Don’t kid yourself: you love to be right and prove your friends wrong, even when it’s over trivial things. It feels great to win an argument. The folks down at The Fainting Goat are quite aware of this. Over the past while, the restaurant has been having debate nights where two individuals argue the sides of a particular point. The host of the event, Lee Boyes, enjoys putting together the debates. “It’s fun. We try to get people who are passionate and that can present an argument. Watching someone genuinely attack a subject can be incredibly interesting, especially if someone’s really into what they’re talking about.”
The debate nights started when “Justin Ludwig, who was one of the owners and former general manager of the restaurant, was listening to CBC radio one day. They’ve got their own Debaters show, and [he] thought that would make a really good fun evening of entertainment at the Goat.” The main idea behind the debate night is “to take two friends and try to recreate an argument for the sake of arguing. Someone’s generally playing the devil’s advocate – the type of ridiculous fights you get in with friends over a pint of beer.”
Unlike an argument one might find themselves in with one of their friends, the debate nights do have a relative structure to them. “What we usually do is … introduce the topic itself and give a quick back story to what it is. Then each person will have two minutes to make their argument. Then there’s a five to ten minute period – depending on how well it goes – where the two opponents can have at each other’s argument, and they each get a two minute summation at the end and field questions from the audience.” This helps to prevent the debates from getting out of hand.
If the thought of going for a night out to quarrel and bicker displeases you, don’t fret – Boyes assured me that the debates are always kept light-hearted and easy-going. “There [are no topics] that are really too heavy. We tried to keep it light and entertaining – stuff that anyone could really get on board with as opposed to political or religious views.”
That’s not to say that debate night at The Fainting Goat will never involve serious topics. Boyes explains that it’s not that the staff isn’t open to them, but heavier topics have “never really come up. If we would [discuss serious matters], I’d like to maybe balance it out a bit more to have one serious topic and one really ridiculous topic or two ridiculous topics because the whole idea is to have fun. When you start getting really heavy with…topics that affect people’s ideals and identities, you can bring a lot of tension and heat to a situation, and that’s totally what it’s not about.”
Currently, topics are lighthearted in range. “It can be whatever the people want to debate about, but usually they’re just silly bullshit topics. One we had was the merit of UFC and whether it’s actual fighting skill or macho chauvinism. [Another] one was ‘which would you rather have kill you, the fast zombie or slow zombie?”
“We also did one that was discussing the sociology or social subculture that is hipsterism, if it’s a valid social subculture or just ridiculous. That was a pretty good one … a room full of people attacking this cultural idea that we now have wherein a lot of these people are actually involved in the cultural idea.”
Even though the debate topics are about things that have little significance, people’s emotions can get involved in the discussions and can cause spin-off conversations to happen in the audience. “What ends up happening at the end of the night is that you’ve got all these people who start talking about the debates that went on and then their views on the debates with their friends, and those can lead off into different subject matter. By the end of the night, people are having all kinds of arguments about all kinds of different things, but it’s all meant in good fun of course.”
The debates run between three groups of two people, but also incorporate audience questions so that as many people can get involved as possible, and thus, as many people as possible have fun. “The audience is always given a chance to ask questions, so they always get a chance to get their two cents in as well.”
If you’d like to join in on the fun of arguing over a beer and prove your master debating skills, you can check out the next debate night this Thursday, Nov. 26 at The Fainting Goat at 2330 Albert Street.