The name pretty much says it all when it comes to Nerdist Theater.
Situated in the back of Meltdown Comics, the theater puts on a show every night of the week with events ranging from Cosplay Karaoke to Horrible Movie Night. Since 2011, the theater in Hollywood has made being nerdy cool, or at least given people who enjoy their brand of comedy a place to call their own.
The Nerdist Theater has seen much growth since it first began as a podcast in 2008. It has become the place for "nerdy" live comedy and Nerdist Industries, which runs Nerdist has taken off and in fact was just bought by Legendary Entertainment last week.
Mo Fathelbab, the on-site producer of The Nerdist Theater, shared with Patch some of the big plans the theater is seeing through in the coming months.
“We’re really trying to make it a destination,” Fathelbab said. “We’re starting to notice that fans specifically make it a point to visit the theater as a part of their L.A. pilgrimage and we hope to expand on that, hope that people take the opportunity to treat us as they would treat the Universal (Studios) tour, like they have to come here.”
The makings of a nerdy place
“We're like in your mom's basement,” said Fathelbab. “We put on a show every night of the week and its like punk rock — everything is spit and springs. Even though we're very professional about it, we like the sort of atmosphere that comes with performing behind a comic shop.”
While Meltdown Comics has always hosted Meltdown, a once-a-week comic show, Chris Hardwick, the founder of NerdMelt, wanted to expand the venue's programming.
With his background as a standup comedian, actor and television personality, he had a vision to use the space for the remaining six days of the week.
“He became friends with the owner of the store and was enamored with it,” Fathelbab said. “Sometime in early 2011, he took [coproducer] Emily Gordon to the site and said ‘I would like to start programming things here, do you mind helping me put things together?’”
That's when Gordon brought Fathelbab in to serve as a producer for the theater. Fathelbab who had previously worked for Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (UCB) for six years in New York couldn’t say no.
“It was like our little secret, that's what it seems like, and that's what's the most fun about it and still is,” Fathelbab said.
Things in Motion
However, the Nerdist Theater isn’t that much of a secret anymore.
In fact, Legendary Entertainment bought Nerdist Industries, the genre and pop culture multimedia company owned by Hardwick, which includes the Nerdist Theater. According to the joint announcement by both companies last week, Nerdist Industries Company will retain its creative freedom.
Recently, Nerdist Industries also helped kick off 2012 San Diego Comic Con true to their style. Nerdist teamed up with Lucasfilm, Octagon, and Machinima to put on an Olympic-inspired relay race called the “Course of the Force” to benefit the Make-a-Wish Foundation.
In addition at Comic Con, Nerdmelt debuted a preview of its first completely scripted show set to premiere later this summer on YouTube.
“It’s a web series based on working at Nerdist theater called “Nerd Terns” which Gaston Dominguez-Letelier, Pete Levin, Chris Hardwick and I are producing for the Nerdist Channel which should be out in late August early September,” Fathelbab said.
The Nerdist philosophy
“We cater to people who are very savvy when it comes to a particular brand of comedy, comic nerds, who understand what this thing is,” Fathelbab said. “People who know not only who Dan Harmon is, but who Damon Lindelof is when he makes an appearance on the Nerdist podcast live here at Nerdmelt.”
Producers at the theater have found success by programming events that reflects their interests, which in turn as generated a devoted following.
“I love Breaking Bad,” Fathelbab said. “So, say I decide to host a party to watch Breaking Bad and ask if anyone wants to watch it with me. All my friends who like it come over and we have dinner and watch the show and have a great time. None of us have anything to do with the show, we’re just all fans. That’s a metaphor for what we do at Nerdist. We are all just big fans. Chris’ philosophy is to engage fans of things he himself is a fan of.”
The theater has developed a loyal following of ‘comedy nerds’ as Fathelbab calls them.
“We try to build a community,” Fathelbab said. “A lot of the same people who are our audience members become our friends. People who work here are generally audience members first. They came in they saw shows and they wanted to be a part of it.”
Despite its “comic nerd” persona however, Nerdist is open for anyone to perform who has a funny act.
“Matt Bennett [from Nickelodeon’s Victorious] was a fan of us, he was a fan of the theater and a fan of Chris. He wanted to do a show. We didn’t see him as “Nickelodeon,” he was good, so we let him put on show, which was very funny and very successful. That’s how we go about putting shows together, whether Nerdist Channel or Nerdist Theater live, we show things we’re fans of and people respond to that,” Fathelbab said.
Organizers also try to keep its prices accessible for anyone who wants to come.
“We keep our shows relatively cheap, most of our shows are about $10 or less so it’s affordable,” Fathelbab said.
The only show more than $10 is the Nerdist Writers Panel which charges $15. A portion goes to 826, a nonprofit organization that encourages writing in children.
“Ben Blacker, the host of that particular podcast is a television writer and a big fan of getting kids out there and writing more, so he wanted to do that,” Fathelbab said.
Coming up this summer
“There’s a lot, a lot happening right now,” Fathelbab said. “Almost every week starting this month Dan Harmon will be there doing hour long podcast live in front of 100 people….The kids podcast that I helped put together will have its first live show with our young host Gil [Dominguez-Letelier] turning 10 on Aug. 7.”
Fathelbab is particularly looking forward to is the writer’s panel on Aug. 19 with Key & Peele [Comedy Central’s new sketch comedy show] with all the writers including the two leads.
At the end of the day, for the theater and its patrons, they're happy to keep promoting events of things that they love.
"We’re comedy geeks and we're super excited about what we're doing," Fathelbab said.