nortontrivia2The Third Best Trivia Host in America — Little Silver’s own “Gentleman” Jim Norton — brings his bar-hopping brand of “brain-bending quizzes” to a Thursday Night Trivia stand at Molly Maguire’s. (Photo by Diana Moore)

It’s an interactive entertainment in which “questions range from high brow to high school, and fortune favors the squad with a well-rounded range of knowledge” — a “unique blend of brain-bending quizzes and lighthearted crowd work” that commandeers “the spot where generations of the area’s brightest and most attractive have put their wits on display.” Namely, Molly Maguire’s Gastropub.

Going up at the Rumson watering spot this Thursday night, January 8 and each Thor’s Day thereafter for the foreseeable future, Thursday Night Trivia (TNT) puts a locally sourced, personality-packed twist on a popular attraction for teams of up to eight players (with prizes awarded to First and Second Place groups). The contest is lorded over by “Master of Minutiae, Impresario of the Immaterial” and Little Silver resident Gentleman Jim Norton — recovering title insurance agent; veteran roadie/ tech guy/ sound pro for everyone from Frank Sinatra Jr. to Iggy Pop, and self-described “emcee, scorekeeper, off-the-cuff insult comic and Ombudsman” whose little sideline endeavor has grown to become a favorite weekly draw at taverns and nightspots throughout Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Despite his own flirtations with rock stardom in vintage Shore punk bands like The Shock Mommies and Crucial Youth, what Norton really wanted was what every all-American suburban boy aspires to: a career as a game show host. And, with events like Thursday Night Trivia (as well as his occasional “Bachelors and Bachelorettes” events in Asbury Park), Gentleman Jim gets to “bring something else to the table…make people laugh along the way,” while lording over the carefully prepped questions, answers and discretionary awarding of bonus points.

None of which is to suggest that TNT is anything less than a serious competition. Participants are expected to bring the sum total of their knowledge in several categories, usually consisting of General Knowledge/ Science/ Current Events; Sports, Games and Leisure; an audio Music round; History and Geography; a Picture round keyed to visual clues, and an Entertainment and Pop Culture round to finish it off.

Ten points are awarded for each correct answer (with some of the answers broken into multiple parts, and with 15 points granted on optional “bonus rounds”), with team totals tallied up after each round of competition.

“We try to do it a little differently than other places that have tried this sort of thing,” says Norton, whose resume further features a memorable stint as stage manager and security chief at the now-legendary Trenton rock club City Gardens. “It’s early enough so that it’s school-night and work-night friendly…but it’s hard enough so that we don’t have 16 ‘winning teams’ in one room.”

Although solitary geniuses have been known to test their mettle against large teams in these events, it pays to assemble a diversified table of armchair experts on anything from Basketball and Broadway musicals, to Periodic Table melting points and Post-2000 country hits.  And don’t forget to come armed with a custom team name that you’ll want to live with for the weeks and months to come.

“You’re gonna have a fun time, eat, drink, and hang out with your friends,” says Gentleman Jim. “The bar gets to sell some drinks — and I get to play God for a little bit.”

There’s no charge to take part in Thursday Night Trivia, with the game starting at 7:30, and sign-ups beginning at 7:15. Dinner and drinks are available throughout — and be sure to check the event’s dedicated Facebook page for crucial updates and those all-important advance clues.