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So Many Trivia Questions And So Much Time In Wis. Contest


On Friday night in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, thousands of people sat by radios and laptops waiting for this.


JIM OLIVA: And now for question number one: At the beginning of a television show, fictional character Colt Seavers...

LYDEN: It's the world's largest trivia contest, and it's hosted by a college radio station, WWSP, in Stevens Point. About 10,000 people from around the world are listening to a man who calls himself the Oz.


OLIVA: ...fictional character Colt Seavers took credit for making a particular actor famous. What is the first and last name of that actor? Good luck to you and your teams as you play in the world's largest trivia contest right here on 90FM Trivia...

LYDEN: Jim Oliva is the Oz, and this is trivia.


THE BEACH BOYS: (Singing) Well, East Coast girls are hip...

LYDEN: In fact, it's the 44th year of this contest out of Stevens Point, and it's not trivia as you know it from "Jeopardy!" This is trivia as in trivial, minute details from things like...

OLIVA: Television, radio, commercials, music, books, comic books and products.

LYDEN: And trivia. That's trivia.

OLIVA: That's trivia. Exactly.

LYDEN: The setup is this: He reads a question, and your team, which can be any size, has the length of two songs to call in your answer. Some of the questions are pretty straightforward like this one from the first hour.


OLIVA: A recording artist released a doo-wop song which went to the top 20 in the pop charts during the 1980s. He sang lead and all of the background vocals in the song. What is the first and last name of this artist?

LYDEN: Now, someone could conceivably know that one right off the top of their heads.


BILLY JOEL: (Singing) Whoa, for the longest time.

LYDEN: Just someone like a Billy Joel fan.


JOEL: (Singing) Whoa, for the longest time.

LYDEN: Now, that song is indeed apt. The contest continues for 54 hours straight. It won't end until midnight Central Time tonight. The hundreds of questions asked have been written by Oz and his friend John Eckendorf. Let's face it, winters are long in Wisconsin.

OLIVA: And the two of us start writing the first Saturday in January. And we spend every Saturday afternoon and every Sunday night writing questions all the way up until the contest.

LYDEN: The Internet has made the contest a little trickier. Googling answers can be a problem. But Oz has made adjustments. Once, he might've asked something like, who plays Darryl in the movie "Coming to America?" In 2013, that question about the movie is tougher.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Just before the announcement of the engagement of big-screen characters Darryl and Lisa, Darryl was at the bar talking with Akeem at the McDowell residence. What is the name of the song playing in the background? Good luck, trivia players.

LYDEN: Google can't help you ID that song. Oz takes it from here.

OLIVA: You find out, oh, it's in this movie. OK. Well then, you move to your books, your notes or the movie itself if you're lucky enough to have it.


JOHN AMOS: (as Cleo McDowell) Akeem, make sure everybody's glass is kept full. We're about to make a very special announcement.

EDDIE MURPHY: (as Prince Akeem Joffer) Yes, sir.


MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) You are my pride and joy...


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: What is the name of the song playing in the background? That answer is "Pride and Joy."


GAYE: (Singing) Like a baby boy loves his toy.

LYDEN: And, oh, the pride and joy as the questions get even more difficult. The Oz likes to ask things about advertising, taking from the stacks of old magazines he keeps in his basement or details on an album insert from 1972. To win this thing, you have to be good.

JOHN OKRAY: Dedication, it's taking notes. It's a way of life, really.

LYDEN: That's contestant John Okray. He grew up in Stevens Point. Trivia's been around for longer than he has.

OKRAY: It's just so weird when you grow up as a kid, you hear these questions and you think to yourself, how in the world are these people getting these questions? These guys, they have to be geniuses.

LYDEN: Okray played a little bit while he was growing up in Point. And now he's got a team of his own called Festivus for the Rest of Us. Most of us will know that comes from "Seinfeld." He wouldn't give away much about their strategy - trade secret, he says - but he says they rely mostly on notes. And throughout the year, they make notes on everything they can think of.

OKRAY: One of my shows this year is that new sitcom called "The Neighbors," which aliens come down and are here on earth. And it's absolutely brutal. But you know that Oz is going to ask a question from it, so you got to take notes.

LYDEN: Festivus for the Rest of Us won the whole thing last year, and they've got a lead going into the final hours this year. As to the why? The Oz, Jim Oliva, says that's tougher to pin down. It's not like the teams are playing for big money. That'd be trivial.

OLIVA: They're playing for no money, as a matter of fact.

LYDEN: The top 10 teams receive nothing but a trophy and a congratulatory phone call from the Oz himself. The contest ends tonight at midnight Central Time. And if you're feeling curious or competitive, listen in at www.90fm.org.


OLIVA: Good luck. Right here on the little old 30,000-watt 90FM. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.