The chalkboard to the left of the door at the Sidecar Bar features a drawing: a mysterious looking bearded man in a blazer and a brown fedora, standing in front of a patriotic background of red, white and blue. Above him are the words, “Calling all nerds, Johnny Goodtimes wants you for Quizzo.”

On a Monday night, he walks into the Graduate Hospital neighborhood bar on 22nd and Christian Streets a few minutes late. He climbs the stairs to the second floor, where light barely filters through low–hanging brass lamps and roughly thirty people sit.

He still sports a beard and a blazer (baby blue on this night) but lacks the fedora. He places his large portable speakers on the bar, grabs the microphone, turns on the music—Dr. Dre’s “Still D.R.E.” featuring Snoop Dogg, his usual song—and begins.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Johnny Goodtimes Quizzo Spectacular. My name is Johnny Goodtimes. Here’s how the game is played.”

There are to be five rounds with eight questions each. An easy round, speed round, audio round, wild card round, and impossible round.

“This is a written test, not an oral exam,” Johnny continues. “Please do not shout out the answers, please do not shout out the answers.” His speech begins to accelerate, turning ordinary phrases into tongue twisters.

“Also, the use of cellular devices, iPhones, all electronic devices is prohibited. Please put a team name at the top of your paper, please put a team name at the top of your paper.”

Meanwhile, six twenty–somethings sit at a table in the corner of the bar. Two of them, Tom and Lyle, have been to Johnny’s Quizzo at Sidecar around thirty times, and many more times before that at City Tap House while they were students at Penn.

“It’s definitely the best and most organized Quizzo,” says Tom, who studied economics and physics and graduated in 2014. He and his buddies used to play Quizzo at The Blarney Stone on 39th and Sansom Street, and racked up over $1,000 in free bar tabs over the years. But despite the free beer, winning quickly got old.

“Here, you get to drink and have competition,” he says.

That competition is what attracts Penn students and University City community members alike to Tap House on Tuesday nights. It’s no secret that Johnny runs the best Quizzo in the city. What fewer people realize, though, is that there is more to Johnny Goodtimes than meets the eye.


For a guy who asks questions and gives answers for a living, there’s one piece of trivia Johnny Goodtimes won’t reveal: his real name.

“It’s a trade secret,” he says.

Growing up in a small Virginia town of 600 people, Johnny resorted to playing games to keep himself entertained. Once, when he was eight years old, he invited all of the kids in the neighborhood over to the house for a baseball game. His mom, Peggy, helped set up the afternoon of ball, welcoming mothers as they dropped off their kids, gloves and bats in hand. She made ice–cold lemonade and left it on the deck for the kids.

Less than five minutes later, Johnny barged into the house in full tantrum mode.

“Son, what on earth is wrong?” Peggy asked.

“Mom, I invited these kids over here for a baseball game. And all they wanna do is play!”

“He was just beside himself,” Peggy remembers. “His whole day was ruined because they wanted to play. He found that revolting.”

In a sense, Johnny never stopped inviting people over for games. Now he just gets paid for it, earning a flat-rate per Quizzo session (he hosts seven per week). It may seem like the job of a man who never found his passion and is doing anything to get by. But don’t be fooled by the adult Johnny’s wacky, ill-fitting blazers and general apathetic vibe. Games are what excite him—he estimates spending 35 hours every week on Quizzo. And he’s as serious about Quizzo now as he was about pickup baseball as a child. You have to be, in order to keep going for all these years.

Still, Johnny is surprised when he reflects on his career. “Sometimes I think to myself ‘Holy shit, here we are twelve years later, and this thing still exists?!’ I thought it was gonna be like disco, two years of this thing. Now it’s an institution in Philadelphia.”


It’s time for round three, the audio round. Johnny announces the theme: every song has to do with either starting or stopping. You have to name the artist.

Midway through the round, he plays “Who’ll Stop the Rain” by Credence Clearwater Revival.

Good men through the ages, tried to find the sun. And I wonder, still I wonder, who’ll stop the rain.

Rather appropriately, it has begun to rain. Lyle, looking very businesslike in his purple button–up shirt and khaki pants, thinks out loud, “It’s not Tom Petty singing. He has a distinctive voice. Dave Matthews has more of a twang, it’s not as smooth as that.”

Immediately after the round, Lyle pulls out his phone. “Oh noooooo! It’s CCR. I was thinking that! I love their songs,” he says, dramatically falling to his side onto the faux-leather green booth.

Johnny didn’t always do an audio round. But as he’s gotten older, his audience has gotten younger, and their taste has changed, so he decided to tweak his quiz. Particularly since getting married and starting a family (he has a two–year–old son, Avery), Johnny has changed the way he looks at Quizzo. “Now I caretake it a bit more,” he says. “I’m a bit more like, ‘What do I need to do to keep the momentum? What do I need to change?’ Whereas before I was flying by the seat of my pants, and to some degree I still am, I think I stopped seeing it as a hobby I got paid for, and more like a job.”


Johnny asks a lot of his audience for the wild card round. The category is “chain restaurant before and after”—in other words, every clue is about a chain restaurant, but there’s a second part to the question that creates a link to the restaurant. For instance: Johnny asks who recorded the 1999 album Before the Pawn, then hints about a restaurant known for its boneless chicken wings. Somehow, the two are related.

The answer? Fiona Applebee’s.

To even produce a question like this is a three–step process. First, Johnny finds a list of fast–food restaurants. Then he brainstorms what can be attached to the beginning or end of a given restaurant. When he finally decides, then he can write the question. Much harder than a simple search on Wikipedia. But it pays off.

“See, this is so fun!” says Margaret, one of five Penn grads at the corner Sidecar table. “They require so much more thought and putting things together.”

A few minutes later, the iconic choral song “O Fortuna” blares from Johnny’s speakers, a tune all Quizzo regulars recognize as the anthem for the “impossible round,” the final of the night.

Johnny’s normally quick cadence slows to a crawl.

“There will be. One question.”

He takes a deep breath. So do the thirty others in the bar.

“Woooooooooooooooooooooooorrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrth. Ten points!”


Outside the bar, lightning flashes.


On Tuesday night, Johnny hosts two quizzes. First stop, O’Neals, where he’s been since 2003, then on to Tap House. He’s swapped out his blue blazer for a white, checkered counterpart, but most everything else is the same—dancing and lip syncing to the songs in the audio round, riotous cheers whenever a question is answered correctly.

At 10 PM, after two hours at O’Neals, Johnny throws on his backpack, where he keeps his wires, microphone, and a carton of Bic pens, and lugs his speakers to his car. He opens the door of the black Scion, only to find a car seat in his way, so he walks around to the other side and puts his speakers away. A toy truck lies on its side under the passenger seat.

He tunes in to grainy radio coverage of the Phillies as he drives through empty Philadelphia streets toward City Tap House, where the crowd is mostly Penn students. When he arrives, a waiter brings him a cup of ice water and Johnny asks if he might put on the Phillies game. The waiter says sure, but when he changes the channel, the screen appears black, with the message “One moment please. Channel should be available shortly.”

Only it isn’t. So Johnny waits. He walks over to the bar, tapping the surface with his palm impatiently. It’s 10:30 p.m., he needs to start Quizzo soon. The game must be in the ninth inning by now. He asks another bartender if the game can be put on. Different TV, same message.

So Johnny Goodtimes walks away defeated, over to his microphone, and turns on some Dr. Dre.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Johnny Goodtimes Quizzo Spectacular. My name is Johnny Goodtimes. Here’s how the game is played.”


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