Lebanon man leads trivia night

By Jennifer Moody
For Lebanon Local
Steve Woodley’s brain holds something for everyone, especially if it was once in a movie.
“If I’ve seen it twice, it’s in my memory forever,” the Lebanon man said. “It’s mostly just a thing my brain does. It’s not useful or constructive or profitable.”
The profitable part is debatable, considering Woodley has found a way to turn his near-encyclopedic knowledge of movies and other fun facts into part of his job: hosting a Tuesday night trivia game at the Schmizza Public House in Lebanon’s Bi-Mart plaza.
Big bucks or not, though, Woodley figures he’s not alone in the ability – or desire – to shake down topics for scraps of loose facts to share with everyone around him. That’s why he started Trivia Schmivia five years ago this month, and why he brought it back last month after a nearly two-year pandemic hiatus.
“I like the idea of building a community that maybe doesn’t have a spot to come to in Lebanon,” Woodley said.
Free and family-friendly, the game invites diners to test their wits against seven rounds of questions, all geared toward a particular theme: Harry Potter, say, or the NFL, or New York City.
New this year: Players are invited to donate to the nonprofit of the week as part of their visit. Doctors Without Borders and the Lebanon Soup Kitchen have been among the show’s beneficiaries so far.
“It’s been a hard couple of years,” Woodley said. “I wanted to do my part in any way I can.”
Woodley, 37, is the bar manager. When he first started at the pub shortly after moving to Lebanon eight years ago, a nationwide trivia company was hired to provide weekly guessing games.

The outdoor space used for trivia night increases safety for patrons.

Born in the United Kingdom in the mid-1970s as “pub quizzes,” bar trivia started catching on in the United States about a decade later, especially with the rise in popularity of the 1980s board game “Trivial Pursuit.”
Growing up in the Bay Area, Woodley had played his fair share of trivia. The game offered in Lebanon was no different than he might find anywhere else, San Francisco to Schenectady. And that bothered him.
“It wasn’t tailored to the location. It was just boilerplate trivia,” he said. Plus, he added, “It cost us a lot. And it wasn’t really fun.”
So the pub ended its business arrangement, and a few months later, Woodley’s boss asked Woodley if he would consider creating a trivia game himself.
“Funny thing was, I was thinking the same thing,” he recalled. In February 2017, Trivia Schmivia was born.
Woodley thought he’d start out with regular, general-knowledge trivia, maybe throw in a little music, maybe something a little weird.
Instead, he said, “It became this monster with costumes and special events.”

A DETAIL SHOT shows the score sheets Woodley hands out for each game.

Seven rounds comprise a game of Trivia Schmivia: four general knowledge rounds centered around the theme, plus one music round, one video round and one round dedicated to identifying pictures on a piece of paper.
He takes particular glee in the music rounds, which challenge listeners to identify song and artist. He offers an extra point to anyone who can guess the theme of the music he plays between questions for atmosphere. (For the recent New York game, for instance, the between-questions theme was songs about places in New York: The Beastie Boys’ “No Sleep Till Brooklyn,” was one of the offerings.)
In spite of a very, very good memory – not quite eidetic, but close, he said – Woodley himself would tend to blow it at trivia when it came to music rounds. So why include them? “Spread the pain,” he explained. “It’s kind of cathartic.”
A geology major who lived in Hawaii before moving to Oregon, where he worked as a park ranger in Klamath Falls before taking the Lebanon job, Woodley is married to a wildlife biologist who’s studying for her doctorate at Oregon State University. He tells her he’ll quit the trivia games as soon as they stop being fun.
“It’s a good creative outlet for me,” he said with a shrug. “I have a closet full of costumes for this. And I mean a closet-full. It’s kind of a problem.”

STEVE WOODLEY prepares for a science-themed trivia game, set for Feb. 8 at Schmizza Public House in Lebanon.

It takes about 12 hours to prep one game. Woodley said he works to find a good mix of gimmes and gulpers, and each game, he reminds players of the rules: No cheating. No yelling out the answers. Also, no arguing with the quizmaster. You can always talk to him afterward or drop a note in the suggestion box, and if you’re right, he’ll tell everyone how very smart you are.
Frequent flyers know to expect regular questions about Woodley’s personal favorites: Stephen King, video games, and especially David Bowie.
He doesn’t plan to hang up his trivia thinking cap anytime soon, but whenever he does, that’s how he plans to go out: with a full night devoted to the Thin White Duke. “You’ll know it’s my last night when I do David Bowie Night,” he said.
The global pandemic nearly brought Trivia Schmivia to a premature end. With in-house dining canceled for the first several months and gatherings discouraged after that, Woodley had no games to plan.
Instead, he learned to weld and turned his 2002 Hyundai Elantra into a pandemic project, complete with flags, painted cartoons “and other nonsense,” he said. “I like to joke” – he puts “joke” in quote marks – “that it’s an accurate representation of my mental state.”
He, the business and the regulars all missed Trivia Schmivia, however.
The pub made plans to bring it back last fall, but the rising cases of the coronavirus’ delta variant prompted Woodley to hold off. When the omicron variant hit, he thought about postponing again, but decided it wasn’t realistic to push pause forever.
Games are now held in a walled-off outside area where masks are required unless players are eating. The first night back, Woodley gave extra points to vaccinated players.
If the virus goes through another surge, things could change, but for now the Tuesday night spot – at 7 p.m. –  is secure for Woodley’s brain trust.
“I like that it’s fun but it’s also a community. Lots of regulars,” he said. “It’s a really, really nerdy thing to do – and nerds and geeks, we need community.”