Trivia at the Harp: Put Down that Damn Cellphone!

For ten years every Tuesday night, Harpo Power, the friendly patronne of the Harp in North Amherst, has stood up on a chair at 9 pm and begun asking trivia questions to a packed house.

Teams of four and five people usually include “a science geek, someone young for the popular culture questions, and some old guy for the history,” Harpo explained, between sips of his tonic and cranberry.

Harpo begins each week listing the charities that benefit from his customer’s largesse–besides the cash prizes of $150 and down that are handed out to winners, his neighbors like the North Amherst Library and the Community Farm get donations. “Write to us if you want us to consider your charity,” he said.

Trivia Night at the Harp has become so popular that it’s SRO–for these teams Harpo hands out clipboards. “Young lady, I can see that phone again…PUT IT AWAY! Your mother paid for it anyway!” I was warned about how strict the quizmaster is about people cracking open cellphones to find answers.

“I spend five hours writing these questions,” he told me. “They’re up to date as of this afternoon.” The questions range from very tough to pretty easy–the elemental sign for tin? The last name of Massachusetts’ Lieutenant governor? The most popular fruit consumed by Americans? New England’s only two Division one football teams?

Harpo recruits scorekeepers at the bar for the inch-thick stack of entries, and players routinely make up outrageous names to get a chuckle when he reads them back and hands them out. They’re just like exams, gently folded over so no one can see the grade. A few teams names from last night: “Harpo have my Babies” and “My boss’s girlfriend is a slut.”

The $6.50 pitchers of Narragansett go down easy, (“just raise your pitcher, we come to you,” Harpo told the crowd) and most of the players are under 25.

During the night Harpo gives out pint glasses…but first the ticket holder has to answer their own personalized trivia question. “What are you good at?” he asks them first as they come up before him. It usually takes a few of his inprovised questions, but eventually they get it right and grab their prize.

I asked him if there was one dominant team over the years. “No one team ever gets them all right, the average is about 70%…Name That Century and which years songs are hits trips them up.”