UNSUNG HEROES OF THE NET

By Bilge Ebiri
Updated February 05, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

With categories like ”Terms of En-Deer-Meat” and ”Where’s Your Clenched Jaw Now, Moses?” You Don’t Know Jack is not your ordinary trivia game. Though it comes complete with impudent announcers that berate players when they stall or make mistakes, as well as flashy graphics and animation, the key to Jack is in the writing. ”Funny first is the rule,” says Matt Kelly, an editor at Jellyvision, the Chicago-based creative shop that churns out the hip, pop-culture-filled questions for both the online Jack: The Netshow (www.bezerk.com, updated weekly) and the award-winning CD-ROMs, published in partnership with Berkeley Systems. What’s the secret to coming up with questions like ”If filmmakers were to remake King Kong and cast the world’s smallest monkey in the title role, what would we see wreaking havoc on New York?” (Answer: a pygmy marmoset.) ”It’s very collective — by the time a question appears on Netshow, many people have worked on it,” claims Lina Chern, one of nearly 15 writers at Jellyvision. The public response? ”Sometimes people are drunk and playing at 3 a.m. and they send e-mails saying they hate us,” admits Kelly. But with nearly 50,000 online players a week, this is one smiling Jack.

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