Trivia Answer of the Day: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

This weekend, I’ll participate in The World’s Largest Trivia ContestTM. I’m a little preoccupied with preparations for that, including some significant travel. To provide some sense of the madness of minutiae that dominates my mind this week, I’ll return to a bit of a tradition around these parts and share a few personally memorable answers from the twenty-five years or so that I’ve been involved with this contest, in one way or another.

slacker mulligan

My first few years of involvement with 90FM Trivia were as a member of the student leadership of the campus radio station, helping to run this crazy, colossal undertaking. One transition that occurred during my time there was a reconfiguring of the traditional kickoff events run in the week or two immediately leading up to the contest, as we determined some of them (notably a dance hosted at the local high school) weren’t providing the desired effect of generating interest in and excitement for that actual on-air contest. I remember going through a file cabinet stuffed with old station documents one day and coming across a flyer for a Trivia Kickoff Midnight Movie, inviting players to come out to a local theater from a screening of American Graffiti. It turned out the recurring event had been abandoned in part because the home video revolution of the nineteen-eighties eliminated a major part of the motivation that got players to the movie (they knew questions were sure to come from it, and buying a ticket was the only sure way to see it in time for the contest). Being someone who was fairly invested in film–I was into my stint as co-host of a movie review radio program by this point–I wanted to revive the Midnight Movie. Instead of booking older favorites, though, I decided we should go after small independent films that had little to no chance of playing in our small Midwestern city, titles that, usefully enough, were in the purgatory between general theatrical showings and home video release, reviving the event’s “must see” aspect. As a bonus, I got to help expose a sizable local audience to an independent film that was, in my less-than-humble opinion, significantly better than the usual fare that pinned down our screens for weeks on end. Luckily, I also had an in at one of the local theaters, and we were able to make arrangements to book the auditorium for no cost (the first few years, it was actually done somewhat surreptitiously so the awful national chain that owned the theater wouldn’t find out about it). For that first year, I actively pursued an odd movie I’d seen in Madison a few months earlier: the feature debut of an Austin filmmaker named Richard Linklater. And so in the spring of 1992, the Trivia Kickoff movie returned with Slacker, and at some point during the contest, teams were charged with calling the station to identify the children’s book propped up on a shelf beneath the film projector run by the man in the “Army Be All You Can Be” t-shirt. I’m pleased to report that the Kickoff Movie tradition has continued uninterrupted ever since, including this past weekend. It’s back to classic movies, but it still seems to serve the important purpose of getting people fired up about the contest. And it puts a few extra dollars in 90FM’s coffers, always a good thing.


More information can be found at the official Trivia site or try to get your hands (and eyes) on a certain documentary. You can also listen in to the radio station that hosts the contest. In order to see how things are going with the team I play on, Twitter is your best bet.

2 thoughts on “Trivia Answer of the Day: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel

  1. We’re a group of volunteers and starting a new scheme in our community. Your web site provided us with valuable info to work on. You have performed an impressive activity and our whole neighborhood will likely be thankful to you.

  2. I hardly comment, but i did some searching and wound up here Trivia Answer of the Day:
    Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel | Coffee for
    Two. And I do have a couple of questions for you if you do not mind.
    Could it be just me or does it look like a few of these comments look as if they are written by brain dead people?
    😛 And, if you are posting on other online social sites,
    I’d like to keep up with anything fresh you have to post. Would you make a list of every one of all your communal sites like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s