In the Electric Owl, one of Main Street’s trendiest concert venues – where cool bands often play to the hip folk of Vancouver – I’ve somehow managed to find myself sitting between boxes of take-out pizza and a line of people sprouting fairy wings loading up on slices. One of them has long horns curling out of her forehead. No one seems to mind. Beside me is a pale man in a suit and top-hat, a sparkling red bow-tie around his neck.
“My father was a farmer,” he says, as if reciting legend. “He had incessant cow-tippers. I fended them off, vigilante-justice-style.”
I am talking to MooMan, and he is telling me how he got his name. Maybe. “It’s kind of like The Joker. I give a different origin story every time somebody asks.” MooMan’s real name is Chris Nyarady, and that side of him is no secret. Nyarady is the founder, co-producer, and host of West Coast Geeks Vs. Nerds, a monthly comedy debate show that sees two teams fight each other in a battle of wit and words to see which arbitrary facet of nerd (or geek) culture is better than the other.
Tonight there are two debates – one, a contest to see who is the master manipulator, Marvel Comics’ Loki, or Tyrion from Game of Thrones – and the other, a contentious battle between two of the most intensely passionate nerd fanbases out there: the Care Bears and My Little Pony. That explains the fairy wings, which as it turns out, are technically magical pony wings. And technicalities like that are exactly what the show thrives on.
Geeks Vs. Nerds was started in Halifax by Andrew Dorfman, otherwise known as PigMonkey. “He basically just saw this happening at comic shops and in people’s basements, and these conversations would go on for hours and would be hilarious,” says MooMan. “All I’m doing is giving it slightly more structure and putting it on a stage.” After moving from Halifax to Vancouver over a year ago, MooMan started the west coast chapter of Geeks Vs. Nerds.
In that time, the show – which is always recorded as a podcast – has become quite popular, with a tight-knit, loyal community of regulars coming out to watch, dress-up, and debate about all kinds of geeky trivia. Settling into my seat before the first debate begins, the deafening crowd is almost like some kind of improvised first act.
People in outlandish costumes walk around, spouting idiosyncratic phrases, swinging fake swords, swishing fake tails, and engaging each other in a sort of communal expression that is both invigorating and terrifying.
Then MooMan take the stage, and the audience barely quiets down as he speaks into the microphone – no, it’s more like he’s simply joined in on their conversation. But it doesn’t take long to realize that MooMan is a capable showman, whose power seems to come from riffing off the crowd. If he has a script, it’s impossible to tell.
Soon he is flanked by two tables, one for the Geeks, and one for the Nerds, behind which the debaters sit. Team Geek, representing the Care Bears, are wearing matching rainbow shirts.