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Distilled: A Shot of Life

click to enlarge JESSIE SPACCIA ILLUSTRATION
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A deep, thick voice booms through a microphone at the dimly lit Press bar every Monday night. It's lubricated by ice-cold Coors Light and carries with it the confident experience of world travel and an extensive record collection.

"If you do not have an answer sheet in front of you, you're one of three people in the bar not playing trivia tonight," the bearded emcee says. "That means if you know the answers, good for you, you're very smart, but don't be a dick... "

"DON'T BE A DICK!" the crowd responds.

"That's right, don't be a dick and shout out the answers. You may, however, whisper them into your friend's ear and giggle quietly at how smart you are."

Colin Burk never figured his bottomless bank of random trivial knowledge, nor his penchant for world travel, would one day pay his bills and fund his world travel, but when he kept getting requests to host trivia nights around town, he figured, "What the hell?"

"My dad always told me, 'If you find something you're good at and you enjoy doing it, you should try and get paid for it,'" Burk says, tipping the Coors Light bottle to his lips. "So that's what I'm doing."

He looks a little like the Mariners' (bearded) Dustin Ackley and has hosted Monday-night trivia at Press for three years now. He also runs trivia nights at the Backyard Public House on Tuesdays and the Boiler Room on Wednesdays. Those three gigs, a Sunday-night bingo job at the Backyard and a few hours a week serving tables pay the bills and then some. Plus he gets free drinks while he's working, which isn't bad.

"Our first category of the night is News," Burke announces, much to the delight of the group of Spokesman-Review staffers huddled near the door. "And the first question: What is the slogan for Fox News?"

"The only news station worth watching," he adds. A low chuckle rumbles throughout the bar.

The Fox News slogan question is followed by "What is Superman's paper called?" "Name the artist whose song begins 'I read the news today, oh boy... '" and an obligatory Anchorman question. (Fox News' slogan is "Fair and Balanced," by the way.)

Burk began his foray into trivia hosting three years ago, when a friend recommended him for the job because of his "endless plethora of useless knowledge." Since he took over, the popularity has grown. Wednesday nights at the Boiler Room typically draw anywhere from 10 to 17 teams. The turnout at Press varies, but Burk has seen as many as 20 teams in the summer — so many that they spill out onto the patio.

He credits his popularity to the element of entertainment he brings to the evening, sort of like an edgy game-show host who curses and drinks beer. Instead of reading questions Jeopardy-style all night, he mixes in little mini games. The team who comes up with the best name, for example, wins a free pitcher of beer. The catch is that all the names have to be related to a theme. Winners are the ones who can cleverly weave in a reference to genitalia. Dick jokes for the sake of dick jokes are just tasteless.

A recent theme was Seattle, Boston or New York baseball teams. With names like A-Rod, Big Papi and Bill Buckner, you can imagine the possibilities.

His reputation has earned him some private gigs as well. He's designed personal trivia nights for Christmas parties and even an 18-year-old's birthday party, which was a little more difficult for the 33-year-old.

"I'm like, f---, dude, I have no idea what 18-year-old kids are into, so it was a lot of questions about Transformers, EDM music," he says. "I just know they have an unquenchable thirst for dogshit, so I kind of played to that."

These days, Burk is happy asking people questions in bars, and making fun of the 21-year-olds who've never heard of the movie Top Gun or the Beatles. Eventually he might turn his library of frivolous information into a business, similar to trivia outfits around the country including Geeks Who Drink and Brainstormer.com. But for now, he's more excited about his upcoming trip to South America.

"I thought I was done being Peter Pan, being the lost boy," he says. "But I think I'm gonna have to have one last hurrah." ♦

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