This is how your bar games are made. As Etebari’s friends soaked up sun in the final days of official summer, the 29-year-old sat in front of a computer putting the finishing touches on his weekly bar trivia quiz. Contestants at Stetson’s Famous Bar & Grill thirst for mind-benders as much as they do Miller Lites — and depend on Etebari to deliver them.
Five years ago, Etebari was a “Jeopardy!” champion. It was a childhood dream, the culmination of poring over world atlases and tucking away every morsel of everything he’d learned, the coveted apex of nerddom.
So what happens to the deep well of knowledge after your dream is fulfilled?
You host trivia.
You spend weekends cutting and pasting music clips from Nickelodeon shows. You make copies of head shots of celebrities who are speaking at political conventions. You begrudgingly search for mug shots of male porn film stars.
“The team that comes in third place gets to choose a category [for the following week], so they decided to rib me,’’ said Etebari, explaining that last tawdry topic. “I did find a way of doing this without seeing anything I didn’t want to see.”
The pub quiz has become a staple at District happy hours over the past decade. It’s gone so commercial that companies are now popping up to host and create a bar’s trivia games for a fee.
Stetson’s, a dimly lit saloon that has survived three decades of change on the U Street corridor, leaves the duties to Etebari.
“This is our biggest night of the week,’’ said Angela Pieri, the bar’s general manager. “And Mehrun always comes in so prepared. He even dresses in a suit!”
He didn’t tell them, until months into the job, that he was a “Jeopardy!” champion. For five days in a row.
Etebari is a stout 5 feet 9 and tends to speak in a monotone. During the day, he does research for a think tank. The teams who play his game often whisper to themselves that he looks a little bit like Aziz Ansari, the comedian who co-stars in the sitcom “Parks and Recreation.”
It’s hard for him to rationalize his quixotic quest for omniscience. He relished it when his parents pop-quizzed him on random math questions. He delighted in knowing the capital of Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou). By the time he was 8, he was watching “Jeopardy!” with a pen and paper, keeping track of his scores and wagering for the final round as if he were playing with the TV contestants.
“There comes a point when you realize you can’t learn everything,’’ Etebari said. “But there’s a lot of fun in trying. So I just like learning a little about a lot of different things.”
By 24, he played on “Jeopardy!” and was so successful that he gained a page on QB Wiki, the quiz-show world’s version of Wikipedia. His total winnings, $128,100, rank as the 22nd highest in the history of the game. Not that the money changed his lifestyle: It went to pay off graduate school in international studies at Yale.