Nerd HQ is the brainchild of actor Zachary Levi of Chuck fame, business partner (and former Chuck props guy) David Coleman and Courtney Coleman, David's wife. (Levi also provided the voice of Flynn Rider in Disney's Tangled and his singing on "I See the Light" garnered a Grammy award, as well as an Academy and Golden Globe nomination.)
The Nerd Machine In this video, Zachary Levi explains why Nerd HQ has to be crowd funded this year. Donations are being accepted at the Indie Gogo site (click to view).
Together, they run a company called The Nerd Machine, which produces apparel and accessories that allow fans to express their nerdiness in a loud and proud way.
For the past three years, Nerd HQ has offered, free of charge, a place for pop culture fans to hang out during San Diego Comic-Con. (It is in no way affiliated with the convention.)
Speaking from personal experience, being with more than 125,000 people in a convention center for four and a half days gets on your nerves after a while. Nerd HQ has been a haven. It's an ideal place to chill out, see some exhibits from companies like Intel, have a beer and get a bite to eat while not taking yourself completely out of action. While you're there, you can also get an official Nerd HQ photo taken and try out one of dozens of video games on display -- again, all for free.
If you were lucky enough to score a ticket, you could attend one of the several "Conversations For a Cause" panels. A panel lasts an hour and fans get to ask questions of a celebrity or group in a fairly intimate setting. No more than 300 people can attend the panel and the venue is about the size of a big classroom. With fans asking the questions, it gets a whole lot more interesting than a late night talk show interview. Tickets were an extremely modest $20 and all proceeds went to Operation Smile, a charitable organization that funds surgeries to fix cleft palate deformities for underprivileged children.
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Even if you couldn't be there in person, the events were live-streamed and posted to You Tube afterwards, another free service. The panels cater to a wide range of fans, so there's something for just about every kind of nerd out there. Last year included Joss Whedon (director of Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers, among others) and Tom Hiddleson (The Avengers). (Hiddleston, by the way, did a spot-on Jurassic Park velociraptor impression that is not to be missed. It starts around 58:00.)
But there was something about Nerd HQ most of us didn't know until last week. As he eloquently and humbly explained in this video, Levi has been personally fronting the money to put on the event. That situation caused him serious problems last year when some of Nerd HQ's sponsors bailed at the last minute.
"Chuck" ended in 2012. Since then, Levi had a supporting role in Thor: The Dark World as Fandral and a Broadway run from July 2013 until January of this year as the lead in First Date: The Musical. It's reasonable to assume that an actor who is currently between gigs is going to have some problems financing an effort that costs a million dollars to put on. Besides that, it's kind of ridiculous for one guy to finance an effort that millions of people get to enjoy via the You Tube videos.
Why should you care about this crowdfunding effort? First, there are few actors who are as charitable with their time as Zachary Levi, who offers himself up for photos with fans at a mere $20 a pop and all that money goes to Operation Smile. During his Broadway run, he met fans and did photos and autographs for free after the show. He's a genuinely kind, earnest, well-intended guy who wants to do some good in the world. Levi's image is the exact opposite of the boozing, drugged up, spoiled, superficial Hollywood types we too often see on the news. We should support what we want to see, and Levi is a vastly better role model than, say, Justin Bieber.
Second, Nerd HQ provides entertainment for all sorts of fandoms and it's available to everyone online. Whether you're into Doctor Who, Robot Chicken, Firefly, Game of Thrones, Supernatural, movies like Pacific Rim or what the former Chuck actors are up to, there's something for you.
Third, Nerd HQ is a place where thousands of people come together to raise money for the cleft palate surgeries needed to give kids their smiles back. Over the past three years, over $400,000 has been been raised for Operation Smile.
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Fourth, I'd love to see Nerd HQ come to Houston in some capacity. Nerd HQ made its first appearance at New York Comic-Con last year. It was the first time it had a presence outside of San Diego. There were no panels, but there were celebrity signings and photos for charity. Why couldn't this happen in Houston at one of the local cons someday?
Finally, and most importantly, Nerd HQ is building a community. The message is that is that it's fine to be into whatever pop culture thing you like. Even if the rest of the world is too cool to understand and mocks you, Nerd HQ is a place where it's OK to be yourself and wear your nerdiness on your sleeve... or on your chest. Everyone is into something. It's what makes life fun.
If you want to see Nerd HQ continue, donate here. As of today, over $144,000 has been raised, but that's far short of the $1 million that Levi says it costs to put on Nerd HQ. (Petco Park can't be cheap to rent.)
Oh, and if you're a Chuck fan and need one more incentive: Levi has stated on multiple occasions that he wants to see a movie made. If the crowd-funding effort for Nerd HQ is successful, the chances of a similar campaign happening to fund a Chuck movie (a la Veronica Mars) is much more likely. With the ambivalent way the series ended, I know a lot of fans would pay to see Sarah get her memories back.