10 Music Videos with Nerd Icon Appearances

By Mike Duquette in Daily Lists, Miscellaneous, Nerdery
Wednesday, August 10, 2011 at 8:04 am
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Earlier this month, on August 1, MTV turned 30. Did you send a card? Flowers? Of course not. MTV didn't even celebrate their own anniversary, unless by "celebrate" you mean "air so many episodes of Jersey Shore that decent people start crying." It's certainly worth noting the milestone, however; the notion of a 24-hour music video channel was an oasis for music geeks in the Greed Decade. And while the video medium is not synonymous with legends of geekery (have you ever seen a member of Duran Duran at Comic-Con?), several legendary icons of sci-fi and fantasy have graced the small screen to varying effects. And for those of you who want your MTV the way it used to be, Topless Robot is only too happy to oblige.

10) Hans Zimmer in The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star"
From its very beginnings, MTV was catering to nerds, even if nobody knew it quite yet. At about three minutes into the first video ever played on the station, the man behind the keyboards is none other than Hans Zimmer, who's gone on to score some of the most popular (and geek-friendly) films of the past 20 years, from the Pirates of the Caribbean series to Chris Nolan's Batman films. It's such a quick moment, but it certainly has had an impact, in its own way, over time. It's almost as if Zimmer planted the notion of himself as composer through the video... BRAAAAAAAMMM.

9) Robin Williams in Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy"
Sure, Robin Williams isn't your first draft pick in the nerd canon, but you have to give the guy some credit -- he's a noted World of Warcraft player, and he named his daughter Zelda after a lengthy gaming session with his then-wife. None of that nerd cred, however, explains his semi-insane turn in "Don't Worry, Be Happy," the most irritatingly inescapable hit of the 1980s. While Bobby McFerrin asserts his positive lifestyle/eternal damnation to one-hit wonder status, Williams and actor Bill Irwin (who has a bit of pop-cultural street cred himself, acting in Sesame Street and the terrible Jim Carrey version of The Grinch) dance about in incredibly silly costumes. I don't care what your opinion on Hook is -- Williams' Peter Pan costume isn't as ridiculous as his parading about in traditional African garb toward the beginning of this clip.

8) Robert Downey, Jr. in Elton John's "I Want Love"
Before he strapped an arc reactor to his chest, Robert Downey, Jr., then known as an occasionally brilliant, often drugged-out actor, starred in this unique clip where he lip-synched to Elton John's tune while walking through an empty mansion in one sustained take. The video certainly had a great deal of emotional heft at the time -- why shouldn't the troubled Downey want love? -- but it's kind of hard to feel bad for the guy now. I mean, seriously. He's Iron Man. The amount of love one has is kind of irrelevant when an eyepatch-wearing Samuel L. Jackson is your boss.

7) Just About Everyone in Michael Jackson's "Liberian Girl"
How monstrous was the Michael Jackson train in the late '80s? For the eighth single released off of Bad (out of 11 songs on the album), Jackson commissioned a video that just combined as many famous friends as possible. Obviously, with that many film and television luminaries in the room, there are more than a few nerd-friendly appearances, from directors (Steven Spielberg) and comic book superheroes (Lou Ferrigno) to Star Wars alumni (Billy Dee Williams) and "Weird Al" Yankovic. Even a Ghostbuster (Dan Aykroyd) shows up, although the magnitude of that appearance pales next to the next one on this list.

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