nerds

Nerding It Up and Quiet Space-Time Continuum

Frodo If you were not aware of the number of references I've made in past blog posts or in my shows, I am a huge nerd. I was in denial regarding it for a very long time, even though I found myself in a group of nerds and we liked the same stuff and obsessed over things in the same way. But I was not a nerd, no sir! And then I turned 23-years-old and thought, "Oh, wait, yeah, that's exactly what I am."

Identifying your tribe is a natural part of being human. You find your pack, you stick with it, and you are presumably safer in numbers. Well, until the jocks find you and call you names. And then later they tell you they’re sorry and that they genuinely find your mom attractive, which is somehow worse. Which is when you find said tribe and they provide temporary comfort until you can go to your therapist about how your bullies want to date your mom.

Anyways, back to tribal nerdery. I go back and forth with the whole pack mentality. Events, especially. The few sci-fi conventions I have been to have been... overwhelming, to say the least. I'm a shy, anxious introvert who is easily stressed. Large crowds aren’t one of my favorite things.

I recently went to DragonCon over Labor Day weekend. For the sake of context, I need to explain what DragonCon is. Explaining DragonCon is a bit like explaining the Ewing format to your mom before either of you have had a cup of coffee. So here's a breakdown.

  1. DragonCon takes place in Atlanta, Georgia.
  2. It runs 24/7 with late night events and endless cosplay partying.
  3. It covers almost all fanbases from science-fiction TV to skepticism to puppetry. However, musicals and theater are still left out. (I'm petitioning to remedy this.)
  4. There is a drink called "pie" and it will knock you on your ass.

This year’s DragonCon had more than 75,000 people in attendance. That's a f**kton of people. I should also remind you that nerds span the spectrum of introversion and extraversion, and they all look the same despite their costumed revelry. So I could be sitting at a panel, waiting for it to start. When out of nowhere… EXTROVERT ATTACK! And then I collapse into a fetal position and the person in question stares in confusion.

Luckily, at this point in my life, I know my limits. There's a lot of pressure to stick it out, sit with other people at the cafeteria table, start a conversation with the group of Deadpools screaming loudly in your ear. But, honestly, I'm just too old for that. That’s right, I’m even too old for the group of Deadpools. Stop yelling at me about chimichangas, I get it, you’re using the mask to harness the power of obnoxiousness with none of the Ryan Reynolds' charm.

So when time allowed, I went to a quiet corner and ate my lunch. Often I went to the hotel room I shared with my friend and did a bit of free writing. It was great. I highly recommend it if you are one of those people who is overwhelmed by people easily. In fact, there was a day when I just went to the Center of Puppetry Arts by myself, even though I had already gone with a group of friends. Okay, part of it was for quiet, the other part was for the 30th-anniversary exhibit for Jim Henson’s Labyrinth. I can do two things.

Then when I went to panels, I was refreshed and ready to chat and perform social activities. Hell, I even crashed a podcast because they were having a panel about Little Shop of Horrors. Luckily, they were OK with the podcast-bomb and invited me back if I wanted. If I had not taken that quiet time or found a quiet space for myself, I would have been stressed out and exhausted from the hustle that so many people are trying to do.

It's a lesson I should have followed years ago, maybe even a month ago. And the lesson can be summed up with this anecdote: Someone made a joke at an Ewing audition saying, "Wouldn't it be weird if someone was just reading a book right now, waiting for this audition?"

Let me answer this question. Hello, I'm the girl with the book at the audition and DragonCon. Now, shush, Old Lady KC is reading Terry Pratchett.

KC Ryan is an improv graduate turned Sketch Writing Level 2 student. When she’s not working at the day job, she is a writer and podcaster for everything that combines feminism, comedy, theatre, and nerdery. She also performs in the puppet improv troupe Empty Inside.

What We're Loving: Forgotten Presidential Impressions, Culture, Numbers, Dutch Angles

Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison dusts off an unappreciated gem, Jonda Robinson lets pictures doing the talking, Amanda Hahn crunches numbers, and Ryan Callahan laughs inappropriately.  tumblr_inline_mh1n65gYIj1r8uzczIt’s very common for performers to become under appreciated as time marches on. Icons to the people that lived through their reign only to be forgotten (Or even worse, remembered for a stupid project that they simply did for the money) by the rest. One of the best examples of this sort of figure is Chris Elliott. Most comedians have heard the name and could probably pick his face out of a lineup, but in no way does he get the credit he deserves. Some of the best examples of his work would be Get a Life, Eaglehart, and his guest spots on Letterman. But there’s a sad chance that you don’t have a spare week of your life to watch all of that, so I’m going to recommend that you check out one of his strangest projects that just happens to be my favorite. This week, I’m loving Chris Elliot’s FDR: A One Man Show.

If one was to turn on FDR: A One Man Show expecting to see a pitch perfect impression of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, they would be sorely disappointed. But you’ll quickly agree that it’s much better that Chris Elliott’s FDR wields a lasso and can’t remember his lines. If that isn’t enough, Marv Albert plays the part of the announcer, consistently providing updates on the big high school basketball game happening simultaneously. Oh, and Eleanor is a trombone. Please check out this video so that you can start to appreciate this man. ADORE HIM. - David Allison

Chicago_Art_InstituteYesterday I had the chance to explore the Art Institute of Chicago. Now, I don’t know a ton about art, but one of the beautiful things about it is that you don’t have to have a thorough knowledge of it, or the ability to create it, to enjoy and appreciate it.

There were many pieces that I was excited to see up close and in person: Georges Sauret’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte--1884, Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street; Rainy Day, and one that has always interested me, Grant Wood’s American Gothic. It was the visiting exhibit, Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926-1938, that really captivated me, though. I entered it not really knowing what to expect, other than that he was the guy who did the interesting self-portrait that features him in a suit and a bowler hat with a green apple obstructing his face. I learned, though, that he’s a Belgian surrealist artist who has a style that is all his own. It’s vivid, it’s sharp, it’s grotesque, it’s shocking, and some of the pieces make you want to look away instantly, but you can’t because you also feel a need to see them more clearly.

Because a picture (or a painting, in this case) is worth a thousand words, here are some of my favorite paintings of Magritte’s that I had the pleasure of experiencing. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

I know Magritte’s style is not for everyone, but for me, his works are incredibly intriguing because they take the reality that we are used to and alter it so that it becomes unknown and engaging to us. If you find yourself with a free afternoon to fill sometime, I highly recommend visiting an art museum near you. You just might run across something that speaks to and inspires you. - Jonda Robinson

550_information_is_beautiful_2nd_edition_UKIt's no surprise I’m a nerd, by now right? One of my favorite things to do is analyze data. One of my second favorite things is to absorb data. If you have data, I want to know about it. I’m also a firm believer that the better you’re able to explain something very complicated in a very simple way, the more you probably understand it and the more I will trust that you're correct. I also like pretty things.

All of this comes together with Information is Beautiful. Writer/designer David McCandless loves data too. And he too likes pretty things. So he made this website. There are a lot of websites out there that show data on pretty graphics and call it science, but it’s tricky to take them seriously because you don’t know where the data came from or if they’re interpreting things correctly. What I like what Information is Beautiful, is that the data, or at least where it came from, is available for you to see for yourself! (I’ve never taken the time to do this, but it’s nice to know that I could). Now, you wouldn’t be able to make any scientific claims from any of this, but it’s still fun to quickly learn a little bit about your world.

I’ve already learned so much! As a former obsessive calorie counter, one of my favorites is this caffeinated drink to food calorie comparison. Vizualizations are the best. I now know without having to even read much that a Frappucino has as many calories as an order of French fries! Neat!

Or you can see when people break up the most according to Facebook. Guard your heart right before Christmas and Spring Break, guys.

Or save your life by checking out your odds of dying in a plane crash. Another fun fact I learned from this chart is that I have a .000003% chance of dying while blogging right now. Consider me a daredevil.

Have fun learning a little something, kids. But of course, make up your own mind about how you interpret anything. - Amanda Hahn

jpegI'm in the middle of Herman Koch latest book, Summer House With Swimming Pool. Koch's previous book,  The Dinner, was one of my favorite books of last year. When I first read The Dinner, I knew it only as a wildly popular, controversial book, an international best seller describe as "a European Gone Girl." No one said it was funny. I found it hilariously funny, consistently entertaining - it was a book that I wish I had written.

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism, but I tend to find the most horrible things - death, people set on fire, genocide - when delivered in a deadpan, straightforward way, hilarious. On stage my choices run to darkness. Rare is the sketch I pitch that doesn't end with death or murder or wildly inappropriate sexual congress. Reading The Dinner was like connecting with a long lost uncle, a family member cut from the same DNA. The book was a revelation.

Summer House With Swimming Pool has many similarities with The Dinner: the structure, mounting mystery heightened by madness; the tone, wicked, gleeful misanthropy; the prose, short sentences that provide for easy reading. The Dinner told the story of a former professor, his politician brother, and a potential  scandal involving their children. It dealt with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the inherent darkness inside all of us. Summer House With Swimming Pool tells the story of a doctor to the quasi-stars who may have been responsible for the death of a famous stage actor. It deals with the dynamics of interpersonal power and the unavoidable decay of the human body. I realize, in writing those words, that I am not describing what sounds like a particularly amusing book. All I can say is this: Comedy is subjective. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more terrible things to laugh at. - Ryan Callahan

 

 

What We're Loving: Watchable Improv Videos, Suddenly Necessary Information, Fictional Fishing Trips

image (2)Each Friday, DCH performers, teachers, and students offer their recommendations for what to watch, read, see, hear, or experience. This week David Allison digs for gold in a dumpster fire, Amanda Hahn decreases your productivity, and Ryan Callahan celebrates the return of the greatest thing ever.

Perfect Harold

Three facts regarding the last twenty years:

1.) An influx of new theaters has created an opportunity for more improvisational comedy performances than ever before.

2.) Websites like YouTube and FunnyorDie have made it easy to consume entertainment anywhere.

3.) The steadily decreasing cost of technology has made it possible for anyone to afford to create/upload videos.

Because of those points, it would make sense that the internet would be overrun with super funny clips from improv shows.  So much hilarity is being created every day on stages all over the US and the increased ease of posting these shows eliminates the excuse that improvisers are just lazy. People should be sending each other emails with subject lines like “Hey Auntie, check out this great organic opening by this team in Des Moines!”

Why doesn’t this happen?

BECAUSE IMPROV VIDEOS ARE TERRIBLE.  Like can’t watch past the introduction of the team terrible (BTW, no one wants to watch this segment, not even your parents).  I don’t understand how a festival organizer can sift through hundreds of videos in this dumpster fire of a genre. They’re the real heroes here.  With that said, there are a handful of good videos of improv shows that you can find online.  They’re passed amongst friends and fellow performers like a secret handshake.  “Oh, you’ve watched The Reckoning’s perfect Harold, you’re cool” or “Man, it sure was nice of that Ted Tremper guy to post all those great Middle Aged Comeback shows.”

Today, or whatever day you’re reading this (Time is CRAZY), I would like to introduce another entry into the pantheon of watchable improv videos.  In fact, I’m actually going to add a whole channel of videos.  The channel is NY Comedy and it’s a collection of great improvised sets from all over New York.  Most of them are good enough, but the real treat is watching the latest cagematch videos from UCBNY.  Cagematch is a weekly show in which two teams perform a set and the strongest one survives to perform the next week.  I’d recommend starting with the groups What I did for Love and F*ck That Sh*t because the confidence and true decisiveness with which each group plays is truly a pleasure to watch.  With a little hope, they’ll be more great videos where these came from. - David Allison

InternetThis is my fourth week contributing to this blog, and I feel like you’ve gotten to know me and my interests pretty well. You know I like awkward moments, learning, and weird people. So enough about me. What about you? What are you into?

…Okay, reader, no matter what you just answered, I have a website for you. One single website for anything you love. My dear reader, this week I am loving Internet is Useful (internetisuseful.com). In fact, right this very moment, I am loving this website. I just discovered it a few minutes ago, and I am already obsessed. Internet is Useful is simply a website to help you find other websites, organized by category. I’m finding websites I didn’t even know I wanted. No… needed.

- Want to find bands and artists that are coming into town and potentially discover new music? Check out gigfi.com. Just type in your city name, and it creates a Spotify playlist of artists that are coming to your city.

- Like documentaries? Find a bunch to stream at documentaryheaven.com.

- Want to know how to get one material stick to another material? (and freaking stay there!) There’s an entire website for that! thistothat.com

- And hey, are you a nerd?? Specifically, are you a nerd that wants to take a day trip?! Well, you’re in luck! Head over to nerdydaytrips.com. You can find a place travel back in time to the Victorian era. Or discover open stages for a variety show of magicians, comedians, dancers, and jugglers.Or you can keep it simple, and just remind yourself of all the Dallas museums you’ve been forgetting to check out or revisit.

Thanks to Internet is Useful, I have wasted so much time tonight bouncing from site to site, ranging from apartment finding websites to fitness websites to intentionally useless websites. Yes, many of the sites listed on Internet is Useful are already popular, but I am positive that you will find something new and helpful (or at least amusing) related to one of your interests. I’m so sure you’ll find something new, that if you don’t, I promise you one nerdy day trip – gas is on me. - Amanda Hahn

Gone FishinLet’s talk about something important. The NBA Playoffs are here, which means  the return of the greatest, most significant, most life-changingest television segment in the history of sentient thought: Gone Fishin' on Inside the NBA. It's back, guys! It's back!

For those unfamiliar with the segment, here's how it goes. When a team has been eliminated from the playoffs, the Inside the NBA broadcast crew (EJ, Kenny, Chuck and Shaq) send that team, and the city it represents, on a fictional fishing trip to signify the start of their off-season. EJ starts the boat, everyone puts on fishing hats, (EJ wears the captain's hat, Shaw a swim cap). They grab fishing poles and introduce a cheesy vacation photo which shows members of the eliminated team and celebrities and from that city, and Kenny Smith, always Kenny Smith,  packed into a boat.

The idea that all these people would actually go on a fishing trip together, all cramped into one little boat, fills me with such joy that I become a child again, giddy and happy, excited by the possibilities of the world. I am literally giggling right now as I type this. I am not kidding. That’s how much I enjoy this segment. I stay up late to watch it. I record it if I might miss it. I get excited right before they show the photo, wondering who will make the  cut.

The best part of the whole segment is that the guys have no idea who or what will be in the picture. Watching them see it, and figure it out, and get the jokes, is fifty-five percent of the fun. The other day, the Chicago Bulls were eliminated from the playoffs. Do yourself a favor and watch.

Between now and Monday six teams will be eliminated from the playoffs. That’s six boats. Six fishing trips. I haven’t been this excited about anything, ever, in my life. - Ryan Callahan