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The dark days of Steve Urkel and Screech are behind us. This is the age of the nerd.
The jocks and preps of yesteryear are gone, swallowed up into the great geeky abyss of the present. In this topsy-turvy world, the battle between cool and uncool is over. Cool lost; uncool won. Only one question remains: Who will lead the nerds—-and thus, the planet?
The next heir to the throne might be Ori Perl, 22, a live-action role playing (LARP) enthusiast who lives in Silver Spring. Perl’s competing in the newest season of King of the Nerds on TBS, which premieres tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 23). If you haven’t seen the show, it’s kind of like Big Brother, but for awkward people who really, really like video games and anime. They live in a house—dubbed “Nerdvana”—compete in goofy challenges, and win prizes along the way.
Is Perl the next Nerd King? We caught up with him to find out.
Did you watch King of the Nerds before you applied to be on it?
I heard about the show before I applied, but I’ve never really been into reality shows. I never actually watched it. If you’ve heard a little bit about me, you’ll know that I am a LARPer. An e-mail blast went around, and my commander told me that they were having auditions for King of the Nerds and that I should apply. That was last summer. I tried to apply, but it’s really hard to find Wi-Fi at a medieval LARPing campout, so I wasn’t able to turn it in on time [for season two]. The second time around, luckily, it was a couple weeks before a huge campout. So I applied in time this time with a much better video. It was basically a video audition with an application.
What happened on your audition tape?
I included a minute and a half of me LARPing, so that it’s like, “I am a real LARPer, it isn’t me just talking about it.” It’s my favorite part. My girlfriend videotaped it and it looks beautiful.
What was the show’s screening process like?
Let’s just say I worked hard for this. A couple weeks after I applied, I got a phone call, and they started asking me a few questions. I was so nervous. My hands were literally shaking. They realized I was nervous, so they scheduled a Skype interview so I could be prepared and not super nervous. So I prepared my computer webcam and all of my nerd stuff, and I talked about my nerdiness: robotics, anime, LARPing. It was basically me talking about it and them recording it so they could have some good bits to show the executives to see if they liked me or not.
Did you watch the show at all to prepare for the screening?
I marathoned them as research.
Did you glean any strategies from the older episodes?
I learned that alliances are very important, and that I had to like Little Caesar’s pizza. That is the advertised meal.
So how much Little Caesar’s would you say you ate during the course of the show?
I can’t answer that question. All I can say is, there are one or two times in the season where they’ll have a Little Caesar’s moment. The rest are spoilers.
What D.C. LARPing group are you part of?
I do Dagorhir. It’s Elvish for “lords of battle.” That’s just the name of the LARPing organization. The [D.C.] chapter is Aratari.
Tell me about your robotics hobby. Did you work with any local groups or clubs?
I’ve been doing robotics since I was a freshman in high school, so this is my eighth year. I mentored my old high-school team, and the next year I founded a community team.
What kind of robots do you build?
Disc-throwing robots, tube-stacking, box-stacking, things like that.
Is D.C. and the surrounding area a good place to live if you’re a nerd?
Definitely. I’m not sure compared to other places, but there are definitely a lot of nerd activities to do here.
What kind of nerd activities?
I love to play with Nerf blasters. My school [University of Maryland, College Park] has a club.
You’re sort of known on the show for your love of bad puns. What’s your favorite bad pun?
That’s a hard one, because I cycle through bad puns. Some of my favorite puns that I like to use would be, if someone says a specific time, like, “it’s 7 o’clock,” I’d go, “not on my watch,” and I’d show them my phone, and it’s [7:01]. And then people would say, “that’s so bad,” and I’d say, “do you want me to pun-tinue?” One thing I’ve figured out is that my superhero name would be the Pun-isher.
Catch Perl on the TBS season premiere of King of the Nerds tomorrow, Friday, Jan. 23, at 9 p.m.