Back in 2006, Matt Wasowski didn’t think an event night just for nerds would work in NYC.
“For a couple of years, I [said] no, it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard of, New York’s way too cool to have people go to bars to learn about stuff,” he told his best friend and founder of Nerd Nite.
In fairness, that was about two years before the original “Ironman” movie came out and officially turned what used to be nerd culture into pop culture. Nerd Nite began in Boston as an informal meetup of scientists and turned into a monthly baroom education series where three brainy experts hold laugh-out-loud talks about subjects from comics to “Twilight,” now in 95 cities globally.
That huge breadth of subjects is part of the event’s philosophy: Being a nerd is not about what people love, but how they love it. “We define the word ‘nerd’ very very broadly and very inclusively as anyone who cares very deeply and thoroughly about a particular subject,” Wasowski explains.
“What that ultimately means is that in some sense nearly everybody is a nerd. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a nerd — you can be a fashionista nerd, you can be a sports nerd.”
Since 2008, the NYC gatherings have begun with another ritual: speed dating, after people kept asking Wasowski to make introductions at the end of the night. And nerdy ladies looking for love, for once the odds are in your favor this weekend at New York Comic Con.
“The demographics of regular Nerd Nite speed dating differ 180 degrees from New York Super Week,” he says. Usually, the girls-seeking-guys tickets are the first to go — the gender imbalance of NYC being what it is — but during conventions, it’s the guys’ tickets that go first.
Wasowski’s best tip for meeting a special someone this weekend? “The cosplay at conventions really does make for a wonderful kind of conversation starter. In any setting, the hardest part by far is getting started and having that icebreaker. And when you go to a convention, every single thing almost is another way to start a conversation.”
Even better: Find an afterparty. To set a casual tone and keep it social, bars are a requisite for Nerd Nites. As Wasowski puts it, “We emphasize the drinking as much as the learning.”
If you don't luck out at NYCC, here are some other great places to meet like-minded people all year round.
This one’s for the academics: Once a month at the Bell House, the Secret Science Club invites experts from primatologists to astrophysicists to expand your knowledge of the natural world.
“You can go to the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Gowanus, which is actually one of my favorite places because it’s about Victorian science and arts, but very creepy at the same time,” says Wasowski. They also hold frequent readings and lectures, as well as flea markets.
This month’s Nerd Nite (Oct. 23) at Le Poisson Rouge is actually the Nerdtacular, the annual all-out party with a “slew of shenanigans” in addition to the regular talks. (By popular demand, however, there will not be a dance portion.)
Wasowski describes The Big Quiz Thing as “sort of a silly, flamboyant, really really tough quiz show.” Each night has a different theme, and you can arrive with a group or get matched up with one when you arrive.