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Geeks unite at 4th annual Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival

All Geeks, a Chicago-based "geek culture" group, will perform Saturday, Aug. 13 at 11 p.m. at the 2016 Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. | Photo credit: Stage 773

Calling all nerds: Stage 773 will once again play host to the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival Aug. 11-14, featuring comedy shows, panels and workshops by local comedians and YouTube stars alike.

The fourth annual event’s headliners include Jackson Bird, a transgender advocate known for his “The Boy Who Vlogged” and “Will It Waffle?” videos, and Team Starkid, a Chicago-based musical theater company that went viral after its release of “A Very Potter Musical” online. Festival performances begin at 7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday, with workshops beginning at noon Sunday.

Transgender advocate Jackson Bird, known for his “The Boy Who Vlogged” and “Will It Waffle?” video series, will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at the 2016 Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. | Photo credit: Stage 773
Transgender advocate Jackson Bird, known for his “The Boy Who Vlogged” and “Will It Waffle?” video series, will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 12, at the 2016 Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival. | Photo credit: Stage 773

“It is a way to build community and that outsider culture that comes along with the concept of both nerd and comedy,” said Cody Melcher, co-producer of the festival. “This year we’re doing workshops and panels on Sunday because we wanted to bring in more of that community aspect and give back to both the performers and the audience.”

The workshops cover topics including improv comedy, YouTube video production and comic book creation. The free panels, beginning at 4 p.m. Sunday, will feature speakers on LGBTQ issues, nerd media and culture, and podcast development.

The festival also features after-parties at Stage 773 that are free and open to the public. Thursday’s party will feature Pokemon Go-themed music, drinks and lures throughout the theater to attract Pokemon, while Friday will be a game night and Saturday a dance party.

“We’re not shutting anybody out,” Melcher added. “Everybody is welcome.”

Melcher originally appeared as a stand-up comedian in the festival’s second year before serving as a board member and then co-producer with Aaron Amendola.

“I’ve done a lot of comedy festivals in my time, and it was just a blast,” Melcher said. “I’ve got friends that I made that year. I told the producer that I wanted to be a part of it, and it’s been nice helping cultivate more of what I love about being a performer. This year we’ve just refined and honed in on the things that make the festival the best and the most fun and enjoyable for everybody.”

New performers at the 2016 “nerdfest” include All Geeks, a local geek-culture group that hosts variety shows, viewing parties and gaming nights, as well as Matt Griffo & All the Feelings, a musical comedy trio. Returning favorites include Clown Car to Sicily, a Chicago-based musical improv group, and the Stuntmen, a group of six performers who improvise a full-blown action movie.

“Sometimes people look at a thing called the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival and they say, ‘Well, I don’t know if I would fall into that category,’ ” Melcher explained, laughing. “Nerd culture has permeated society. People don’t want to consider themselves nerdy in some way, but if you have something you are passionate about, that makes you a nerd. There’s baseball statistics nerds and there’s Star Trek nerds. There’s sci-fi and there’s fashion. You can be a nerd about anything. We’re a community open to everybody. It’s about lifting up and not tearing down.”

The 2016 Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival runs Aug. 11-14 at Stage 773 (1225 W. Belmont). Individual show tickets are $10 each, Thursday and Friday day passes are $30, Saturday day passes are $50, and all-festival passes are $75, available at 773-327-5252 or www.stage773.com.