By Cameron Lee
March 19, 2023
Being a nerd doesn’t quite have the connotation that it once had. Maybe it was the genre-bending hip-hop/rock trio of Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo, and Shay Haley’s N.E.R.D. at the turn of the century that helped shift the perception. Maybe it was the advancement of video games, technology or the evolution of social media that made many of us realize that being “nerdy” is actually pretty cool.
“I guess in my opinion, everybody’s nerdy about something. Everyone has something they’re a big nerd for, you know, a nerd isn’t really a negative thing anymore,” said Joe Hunsaker, Events and Special Projects Manager at Blumenthal Performing Arts.
Hunsaker, who founded the Queen City Comedy Experience with Cale Evans and Karla Dingle of Queen City Comedy in 2018, came up with the concept for Nerdy Night Out after visiting Caveat, a “joyfully nerdy” cabaret comedy theater in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Founded by a physicist (Ben Lillie) and theater producer/director (Kate Downey), Caveat’s programming mixed science, comedy, improv and crowd interaction. Inspired by the concept, Hunsaker and Blumenthal CEO Tom Gabbard assembled a team to attend a bootcamp at Caveat in early 2019. They then invited Caveat to do a few workshops for local performers in Charlotte, which turned into three events that spawned the Nerdy Night Out series.
Hunsaker describes Nerdy Night Out as a “roomful of nerdy, smart people” mixing comedy with a party vibe, social interaction, and a quirky topic. It usually features an expert host, like marine biologist, Andrew Goff, an adjunct faculty member in UNC Charlotte’s biology department. Goff, who was originally a fan and attendee of Nerdy Night Out events, hosted “Biology 4 Comedians,” a show that debunked myths about classic ’80s and ’90s movies.
For the upcoming “The Sasquatch Show ” on March 25, Hunsaker tapped Charlotte-based cryptozoologist (study of legendary and extinct animals) Cher Lambeth. Lambeth is also a professional costume and puppet builder who has worked on productions such as The Hunger Games and with sports mascots like the Panthers’ Sir Purr. As the evening’s expert host, she’ll explain exactly what a cyptozoologist does and will deep dive into Sasquatch sightings, history, and folklore. She’ll also talk about all of the cryptids (animals that exist in the wild, but are not recognized by science) that have been spotted here in North Carolina.
With an emphasis on Charlotte talent, each show incorporates local improv troupes and comedians, like Now Are The Foxes, whose members Austen DiPalma and Jason Spooner inspired the theme for “The Sasquatch Show.” Hunsaker ran into DiPalma and Spooner at HeroesCon, and discovered the two were working on a comic book called, Sasquatch: War Ender, a World War II-era graphic novel where Sasquatch “shreds Nazis.” Hunsaker wanted to find a way to promote the comic book, and DiPalma and Spooner suggested doing a show on cryptozooology, which led Hunsaker to Lambeth by way of the Charlotte Paranormal Society. Now Are The Foxes will perform an Armando (long-form improv) inspired by Lambeth’s presentation on cryptids for the March show.
Nerdy Night Out not only serves as a platform for local comedians and improv actors, it’s also extremely inclusive. They partnered with the Charlotte Gaymers Network, a non-profit LGBTQ+ community that shares their love for all things gaming, to help bring the event beyond the walls of Blumenthal Performing Arts to Carolina Esports Hub. CGN hosts their monthly Gaymer Gatherings inside the plush space off Clanton Road that features a built-in stage, bar and concessions area.
During the 2022 Queen City Comedy Experience, the month-long series of comedy events spread across several venues, the Nerdy Night Out brand expanded to feature a “Ladies Who Rock ” show, which featured female comedians recounting courageous stories of historical women. The “Heroes Debate” allowed comedians to discuss comical topics on how superheroes and villains would fit into real-life everyday situations.
Comedy shows have been thriving in the city and Gabbard encouraged Hunsaker to bring more comedy events to different areas of the city, as part of their initiative to expand outside of the Blumenthal umbrella of theaters in uptown.
“A lot of the local stand-ups and improv comedians have been noticing that they’ve had a bigger audience, and there’s more hunger for comedy. I think it has to do with the state of the world…people just want to have a good time, have a laugh and get away,” said Hunsaker.
Nerdy Night Out, provides an inviting “intelligent nightlife” scene in Charlotte, as Hunsaker describes it, not only giving area comedians the opportunity to sharpen their skills, but for all of us to learn about some outlandish topics and embrace our inner nerdiness.
Nerdy Night Out takes place monthly in 2023, and the next event in the series, “Dungeons & Drag Queens,” is on Saturday, November 18 at Tabbris Innovation Center.
In this article
- Andrew Goff
- Austen DiPalma
- Ben Lillie
- Cale Evans
- Carolina Esports Hub
- Charlotte Gaymers Network
- Charlotte Paranormal Society
- Cher Lambeth
- Jason Spooner
- Joe Hunsaker
- Karla Dingle
- Kate Downey
- marine biologist
- nerd culture
- new york
- Now Are The Foxes
- Queen City Comedy
- Queen City comedy experience
- The Sasquatch Show
- Tom Gabbard