?When Huey Lewis claimed that it was “Hip to Be Square” back in 1986, few could have guessed how eerily prescient his song would prove to be. Nowadays, everyone is a geek and ridiculing nerds seems as dated as dot matrix printers and first generation iPods. So it’s not surprising that celebrities are constantly letting their freak flags fly by discussing their most nerdy interests to anyone who will listen. Stars ranging from Tom Hanks (whose interest in space was so great during the 1990s that it seemed like he was going to hijack a shuttle launch for awhile there) to the Dungeons & Dragons-loving Vin Diesel have frequently come out about their geek-oriented obsessions during press junkets and TV interviews. But there are some celebrities who go above and beyond mere everyday nerdiness, taking their left-of-center passions into the stratosphere. Let’s meet these heroic men and women in this Daily List that celebrates 11 of the most awesome actors, actresses and TV personalities who also just so happen to be humongous nerds.
Daily List suggested by Doughboy 1337.
11) Donald Glover
?So the Facebook campaign by the comedian/Community star to become the first African-American Spider-Man on the silver screen was a bust. I bet if someone started an online petition to get Betty White cast as Aunt May that would have happened. The Internet is such bullshit sometimes.
10) Jonathan Ross
Unless you are a pretty severe Anglophile, the name Jonathan Ross probably doesn’t mean too much to you. It totally should. Wossy has parlayed his nerdy interests into a lengthy UK broadcasting career that has seen him hosting The Incredibly Strange Film Show (a groundbreaking look at cult films and their creators), the Asian pop culture series Japanorama and various other geekcentric documentaries. The above clip features the opening segment of his In Search of Steve Ditko special. The doc is an examination of the reclusive artist/Spider-Man co-creator that also serves as an oral history of the most fascinating time in the history of the comics medium. Check the whole thing out on YouTube and, um, marvel at the candid insights Ross was able to get out of such icons as Alan Moore and Stan Lee.
9) Kevin Smith
You’ll notice that George Lucas, James Cameron, Ridley Scott, Joss Whedon, Quentin Tarantino and James Cameron are noticeably absent from this list. That was a conscious choice, as geek directors could easily merit an entire list of their own. A notable exception is Kevin Smith, who easily earns a space here due to his comics work, merchandising savvy and compelling industry stories (such as the epic tale above). At this point, Smith has tried his hand at damn near every aspect of genre fandom — gaining plenty of supporters and even more detractors along the way. Your personal feelings on his directorial abilities aside, you have to admit that he is dedicated to a life of nerdery… and black shirts.
8) Olivia Munn
As anyone who spent their formative years getting shit for their nerdy interests will be quick to point out, the fact that we now live in an age where there is a cachet of coolness associated with comics, videogames and action figures is downright baffling. Odder still is the concept that people would fake interests in such things to advance their career. Yet such a criticism is often lobbed at Attack of the Show‘s Olivia Munn, nerdom’s most ubiquitous sex symbol. With her Iron Man 2 cameo, her recent guest spots on The Daily Show and the release of her autobiography, Suck It, Wonder Woman: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek, Munn seems poised for A-List success. So is she genuine or is her act calculated nerd baiting? I’ll leave that for you to debate in the comments.
7) John Hodgman
Author, comedian and sometimes PC, John Hodgman is the geekiest looking performer working today. He’s a walking embodiment of nerdery and, as his books illustrate, an advocate of bizarre intellectualism. But there are two facts that make Hodgman especially worthy of inclusion here. First, he is pals with They Might Be Giants. Secondly, he was once Bruce Campbell’s literary agent. Top that, Stephen Colbert.
6) Nicolas Cage
Much has been made about how the once and future Ghost Rider named his child Kal-El. That may sound cool to all you Superman fans out there, but it just seems wildly impractical to me. Anyways, along with being what appears to be an utter mad man, Cage is also a notorious comic book fan who has claimed that his love of all things Power Man inspired him to replace his given surname of Coppola with Cage (as in Luke). He’s the biggest name celeb on this list, but by no means the nerdiest.
5) Seth Green
Because he has made a career out of playing with action figures and making wisecracks, I’m not sure whether we should all hate Seth Green or worship him.
4) Rosario Dawson
Rosario Dawson first really caught the attention of fanboys through her role as Gail in Sin City (or, if you prefer, Josie and the Pussycats). Turns out that she is something of a comics freak off screen as well. She was responsible for co-creating the Occult Crimes Taskforce mini-series back in 2006 for 12 Gauge/Image Comics. It’s okay that you never heard of the comic, the point here is that Dawson is one of us. Just less socially awkward. And with nicer breasts. Clearly not content with only starring in the delusional fantasies of fanboys, she courted the theater nerds by co-starring in the film adaptation of Rent in 2005. It’s somewhat off topic, but she was also in Seven Pounds, an utterly ridiculous movie in which Will Smith commits suicide via jellyfish. This fact doesn’t have anything to do with this list, but is so amazingly bonkers I feel the need to mention it whenever I get the opportunity. Oh yeah, spoiler alert.
3) Wil Wheaton
In his lengthy career, Wil Wheaton has somehow gone full circle from being the subject of fanboy derision to adoration. The fact that the same people who used to call for the death of Wesley Crusher now turn to him to hear his views on technology and pop culture is rather amazing, and illustrates just how fickle sci-fi fandom can be. Wheaton’s ongoing popularity can be attributed to his self-deprecating nature and a genuine enthusiasm for whatever he is obsessed about at the moment. He avoided the pitfalls of child stardom where others, including his Stand by Me co-star, River Phoenix, have fallen and endured ridicule at the hands of Star Trek fans. That he has survived and thrived makes him somewhat of a Hollywood anomaly. He’s like a Crystalline Entity of showbiz! Too much?
2) Patton Oswalt
What are you doing right now? Chances are you are shirking some job duties in order to catch up on the nerd news, humor and self-loathing that Topless Robot offers you day after day. What’s Patton Oswalt doing right now? He’s probably drinking beers with Stan Lee or thumb wrestling with Adam West. Whatever he is up to at this very second you can bet that it is nerdy and completely awesome. When Frank Sinatra sang “My Way” he wasn’t referring to a stocky comedian with an encyclopedic knowledge of Star Wars, but he may as well have been because Oswalt has found success entirely on his own terms (gloriously geeky though they may be). One look at his IMDB page reveals a jaw-dropping display of awesomeness that includes roles in the most geek-enticing TV shows and video games of the past 20 years. If everyone in Hollywood can be connected to Kevin Bacon, then certainly everything nerdy/wonderful in life can be connected to Oswalt. He’s a sci-fi- and comics-loving, D&D-playing, Caprica-co-starring inspiration to would-be nerds everywhere.
1) Simon Pegg
Simon Pegg has gone from comically riffing on sci-fi in Spaced to guesting on Doctor Who and giving it all she’s got in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek. If that’s not living the nerd dream, I don’t know what is.
Chris Cummins is a pop culture writer and Archie comics historian who has contributed to The Robot's Voice, Den of Geek US, Philebrity, Geekadelphia, Uproxx, and Unicorn Booty. He is the co-producer and co-host of Nerd Nite Philadelphia, and is regularly involved in producing and hosting New York Super Week events. In 2014, Chris began Sci-Fi Explosion, a mix of live performance, trivia and funny clips celebrating the weirdest in science fiction that regularly travels around the United States. He wrote the introductions to the compilations Archie's Favorite Comics From The Vault and (with Paul Castiglia) Archie's Favorite High School Stories. You can find Chris on Twitter at @bionicbigfoot and @scifiexplosion.