geeks quiz in Boston. That was the first one.
Wait, let’s go back for a second — biking across the country? Yeah, I was reading a book by a distance runner, a guy who’d been a long-time editor for Runner’s World, and he’d done it. This was about six or eight months before I got out of the Army, and I thought “That sounds like fun.” So when I got out I tried to do it, and had a good time. Then I stopped having a good time, so I didn’t make it.
Biking from Virginia to Illinois is still impressive. How long did that take? I rode about 1,000 miles in two weeks.
Wow. Back to Geeks, though. How did you eventually make the jump from player to employee? I was living in Rhode Island and was writing and hosting a couple of different pub quizzes. When Geeks Who Drink came to Rhode Island, they put an ad in Craigslist and my girlfriend at the time said “You should apply to be a host there.” I avoided most pub quiz companies because I didn’t like most of their questions: I couldn’t imagine reading them without editorializing on them. With Geeks, I thought “Yeah, I could probably read their stuff.” I had an audition, got the gig, and hosted our first quiz in Rhode Island. After that, I became an AV tech and started training all of the other Rhode Island hosts.
When did you move to the corporate side of it? In November 2016. I was hired as the first Geeks Who Drink staff writer. A month later, I became the regional manager for Texas, doing all of the client-and-host relationships, as well as hiring and everything like that. After about six months, they said “You can’t do both jobs,” so I stayed on as regional manager and went back to freelancing as a writer. After a couple of years, I went back to the editorial team as a full-time staff writer, became an editor and created our Small Batch trivia, and now I’m doing recruiting and staffing.
And you’re still a Quizmaster (QM) too? Yes. I host every Tuesday.
In your role as a recruiter, what are you looking for in potential QMs? I look for somebody who understands how a question is read, and who’s excited about doing the job. I think people become Quizmasters because it looks like fun, they want to do it, and they think they can. In a way, it’s not much different from being in an after-work basketball league or skeeball league or other extracurricular — but it’s one you get paid for. Basically, I’m looking for somebody who’s excited about hosting a quiz, isn’t boring, and isn’t a jerk.
What do you think Geeks Who Drink players want in a Quizmaster? I think they want their host to want to be there, consistently. When I ask people in an interview what they like or don’t like in a host, the thing they don’t like is someone who’s disengaged or not having fun. They want someone who’s performing the questions, rather than reading them.
In your opinion, what makes Geeks Who Drink’s Quizmasters the best at it? We’re the only quiz company that I would host for. I think a big part of that is the material that’s provided by our writers and our editorial team. The format of our quiz and our questions are unique, and that does a lot of the work for me as a host. I know that the material is going to be good, and the material does a lot of the heavy lifting for me, as far as jokes and things like that. All I have to do is read it well, and I’ve landed a joke that isn’t even mine! So I think our hosts are very good because we give them very good material.
It’s almost like a personality in a box. Yeah, and it’s very flexible. It works with a lot of different people’s voices. It’s like looking at a movie script and watching different people perform it.
What’s one of your more memorable experiences from your time hosting? One thing that pops into my head, the most recent thing, was from a round we did a couple of weeks ago. The questions were about whether something weighed more or less than 2,000 pounds; the answers were just “more” or “less.” The first question was “The T.Rex at the Field Museum in Chicago,” and a player right in the front of the audience goes “Is it dead or alive?” And I said “I’m going to let you consult with your team on that,” and just turned up the music to wait for the next question. That’s one of the best questions I’ve been asked, ever.