How did “The Black Nerd Show” originate?
Robin and I both wrote scripts for Sketchworks, and have been friends for a long time. Robin has been writing scripts for Tyler Perry Studios and started doing the stand-up at the beginning of this year. I’d already been performing for six years now. Our sensibilities were not remotely like stereotypical, urban black comedy. We met Taj Turner, another new comedian who started in the past year, who had the same sensibility. We’re all black comedians from suburban backgrounds. Once we were talking about our big, nerdy, sci-fi/fantasy obsessions — specifically “Game of Thrones,” I think — and one of us joked 'We should do a show, 'The Black Nerds,’ and someone else said “Let’s do it.”
Will it be a stand-up comedy show?
It’s more of a variety show. We’ll do our stand-up acts on various topics, have music from Noah Pine, a white guy who sings bluesy music, and have some sketch videos apart from the standard stand-up. Based on how the first one goes, we’ll do may do it as a recurring show.
How would you explain being a black nerd?
In the 1990s, Steve Urkel from “Family Matters” and Carlton Banks from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” were jokes, but so many of us identified with them. I identified more with Carlton than Will Smith. I know absolutely nothing about sports. I know even less about hip-hop or rap music. I grew up listening to rock — bands like Rush, Led Zeppelin, REO Speedwagon — 80s/90s rock. I’m completely ignorant of a lot of hip-hop and rap. I know absolutely nothing about Tyler Perry movies and TV shows. I never know the slang terms or what the new dance is. If it didn’t see it on the Sci Fi Channel or the Science Channel or the History Channel, I’m completely out of it.
Do you think the suburban background is the main thing that distinguishes you from so-called urban comics?
That seems to be the common denominator: suburban backgrounds and growing up watching a lot of TV. People who grow up in the city have an edge that I feel like we don’t have. Outside of stand-up, my friends who perform improv have the same sensibility. I sometimes wonder if black nerds gravitate towards comedy more than other kinds of acting.
Does a lack of black representation in SF/fantasy irritate you?
I actually, I like that black characters in SF or fantasy aren’t caricatures or stereotypes. In “Law & Order,” the black character is always a gangster. In “Doctor Who,” Martha Jones was studying to be a medical doctor. In “Battlestar Galactica,” one black woman was one of the bridge officers, and another was the aide to the president. No one’s playing a stereotype, because you can’t, really. It’s a different world.
Who are some other famous black nerds?
You see them more with comedians like Donald Glover, Baron Vaughn and W. Kamau Bell, who has a new show produced by Chris Rock. Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is another one — if he’s on anything, I’ll watch it. He’s like the black Bill Nye the Science Guy. When it was a kid, it was not cool to be a nerd, but now it kind of is.
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