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Chuck Terhark: 100 Creatives

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Number 51: Chuck Terhark

 

City: Minneapolis

 

Years spent living in MN: 13

Sometimes creativity comes not from painting a piece of art, but from an event you put together for a crowd. This is the type of creativity that Chuck Terhark has in spades. If you don't attend at least one of his crazy, unique shindigs at least once a year, then you're really missing out.

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The man-about-town most recently hosted Laborial Day, a daylong celebration of a made-up holiday marking the mid-point between Labor and Memorial Day. It featured pub trivia, roast pig, and black-and-white attire (honoring the confusion over when we can and cannot wear white).

Terhark is also known as one of the masterminds behind Trivia Mafia, a pub-trivia organization that hosts tons of regular events all around town (his is Sunday nights at the 331 Club).

But perhaps one of his greatest legacies is the Zombie Pub Crawl, an epic event featuring awesome costumes, undead bands, and bloody camaraderie. While these types of crawls are now a dime a dozen, the Minneapolis one holds the honor of being the first large-scale crawl of its kind.

In addition to throwing really awesome parties, he plays bass in the Como Avenue Jug Band (his guitar is named Honeypot, "because it's made out of a 55-gallon barrel that used to hold honey"), and he has also worked as an editor at City Pages and Metro Magazine (he left his job at the latter to tour the U.S. in a Scamp.

[jump] Name three things that are inspiring your work right now:

1.  My girlfriend.

  1. My dog, a chocolate lab named Ava Pickle.

  2. The four months I spent on the road with numbers one and two last year, living out of a tiny, solar-powered RV trailer. Travel is always restorative, but seeing that much of the country that closely for that long was especially eye-opening, even more so than most overseas trips I've taken. As an old Yellowstone Park ad campaign put it: "See America first!"

    Name three things that inspired and/or motivated you as a budding creative type:

I'll go way back for these:

 

  1. My dad. He's a painter. I can't paint a lick, but I reckon some of that creativity rubbed off in other ways. He's also never hired a contractor to do anything, essentially building the house and the two-story garage where I grew up, which I think is where I get this stubborn sense that I can do anything if I give it enough time and read enough books about it.

  2. When I was 10, by mom gave me $100 in exchange for me not watching any television for the entire summer. That summer I taught myself to juggle, explored the entire city on my bike, read more books than I have in any summer since, and generally learned how to entertain myself. I still get itchy if I find myself sitting in front of a screen for too long.

  3. Growing up in Fargo. It's a suburb without a mother city, which is about as fun as it sounds. So we had to make our own fun. Everyone was in a garage band. We promoted concerts in basements and bowling alleys, we explored abandoned factories and dirty river trails, we played citywide games of ditch, we had massive midnight food fights in the park.

What was your last big project?

Chuck Terhark with Sean "Twinkie Jiggles" McPherson

Chuck Terhark with Sean "Twinkie Jiggles" McPherson

Laborial Day. It's Trivia Mafia's made-up holiday, falling at the midpoint between between Labor Day and Memorial Day. We celebrate by bringing a crowd of trivia enthusiasts on a pub crawl through Northeast, doing trivia events at every stop. There's also a scavenger hunt, a pig roast, an ice cream social, and more trivia. It's basically seven straight hours of drinking beer and asking questions about useless information. People love it.

 

What do you have going on now or coming up in the near future that should be on our radar?

I started writing a column for The Journal this summer, which appears monthly. It's called "Before the Falls," and focuses mostly on life in northeast Minneapolis.

After playing together for more than six years, the Como Avenue Jug Band is finally releasing its first CD on September 9 at the 331 Club. The theme for that party is North Dakota State Fair, because the real North Dakota State Fair was flooded out. I stole that idea from my buddy Taylor, who's also from North Dakota -- sometimes creativity is just being careful about whose ideas you steal. (Appropriately enough, I'm fairly sure that's not an original sentiment either.)

Listen to Como Avenue Jug Band, "North Dakota":

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And that, October 8 is the seventh annual incarnation of the Zombie Pub Crawl. It's taking over both Twin Cities this year, and will be bigger and better than ever. We're going for the Guinness World Record for the Largest Zombie Gathering, even though I'm pretty sure we technically broke the record last year. It's also going to have more attendees than the current world record holder for Largest Pub Crawl, so I've taken to calling it the world's largest pub crawl. World records are pretty stupid things, but you've got to admit that's pretty neat.

Finally, some time before the end of the year, Trivia Mafia is going to have a Tournament of Champions where every team that's won any of our quizzes throughout the metro area will converge for one big royal rumble.

Creative/career high point (so far)?

When I was 13, the International Juggling Festival came to town. I was really into juggling then, and I was also getting into playing the drums. The festival's headliner was a Russian circus performer named Gregor Popovich, and his big finish was to balance on top of a free-standing 10-foot ladder while juggling five clubs and balancing a tray of glasses on his chin. The organizers hadn't arranged a drummer to do his drum rolls, though, and since I'd been hanging around the festival, they knew I had a drum set. So they hired this little 12-year-old kid do drum rolls and cymbal crashes for a world-class juggler. It remains to this day the most nerve-wracking and exciting thing I've ever done. Honestly, it's all been kind of downhill since then.

More recently, the jug band hosted a Valentine's Day show a few years ago at the Turf Club wherein we and 13 other local bands covered the entire "69 Love Songs" by the Magnetic Fields. It was called How Fucking Romantic, and it stands out as probably the best show I've ever been a part of. One of these years we'll do it again.

 

Braaaaains!

Braaaaains!

What has been your biggest challenge as a creative type?

I'm a serial job-quitter. Most recently, I had to quit my day job as a magazine editor to take that four-month road trip I mentioned earlier, so getting by financially entirely on personal projects is my biggest challenge. But it's been great fun too. Being forced to adapt and expand out of your comfort zone is good for you, I think. And it's impossible to dig a rut when you're living the freelance lifestyle. I recently copyedited a board game... there's no way I would've done that if I still held an office job. Whenever anyone I know seems down in the dumps about their job, I always tell them to quit. Unemployment rate be damned: If you're not happy, stop what you're doing and do something else.

How has the local scene changed since you began your career?

 

It's bigger, more open-minded, more fashionable, and everyone's snobbier about food. Improvements all around.

 

Name another local creative type that you're currently excited about:

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Abe Sauer's writing at The Awl, Andy Sturdevant's writing on South 12th, Brad Zellar's writing on his Facebook wall, Jim Norton's writing at Heavy Table, Maggie Ryan Sandford's writing everywhere, and my trivia cohort Sean "Twinkie Jiggles" McPherson. And Michael Cuddyer.

What's the most interesting zombie get-up that you have seen over the years?

There is a fierce debate in the zombie community about zombie get-ups. There are the traditionalists who want zombies and only zombies -- come as you are, only dead. And then there are the people who see the zombie element as a second level to another costume, zombie Mario Brothers, for example, which was a hit one year. Personally, I like those costumes, and I think that's one reason the crawl has been popular. As opposed to, say, a vampire pub crawl, a zombie pub crawl allows you to still be creative while also being a zombie. It's awesome to just sit back at the crawl and watch all of the amazing zombies walk by. People plan their outfits months in advance, so there are some real doozies.

That said, I think my all-time favorite was a much more subtle outfit: He was a zombie marathon runner, with one simple tire track on the back of his shirt. He jogged the entire crawl, and kept checking his heart rate and getting mad because he thought his watch was broken when he couldn't find a pulse.

Speaking of, do you have a favorite Zombie Pub Crawl memory?

My absolute favorite memory of the Zombie Pub Crawl is from 2005, the first time we did it. We were expecting 15 people to show up, 20 tops. We gathered in Logan Park in Northeast and it was clear that more than 100 people had shown up. When we shouted the rallying cry --"What do we want? Brains! When do we want 'em? Braaains!" -- and everybody lurched toward the first bar, well, that was pretty memorable. We still had no idea what it would become, though.

All of my memories of the Zombie Pub Crawl since are pretty blurry. Instead of memories, we get a lot of second-hand stories that are pretty funny. They all fall into three categories:

A: "The ZPC was the best night of my life. I met my girlfriend there and now we're getting married."

B: "The Zombie Pub Crawl was terrible. Someone puked on me and I don't know who it was." C: "The ZPC was the best night of my life. I puked on someone I didn't know."

Honestly, the best moments have all been the day after the crawl, when I realized it was finally over.

 

Do you have a trivia question that you are particularly proud of? What was it?

We have a running gag at the 331 where Sean asks a "Rapadoo," wherein players have to translate a rap lyric into "Grandmaspeak." I follow it up with a "Mindfuckadoo," which is a math riddle. That's usually my favorite question of the night.

I do have a new favorite question from a few weeks ago though: What television show is known in Japan as 'The Macaroni Rascals'?

 

Answer: Jersey Shore.

Do you have a suggestion for someone whose work we should be checking out? Feel free to leave your top picks in the comments.

Past creatives, so far:

100. Jennifer Davis

99. Sean Smuda

98. Chuck U

97. DWITT

96. Amy Rice

95. Kara Hendershot

70. Tim Sievert

67. Dessa

66. Heidi Arneson

65. Erin Currie

64. Jayme Halbritter

63. Amy Buchanan

62. Kimberly Jurek

61. Kenna-Camara Cottman

60. Joan Vorderbruggen

59. Amber Preston

58. Jenny Carle

57. Mad King Thomas

56. George Moskal

55. Gregory Euclide

54. Stacy Schwartz

53. Joshua English Scrimshaw

52. Courtney McLean