The Alligator Lounge replica in Repetition.
Brooklyn’s Alligator Lounge isn’t very busy on a Monday night at 7:45 p.m. The sun is still out, the heat has dropped, and it looks like the people of Williamsburg have plenty of things they’d rather do than show off in a lusty neighborhood for four rounds of quizzes. I’m there a few days before Repetition premieres on HBO, and like the protagonist of this first episode, Kor, I showed up with an ulterior motive. In the episode, Nathan Fielder drags Kor through dozens of possible scenarios in a bar-scale replica before he attends an upcoming real-life venue trivia party to make a tough confession to his teammate. Tricia. Fielder is frustrated because he spent all of HBO’s remaining Westeros money building a working replica of Alligator Lounge and storing it with actors to rehearse the confession, but Kor is just as anxious to earn trivia as he is to. come across as clean to Tricia; as Kor tells Fielder, “A night of trivia at a bar is sacrosanct for us.” Obviously this is a very special place with a very special trivia bar night. But would that quirk still be intact once Alligator Lounge became HBO’s hottest new star? I decided to discover myself.
But first, I had to repeat a few possible outcomes. So I dragged Vulture’s resident mage, Nate Jones, to Alligator Lounge the week before he was sure to be inundated with fangirls, fanboys, and fanfolks thirsty for Fielder and cheap beer. When we arrived, only one table was occupied, and it was the table, but the crooked framed picture of an alligator was new – landscape instead of portrait. I remembered Kor’s decision tree, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie about a parent’s cancer; it’s not worth invoking the evil eye over content creation. Luckily the group left before the trivia started, so we were able to snag the Kor-Tricia confession table before the game started.
Eventually the bar filled up with about 20 players, including my friend Danny, a regular at the Alligator Lounge who joined our team. The place smelled like pizza, the spice rack had all the same spices, and trivia was easy. There were things Fielder’s countless tests couldn’t have prepared us for: A guy behind us kept dancing to the music during breaks and hitting Nate with his butt. There were four “shots” in which we gained way more booze than we needed. I could see why Cheap Chick in the City would love this place: Free made-to-order pizza with every drink order is a great way to enjoy dinner and High Life for $6 ($4 before tip), and first place a price of $40 on your tab is surprisingly achievable. Like Kor and Tricia, we applauded each correct answer. Our team, Lea Michele’s Vision Board, took first place in the first round and kept it. We were on such a roll that I started to get suspicious: had the people around me planted answers? Had I run into a cop who told me, “It’s in days like these that I curse Michael Bay for doing a ‘Got Milk’ commercial”? My teammates were smart… but were they or they plants too? [Editor’s note: Nate Jones is not, to our knowledge, a plant.]
After our victory, the host, Sha, came to congratulate us and take a photo. At that moment, I felt I had to confess that I was there with an ulterior motive: to write an article about a TV show. Sha was not the featured host in the Repetition, and like Kor, he had not heard of Nathan for you. I told him that I would be back next week to see if Repetition started a movement. He was a very fun and “turbulent” (Nate’s word) host who took a break mid-game to serenade the bar with a rendition of “Careless Whisper”, but he couldn’t have been less interested in the show or outfield player.
A few days later, I felt stupid for telling Sha about the whole TV show. What if I made it look bigger than it was? What if no one showed up the following week? But then Repetition dropped out, and Fielder was in my “Trending” Twitter bar all weekend. The Monday after the premiere, I arrived at the Alligator Lounge a good half hour earlier than the previous time, and the crowd had already doubled. Nate, my friend Nico, and I grabbed the last remaining table, and soon there weren’t enough free stools in the whole place for all the players to sit down (unfortunately, the damn chairs near the bath, as seen on TV, have since been removed). The energy in the room was palpable, and the crowd — cliques of gangly boys in their twenties, girls in glasses — matched the profile of Fielder’s fans. I spotted the lone wolves from the week before, still on their same bar stools, now among piles of people jostling for the bartenders’ attention.
Sha walked in and was impressed by the crowd. He guessed it was the lure of the bar’s TV cameo, which Sha hadn’t watched. “One day I will be on TV,” he told me. “To juggle, maybe.”
“Oh, are you good at juggling?” I asked.
“No, but I can be.”
Before the game started, I asked Sha to do a walkthrough of the room for me. He took the mic and asked, “Who’s there because of the HBO show The article‘About half the crowd cheered. I guess there were even more, but they didn’t cheer because they weren’t there to The article. In the queue for a question sheet, I heard a bearded man with a messenger bag with the word movie theater on it, say, “These guys just aren’t going to know what hit them. They are not prepared”, which could have concerned Repetition turnout or could simply have been about his own mastery of the anecdotes. I turned around and saw a couple taking a selfie outside the bar before entering.
I went back to our table, and Nico heard a guy behind him — at the table – call it “the Dumb Starbucks of trivial parties”. Someone was filming with their phone. My friend Danny came over and I asked him what he thought of the episode. He said that in the first scene of the real Alligator Lounge, when it appears there are hidden cameras watching him, he recognized some regulars in the crowd, including one of his friends. And that’s where the plot thickens: Danny said that in the climactic scene in which Kor and Tricia do bar anecdotes, he “didn’t recognize anyone.” Even the bartender was different. Danny said the trivia host in the episode wasn’t the usual guy who hosted in 2019 either. To be clear, Danny is a real regular at the Alligator Lounge. He knows space; he knows the crowd. He believed that the confession scene, the one that was supposed to be the “real” moment after many, many stagings, was more staged than the show let on. He also directed me to a post on the Instagram account of Trivial Dispute, the group that organizes these bar-trivia evenings. Superimposed over a screenshot from the episode were the words “AS (SORT OF) SEEN ON REHEARSAL! DON’T ACCEPT ANY SUBSTITUTIONS!”
I reached out via Instagram to Adam Kesner, the man behind Trivial Dispute, who hosts a number of trivial parties in NYC bars throughout the week; the group has run the program at Alligator Lounge since 2007. Kesner typically writes the questions each week, but confirmed that a different host and pre-written questions were provided by Repetitionfrom the production company for the last trivial evening of the episode. “The only issue I had with the show was the sub-par question quality,” said Kesner, who speculated that the questions were written to generate those fun “clue-making” beats. rather than a tough night of real-life bar trivia.
The game started, and the categories included “Hidden-Camera Shows” and “Famous Nathans”, both referencing Repetition. When the scores were announced at the end of the first round, the team names included references such as The Dish (as in Trish the Dish) and Should’ve Brought a Plunger. (We were called Door City Over Here.) The questions were slightly more difficult than the previous week; maybe the quiz writer, knowing there would be more eyes on the game, stepped things up a bit in response. The bartender told me that while working there he never saw it crowded on a Monday “two or three times”. Sha told me he was “overwhelmed” by the crowd. Did Repetition change the composition of the players? He said the newbies were “a bit boring at first” and “the regulars got gentrified! I asked how many teams there were in total, and Sha counted the tally sheets: 19, “the most teams we’ve had.” I guess it’s on TV, and it’s something about Instagram. Six teams dropped out overnight.
Sha was onto something. Between the thematic questions, selfies, and show references, the night felt like a sex and the city bus tour for comedy nerds. Compared to the previous week, the real-life Alligator Lounge trivia now looked more like RepetitionThe Alligator Lounge trivia version. My team couldn’t tell if Monday nights would get busier as more people became interested in the show or if this was an early shock and things would soon return to normal. Danny pointed out that the crowd made things feel like they were before COVID hit, noting that many former staff members moved during the pandemic because the hospitality industry had been hit so hard. It was nice to see him prosper. I just hope the bar replica is still sitting in a warehouse somewhere, happy with the success of its twin.