Nerd Nite Vancouver is way more fun than your average Wednesday night lecture

Illustration: Armin Mortazavi / Nerd Nite Vancouver
Illustration: Armin Mortazavi / Nerd Nite Vancouver

by Meera Eragoda, Staff Writer

On Main & 7th Street lies the Fox Cabaret. Once a porn theatre called Fox Cinema, it rebranded in 2014 to become a live-show venue. In a move away from the R-rated content it once held, the Fox now rents out to PG events such as Nerd Nite Vancouver — PG, however,  doesn’t mean boring, and Nerd Nite always has surprising content.

Nerd Nite is an event that takes place in cities all around the world, though most of them are concentrated in North America. The Vancouver chapter was started by Kaylee Byers, a PhD candidate at UBC with “an interest in host-parasite relationships” specifically through the lens of rats, and Michael Unger, Programs Coordinator at the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. They are also the hosts of the show, and while they’re both very smart people with amazingly nerdy tastes (Buffy, Georges Méliès, and the like), it’s Byers’ presence that really makes it entertaining. She’s witty, charismatic, has great energy, and can go with the flow.

According to their website, the formula for each Nerd Nite is pretty standard — 20-minute presentations from three presenters each night, in a laid-back environment with lots to learn, and lots to drink!” This means that it is a 19+ event — my apologies to all the underage nerds out there, but fear not, your time will come! 

Many of the presenters are people currently in grad school. While this may sound academic, the goal is for them to enlighten the public about something they are passionate about in an accessible way. Plus, presentations are not just restricted to academics. Past events have included performative Indigenous storytelling, queer storytelling from a local drag performer, and a lesson on how fun poetry is. The last Nerd Nite event also opened with the first presenter performing a song about his topic: predator-prey relations.

Nerd Nite is a mixed bag, and I’m not going to lie and tell you every presentation is great. Sometimes people have too much exposition about their lives and it detracts from the info, sometimes the topics aren’t put into tems that are easy to understand, and sometimes the presentations just aren’t all that interesting. That being said, most of the time presenters are amazing. It’s interesting and I’ve learned so much after faithfully attending every month. When there’s a topic I’ve never thought about before, or when a topic is presented in an engaging way, it’s eye-opening and is 100% worth the affordable $7 cost of entry.

Some of my favourites have been “The Struggles of Being a Socially Awkward Adolescent Rat” by Travis Hodges, “Trans-Reproductive Health” by A.J. Lowik (whose important work is helping make the Vancouver medical industry more trans-friendly), and “The Potential Perils of Brain Eating Fungi!” by Linda Horianopulos. 

After every presenter, the audience is also given a chance to tweet about something generally related to the presentation in order to win prizes. One of my favourite prompts was tweeting a haiku about a favourite animal for which I won a stuffed rat: “bill the weiner dog / jaws of death unrelenting / loves his tennis ball.” I’ve also won a book of poetry and a pair of bigfoot socks which remains my favourite prize to date. 

Aside from the fun aspect of it, Nerd Nite is a good chance for anyone who has a topic they’re passionate about to bring it to the general public, or if they did a presentation for a class and they hope to take that information out of the classroom. Currently, the presenters run very UBC heavy, so let’s get the SFU representation up! 

Catch the next Nerd Nite on February 26, for their six year anniversary and 50 show, where the upcoming topics are Space Poop, Movie Making, and Our Drinking Water. The tickets are available on the Nerd Nite website and are tiered with three price points: a $7 Early Nerd (which is now sold out), a $10 Level-up Nerd, and a $15 Mecha Nerd. And maybe you might just be inspired to hop on stage in the future. I mean, truly, what’s nerdier than that?