Pat Kiernan Talks About His New Gig, His Dream Job, and the Name of Ross's Monkey on Friends
Everybody's favorite New York reader-of-the-papers, NY1's Pat Kiernan, has a new gig. Not to worry, he'll still be reading the papers for you in the morning, but he'll be moonlighting in the trivia business. If you follow Pat, you know he has a fondness for pop culture: He features a daily trivia question on Pat's Papers, and he's hosted three TV game shows, including VH1's The World Series of Pop Culture. Now he's partnered with New York City trivia event production company TrivWorks, which does live trivia entertainment for corporate groups, as their special first-ever celebrity host. [Note to Voice: Can we do this?] We talked to him today to get the scoop.
Hi Pat! So, how did this come about?
I've had this idea for a couple of years that there was something to be done with a simple trivia game in a live setting. I've done a few live events, like a Haiti benefit at the Bellhouse, and a mock "World Series of Pop Culture" where we had token prizes. Everyone had fun with it. I wanted to do something that taps into the passion people have for trivia and pop culture. I stumbled upon TrivWorks, this business that David Jacobson runs, that offers team-building events by way of trivia. It seemed like it might be a good fit.
You're following in a grand tradition of Canadian game show hosts.
One of my long-term ideals is to do Jeopardy when Alex retires! I've done three different game shows that have aired on national TV. In 2004 I did a WB Network show called Studio 7. Then two seasons of the World Series of Pop Culture on VH1, and then the least-known, on the Game Show Network in 2007 or 2008 -- it was a tournament of game-show champions.
Like people who won Jeopardy against people who won Wheel of Fortune? Seems a bit...unfair.
[Laughs] I had great fun doing those shows. I would love to do another. The World Series of Pop Culture expired prematurely, I thought. It had a devoted following but didn't fit with VH1's new programming model, so there are disenfranchised fans. I try to keep them entertained with pop culture tidbits. They are quick to tell me, "that was so easy...don't even waste my time."
[It definitely expired prematurely:]
You're a big trivia buff yourself, right? How do you find the questions you post on Pat's Papers?
Because the website is newsy, I try to find a flimsy link to things that are in the news. It might be a water-cooler story. If there's a monkey in the news, we'll ask what the name of the monkey was on Friends...
What was that monkey's name?
I don't know! Google is the first stop after we get off the phone.
I enjoy the pop culture trivia. It's an escape and this perverse reward for all the time that conventional wisdom said was "wasted" in front of the TV. It's like, "Now I have justification for all these hours."
Do you have a type of trivia you like best?
It was getting increasingly tough to write World Series of Pop Culture music questions. As radio has declined, so has people's general knowledge of music. I probably lean to movie trivia. TrivWorks goes a bit broader -- history and geography, science and literature. The idea of the trivia questions is that you should feel like you kind of shrug your shoulders when you read them. They should be attainable even if you don't have the right answers.
How do you choose the questions you feature?
Trivia questions come to me at ridiculous hours; I scribble them down wherever. This quote from Sleepless in Seattle recently popped into my head -- Meg Ryan and her spurned fiance were trying to decide how many plates to buy; I think they said 8 is too few and 12 is too many. I asked how many they decided on.
How will hosting for TrivWorks work?
They have a proven format. They put people at tables and give them an answer sheet and the tables are pitted against each other. At the end of it I want to have the two best tables do a TV-style game show to finish off. The companies will offer some sort of prize -- logo merchandise, a day off work. We'll do a bonus round, have an extra twist, sort of "produce" it.
I don't want it to turn into every pub trivia game -- the weekly "come and prove your trivia" metal. There are a lot of those, and there are people very good at running those. There may be an opportunity to go a notch up from that. It will be maybe 75 percent of what you'd see in a TV show; less participation, more stage.
What's the status on Pat's Papers?
Better. We've increased traffic and found a couple other sources of revenue. We've formed a good alliance with Outbrain, a New York-based company that has an algorithm that scans your website and puts a list of recommended posts on the site based on what people might like. It gives you useful recommendations of other stories to go to, and it's effective -- people are sticking around for more stories.
As I said to you before, the site shouldn't be a big monthly black hole. I like doing it; it fits well with what I do. The outlook is a little rosier. And in the broad picture, if the trivia is a success, it creates income that can offset recent losses.
How should folks book you for their events?
TrivWorks.com is the main site; that's the best way. Though I'm not a hard person to track down!
Are you expensive?
It depends on the size of the group and so forth. We're trying not to be specific about the price; we want to get a few under our belt, so we'll discount the first ones. The short answer: I'm more expensive than their regular event.
You told us recently that you guard your afternoon naps vigilantly. Will this interfere?
My afternoons are flexible. I may skip a nap!