- - Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Call him geek, nerd or even “Booger.” Curtis Armstrong doesn’t mind, as long as you just call him.

The ultimate character actor has starred in dozens of films and TV shows in his illustrious four-decade-plus career, including in “Revenge of the Nerds,” “Risky Business,” “Moonlighting” and “Supernatural.” Heck, you’ve even heard him in “Planes Fire & Rescue” and on “American Dad.” Mr. Armstrong is everywhere.

He is currently co-hosting the hit TBS reality show “King of the Nerds,” along with fellow “Revenge of the Nerds” alum Robert Carradine. To celebrate season three, Mr. Armstrong got his geek on.

Question: How is the new season of “King of the Nerds” going?

Answer: Really well, I’m happy to say. We are tremendously excited about this season. [It’s] awfully hard to make all the moving parts of something like this work. The comedy has to work, the stories [must] gel, the challenges [must] be effective, Bobby [Carradine] and I need to be on point. Most of all, of course, we have to have a perfect mixture of nerds. We’ve always had great nerds, but this season, I think, everything came together.

In general, for any type of television show, it may take awhile to put all of the elements together. You see a problem, you adjust, [but] maybe you adjust too much. Finally, though, it comes together.

We had the additional challenge this year of having been moved to a less than desirable time slot: Friday, 9 p.m. But our ratings were higher than the previous two seasons for the premiere, so we must be doing something right.

Q: Is co-hosting still one of the greatest jobs you’ve ever had?

A: It’s not the hosting that I love so much. Standing there talking — or shouting — is pretty standard stuff for me. It’s the sending up of the form that I like. I love our crew, and I just love being in the company of nerds.

Q: Any clear front-runners in the contestants so far?

A: Well, that’s not for me to say. I’m fascinated by what other people think, though.

Q: There was once a time when “nerd” was a derogatory term. Why do you think that has changed?

A: It was gradual, of course, but I think some of it had to do with the sheer ubiquity of nerd influence and nerd culture. When nerds were hidden away in basements and garages, people looked down on them. Their obsessions with comics or sci-fi or science, fantasy, cosplay — whatever it was — made them the object of ridicule. But then the “Star Trek” conventions morphed into comic cons, gaming became more fascinating and accessible, people realized there was money in comic books, sci-fi films and television shows became more popular, and over time people who dismissed these “oddballs” came to realize that they were missing out on some very cool things.

Q: Are nerds more popular than ever?

A: No question. Have you been to Comic-Con lately? Or seen a movie. Even look at the NYT best-seller list. Look at what you watch and even how you watch it. Nerd culture, once a subset of popular culture, has become popular culture.

Q: What is the difference between a “geek” and a “nerd”?

A: The definition I like is a nerd is an overall classification; a geek is a specialist. You can be, for example, a sci-fi nerd but a “Star Wars” geek. As good a definition as any, I guess.

Q: Who is a bigger nerd: you or Mr. Carradine?

A: I think I am, and I don’t think Robert would disagree. He says his only real flirtation with nerd culture was a passion for building model airplanes, which is pretty nerdy. He was even building one in his room when we were shooting “Revenge of the Nerds.”ut I’m a Sherlockian and a bibliophile, I love classic horror and science fiction, I’m a Beatles obsessive and overall music fan. I couldn’t get a date as an adolescent. I think I’m pretty much the whole package, though I don’t game, had minimal interest in comic books and was hopeless in math and science. I was born with the nerd gene, even though it hadn’t been isolated or identified at the time.

Q: Historically speaking, who is the greatest nerd in history?

A: Einstein would certainly be at the top of the list. Newton. H.G. Wells. J.K. Rowling probably did as much for advancing the cause of nerds as anyone in this century.

Q: Where do you stand on the great nerd debate of “Star Wars” versus “Star Trek”?

A: “Star Trek.” I attended the first-ever convention in Detroit in 1973, I think. I had been living overseas when the show premiered in the U.S. I returned in 1967, and I think I saw my first episode of the show in ’67 or ’68. The episode was “Who Mourns for Adonis,” and I will never forget it. Sea change. Almost as important as seeing the Beatles on “Ed Sullivan” in ’64.

Q: One of the funniest things about the past season was you and Robert dressing up. What have they got in store for you this season?

A: Well, we’ve already seen me in my sci-fi drag outfit [in] episode two for cosplay. That was probably the biggest as far as construction went. A PVC pipe skeleton and just a massive amount of work by our great costume designer Robin Gurney and her crew. They amaze me. What they come up with given our budget is a real tribute to nerd ingenuity.

Q: Anything you won’t wear?

A: If it gets a laugh, I’ll wear it. I have no shame.

Q: Are you still working on “American Dad” and “The New Girl”?

A: Yes. Just did a new Snot-centric episode a couple of weeks ago. With “New Girl,” they just will get an idea for something and call and ask if I’m available. It has sometimes conflicted with my schedule for “Supernatural,” but we try to make it work because I still can’t believe I get paid to go in and do scenes with Zooey [Deschanel].

Q: What’s happening with you on “Supernatural?”

A: Metatron remains a problem for the Winchester boys. Even in angel jail he’s a problem. One of my favorite roles ever.

Q: What else are you working on?

A: Well, four shows at once doesn’t leave a lot of time, but this year I did one of the voices, Maru, in Disney’s “Planes: Fire and Rescue,” which was great fun. I did an episode of “Workaholics,” which was a scream, and a TV movie for my old friend Savage Steve Holland.

Q: When people think about you, they always think of “Booger.” Are you OK with forever being Booger?”

A: For an actor to be remembered for anything is an accomplishment. I owe Booger a tremendous debt of gratitude. I’m OK with it.

 


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