Say what you will about weekday entertainment in bachelorette-drunk Charleston, we love our trivia.
On any given night of the week, or weekend for that matter, you have your pick of beer-swilling, bar-snacking, big-screening trivia nights. Some are divey-er than others. Monday is for Ms. Rose's, Sunday for Mellow Mushroom, and you can fill the nights in between with Bay Street Biergarten, The Brick, Charlestowne Fermentory, Frothy Beard, Famulari's, Garage 75, The Green Goat ... the alphabet goes on and on.
Stuffed with everything from It's Always Sunny-themed nights to trivia with tacos — and "Bill Davis's History Trivia Jamboree" — Charleston is either the best or the worst place to be a trivia host.
Ian Atwood is taking that risk.
"I've been going to pub trivia games since I was 21," says Atwood.
Atwood's new-ish Woody Variety Show kicked off quietly last November at Edmund's Oast Brewing Company, sharing Monday nights with EOBC's food and bev appreciation night. It's worth cheating on your usual trivia night to try — if not for the beer, possible discounts, and hanging with the cool F&B kids — for Atwood's inventive take on the pub entertainment that's become a Charleston institution.
"People call me the king of dad jokes," says Atwood, who daylights as the bar manager at EOBC.
Atwood is something of a trivia connoisseur, but not snobby about it. The Omaha native began in Charleston at the downtown Mellow Mushroom around 2004, patronizing Sunday night trivia with OG quizmaster and West Of publisher Lorne Chambers. Atwood then became part of "the original crew" that started the Mellow (and its trivia) in Avondale, and he even plays trivia with his mom on trips back to Omaha.
Are Atwood and his mom good?
"Of course ... always in the top three."
Edmund's Oast announced plans for the Brewing Company one day before Atwood flew down from Rochester to interview for a job there that he found on Craigslist.
"When I said I'd like to be involved with that [the Brewing Company] eventually they said: 'OK, well let's just get you one job first,'" he chuckles, "Here I am three years later."
Thanks to the stability of his beer-industry day job, Atwood now has the flexibility to pursue passion projects, like curling and hosting the Woody Variety Show.
"I've always had this creative side," says Atwood.
When not teaching Charleston Curling Club's Learn to Curl classes or posting on his nine-month-old's Instagram account, Atwood is dreaming up halftime games and clues for categories like "choosy moms choose gif." That visual-based round is a perpetual favorite, as is Play-Doh time.
"I bought a 24 pack of Play-Doh on the night after the Super Bowl. I had people create what the variety show trivia trophy should look like," he laughs.
"I also had people recreate the bust of Lionel Richie from the 'Hello' music video."
Atwood first envisioned his trivia night as a multimedia, multi-host experience — like a T-shirt class Johnny Carson descending on Edmund's.
"I wanted to get other people involved too ... weird, fun, talented people from around town to show off their talents between rounds." Perhaps they're busy with their own trivia nights? "My initial calls for talent haven't come to fruition yet," admits Atwood.
"I kept the name because I always keep new activities going," he says optimistically.
There is so much room for activities at the Brewing Company. If you haven't yet dropped in to EOBC, shame. If you have, I hope you agree. Dozens of taps on a sleek stainless wall, flanked by non-ironic murals. Three massive screens placed perfectly above the bar, angled so you can see the big game from every corner but unobtrusive enough that the bar maintains what some might call ambiance. The staff doesn't bug you, but they will joke with you. The one pitfall (or boon, if you're into to) is how often WWE screens here.
On the first Monday night I tried Atwood's Show, the EOBC kitchen and bar staff formed their own team and the halftime game was Atwood's vision of a pub trivia biathlon. It involved something that looked like a love-child of curling and darts, played with tin cans and going warp speed. That's run-of-the-mill for Atwood's games.
"One of the latest ones, I found MRI videos of fruits and vegetables online, so I made those videos into gifs where you had to guess which vegetable it was." He's nonchalant about it; "I've done a singing round before — where I sing ... I'm a pretty good singer, I'll admit that."
"I took a movie and a song that had the same title, then I took the tune of the song and re-did the lyrics to fit the plot of the movie."
When does he have the time to rewrite obscure song lyrics into plotlines that are recognizable for tipsy patrons or eff n b worker on their night off?
"Oh you know, in between work and taking care of my 9-month-old," he says. "They're all definitely created in my own weird mind."
Someday, Atwood dreams that even the patio will fill with Variety Show patrons.
While most people patronize trivia nights with the regularity of octogenarian digestion, there are the die hards whose loyalty is a thing of wonder. If the name Angela Lansbury's Mystery Meat doesn't ring a bell, maybe you haven't really been doing trivia in Charleston.
"It's hard [differentiating yourself from all Charleston's trivia nights], especially at a new place that shares its name with a restaurant and a store," says Atwood. "We have enough people who just have trouble finding the place."
So why should you give Woody's a shot?
The EBOC beer. The money. The Play-Doh.
"Some people said they used to go to another Monday night and win, but then they told me: 'We have a lot more fun losing at your trivia,'" says Atwood. "...I guess that's a nice thing to say?"
This week, hit up Edmund's Oast Brewing Co. on Sun., March 4, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. for a fringe Pizza Party with La Morra, then stop by again on Monday to take part in Woody's Variety Show.