P.M.–Dawn: 'Nerd Night' at Ruby Tuesday Live

Erica Thompson

What do nerds like? That's the question I set out to answer when I attended the weekly "Nerd Night" event at Ruby Tuesday Live on a recent Monday. The theme - it changes each week - was "2016 in Memoriam," and the Facebook event page promised a reflection on the careers of the many public figures who died. (To be honest, they had me when I saw the picture of Prince on the cover photo.)

Expecting the typical parking nightmare on Summit Street, I was surprised to find a number of empty spaces right in front of the venue. When I walked in, I discovered a nearly empty bar in the front room. In the concert room, a handful of men sat and watched as the bartender set up the audio/visual system from a step ladder. It was an off night for "Nerd Night," considering many OSU students had already left campus for the holidays, the guys explained.

I ordered my first-ever Bells Two Hearted Ale and joined the group. Between clips of Gary Shandling, Muhammad Ali, David Bowie, Gene Wilder, Florence Henderson and even Alan Thicke on the projector screens, I learned the "Nerd Night" history. Created under the auspices of Anime Punch - an organization founded to move nerd-dom out of parents' basements and into the streets, one member told me - the event has been running since 2011. In addition to the video clips, participants sometimes book bands. Back in the day, they used to bring in food from Hounddogs; now they order pizza directly from the bar. I tried the "punch pie" - featuring spinach and sauerkraut - which was surprisingly delicious.

"Nerd Night" peaked around 2013, when about 50 people might show up. Now the event attracts approximately 20 attendees on stronger nights.

We also discussed topics like "Star Trek" vs. "Star Wars," or, as one person put it, "cult culture" vs. "pop culture." Given the recent"Rogue One" boycott chatter, I couldn't resist asking a group of white male patrons if they enjoyed the film, and they answered with a resounding "Yes!"

But nerds have a life outside of space, the Anime Punchers assured me. They like comic books and video games, as demonstrated by the woman who came in later with an old box TV and "Mario Party 6." And no matter the night's theme, they will always find a way to inject comedy at the gathering. Most importantly, nerds need spaces where they don't have to know who the Patriots are or explain what their gender is, one of the attendees told me.

Overall, I had a great time. I got my clips of Prince, but more than that, I was able to be myself in a relaxing environment with friendly people who welcomed me as an honorary nerd, which isn't really that much of a stretch.