Please welcome the Hipster Hobbit himself, Brian Davidson.
I have been incredibly excited about this interview. Brian was the first contestant I reached out to on Twitter, and the first I received a response from. More than anything he and his kind words of encouragement are the reason I will be audition for the third season; as long as there is a third season.
Most of all, he is a nerd after my own heart. Not only is he a History and book nerd, Brian is what we can call a renaissance nerd; a nerd of all things nerdy. He even helped me accept myself as a nerd more than I have been able to for quite a while.
Since about the mid-point of season one, I have played with the idea of auditioning for the show. Unfortunately, as a nerd is wont to do, I was a bit insecure about fitting in or being nerdy enough. I’m not an engineer. I’m not a science or math guy. I can talk ALL day about the theological and philosophical undertones of Superman, other superheroes, and various science fiction stories. I can discuss the canon of MMPR or talk video game until I’m blue in the face. But I still feel like I wouldn’t fit in.
A conversation with Brian changed my mind. He confided that he felt the same way, but still auditioned. Once in the house that diffidence faded away.
Suffice it to say, if I get on the show I will make a few Hipster Hobbit shirts to wear. Or make sure to wear some ironic t-shirts in his honor.
Before you enjoy the interview itself, meet Brian Davidson once more, or for the first time:
Jarrod: Growing up, who were your major influences? Were they in the field you are pursuing now?
Brian: Rather than any celebrities, my biggest influences were my teachers. So, inasmuch as I’m in the education field (academic librarianship), we’re in similar fields. That said, authors–particularly science fiction authors–definitely influenced me at a young age. Despite what you saw me say to Nerdbot, Isaac Asimov was actually one of my heroes–I even dressed up as him in elementary school!
Jarrod: Did you have anyone in your life that helped you believe in who you were as a person? Friends? Family?
Brian: My family has always been extremely supportive of me, both as a nerd and as a person in general, as have my teachers. I had a small, but tight circle of nerdy friends throughout school, and we bonded over Star Trek and computers. By the time I was in high school, I found a very supportive community through a handful of online roleplaying games (text-based MU*s, not any of these newfangled MMORPGs!). I credit all of these people with helping to inspire my greatest asset, which is my curiosity!
Jarrod: How did you decide to audition for the show? Was it on a whim? Or did someone encourage you?
Brian: My audition story is actually kind of funny. Back in 2008, I was working for my alma mater in the LA area, and I was approached while eating lunch by a scout looking for cast members for a different geeky-themed reality show. I submitted application materials and went pretty far along in the process until the show was canceled. Fast-forward to 2013. I apparently made an impression on some Hollywood types and stayed in their rolodexes, because they called me and asked me to audition for KotN!
Jarrod: What was the audition process like?
Brian: The audition was intense — basically it involved sending in multiple videos highlighting my nerdy strengths and personality, and responding to some pretty in-depth questionnaires. Several finalists then interviewed with the producers, and the rest is history!
Jarrod: We got a good idea of everyone’s areas of study or their profession. Was there anything in particular any of you were doing or working on prior to being on the show?
Brian: We actually filmed KotN right before I started library school. I already have a master’s in European history, but I’ve been wanting to break into academic librarianship for some time. I’m now in the middle of my program, studying academic librarians and, in particular, special collections and archives. I work part-time at my school’s rare book library, which is fantastic experience. Besides, what other jobs allow you to handle Gutenberg bibles?! [Drooooool. Let the jealous geek out commence.]
Jarrod: It was great to see a fellow History nerd on the show. When did you realize that History and the study of historical events had stolen your heart?
Brian: I came to history almost by accident. In high school, I was actually more into biology and math, but I always had a healthy appreciation for the humanities. In college, I happened to take a fantastic course of British Romantic poetry, and one William Blake stole my heart. As I learned more about Blake and his quasi-prophetic poems, I started reading more about British history and about Napoleon, with whom the Romantics had a very love/hate relationship. Eventually, my interests traveled backwards in time somewhat, but I am still captivated by the “unseen” aspects of history — not the kings and political figures, but the transformation of culture and society at a lower level.
Jarrod: What is your favorite historical era? Historical figure?
Brian: I’m generally interested in the later end of the “early modern period,” so pretty much the 17th and 18th centuries. While I’ve primarily studied Britain, I’m also interested in the American colonies and in France. As for historical figure, well…Napoleon is still pretty captivating even though he falls outside of my chronological range now (and he’s also certainly NOT one of the neglected “unseen” figures in history). I’m fond of James Boswell as well — he invented what we think of as biographies today, and his private journals are full of wonderful anecdotes about 18th century life.
Jarrod: For those that do not know, you are pursuing a professional degree in Library Science. Is that correct?
Brian: I sure am! I’m working on a master’s in information at the University of Illinois. [Oskee Wow Wow!]
Jarrod: What are your hopes for your future in Library Science? What do you plan on doing?
Brian: I would love to have a career as an academic librarian; I love being in an intellectual environment like a college or university and, as a librarian, I’ll get to have a hand in all kinds of diverse research projects and work with both students and scholars. Librarianship can be a great career if, like me, your interests are just too broad!
Jarrod: What were your initial feelings when you first arrived at Nerdvana (best reality show campus name ever, by the way)?
Brian: Ha! I was the first one who walked out and saw Bobby and Curtis in front of Nerdvana’s façade. So my very first thoughts were, “Wow! Uhh..the sun is real bright here. Umm..where is everyone else? Is this real life?”
Start watching at the 2 min 55 sec mark:
Once the other nerds came out, I was pretty anxious about whether or not Iwould be able to get along with them. My fear, though, was soon assuaged!
Jarrod: Other than what was shown on camera and in the show, what was Nerdvana like? Did the viewers receive a pretty good illustration of what the house was like?
Brian: I think that viewers got a pretty good illustration of Nerdvana, although it was of course a bit condensed. There was candy pretty much everywhere, as well as a popcorn machine and a “nerdee slurpee” machine, and things to play with everywhere! Shuffleboard, pool, video games, Rubik’s cubes…you name it! There were also a lot of fantastic board games — we spent a lot of time playing Dominion. [Best. Game. Ever. Obviously]
Jarrod: The viewers didn’t get to see much of the good-byes other than the player being eliminated and then leaving Nerdvana. Was there more to the good-byes than what was shown on camera?
Brian: Not much! The goodbyes were pretty short, and then that was that — the eliminated nerd was whisked off to get summarily executed by Bobby and Curtis. It made the goodbyes that much harder to go through, although we extended them by giving each nerd a toast once we got back to Nerdvana (you saw some of these). We also would occasionally find some goodbye notes left in our rooms by banished nerds.
Jarrod: Throughout the season, and especially during the finale, we had the pleasure of experiencing Xander’s musical stylings. Was this a regular thing? Did he put on shows off camera?
Brian: Xander definitely had a chance to show off his amazing voice a few times–notably during the LARP challenge, where he and Katie and a really fantastic “spellsinging duel.” There was also at least one night where a group of us drowned our sorrows by singing show tunes together.
To relive the epic “spellsinging duel” watch starting at 13 min 15 sec:
Jarrod: What is the story behind Bacon, the Nerdvana house friend?
Brian: I found Bacon in the purple room on our first night, and he’s been with me ever since! I’m told that he comes from ThinkGeek, but I like to think that he set off on his own quest to make it to Nerdvana on his own, with the goal of proving that he was the nerdiest of all the bacons. You should hear that guy tell stories, though — he’s a riot! [Methinks this is a friendship that will go down in history as one of the greatest. Christopher Robin and Winnie the Pooh. Sam and Frodo. Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen. Lloyd and Harry. Now Brian and Bacon.]
Here is the Between Two Nerds origins video again so you can see the moment the friendship began:
Jarrod: What was your favorite part of the experience at Nerdvana?
Brian: It’s so hard to pick one thing! The challenges were great fun and living in Nerdvana itself was incomparable. I might say, though, that my favorite part was when the banished nerds returned during the finale. It had been getting lonely in Nerdvana, and it was so good to see old friends again!
The banished nerds return at about the 12 min 25 sec mark:
Jarrod: How did you guys pass your time between Nerd Wars, etc.? Anything you can share that we may not have seen on camera?
Brian: As I mentioned before, we played a lot of Dominion. Some people were partial to pool or the video games, and there were also some fun tools in the RadioShack lab, including quad copters (you got to see me play with one!) and “hex bugs.” [Hex Bugs are soooooo awesome.] There definitely was down time, but we were generally kept pretty busy.
Jarrod: Does anyone have hidden talents we didn’t get to see?
Brian: I’m sure we all have hidden talents — Chirs and Nicole especially are FULL OF SECRETS. Katie knows huge amounts of random trivia, particularly about American presidents. I can’t think of anything else in particular, but one great thing about our group was that no matter what kind of interest anyone had or reference anyone made, there was always at least one other nerd who “got it.”
Jarrod: Other than George Takei, Bill Nye, and other nerd deities you have had the chance to meet on the show, have you had the chance to meet any amazing nerds?
Brian: I’ve briefly met some great authors like Salman Rushdie and Orhan Pamuk, and I’ve met/taken classes from some professors who are pretty legendary in their fields, but they’re probably not household names.
Jarrod: How has your life changed since the show?
Brian: Not particularly! I get recognized occasionally, which is always quite amusing to me, but for the most part I’m just hiding away in my hobbit hole full of books, working towards becoming a librarian.
Jarrod: Most importantly, whether you guys realize it or not, but you have become heroes and inspirations to nerds alike. You have become examples of accepting one’s self for who one is, and to never deny the greatness of who you are. How do you feel about fans looking to you in that way?
Brian: Aww! I’m really flattered, and I hope that I can live up to fans’ expectations. It’s pretty wild, though — a while ago, @SotoSage tweeted me that I had inspired him to start reading again. That was one of the most touching tweets I’d received yet. It’s an incredible honor to be able to inspire nerds to take a bit more pride in themselves and maybe poke their heads out of their shells a bit!
Jarrod: Who originally dubbed you the “Hipster Hobbit”?
Brian: I think it was Katie, actually! The “hobbit” part kind of goes without saying, and the two of us were probably the most “hipsterish” nerds on the show (although, for the record, I’m not actually a hipster. Your first clue to that is the fact that I call myself one. 🙂 ) [And here I was under the impression one only had to grow an impressive beard to be considered a hipster these days]
Jarrod: And I’m sure everyone is curious about this, but how long did it take for you to perfect AMAZING Gollum impersonation?
Brian: Ha! I actually don’t think I’ve ever really had to work on it. I guess a little bit of Gollum just lives inside of me. By the way, that ring you’re holding looks awfully…precious…
Umm… this is the point where I run away as fast as I can, albeit not very fast.
*tosses ring behind me*
I hope you guys enjoyed the interview as much as I did. The next interview is TBA.
Don’t forget to take the survey and bug TBS (@tbsveryfunny) to get the show renewed. Also, use #nerdsrule as MUCH as you can.