July 13 2011 10:37 AM

The Shakespeare Internationals know more than you

Shakespeare Internationals
Photo by Dave Maass

John Evans will tell you he's a piano technician. Do not believe him. He is a British MI6 super-agent who's been sent to San Diego to slowly undermine our social infrastructure—one quiz night at a time.

Here's the evidence: Evans has an English accent. His voicemail indicates he's not taking on new clients. His trivia team has aced Shakespeare Pub & Grille's pub quiz twice, while no purely American team has done it once. Did I mention his English accent?

It's said that the best place to hide is in plain sight. Ask anyone at Shakespeare on quiz night (the last Sunday of the month) what the top team is and they'll point you to the corner by the fireplace. The Shakespeare internationals is the only team allowed to reserve a table. No one knows how long the team has sat there. That information is apparently protected by the Official Secrets Act.

“Everyone knows them,” says quizmaster Ruth Thomas, who also has an English accent, and I suspect is a member of the royal family in hiding. “People love to see them. Because they do come every month, there are people that will try and sit close them to kind of rib them and throw them off.”

In intelligence circles, that's known as tactical deception.

There are many classic combinations to be found at Shakespeare—fish and chips, steak and kidney, bangers and mash—but none so potent as the original three couples that formed the internationals in the 1990s: John Evans and Mary Bane, Bud and Sharon Fisher and Brad and Gemma Yosick. (Bud Fisher also claims to be a “piano technician.” How many can there plausibly be?) In recent years, the Yosicks have been replaced by the trivia equivalents of Scottish eggs: Doug Book, a direct descendent of poet Robert burns, and Michael McEvoy, a master of world capitals.

They have a system that could've been dreamed up only by the British Secret Service. It involves a bag of scrap paper, six pencils and lots of whispering. When the quizmaster reads a question, they each write down answers and show them to the team captain, who then decides the final answer. Loose lips give other teams tips.

“They don't always do brilliantly,” Thomas says. The fact remains, Thomas decided to ban winning teams from placing at the subsequent two quizzes due to streaks by the internationals and their nemesis team (which I would identify, but they use a new satirical name each month; they're probably CIA).

The internationals don't come across as hyper-intelligent mind warriors. They seem like truly lovely people for whom victories (and the gift-card prizes) are inconsequential bonuses to time well spent with friends. I demand to Evans that he tell the truth.

“It's a good evening out at the pub,” he says. “You get to drink and get educated. I mean, if I could've just drunk at school, I'm sure I would've done far better.”

Wrong. The answer I was looking for was “Mwa ha ha ha ha!”


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