Steve Wiley is a self-described middle-aged, married guy who has a mild contempt for hipness. He's spent the last 25 years in the music industry (at Zia and most-recently as the owner of Hoodlums) getting one trend after another jammed down his throat by record labels. We've convinced him to join Jackalope Ranch to share his insight on pop culture in all forms. Up today: His favorite nerds in time for Eight's Nerd Walk.
Gear up, nerds: This weekend, you can join Arizona PBS for the second annual PBS Nerd Walk.
Eight, the local PBS affiliate, embraces its nerd status, and considers itself "the original sanctuary of desert dwellers and their obsessive, intelligent pursuits."
As such, the Eight team (including our own "Fanboy" columnist, Bob Beard) invites you to join them and to "proclaim your nerdiness" and "meet like-minded public television devotees" on October 27 in conjunction with ASU's Homecoming Week.
See also: - Chris Hardwick on True Nerds, Trendy Geeks, and The World's Most Important Debate - Phoenix Geeks on the Local Scene, Nerd Popularity, and Their Awkward Yearbook Photos - Bob Beard's Merry ChristNES
There are plenty of nerds worth honoring during the Nerd Walk, but we'd like to take the time to honor some of our all-time favorite nerds from the big and small screens ... but first, let's define a nerd:
By nerd, we mean a highly-intelligent individual that doesn't exactly fit in to society.
The intelligence part rules out a number of geeks across history that couldn't think their way out of a wet paper bag, including Gomer Pyle, Jethro Bodine, Skreetch, Barney Fife, Ogre, and Gilligan (did he have a last hame?).
But even then...the list of awesome nerds that have entertained us over the years remains too long, so we have to rule out nerds played by actors and actresses that are just a little too hot. Sorry Uma, Matthew, and Justin, but no matter how much you get nerd-ed up, we can only believe so much. Another filter we've imposed is that this person can't be too much of a prized member of "too cool" of a crew. Out goes Alan Rickman in Ferris Bueller's Day Off or Jonah Hill in Accepted.
Even with the filters on, it's still tough, but here are eight that are great (in no specific order):
Let's just get it out of the way. Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards as the lead nerds in the definitive nerd classic must be on the list. After all, this movie was the Jackie Robinson of nerd acceptance into mainstream culture. The movie was loaded with classic nerds, including Takashi, Poindexter, and the always-amusing Curtis Armstrong as Booger.
Anthony Michael Hall is the all-time film nerd in my mind. Farmer Ted was his best character, but he was also an excellent nerd in Breakfast Club and Weird Science. There's a ton of great scenes, but the defining one for me is when Jake finds him under the table after the party clears. This movie also featured classic sub-nerd roles from John and Joan Cusack and a guy named after a duck's dong (Gedde Watanabe).
I thought long and hard about finding a girl nerd for this list, but it's tougher than you think, because like record store customers, screen nerds tend to be guys. I didn't like Ghost World that much, or I might have included Thora Birch. I wanted to include Gilda Radner's Lisa Loopner, but she wasn't smart. Then I thought of the original smart, nerdy chick: Velma (I checked on her last name: Dinkly) from the original Scooby Doo, Where Are You? Although the gang in the Mystery Machine was ultimately pretty cool, Velma had to make the list. My next mission: Bring back "Jinkys" as a catch phrase. Bonus info: Did you know Casey Kasem originally voiced Shaggy?5. George McFly in Back to the Future.
Hello... McFly? Do you belong on this list? McFly might be a nerd, but with help from his unborn son he managed to conquer the world... and he's a lot easier to love than the actor that played him, Crispin Glover. For all you little shits out there that weren't alive back when Letterman made the new rules for Late Night TV, you should go back and look for theCrispin Glover guest shots on youtube
. One of the all-time bizarro talk-show guests.
In Nerd Mythology, the quest of our outcast hero is often to obtain the Holy Grail of Nerdland: A bout of hot sex. If you study the list, you'll find that most of them accomplish their mission. Consequently, any proper list must include Steve Carrell's hilarious character, who somehow hasn't gotten lucky well into middle age. Nothing quite explains the lack of female action like a visit to Andy's house, which is like a Nerd Museum full of action figures. Fun Fact: There's not a chance that stuff would have actually sold for that much on eBay.
OK, even though I've watched Office Space about thirty times, I'm not entirely sure if Milton is smart, or just lucky. One thing I am sure about is that he's a classic nerd. More often than not, I think about him when I see a stapler (if I'm giving staplers a second thought at all), which is the sign of true comedy character impact. Side fact: Actor Stephen Root was equally funny on the other end of the nerd spectrum as the boss on NewsRadio.
When I went to add a Superbad nerd to the list, at first it was Christopher Mintz-Plasse's (whatever happened to stage names?) Fogel character (who most of us simply remember as McLovin'). But upon watching it again (I call it homework), I realized that Seth (Jonah Hill) and Evan (Michael Cera) were equally huge nerds, and since they were the leads, the three must be included together (like Gilbert and Louis). I'd have to say that these three are closer to coolsville than most of the other nerds on the list, but not cool enough to have their nerd status revoked (like, perhaps, Val Kilmer in Real Genius).
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My son plays recorded episodes of this show constantly, so I've gotten to know it a bit. It's pretty decent, but I can't tell him that. I contend that the girl isn't cute enough to be a sitcom lead, and he contends I'm wrong. No one contends that these crazy kids aren't worthy nerdescandants, and carrying on the traditions like champs (or should I say scholars?)
Nerd Walk is from 8 to 10 a.m. in Tempe. Register on the Nerd Walk website.