It’s Friday, which means we’re back to profile another one of our brilliant staffers. This week, we talked to Geeks Who Drink’s Pub Quiz Operations Director, Stefani Thomas. The Colorado resident told us about her decade-plus as a Geeks player-turned-Quizmaster-turned-Corporate Superstar, about the “good feels” generated by Quiz for a Cause, and about what it’s like to ask trivia questions at a former player’s wake.
How did you originally hear about Geeks Who Drink?
We had some friends who were casual trivia players — using the standard question format that we all love to hate on — but another friend told us there was another kind of trivia that was way better, and we should go try it out. We played Geeks Who Drink for a year or two and I think we were kind of the team to beat at our little place. We always got first- or second- place most evenings when we played, so we went to Geek Bowl 5…and we did terribly. We were definitely in the bottom 10. But at that point, I was pretty hooked and thought ‘If my Quizmaster can pull this off, I can too.’ I auditioned in 2011, made it through the process and started hosting quizzes with fervor in October of that year.
How did you transition from working as a Quizmaster to your current role with corporate?
I was definitely one of those who drank the Kool-Aid: I was all-in on Geeks. I subbed and hosted everywhere I could. I don’t know if I can still say this, but at one point, I had a record for hosting at the most different venues of any Quizmaster in the country. I hosted in about 50 or 60 different bars, so I was really, really into it. Another Quizmaster and I started angling for an in, and trying to figure out how we could make Geeks Who Drink our full-time gig. At the first [Quizmaster Convention], we cornered upper management and said ‘How do we become a part of this?’ We ended up sharing a client management and staffing management position for a while. He eventually had to let go, but I clung on desperately and got moved over to full-time about seven or eight years ago.
Wow. That’s like a parable about persistence.
Once my claws are in, there’s no letting go.
What’s your official title now?
Officially, I’m our Pub Quiz Operations Director. [Quizmaster-in-Chief] Christopher [Short] likes to abbreviate that as “Pequod” but what I remember about the Pequod is that it’s the ship that goes down in Moby Dick. I don’t want to be the Pequod!
After interviewing a lot of Geeks staffers, I’ve learned that there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ day, but if you average your week out, what does that look like for you?
Every week brings something unique to the table, or I hear something that I can’t believe came out of the mouth of a bar owner or a Quizmaster. Essentially what I do from day to day is make sure our clients and our hosts are happy. I make sure that, from week to week, we have a consistently awesome quiz and that we’re showing up to do it. I manage a region so I have Colorado and a big chunk of the U.S. to support, and I work with both the clients and the staff in all those states on a daily basis.
My passion project that I work on is Quiz for a Cause. I’m the person that organizations or causes reach out to when they want to partner with us for a fundraising night at one of our quizzes. It’s a huge opportunity for good feels every week, especially when I hear the happy response from a nonprofit that has just gotten the chance to raise anywhere between a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars, just in a two hour quiz. It’s pretty awesome.
There have been some big successes with Quiz for a Cause lately, right?
Quiz for a Cause obviously went dark when everything else went dark, and we were slow to bring it back once we were doing in-person events because we just wanted to be responsible about it. I mean, Quiz for a Cause is a great way to bring a big crowd into a venue, which is awesome when you want a big crowd, but in our current day and age, having a big crowd can still feel a little weird. We waited until it felt as appropriate as it could feel, and then we got going with a nationwide fundraiser to benefit refugees from Ukraine. That one was huge, with a lot of quizmasters and venues, and it raised over $17,000. But our initial events – the ones that are just at one venue – have also exceeded expectations, The Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico raised $1,000 in one night, and [trans advocacy organization] He She Ze and We out of Virginia raised $1,000 in one night as well. Even last night, we did an abortion fundraiser in Austin, Texas that raised almost $2,000 in a single night as well.
That’s incredible. Do you still host quizzes as well?
I hosted right up until our [pandemic-related] shutdown and haven’t gone back since we’ve returned to full service, so it’s been about two years since I got behind the mic. There’s a bar right down the street though, so if they sign us back up, I might have to do it. I’d love to start subjecting people to my musical tastes for two hours again. Anytime I can expose someone to Wesley Willis — ”Rock N Roll McDonald’s” is a particular favorite — I’ll take that opportunity.
When you look back at your time with the company, either as a Quizmaster, a player, or in your current role, what moments really stand out to you?
I certainly have things that I’d put on my Quizmaster resume. I think I was the first one to ever host a quiz at a wake, which might seem weird and awkward, but it was amazing. I had a quizzer who was a big enough fan that he and his friends considered making me part of his Celebration of Life. That was cool, for sure, to think that we’d had that kind of impact on his life.
Also, when Geek Bowl was in Las Vegas, we worked with a local organization called Opportunity Village, which was amazing. I have family members who were born differently abled, and we had some kids from Opportunity Village onstage to present a question to the crowd, and it was incredible to see them light up and take full advantage of having thousands of people watch them onstage. But even after just a regular day-to-day quiz, I left with a smile on my face. I always had a great time hanging out with my friends, playing the music I like, and asking trivia questions. It really doesn’t get much better than that.