'Til Tuesday: Terry McClymonds' idiosyncratic trivia nights have built an enthusiastic community over the past 12 years
Trivia nights in Ann Arbor are not uncommon, but Terry McClymonds' event might have the longest legacy. He started Trivia Night With Terry! in 2011 and has garnered a devoted following for his twice-a-month game, now at Argus Farm Stop’s Packard Cafe.
“It’s like a community,” McClymonds says. “There are students and graduate students, people from that neighborhood and my neighborhood, lots of ages. They’re all so enthusiastic.”
McClymonds, 75, moved to Michigan in 1979 and began working at the Lord Fox Restaurant in Dixboro, and later Escoffier in downtown Ann Arbor. A Yale University graduate with a love of theater and performance, McClymonds started to hone his interest in trivia while working at both Borders Bookstore and Aut Bar in October 1997.
“I had been very eager to get on Jeopardy!,” McClymonds says, “and my co-workers at Aut Bar always suggested that I host a trivia night there, but I always demurred because I was too busy.”
But when Borders closed in 2011, McClymonds began what would become a weekly tradition, first at Aut Bar. Over the next nine years, McClymonds built a regular audience who loved his idiosyncratic hosting style, characterized by McClymonds’ sassy banter, a boisterous verbal format that called on patrons to yell out their answers, and unexpected categories titled with puns.
“My all-time favorite category was The Wrath of Cannes, about the famous film festival,” McClymonds says. “I also loved Dedicated to My One-Eyed Love, about celebrities with one eye, and Prose and Cons, about books written by and about people in prison.”
Over the past 12 years, whether asking questions at Argus or hosting a private event, McClymonds has not changed his time-tested question-making process, which draws on his everyday experiences.
“It’s just kind of random," he says. "Every now and then I will hear a phrase and think, 'Woo! That’s a good idea for a category,' and that one idea will lead to two or three more.”
McClymonds’ relationship with Argus began the day the first farm stop location opened on Liberty Street in 2014.
“I was in line to buy something,” McClymonds says, “and they were handing out little samples of yellow watermelon to the people waiting. I don’t even like watermelon, but it was so pretty, and I thought, ‘Boy, this is the best watermelon I’ve ever had!’”
From that point, McClymonds became a frequent Argus shopper and built a relationship with the farm stop’s owners and staff.
“After Aut Bar closed in early 2020,” McClymonds says, “Argus’ owners approached me and asked, ‘How would you like to do trivia here?’”
They began planning immediately with a launch scheduled for later that spring.
“We were all set to go on Sunday, March 22,” McClymonds says, “and literally that morning Governor Whitmer declared the COVID-19 lockdown.”
Delayed by the pandemic, McClymonds finally began hosting trivia at Argus’ new Packard Cafe in September 2022 and has quickly found an audience on the first and third Tuesday of each month. Each night features eight categories with 10 questions that attendees answer verbally, earning a 25-cent gift card to the cafe for every correct response. After a few lively rounds of these individual questions, patrons can team up for a round of written trivia to compete for a T-shirt and other rotating prizes.
"These trivia nights are truly immersed in Argus culture," says Meg Goldwyn, an Argus Farm Stop manager. McClymonds even "builds some of the categories about local food minutiae. The event brings together friends and neighbors who come to hang out, shout out answers to Terry, drink Michigan beer and wine, and snack on locally prepared food. It is a full-circle community-building exercise centered around local food and local talent."
Garrett Schumann is a composer and music scholar who teaches in the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Sciences & the Arts. His other writings have been published in The New York Times, Grove Music, and VAN Magazine.
Terry McClymonds hosts trivia at Argus Farm Stop's Packard Cafe, 1200 Packard St, Ann Arbor, 7 pm to 8:30 pm, on the first and third Tuesday of the month. The event is free.