The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

From Andrew’s Bar Exam to Christopher’s: Local trivia event finds success

In the nine years since its formation, Christopher’s Bar Exam is one of Iowa City’s hottest events.
Cody Blisset
Christopher asks a trivia question during Christopher’s bar exam at Micky’s Irish Pub in Iowa City on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023.

Despite a demographic notoriously unable to answer some of life’s biggest questions, trivia night is a hit within circles of University of Iowa students.

This is because of UI alumni Chris Adams and Andrew Juhl — the minds behind Christopher’s Bar Exam, formerly known as Andrew’s Bar Exam.

The trivia program includes different trivia events across the city each week, with locations including Coa Cantina, Hy-Vee, Quinton’s Bar & Deli, Joe’s Place, The Den at St. Burch, and Micky’s Irish Pub, which is often met with wait times during the program’s coveted Wednesday night timeslot.

This level of demand is hard to come by when it comes to trivia nights, but the interactive program is what keeps them afloat.

The program consists of six trivia rounds, each made up of four questions, with special rounds in between. The special rounds include games like a drawing challenge, “puzzlers,” and the “gauntlet,” in which the hosts ask each team to send one team member up to the front to answer a series of questions with only two possible answer choices, marked “1” and “2.”

While trivia fans come for the program, they stay for the hosts.

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Adams started playing trivia at events hosted by Andrew’s Bar Exam shortly after he moved to Iowa City for graduate school in fall 2015. He and Juhl quickly bonded over their shared interest.

“I went from just a regular player to a friend of [Juhl’s],” Adams said.

Eventually, Juhl decided to enlist Adams as one of the program’s hosts. Together, the two developed what Juhl described as, “A monolithic style of hosting,” which is effectively what makes the program so enjoyable.

The monolithic style, as Juhl suggests, is successful in its versatility; Adams and Juhl, whose deliveries as hosts are often witty and facetious, would take on different venues than some of the other program hosts depending on the crowd’s reception to their respective hosting styles.

“We are not going to do what we do at Micky’s on Wednesday nights at 6 p.m. at Hy-Vee,” Adams said. “So it’s about having different things in which everyone can find something that they enjoy.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, the in-person trivia program had some setbacks. With group events prohibited, the hosts had to adapt, and Andrew’s Bar Exam went fully online via Zoom with a pay-what-you-can admission fee.

“The nice thing about the pandemic, which is not a sentence you say very often, was that I would go to my laptop, open it up, and I would have one scorekeeper who was running the answer sheets and checking answers and then for two hours I would just host. And then I would shut it down and go home,” Juhl said.

Juhl said the program’s adaptation was successful, given its circumstances, and he was content with the way things were going.

By the time the pandemic restrictions were lifted, the majority of Juhl’s staff had moved out of Iowa City, and what previously worked for virtual trivia nights was now an obstacle in Juhl’s desire to transition back to in-person programming. He also noted the decrease in the public’s desire to work after the pandemic.

“I could not find new hosts,” Juhl said. “I was like, I’m paying you $50 an hour and you’re telling me that’s not enough. But if the bar is only paying me $150 but materials cost $25 and I’m paying you $100, there’s no margin.”

The trivia program had also taken a backseat to Juhl’s position as the owner of a Cedar Rapids-based market research firm during the pandemic, and with the demand for a return to in-person events, Juhl looked to Adams as a solution.

When Juhl approached Adams with his idea, Adams was hesitant at first. But after two weeks of consideration, Adams accepted the proposition.

“I wasn’t sure how it would go,” Juhl said as he reflected on the program’s transition. “I told him, ‘I thought this might be too much for you, I thought it might kill you,’ but I think he’s done an amazing job and he seems to be very happy. I’m proud of him.”

Juhl officially transferred ownership of the program to Adams on Jan. 1, 2022.

“New Year’s Eve, it was Andrew’s bar exam. New Year’s Day it was Chris’s bar exam,” Juhl said.

Juhl began training Adams for the job almost three months before the switch, preparing him for everything the job description entailed: writing jokes, planning events, and hiring hosts were at the top of the list.

In the year and a half since becoming Christopher’s Bar Exam, the host added three new locations to their program in Iowa City as well as locations in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. Adams said he has seen an increase in the demand for private events such as corporate shows.

“I know what this means to the area and I enjoy doing it,” Adams said.

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About the Contributor
Avi Lapchick
Avi Lapchick, Arts Editor
Avi Lapchick is an arts editor at The Daily Iowan. A fourth-year student studying English and Creative Writing at the University of Iowa, she previously held the positions of staff photojournalist, summer arts editor, and assistant arts editor at the DI. She is happiest when she is writing or painting.