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Attack of the Show - How Geeks & Nerds Became The Cool Kids
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It’s ninety minutes before Kevin Pereira, co-host of Attack of the Show, has to be live on air and he’s just been handed an overly accented t-shirt to wear. “I’m actually sending a text message to our wardrobe to please get me a shirt without so many metal studs on it,” he says with a laugh, “this is my life. This is what I do.” Actually, what he, co-host Olivia Munn, and the rest of the Attack of the Show crew do is prove on a nightly basis that geeks and nerds have flipped the script and are now the new “cool.”

The show’s executive producers, Vinny Rutherford and Joshua Brentano, have seen this shift coming for a while now. Brentano notes “nerds and geeks are the people that are running everything. We grew up with computers, we grew up with video games, we grew up with all this stuff and now that’s what’s cool.” Rutherford seconds this, adding “when the iPhone is like the number one thing that hits the front page of CNN.com, just the sales of it, when that kind of stuff is really popping up, obviously the culture has taken a change towards technology and those guys are the guys that sat in their basements doing Bulletin Board Systems in the 90’s, like Kevin.”

Pereira is actually quick to admit that he was a “gigantic nerd” growing up, but adds that in addition being a programmer, making games, and yes, doing Bulletin Board Systems, “I was also dating the head cheerleader and drove a pretty sweet car.” The reason he feels he could pull this off is the same reason more and more of his brethren are making it happen, he changed one very important aspect of the labels “nerd” and “geek.” “I never looked at it like oh I’m a huge nerd, I can never fit in with anybody else. I just looked at it like I’m a huge nerd and that’s exactly why I should fit in with everybody else, because I’m really into things no matter what they are.” Pereira’s co-host, Olivia Munn, feels that inherent fanboyness has worked wonders to redefine people’s outlook on geeks and nerds, saying “I think a lot of geeks have a passion and that’s really what geeks are now. It’s not about a sweaty overweight guy wearing glasses who has a bunch of fan fiction. It’s people who have a passion for anything. That makes you a geek.” Munn continued, adding “if you look at the nerds now, their ability to be able to code and make websites, to be able to play video games, and to do these things that are very difficult, gives them this kind of empowerment.” This redefinition of “geek” and “nerd” is one of the key ideologies that is the backbone of Attack of the Show.

Born in 2005 when the TV channel G4 bought TechTV, Attack of the Show actually has roots in an old TechTV show called The Screen Savers, which Pereira was a part of. G4 took their favorite elements of that show and used them to start the creation of Attack of the Show, which now airs live five nights a week on the network. The program was named by way of an internal contest that producer Mike Shaw won when he not only came up with the name Attack of the Show, but, according to Pereira, “he wrote an entire manifesto as to why the show should be titled as such and for all that time and effort and hard work and passion he got himself an iPod.”

Thriving on short packages which stay on the cutting edge of a variety of topics, in just a single one hour episode of AOTS one might find everything from the top five web videos of the day (Around The Net), to a review of the latest electronic gadget (Gadget Pron), to sex advice (In Your Pants), to information on the pop culture of Japan (What’s Up With Japan?). “We have a very diverse audience,” Pereira explains, “so if you’re not into this segment that we’re doing about robots no worries because in five more seconds you’re going to see Olivia run down the top ten cell phones, then after that I’m going to have a serious discussion with a director about his movie and after that there’s probably going to be dogs humping and vomiting at the same time. So you know right around the corner something else is coming up and chances are you’re going to find it interesting.” Interesting is one aspect of things, but the staff of Attack of the Show also lives for being the first to show people things. According to Brentano, “if you watch our show, four weeks later when your buddy shows the same thing to you, you can say oh that’s old, I saw it a month ago. LAME!”

Another one of the biggest joys of the AOTS crew is putting together Around The Net, which features some of the most interesting, and oftentimes most ridiculous, web videos that they’ve come across that day. Pereira’s mention of dogs humping and vomiting is actually a reference to one of his personal faves that had to be taken off the air. “We tried to say it had educational values. Obviously you didn’t see it on the air so that didn’t go over too well.” When it comes to Around The Net Pereira says the staff has some “go-to’s” that they know are always good for a feature. “We love Pruane. We love Reh Dogg, who does songs about why he cries. We love chimpanzee riding on a Segway. They’re our comfort virals in our times of need.”

Featuring videos of angry teens, awful singers and animals riding things, both alive and man made, it’s pretty clear that in addition to being cutting edge, AOTS is also heavy on the humor and as Olivia Munn has found, there are very few limits to what they are allowed to say or do. “I will do some pretty outrageous stuff for a laugh,” she notes, but I never really hear ‘you’ve gone too far.’ I have gone too far and I know that. Sometimes I do it and I’m like wow, I am way over the line on that one, but I never get called on it.” Pereira loves Munn’s ability to be over the top, saying “if we came in and said we want to dangle a hotdog from the lighting grid and have her eat it she does it and it lives on in internet infamy forever.”

Even with such potentially raunchy humor abound both Pereira and Munn openly admit that their mothers watch the show. Munn says hers turns the volume down during the sex advice segment, In Your Pants, but Pereira says his mother can handle just about anything. “My mom managed to make it through 2 Girls 1 Cup without looking away,” he says with pride, “she’s a fortress of solitude. She’s made of steel.”

According to Munn the goal of AOTS isn’t necessarily to be raunchy, it’s just to be more like people are when they hang out with their friends. “When you’re with your friends you kind of push the line, or you say things that are crazy, or you do stuff because you have the security of your friendship and your home,” she explains. “To keep people coming back, and to basically keep a good audience and keep a good show, we really do push that limit so that it’s just like you’re hanging out with your friends.” This vibe has led to some personal matters coming out publicly on the show, including Munn’s very real fear of balloons, or more precisely the knowledge that they’re going to pop. “Don’t ever bring me balloons,” she says, quite seriously. Only a month ago she had her latest incident with one after being handed a balloon at a birthday party and leaving it in her car. “I get into my car the next morning and because of the heat in the car, as soon as I opened the door it popped.” Her reaction wasn’t good. “I swear, I think a little pee came out. It was like my worst nightmare.”

The personal nature and unpredictability of the show stems from the fact that Attack of the Show is done live. Being live, however, can lead to the occasional slip up. One of the most infamous for Munn was when she incorrectly read the teleprompter and said “McHammer” instead of “MC Hammer.” “That is probably one of my favorite moments,” she says, laughing, “when you see it I really got to a point where I could just laugh at myself and not go oh my God, I’m such an idiot. I just think that’s hilarious and yeah I’m an idiot, but maybe this made somebody laugh.”

Munn has actually been doing a lot more than just making people laugh; she’s been turning herself into quite the hot commodity. In addition to her work on Attack of the Show her resume includes a number of acting gigs, most notably two seasons on The N’s Beyond The Break, the recent DVD release Insanitarium, and the upcoming Broken Lizard film The Slammin’ Salmon. She also has a book in the works, tentatively titled Why I’d Rather Date A Geek, and according to her, “I’m also developing an SUV hybrid and an alternate fuel source.” She notes she’ll get to those last two things whenever she finds the time. Even with all that going on it’s been her work on AOTS that has vaulted her into sex symbol status, which is something she finds interesting as she’s quick to point out, “I don’t have fake boobs, I don’t have any plastic surgery, sometimes I decide to eat pie for a week and I can’t button my pants, I’m not stick thin, so if people out there are making me a sex symbol I think that’s a great thing for the impression of what women should be.”

Attack of the Show actually features a number of lovely ladies, including Munn, The Feed correspondent Layla Kayleigh and occasional fill in host Alison Haislip, among others. Pereira, however, is more likely to be seen flirting with the litany of gorgeous female guests who appear on the show. Sadly, he says nothing has come of these flirtations other than some good television moments. “It never happens,” he laments, “they always leave the studio and everybody’s like ‘wow, Anna Paquin was totally into you! Did you see that?’ I’m like no, I was talking to Sam Jackson more than her. ‘Oh yeah, Anna Paquin was totally into you!’ Really? Well cool, maybe I’ll see her again never.” Pereira points to his place on the fame totem pole for many of his post flirtation non happenings. “No one’s following me out of Mr. Chow’s with cameras to get me on TMZ just yet,” he says with a laugh, “I walk into a Best Buy and there we go, that’s like Moses parting the nerd sea and I love it, but I’m not TMZ worthy yet. If a girl wants to go to a Fry’s or a Comp USA then she will feel like a queen walking in there with me, but that’s about it.” Pereira can also add Comicon to that list of places as this past year’s event had people squatting in their chairs and sitting through other people’s sessions just to be a part of Attack of the Show’s. Rutherford notes they were given a 400 person room and the line was so long they ended up having to turn away double that.

Comicon is only one of the many highlights Pereira and Munn have experienced as hosts of Attack of the Show. They’ve run the Ninja Warrior course in Japan, tried their hand at dog fighting in WWII airplanes, been to Amsterdam and Jamaica, taken home a High Times Stony award for their special 4/20 episode, and Pereira has even drummed with Raymond Herrera and Coheed and Cambria. According to Pereira, what makes everything they do work for the audience, no matter how far out of the box it may be, can be summed up in one word – authenticity. “We just try to be as authentic as humanly possible and say, are we into this? Did this viral video make us laugh? Is this cell phone really worth spending $400 on? We just try to cut through the BS and say let’s be real with our audience.”

At this particular moment what’s most real for Pereira is that wardrobe has found him a much nicer shirt to wear for tonight’s show. “We have no sequins, no studs, it hasn’t been Bedazzled, it does look like and Esdee artist threw up on it, but that’s fine, that’s OK, we’ll call it a design element and I will wear it. I’m happy.” In about an hour an audience overflowing with trendsetting geeks and nerds will feel the same way.

Story originally ran in the March ’09 issue of Beyond Race Magazine.

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