I recently got to speak to Curtis Armstrong & Robert Carradine (Revenge of the Nerds), hosts of the new reality competition show on TBS, King of the Nerds. I’ve seen this pilot, and it is a blast. It’s funny, smart, and really, really quirky. Curtis & Robert were a lot of fun to talk to and gave some great insight into the show, so check out what they had to say!
Jenny: This is unlike any other competition series I’ve ever seen on TV before. How did this show come about, and/or how were you brought in?
Robert: We actually brought it to them. It was several years ago that Curtis and I tried to ge this going, and it kind of… I don’t know. The timing wasn’t right, and then the summer of 2010, my wife and I were talking about, “Hey, maybe it’s time to try that reality show again.” So we called Curtis, and he was game, and we took it to the crew that actually put the show together. When we first took it in there, their response was instantaneous.
Curtis: Yeah, they really loved the idea from the get-go. You know, it was the sort of thing where a lot of people, when they heard it finally, were saying how did this not happen before? Because on the face of it, it seemed like such an obvious idea, but it had just never happened. So it was a question for us… We came up with the general idea of what we wanted the show to be and gave it to them. They, as experts in the field, came up with specifics about how the whole thing should be set up.
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Jenny: It is great that it’s on TBS, which has really been trying to develop their programming lately.
Robert: Yeah, they definitely have a great audience for this kind of thing.
Curtis: Plus, they put us in a wonderful position, which is right after The Big Bang Theory.
Jenny: For a long time, nerds & geeks have been thought of as weird or less than others. Are you worried about this show perpetuating that, or are you hopeful that it will really showcase them in a new light?
Robert: I would go with the latter. It’s going to really show how dependent modern society is on the nerds.
Curtis: We feel really strongly…and from the very beginning, felt really strongly that we didn’t want the show to be just a way of mocking nerds for a quick laugh. I mean, we’ve got a bit of an investment in nerd culture, frankly…ya know, Robert and I, going back to the original film, and having been basically nerds ourselves from the time we were small, so we didn’t want to do something that was just going to mock nerds for an easy laugh. We wanted to celebrate nerd culture as a viable type of…sort of substratum of our own modern culture. It’s always good to…I mean, it’s a funny show. There’s nothing wrong with getting a laugh, just not a mean laugh.
Robert: Our cast…they’re inherently funny, especially when we first discover them, when they step into Nerdvana and begin to explore and cohabitate. There’s a lot of natural laughs that come out of that experience.
Jenny: How were the contestants chosen? I mean, did the show set out to have a professional gamer, for example, and more than one science or math person or was it just by chance?
Curtis: The eleven nerds we picked for this are really, really smart, and they have a wide range of interests, which resonate for different types of nerds. We’ve got Moogega, for example, who is a planetary protection engineer at JPL [Jet Propulsion Laboratory, or NASA], and we’ve got Brandon, who’s a scientist, and Ivan, who’s a game designer. All of these people are in different areas of nerd culture, but they’re all really good at what they do and very smart just in general on top of that.
Robert: We kind of put out a call on the internet and through social media that said if you think you’re a nerd, if you think you have the brains, if you think you fit the profile of a modern nerd, do a video of yourself, no longer than X amount of minutes and send it to…. And we got several hundred, maybe even a thousand people who tried to get into the show. Curtis and I like to call it culling the herd; we cut them down to a final fifteen, and out of the final fifteen, it wasn’t until the day before we started that we made the final cut after we subjected them to their on-screen interviews.
Curtis: Yeah, there were a lot of… You know, they had to go through psych interviews and health tests and that kind of thing, which is standard for these kinds of shows. It was also…they had to have personalities that were going to pop in one way or another, and I think we really, really got a hundred percent there.
Jenny: What was your favorite moment of the show? Your favorite challenge or whatever?
Robert: I guess for me, just because it involved breaking things, was the physics challenge, when they had to drop an object from a height of fifteen feet onto some plate glass and determine how many pieces of plate glass would break. I mean, that was a real nerd-centric thing to figure out.
Curtis: Yeah, I liked that one. I also loved the episode where they had to write, arrange, record, and perform an original nerd anthem. That one is just astonishing.
Robert: They had twenty-four hours to do it and came off so polished, you could have put it on America’s Got Talent.
One final thought from Curtis that Robert agreed with about the show:
Curtis: We’re really happy with the way it’s turned out. It was hard to imagine at the beginning how it was going to come out, but it really surpassed our expectations.
Thank you to Curtis (@curtisisbooger) & Robert (@bobbyislewis) for taking the time to talk with me about their new show. If you get a chance, give them a shout-out on Twitter and say hello. And be sure to check out the new show tonight on TBS at 10/9c!