Stage 773 presents NERD COMEDY FESTIVAL Review – Come as You Are Variety Show

Stage 773 NERD FEST
Brandy Posey Photo: Ari Craven

Over the weekend of September 15, Stage 773 hosted the NERD COMEDY FESTIVAL for the fifth year in a row. Sponsored by Bucket of Blood Records, Quimby’s Bookstore and Cat and Mouse Games, the event showcased a quirky collection of performers. Stage 773’s black box theater, filled with scores from video games and famous movies, was transformed into everything from magical lands to rock concerts in the course of a weekend. Badge holders were encouraged to ride the room “con-style” or come out to meet the performers.

Attendees could enter a raffle to win prices, including signed posters from the creator of Danny Phantom and Fairly Oddparents, Butch Hartman. Sunday features a cosplay contest, the winner of which receives a certificate to Quimby’s Bookstore. All proceeds go to the Harry Potter Alliance, a non-profit organization that mobilizes fandoms to make change.

Stage 773 NERD FEST
Photo: Michael Courier Photography

Stage 773 Welcomes All Fandoms

“I’m of the opinion that everyone, in some way, is a nerd,” says NERD COMEDY FESTIVAL Producer Cody Melcher, sporting his Starfleet uniform. “This festival is a way to bring specific people together to share their enthusiasm. It’s kind of outsider art meets sketch art meets pop culture.”

The NERD COMEDY FESTIVAL pulled its acts from all over the nation on an open submission system. The festival was created by Katie Johnson Smith to showcase quirky new acts that fit into a very specific kind of sense of humor. All things “nerd” were flaunted and shared at this casual get-together of like-minded people. A manifesto of respect is pasted on the door into the box theater. This is a place where everyone can come and be their wacky selves.

“But what’s really important about Nerd Fest is the variety of performances and voices we can put on stage,” says Melcher.

Friday Night Dungeons and Dragons

The event opened on Friday night with a zany Dungeons and Dragons improv show by Tis. Our cast of campaigners introduced themselves on stage in quirky costumes made of things you can find around the house. The Dungeon Master sat in the corner and commented on his subjects with a sandpaper sense of humor. He was in control of how we passed through time and what happened to the characters. If they annoyed him he could strike them dead. His counterpart, Dungeon Master Ian, played all the extra characters our adventures fought along the way. It was an exercise in imagination and audience participation. “Tell me a one-liner from a weird dream you had,” Ian asks the audience. And from there we went on a journey to Unicornia to collect unicorn horns for a duke.

Even the tech guy in the back, who was not shy to use his microphone, participated with perfectly time sound effects. When we lost a character, he very aptly played My Heart Will Go On, amidst an audience rolling with laughter.

The Stunt Men: Short Epics

Once the unicorn horns had been retrieved, The Stuntmen tumbled on stage to delight us with a series of sketches. They dove into their act with a giant game of caterpillar across invisible obstacles reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The series of five-minute sketches followed this action scene gave a whole meaning to the stage direction “exeunt pursued by bear.” The Stunt Men threw odd characters like The Looney Boss, A Platoon of Nerf-gun Wielding Soldiers, Vegetables, and Chewbacca into wacky situations like dinner parties, spelling bees, and Saturday detention. We see these familiar characters and archetypes through a new, comic lens and can’t help laughing until our sides split.

The Stunt Men has all the humor of goofy, slapstick, adult cartoons. It was a bit of Bob’s Burgers meets Family Guy in vegetable costumes.

Stage 773 NERD FEST
Photo: Michael Courier Photography

Comedy Roundelay

The third phase of the evening, brought four stand-up acts from comics across the nation. Ian Ager, the huggable mercenary, delighted us with comedy poking holes in human idiosyncrasies. Marlenas McMahon-Purk from New York City compared poverty to monopoly in a hilarious jab at modern politics. She touched the phenomenon of “bitch-face,” as well as hoarding and the power of community. The comic showcase also featured young comedian Greg Winston, who brought the topic of Autism to the stage for discussion and unpacking.

The evening finished off with a cabaret of singers, musicians, drag queens, and burlesque dancers. Some of these performers came from Geek House, a venue similar to Nerd Comedy Fest established by Joe McQueen, who also performed on Friday.

Stay tuned for NERD COMEDY FEST’S program for next year!


1225 W Belmont Ave,

Chicago, IL 60657

For tickets and a list of NERD COMEDY FESTIVAL events visit the Stage 773 Website.

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