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Q and A with Shannon Donaldson

by: Christopher Onstott Shannon Donaldson prods and puzzles contestants as trivia jockey at ShanRock trivia night at the Hawthorne Hophouse and a dozen other locations.

The annual Clash of the Trivia Titans takes place Sunday, Feb. 19 at The Spare Room on Northeast 42nd Avenue. This grand finale of the year's tavern trivia circuit will be hosted by Shannon Donaldson, a North Portland resident who has taken a hobby and figured out a way to make a living at it, arranging trivia nights at 13 local venues.

Portland Tribune: What's the most ridiculous answer you've ever gotten to a question?

Shannon Donaldson: I do what's called Natalie Portmanteau, in which you squish together titles or names to make a new phrase. I might describe The Exorcist and Sister Act and your answer would the Exorcisteract.

I don't remember what my clues were. but somebody came up with Frankensteinbeck. It was the wrong answer, but it was such a good one I wrote a question around it and used it a couple years later, and the team that had conjured the wrong answer was there and said they were delighted and honored.

Tribune: Contestants ever get on your nerves?

Donaldson: My number one pet peeve is when I'm explaining a question, you interrupt me to ask a question. Or, if you think you've caught me in an error and walk up to me with your cell phone saying, 'This is why you're wrong. I looked it up.'

There was a time zone question, like, 'What time is it right now in Hawaii?' and a whole team came up holding their phones to say, 'My phone says it's whatever it was in Hawaii.' And they were wrong.

Tribune: How could a cell phone be wrong?

Donaldson: I don't know. I try to keep the quiz moving along. At the end of the round, I walked up to them and they were like, 'Oh, no, never mind.' They didn't want to talk about it anymore. Obviously, they were looking at something wrong.

Tribune: Rudest participant ever?

Donaldson: The very first night I did trivia I was reading questions and there was this jerk who was a regular at the bar and he kept yelling out the word 'vibrator' to the answers. And every time he yelled it out he thought it was just hilarious. I had to do something.

We were in the second round, which is questions about TV and movies, and I rewrote my last question. The question was, 'In the film Parenthood, when the lights go out at the family dinner and Steve Martin goes to find a flashlight, he thinks he's found one. When the lights come back up, what electronic device does he have in his hand?'

As I read the question all the teams started giggling because they knew what I was doing. I said, 'Everybody, all together now,' and the whole bar except for the drunk jerk shouted 'vibrator' and started laughing hysterically. I was so happy they knew the answer. And the bartender kicked him out.

Tribune: How good are you at trivia? If you were on Jeopardy, how would you do?

Donaldson: Terrible. I'm a choker. The pressure of hitting that button at the right time, there's no way.

Tribune: But you know a lot of trivia.

Donaldson: I know some stuff. I could answer a lot of Oscar trivia.

Tribune: OK, so I'm going to ask you a movie question. It's one of my favorite movies, and I watch it every year when spring training comes around. A hint - it stars Ray Milland.

Donaldson: I'm going to have to guess because I don't know who Ray Milland is. The Natural.

Tribune: No, go back.

Donaldson: Eight Men Out?

Tribune: Two decades further back.

Donaldson: Angels in the Outfield?

Tribune: 'It Happens Every Spring,' a 1949 baseball comedy classic. How old are you?

Donaldson: Forty-one.

Tribune: Gee, you weren't even close to being born when it came out. What's the rowdiest crowd you've ever had?

Donaldson: Every year, I host a trivia bus. We do a round of trivia at every bar, like seven (rounds), and the winning team gets $100 cash and a trophy and bragging rights.

Tribune: Are they rowdy in the bar or on the bus?

Donaldson: It's everywhere.

Tribune: Drinks at each stop?

Donaldson: Yes, they do.

Tribune: Well, how can they answer the questions?

Donaldson: I 'drunk down' the questions for the bus.