Last summer Jimmy Meritt needed to win over a room full of guys who looked like extras from The Matrix. He’d been hired to warm up the crowd at HOPE Number 6, a hacker convention held in New York City.
“If you don’t like me,” the lanky comedian told the 600 people in attendance, “my Web site is fucked.”
Meritt performs with Geek Comedy Tour 3000, a seven-member stand-up troupe that works conventions dedicated to anime, sci-fi, video games, and other nerdy avocations. Founder Chris Barylick, 29, formed the group in 2005, drawing in local comics who shared his obsessions with various occupants of the pop-culture dustbin, from Captain Kirk to Sonic the Hedgehog. As a troupe, they’ll play the usual stand-up venues such as the Comedy Spot in Arlington, and individusal members have performed at DC Improv, but most of their gigs are at conventions in the mid-Atlantic region. This weekend they’re at Tora-Con, an anime convention in Rochester, N.Y.; in June they’ll be at ConCarolinas, a sci-fi gathering in Charlotte, N.C.
“We’re performing for geeks—we relate to them, and we can more than make fun of ourselves for their entertainment,” says Barylick. “They’re not that different, and they’re there to laugh. It’s just a matter of going with their interests.”
Still, there’s a difference between using geek material at a typical comedy club and at a video-game or anime fest. Meritt, a 25-year-old Greenbelt resident, alters his bit about bringing girls to his mess of a home depending on who’s listening. “I always pretend I’m just as surprised as she is—‘Ah, crap, what happened? Call the police, I think I’ve been robbed,’ ” says Meritt. “ ‘They stole the plasma screen TV I was telling you about and replaced it with a 13-inch black and white. And why’d they put Star Wars toys all over the place?’ ”
At a geek-specific show, he’ll take it a step further: “ ‘And Boba Fett’s still in the box!’ ”
The troupe’s members cite a few downsides to working conventions: overenthusiastic fans, bad homoerotic anime, and hygiene-impaired attendees. “That’s one of the hazards of doing geek comedy,” says member Jake Young. “A lot of B.O.”
“I think we’re a little more successful in that it’s more of a closed environment with the con,” says Barylick. “You tend to have a table where you’re talking to people about the group, and usually you’re playing a show or two. Local shows, you go on, people enjoy and kind of wander off back into the night, into their lives.”
Though Meritt is comfortable playing to audiences that can include 50-year-old women dressing like characters from Stargate or a woman wearing a skull mask made out of a deer pelvis, there are some elementts of geekdom he won’t touch. Fan fiction, for instance, is “too far into the forest,” he says. “If I wrote fan fiction, my wedding ring would evaporate.”
The Geek Comedy Tour 3000 performs at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 2, at HR-57, 1610 14th St. NW. $12. (202) 625-6229.