Andre Meadows may not be the first black nerd to come across your screen, but he’s certainly the nerdiest. Just run down the list of all the ones who’ve come before him.
“We had Urkel and that Revenge of the Nerds Lamar period where being a black nerd was kind of a joke,” the Los Angeles-based comedian told the Daily Dot. “There’s Donald Glover. People say Obama is a black nerd. There are all these different variations on the black nerd, including my own. There’s no one defining characteristic, which is kind of what makes that term interesting right now.”
Meadows, who hosts vlog episodes and interviews on his YouTube channel Black Nerd Comedy, is a cut above the rest not because of his thick, square glasses—but because of what he’s into. He’s a fan of Zelda, Power Rangers, and Nintendo Wii, and he’ll talk about them regularly. In fact, he’s centered two of his episodes around the Power Rangers in the last month alone.
It’s true geek stuff, the types of talking points that could get a kid in junior high stuffed into a locker. But his Black Nerd moniker is more so a statement of fact than a lens into his tact: Andre Meadows is a nerd who also happens to be black. Should he have been born white, he likely would have grown up enjoying the same things.
“Some people get confused with why I call myself a black nerd,” the North Carolina native said.
“It’s not to say that a black nerd is different from a white nerd, but it is a different experience. From my personal experience, it comes from the fact that I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and there’s a perception that a black nerd is Lisa Turtle from Saved by the Bell—a black person who’s been assimilated into a white group.
“I grew up in a black neighborhood, so it was different. I had to stay in tune with black culture as much as I could, but I had the urge to be in tune with that nerd culture that I liked. That limited me from being completely assimilated to either side, which keeps you from immersing yourself into any particular group.”
That’s part of the reason why Meadows has chosen to make his YouTube channel such a blatant celebration of gamer and cartoon nerd culture. He’s surely not the only black kid out there with an obsession for The Avengers; he’s even less likely to be the only nerd obsessing about the film.
His channel, which just eclipsed the 200 episode mark this week, is home to nearly 50,000 subscribers, all of whom have a vested interest in the same stuff he’s into: Tekken, girls in cartoons, and the racial undertones found in episodes of Pokémon.
“I also get it a lot from black people who are nerds themselves and thought that they were alone like I did when I was growing up,” Meadows said. “It’s just a matter of getting as much exposure as you can, which is where the work comes in. You have to get in front of people and show them that you’re into the same things even if you don’t look alike.
“I’ve seen situations where I’ve been around other black people who refer to themselves as black nerds, and they don’t like me because I’m not the black nerd they’re looking for. They want somebody who’s artistic and culturally influenced, as opposed to someone who’s obsessed with Smurfs and gremlins.”
The latter’s what applies to Meadows. And it’s with that in mind that he goes about his work, pushing nerd culture to blacks and whites and anyone else who chooses to tune in. Because if Black Nerd Comedy’s about anything besides Smurfs and Scooby Doo, it’s about tearing down misguided preconceptions.
You can be a nerd and also be black. You can be black and also nerd out. Those two descriptors aren’t mutually exclusive. They’re simply two ways to describe the comedian Andre Meadows, a black man whose proud of the fact that he gets nervous talking to girls.
“Black Nerd Comedy, that’s what it is,” he said. “Even if you’re afraid of it, you’ll remember it.”
Photo via YouTube