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Five is Right Out

The 50th Semi-Annual Williams College Trivia Contest, May, 1991

Comments from Des Devlin, who was right in

This was a stellar contest with a lot of high points, and just one sore thumb (Hour #7). No fewer than three of the Boni on almost anybody's Best List come from this contest.

A few screw-ups big and small-- from deleting an "offensive" question on the fly to various techno-blunders, starting with playing the incorrect wacky introductory tape and having to abort. A faction of the team thought the questions skewed too smutty, and I suppose they probably did. (Although the same audience complaining on the Pus Line about the raunch quotient spent the rest of their time calling in with names galore like "Fecal Seepage," "The Cunning Linguist and the Master Debater," and "They Look Pretty Cute Spread-Eagled.")

This was the first contest to play rap music, a matter of some in-team complaint at the time. It was also the last contest to be run by the Python team.

One of the 3 or 4 top forces throughout the 1980s, the Pythons ran three contests as a wholly separate entity (Giant Pygmies, Harry Organs, and this one). This after earlier success while combined with separate teams pre-unification, and as part of the mega-massive four-team combo, Rule Six. Their championship touch, measured via certain members' bloodlines, extends as far back as Local 12 and Smedley Terrace (winners of the two 1982 contests). After splitting into two a semester later, the breakaway New York-heavy half of Five Is Right Out that was still willing to risk first-place finishes did so, winning two more in the next two years, while the core Pythons took a well-deserved rest. Though greatly reduced in size these days, a Python squad continues to be continuously fielded to the present, finishing as high as second in Spring 1995. They are NOT an ex-parrot.



  1. (12:00) Animals -- Like Noah's Ark, this one may have contained two (or twelve) questions for every creature that walks, swims, creeps or flies. Much too long, but definitively organized. Zookeeper Andy was not thrilled with the overall performances on this, and he's certainly the guy who'd know.

  2. (4 AM) The Audio Super Bonus (answers only) -- Well-loved and well-remembered, this was a three-section, 9-or-10-minute-long cassette tape that was handed out to each team. It was also played over the air as the halftime break. It's a good thing everybody liked it, because it apparently maimed some of the smallest teams.Part One featured famous namedropping in songs-- think "Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio?" (However, NOBODY got "Ho Chi Minh.") Part Two featured the word "baby" as sung in scores of tunes. And Part Three was a compilation of the musical phrase, "I love you." Though not the first audio super as we incorrectly proclaimed (subsequent research revealing one done a mere 19 contests earlier), the free copies complete with cover art made this a highlight. Phasers On Stun blew the doors off of this Bonus, to put the finishing touches on a runaway win. Interestingly, however, the second-best performance was by the 4-person Manhattan Skyliners, who pretty much got 95% of the songs that Phasers missed. Had those two teams somehow combined answer sheets, the performance level would've been crushingly ultimate. I did the musical splicing on this one, while Lee Farbman did the yeomanian giveaway-tape-dubbing job that put this Bonus over the top.


  1. (12:00) Calvin and Hobbes -- This Bonus hit Trivia at the right time-- when "Calvin & Hobbes" was still cresting in popularity, but not yet so ubiquitous that just anybody would know it. 23 questions, and when most of the answers are some of Watterson's best gags, it's hard to go too far wrong. A chirpingly good Bonus.

  2. (1 AM) Movie Questions and Answers -- A truly great Audio, which featured 24 clips of dialogue from films in question form. Teams had to name the film, and give the correct response to each question. This was also the first Audio where the answer key was also taped, and played later on. (Too bad we accidentally started to play the answers first by accident.) Scores were marred by some harshly anal judging, I thought, but this was an Audio for the ages.

  3. (2 AM) A-B-C Sports -- This one featured 26 alphabetical categories, one for each letter. However, with multiple answers and multiple sections, we somehow squashed 77 questions in by my count (I wonder what alphabet WE were using). Some categories were simple ("Cooperstown," "Redskins Immortals"); others somewhat bizarre ("Etchohuaquita," "Noms de Hoof"). This one is best remembered, if at all, for its fake page one, which contained 13 completely unanswerable sports questions. "What horse will win next week's Preakness Stakes?" "Who is 'the father of competitive whip maneuvers'?" "Which ballplayer has the most?" When handing out the Bonus in the hallway, the Phasers player who grabbed it and took a look at Page One said, "Oh! I know this one!" He was, of course, mistaken. The main problem with this one was that teams only did marginally better answering the real questions. All the gimmickry raised things somewhat above your run-of-the-mill Sports Bonus. But not much.

  4. (3 AM) Science/Science Fiction -- Asking for a Moebius strip was a nice touch, as was the ultra-weird last question, "Please tell us how sheep's bladders may be used to prevent earthquakes." A worthy attempt to introduce some sorely-needed high-mindedness amid Jan Brady and Mookie Wilson questions. This Bonus produced a very even spread of scores, from 9 to 1.

  5. (4 AM) Amalgamted Advertisements -- One of the most beloved Boni. It's best described as a series of Frankenstein-like creatures, each constructed from various ad characters' body parts. Thus, the Hawaiian Punch guy's head topped Count Chocula's body, with Ronald McDonald's arm and Mr. Peanut's legs, while carrying the Morton Salt umbrella. This all-time classic almost didn't get done at all. As our weekend-long team meeting wore on, the group's energy level wilted. The last day, we had 2 Supers and 7 Hours, but no viable candidate for Hour #8. Someone suggested that we offer an all-easy Bonus. What color is "go" on a stoplight, which President was named Abraham, etc. To justify this absurd idea, we toyed with putting a secret message in the bonus. For a while, we tried to match up answers so they'd spell out our secret message. ("G" for green, "A" for Abraham.) After a while of this silliness, we needed a question whose answer started with an "N." "I've got a good one," I said dispiritedly. "Should we really do this Bonus?" Agreed--- but we burn-outs STILL needed an eighth Bonus. Ted noticed that we were light on advertising. I had a highly vague idea about disembodied body parts in my trivia bag o'tricks. A third party thought to unite these two random notions. People started shouting out ideas. I ended up obtaining most of the actual pictures needed, but Dangerous Dan Aramini did the inspired mix-and-matching (as well as inventing the catchy "Amalgamated" title). And what would have been one of the all-time worst Boni ever got bumped by one of the best. Shamelessly "homaged" by We Make Holes in Teeth 5 years later.

  6. (5 AM) Movie Triples -- 27 questions. 3 questions about each of the three films in three separate trilogies. 9 questions from each series. Namely, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and The Godfather. Some incredibly dry trivia kept scores down a bit (Can't name the opera from Godfather 3? It's so obviously "Cavaliere Rusticana" by Pietro Mascagnia, you twits!). But this simple format made an appealing Bonus for most teams.

  7. (6 AM) Little Rascals -- A real botch. Mine, unfortunately. I guess I was much more familiar with "The Little Rascals" than 99% of Trivia players (including the rest of my team, which should have been the first tipoff). This is where the secret message ended up-- "Secret Messages Are O-Tay!"-- but it didn't help the Bonus at all. A resounding thud.

  8. (7 AM) TV Bets and Deals -- An unfairly neglected gem, in my opinion. This was Andy Laitman's baby, which asked about various wagers, agreements, legal arguments, swindles, etc. from 18 different TV series (MASH & Cheers got 2 questions each). Full of those great "ooh, I know this one" triggers that we all drool over. Not flashy, just great. The Trivia Gods will reward Andy for this one.

Action Trivia

  1. Perform any five of the dances from "A Charlie Brown Christmas -- Scattershot performances on this one, considering that everybody playing should've seen the special fifteen times. The specific menu of individual dance moves from the cartoon that we were looking for was generally not in evidence, but lots of flailing and kicking filled the Rathskellar. An average time was had by some.

  2. Recreate the buffalo hunt scene from "Dances with Wolves"-- Plainly impossible, this was a terrific way to tax the creativity of the players. A parade of feathered, facepainted, topless Trivheads (all male, sadly for our horny judges) with bows and arrows basically ran wild in their attempts to out-spectacle the other teams. One team brought down live dogs to stand in for the herd of buffalo. I wish there were more of these un-doable Actions to do.

  3. Perform "The Fella Who Just Couldn't Wait for Christmas" Special from SCTV -- And the cry rang out: "HUH?" Once we overtly told people that this skit featured Martin Short as manic pinhead Ed Grimley, teams had a little more of a clue what this was. Unfortunately, the only two people in Massachusetts who knew exactly how to get a 5 were on the team running it. However, one of the classic judging critiques in Trivia history was Dan Aramini's, advising one imperfect performer that "the hair-horn was a little too centralized on your head."

  4. Sports Officials' Signals -- Be a referee or umpire, and show the hand motions for the following:

    a) 6-point goal in Australian Rules Football;
    b) Home run in baseball;
    c) Double dribble in basketball;
    d) a pro wrestling referee's attempt to ascertain if indeed the evil wrestler has just pulled the hair of the good one as the crowd is suggesting;
    e) the following football play: Offense's ball on the 20. 1 second before the snap, a linebacker (who had previously been disqualified from the game) runs across the line of scrimmage on a blitz. He is also the 12th defensive player on the field. However, the quarterback manages to get off a throw before he is even touched, to his wide receiver, who fumbles it just 5 yards later. Thinking quickly, he kicks the bouncing ball to his center, who runs 74 yards before collapsing on the 1. The offensive tackle picks up his teammate, and heaves him across the goal line.

    Answers: a) two index fingers extended at waist level; b) point index finger in air, and rotate it; c) flatten both hands, and move them up and down, like petting 2 dogs; d) point to evil wrestler while grabbing your own head with other hand, and wrench head backwards exaggeratedly so the folks in the back row can see; e) I think the joke here was "no play" or "dead ball."

    Everybody got the basketball and the Australian Football. One team did some bizarre arm motion for the home run, while offering the less-than-swallowable cover, "We don't know how they do it in YOUR ballparks, but we KNOW this is how they do it in Seattle." Uh.....sure, pal. Not an exceptional Action, and reading that football play nice and slow (TWICE!) ate up too much radio time.

  5. Cloning the President's nose from "Sleeper" -- A good scene-driven Action, in that there's lots to do, opportunity for impersonation points, loads of jokes, physical shtick, room for props, etc. One of the great Action performances of all time was turned in by Phasers On Stun: The Next Generation. They were the only team to actually incorporate one of the pool tables as their operating table, something we'd been wondering if anyone would think to try. An absolutely stellar Woody impression-- AND a great Diane Keaton (!), plus doctors, talking computer, full costumes, a rubber nose, and phenomenal 98th-percentile accuracy to boot (they skipped ONE line out of a possible 50 or so) earned them the first-ever score of a 6 out of 5. They were about 30 points up at the time, so we figured, har, har, what's another 1? Tragically, this later became a regular and unwelcome occurrence for which I must accept full blame. I feel like the guy who introduced smallpox to the Aztecs.