Raising the bar (games)

It’s Thursday night Quizzo at Atlantis in Kensington, and about 40 players crowd into the narrow, dimly lit bar. At the head of the class, the host, Irish John, sips a Jameson and studies pages of endless notes.

“Ehh, maybe later,” he says in response to my sheepish interview request, and returns to his preparations.

I approach a few regulars, looking for clues to Irish John’s success. “I guess because he’s an a—hole, but in a really entertaining way,” offers Mary Newsom of the Agnes & Chains team.

After almost two decades, Philly is still in love with bar trivia and, over the last nine years, Irish John has developed a not-so-small coterie of fans — enough to leave his bartending gigs behind in favor of a full-time Quizzo career.

With his Belfast brogue and quick wit, Irish John is a fan favorite of heavy drinking trivia junkies.

“Most other hosts are kind of slick. They have music and do cute stuff,” says another Chains member. “But this guy is real. He yells at people and effs with the audience.”

“It’s mostly shtick,” admits John outside the bar, as a player hands him answers to the photo round. “But at times, I have to say, people really do f—ing annoy me.”

Back inside Atlantis, John growls over a low din of drunken chatter: “This one’s a piece-a-piss. If you don’t know this one, you’re just f—ing stupid and you shouldn’t play.”

“You mean like the last one that nobody got?” says a man at a nearby table.

“Shut the f—k up or I’ll punch you right in your ugly face,” replies John, and the bar erupts in laughter — including the man John was yelling at.

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