Quizzes may have lost their TV allure but stay strong in pubs.

EVERYONE loves impressing other people with their level of general knowledge. While playing Trivial Pursuit with a few friends is one way of doing so, albeit on a small scale, for those who seek larger audiences pub quizzes remain popular in Finland. On the other hand, the days of televised quiz shows have all but disappeared.

For many years quiz shows were ubiquitous on Finnish TV. Everything from domestic favourites like Kymppitonni to international successes like Who Wants to be a Millionaire were staples of prime-time weekend broadcasting. These days, the spread of reality shows has bumped most such programmes off the airwaves, with the exception of occasional new forays into the genre like Are You Smarter Than A Ten-Year Old?

Televised success

One man who has experienced the thrill of performing on camera – and winning – is Tuomas Kauppinen, a product manager from Helsinki who has appeared on about eight quiz shows (“I don’t remember the exact number,” he confesses), including The Weakest Link, which he won, Guillotine twice, and Jeopardy. “It seems that reality shows are getting the time slots that quiz shows used to get,” he ponders. “At least partly because they’re probably cheaper to produce.”

For Kauppinen the allure of a cash prize was one of the primary reasons for playing. “Unfortunately, unlike the lotto, the government views quiz show winnings as income so they tax them:  winning a 10,000 euro prize means you might actually receive 4,000 euros,” he says. Although he hasn’t appeared on TV for a few years, Kauppinen is still known as something of a general-knowledge genius amongst his circle of friends. “My friends often call me up when they’re having a disagreement about something and need a final answer,” he smiles. “When we play Trivial Pursuit it’s normally me against everyone else – I still win though!”

Pub quizzes in English:

Molly Malone’s Irish Bar
Kaisaniemenkatu 1C, Helsinki
Quiz night on first Wednesday of each month at 19:00.

O’Connell’s Irish Bar
Rautatienkatu 24, Tampere
Quiz night every Wednesday at 19:00.

The Castle
Eerikinkatu 6, Turku
Quiz night every Wednesday at 20:00.

Despite the paucity of television quiz shows, other outlets are available for those whose brains are bursting with otherwise-useless information. According to Tero Kalliolevo, Chairman of the Finnish Quiz Association since 2006, there are roughly five categories of organised quizzes. “Firstly there are the TV quiz shows which provide entertainment for people at home and a possibility to earn money for the competitors,” he says. “Then there are the TV quiz competitions which can be participated via a mobile phone and which usually run in the night or morning, pub quizzes, different online quiz games and finally the international (and national) type of more dedicated quizzing such as the World, European and Finnish Quiz Championships. In addition to that there are also some annual quizzing competitions such as Turku Open and Lasarettivisa in Oulu which are organized in a separate location and are clearly different from common pub quizzing.”

Some memorable quiz answers given over the years:

The Weakest Link (Germany)
Q: What chocolate bar has the same name as the Roman God of War?

A: Snickers.

The Weakest Link (France)
Q: In which country was chewing gum invented?

A: Hollywood.

Family Feud (USA)
Q: Name something that needs to heat up before you use it.

A: Your wife.

Radio 1 Breakfast Show (UK)
Host: Which ‘S’ is a kind of whale that can grow up to 80 tonnes?

Contestant: Ummm . . .

Host: It begins with “S” and rhymes with “perm”.

Contestant: Shark.

Beg, Borrow or Steal (UK)
Host: Where do you think Cambridge University is?

Contestant: Geography isn't my strong point.

Host: There’s a clue in the title.

Contestant: Leicester.

Social showmanship

The enjoyment of participating in quizzes seems to be manifold. Firstly, as noted previously, there is often a financial or tangible reward if you win. Then there is the showmanship aspect – proving to your friends that you are a clever clogs. Finally there is a social aspect. “I enjoy quizzing very much because the questions provide so much new information,” explains Kalliolevo. “Although this applies more in national and international quizzes, which have much more detailed, longer and harder questions, and less so in pubs! I also like the atmosphere of team competitions when I get to solve questions with other team members. In pub quizzes, there are many teams which consist of friends who want to spend some time together, drink some beer and have some entertainment.”

Legendary Finnish TV game shows:

Originally broadcast from 1985-2005, the show was revived by SuomiTV in 2009 and now runs on the channel dayily. The show has five contestants each of which sit in their own booth inside a two-story structure. Each contestant chooses a word that they give hints of while others make guesses. The aim is to have only one contestant guessing right. The show was, and still is, hosted by Riitta Väisänen.

Thilia Thalia
This show originated in 1982 and came to an end in 2005. Originally named as Thilia Thalia Tallallaa, the last part of the name was later cut. The show had two teams of two Finnish actors representing their theatre. The questions revolved around culture and the teams were also asked to perform improvisation acts.

Speden Spelit
Created and hosted by Pertti “Spede” Pasanen, the legendary Finnish comedian, this show was one of the most watched shows on MTV3 for a years. It was broadcast between 1988 and 2002 and included different comic challenges from jump rope competition to holding a ping-pong ball on top of a running hair dryer.

Finland being the small country that it is, most quiz fans here move in small circles. “I estimate the group of regular quiz participants in Finland consists of 5-600 people,” suggests Kauppinen. “So of course you get to know other players quite well.” Kalliolevo generally agrees: “It depends on the quiz. In some pub quizzes, there are the same or almost the same teams from week to week and one gets to know people. In others, the amount of teams changes a lot and there are many new faces even every week. In international quizzes, the competitors are almost always the same. I have made some nice acquaintances over time.”

Practice makes perfect

Naturally, if you ever want to be in with a chance of succeeding where others fail in a general knowledge quiz, you have to actually have the nouse to get the answers right. Kauppinen got a break early in life. “When I was a child my mother had a complete encyclopaedia which I basically read from cover to cover. That’s a pretty good way to brush up your general knowledge,” he laughs. For Kalliolevo the secret to being good at quizzes is the same as in other areas of life: practice makes perfect. “Reading old quiz questions is one of the best ways of practicing,” he suggests. “I study quiz questions from Belgian, Estonian, Norwegian and other websites. It is also important to read newspapers and to follow what's happening in the world.”

Still, all the preparation in the world won’t help you if the quiz is badly arranged. Several factors go into making a good quiz, according to our two experts. When it comes to TV quizzes, says Kauppinen, the host is the most important thing. “While a good host can rescue a poor show, the opposite is not true,” he offers. “The questions should also be simple to a degree – but not too simple. There should be some specialised knowledge as well as general knowledge questions in my opinion.”

Pub quizzes, since they’re generally not set by professional quiz-setters (if there is such a thing), are not always of a good standard, and can be rather hit-and-miss. “A quiz can be spoiled by having misleading or faulty questions, or a too concentrated general knowledge quiz, i.e. most of the questions are associated to few subjects such as movies and music,” says Kalliolevo. “It is also bad if the questioner gives hints only to some teams concerning some questions or prepares questions he/she knows are extremely suitable for certain teams only. And then, it is annoying if the questioner asks questions at a very slow pace. It makes one feel that the purpose of the quiz is to get people to drink as much beer as possible. On second thoughts, that probably is the purpose!” he laughs.

Even if you do find a good quiz to take part in, you might still come up against some truly tricky questions. Kalliolevo says, “I have been asked some ridiculous questions on an almost weekly basis. For example, 'How long is the underground network of Athens?' Surely everyone knows it’s around 55 kilometres in length?” Time to get cracking on those encyclopaedias.

Nick Barlow