ONE of the great unifiers of people since the change in circumstances necessitated by Covid-19 has been remote games and quizzes. Whether it’s loudspeaker bingo in Dublin’s estates, friends visiting each-other’s islands in the latest ‘Animal Crossing’ video game, or even quizzes in this organ’s online edition and that of its sister newspaper, having the chance to try knowledge, skill and even luck in the best way we can seems to have struck a chord, providing opportunities both to come together and maintain social distancing amid the current crisis.
Patrick Ahern, one half of quizmaster duo Pat and Colm (Lougheed), could be regularly seen at Cork venues before the proverbial hit the fan.
An entertainer and function host for the last 20 years, Ahern saw what was coming at the same time the city’s arts and entertainment communities did, as discussed at length over the past few months in these pages.
When it hit, people in those communities were impacted nearly immediately, and Ahern was among those scrambling for the next option.
“The start of February, we knew it was coming across, saw the way it was hitting Italy. We didn’t think it would be as bad as it was. We had a plan of action ready to go, as soon as we were going to, just in case, because this is my livelihood.
“Quizzes were ready, we got the call on the Saturday that bars would be shutting, and we had an online quiz ready for the Tuesday. We got the word out as fast as we could, because we knew people would need it.”
Selling tickets via the Eventbrite ticketing platform, and conducting the quiz over online service crowdpurr.com, the move was a quick one to take, but interest has extended beyond social media and the duo’s in-person regulars, to a wider audience in need of a bit of a laugh as the long-term implications of staying inside has taken hold.
Ahern outlines the ease with which people can join in.
“We try to make it as easy as possible, so there’s no downloading of apps, or anything like that. There’s two weblinks: a YouTube channel, which most people with smart TVs, etc. can open up, or on their laptop. The other one is on your phone, you open that up, put in your name, and you’re in.”
Much like stand-up and other forms of performative oration, your average pub quizmaster has a well-honed sense of a crowd, and the ability to work with circumstances like dodgy questions and bantering participants. The latter in particular is a big part of the appeal of a pub quiz, so how has that ‘craic’ intangible changed with the switch to online?
“The craic can be up and down like most quizzes. We get a bit of abuse off people. Easier to give it back in person, very hard to do it online. That’s most of the fun of pub quizzes, a bit of banter back-and-forth, which we’re getting in the comments. People that don’t know each other are getting into it, having a go off each other, ‘aww, you were useless at that one’, ‘somebody’s Googling the answers’, and we have regulars coming back and chatting with each other. People do message us after the quiz, ‘that was great, I’d a great night’. So it’s good to get that back from people.”
The duo are hosting two quizzes weekly, serving up stern tests of many different topics, including decades of pop-culture, movie and media franchises, and the beloved ‘general knowledge’ oeuvre.
With time being as it is at the moment, the duo have had ample opportunities to put together some comprehensive questionnaires.
“It’s not too bad. Colm is setting the questions and we both have ‘our jobs’ now. Colm has most of them ready to go. We’ve been doing this for eight years, and we hit our 400th quiz at the Woolshed there recently enough. We have a stockpile that we can always dip into, and have our quizzes we do once a year that people are happy to come back to.”
The weekly free quiz, happening every Tuesday, has come with the caveat that participants donate to the charity of the evening. Marymount Hospice, Cope Foundation, Pieta House, and Enable Ireland, will be receiving much-needed funds at a time when in-person and event-centred fundraising drives have been scuppered en masse.
Ahern discusses their response, and the importance of these fundraisers to the organisations.
“Brilliant. That was the first thought: ‘can we help charities a little bit?’. Because we do a lot of charity quizzes every year anyway, we said there was some way we could help them. We contacted the charities themselves and asked if there was anyway we could raise some money. I get at least ten emails a day now from charities asking for help, so we’re doing the best we can, because the quiz is kind-of national. It’s only small, from what they need to raise, but they’re grateful, and so far, we’ve raised over €11,000 already so far. We’re happy with that, and the charities are happy that word is getting out, because they are struggling.”
Follow Patrick Ahern Entertainment on Facebook for the latest announcements on Pat and Colm’s online quizzes, Tuesday and Friday nights.