Regular people are cobbling together a living with Zoom trivia nights

The new trivia kingpins are just a bunch of amateurs.


May 6, 2020

Photo via Trivia Maker (via YouTube )

Stephen Walsh usually works in bars in Baltimore. But when his income evaporated in the pandemic, he fell back on an old skill: Quizzing drunk people on “Friends” references.

On March 17, he launched a Zoom trivia night he nicknamed Walsh Trivia. For the last 40+ days, he’s spent all of his free time workshopping questions for strangers across the world. 

His trivia schedule includes: 

  • One event at 8am ET (for people in Asia).
  • Another at 1pm ET (for virtually everyone else). 
  • Sometimes a 3rd that he tacks on for the Alaskans in the audience. 

Some of his games are huge: As many as 300 people join at a time, including from his concentrated fandoms in the US embassies in Pakistan and Nepal.

Walsh charges $3 for a team leader, then $2 per player after that. He told Business Insider, “I’ve never earned what I’m earning now doing any other job.”

What is… a sustainable side hustle?

Zoom trivia nights are a big deal right now. To keep money trickling in, restaurants, bars, and British pubs have put all their chips on the trend.

There are some professional trivia outlets there: The Syracuse Trivia Company has a buzzy game going, plus let’s not forget the one-time revival of HQ trivia in late March. But some of the most popular trivia nights are hosted by… randos. (No offense to Walsh.) 

A sign of the amateurs’ rise: Companies like QuizRunners, which sell trivia questions to businesses, have actually seen a decline in subscriptions. That means most trivia hosts aren’t professionals paying for pre-made questions — they’re regular people coming up with their own.

Meet the new head honchos of trivia night 

One Pennsylvania family — husband, wife, and 2 daughters — launched a trivia night from their living room using two iPads and a microphone. 

While they have other day jobs —  Jennifer McMenamin is an executive at a local bus service, and her husband Bill is an HR manager at a tech company — they’ve organized trivia fundraisers and other events for 10+ years.

Their 1st quarantine trivia night brought 200+ participants, and after that, the numbers kept climbing: 400, 600, 950 players. 

The family runs on tips, and they’ve also set up a GoFundMe that raised $4k+ for a local food bank.

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