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‘Trivia Guy’ Phil Donato is host to many St. Louis trivia nights

Phil Donato is the "Trivia Guy."
Alex Heuer
St. Louis Public Radio

Trivia nights are part of the culture of St. Louis. On weekends it’s not uncommon to find several of the events, which are most often fundraisers for nonprofit organizations.

Phil Donato is St. Louis’ “Trivia Guy.” He’s is also the marketing, events and outreach manager at St. Louis Public Radio.

“It just brings a lot of people together … friends, families and co-workers to unwind. It’s a blue-collar, informal thing,” Donato told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Wednesday.

Donato has written questions or served as a trivia moderator for more than 120 organizations. He first moderated a trivia night in 1993 but for the last 10 years, has averaged annually more than 40 trivia events.

“It’s really important to realize that most of the people there aren’t trivia experts, they’re there for the cause or for the people at the table to have a fun evening. I try to write (questions) for the folks in the middle,” Donato said.

An NPR story in 2013 stated that trivia nights started in St. Louis during the Trivial Pursuit era of the 1980s:

“According to a 1993 article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a local couple, Pete and Judy Johnson, brought the idea back from Australia, where Pete had worked on an engineering project and trivia had long since migrated out of bars and into the fundraising bloodstream.

After the Johnsons organized a trivia night fundraiser for Kennerly Elementary School in St. Louis County, the idea spread throughout that district, then to local churches and on from there.

Its popularity was further promoted by high school history teacher Dave Strauss, who became known as Mr. Trivia. Strauss hosted a weekly radio trivia call-in show and was an indefatigable host of trivia nights.”

Trivia nights are not unique to St. Louis. They’ve spread to Springfield, Ill. and Springfield, Mo. as well as communities in Texas. But they haven’t quite taken off like they have in St. Louis, Donato said. 

St. Louis Public Radio Trivia Night

  • May 16, 2015, 7:00 p.m.
  • IBEW Local One, 5850 Elizabeth Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110
  • (314) 516-5968, St. Louis Public Radio

Email your question to talk@stlpublicradio.org, or tweet us at @STLonAir.

St. Louis on the Air discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.

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Alex is the executive producer of "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.