Return of the Nerds: FSG’s Work in Progress presents Nerd Jeopardy! at McNally Jackson

1. Einstein formulates the theory of how nerds have fun. 2. FSG Online Marketing Manager, host and charmer Ryan Chapman, who’d been drinking all day.

I’m on the F en route to McNally Jackson to cover FSG’s Work in Progress’ awesome Nerd Jeopardy, wondering, “Why am I more excited to attend this event rather than seeing these guys or these guys?” Yes, despite the fact I have no knowledge of Nerd Alex Trebek’s (a.k.a. FSG’s Online Marketing Manager and all-around charming fellow, Ryan Chapman) musical talents and there will be no live music or rock show eye candy, there IS the chance to win sweet, expensive prizes (even if you don’t compete on a team!), get drunk for free, heckle, and mingle with really, really good looking nerds. I covered this event again for these reasons, but mainly because it’s pure fun. Allow me to be a bit of blowhard when I say it’s sort of a celebration of everything awesome about nerds, that dismantles the myth established by this guy.

1. Round One! 2. Final Jeopardy!

Three teams of three, three rounds (of which the first two included daily doubles), and prizes that were more bad ass than last time: the winning team took home Paul Murray’s three-volume Skippy Dies, The Paris Review Interviews vols. 1–4, and the Oxford Companion to Beer, which was literally the size of the Encarta World English Dictionary. The audience prize — $100 to McNally Jackson — was formidable as well. Hopeful competitors and audience/hecklers alike loosened up with red wine as teams dropped their names into Chapman’s Gucci bag (really a wrinkled disposable grocery bag). Shortly before he picked the teams, Chapman encouraged us to drink the wine because it makes “heckling more fun and vociferous.”

#nerdalert, Sexy Swamp People, and The Behemoths competed in categories that touched on self-publishing (Will You Please Publish my Novel, Please?), the conflation of pop and lit culture (Read That Tune and “The Real World” and Literature), and expensive works of literature (On the Auction Block). The pop/lit culture categories were my favorite. #nerdalert took an early lead as they nearly took the entire Magazine Editors category, which challenged the teams to match the magazine to the editor’s name. #nerdalerts “buzzer,” which really was a security light from Staples, was flashing well before any of the other teams. The highlight answer of the evening was also the only audio daily double, to which Ryan Chapman grooved to a sensual soul track as teams tried to mash it up with Don DeLillo (Barry White Noise! Yes! My other favorite: In the Aeroplane Over the Seabiscuit). In the middle of Round 1, Chapman announced that all of the wine was gone. The crowd got rowdy, the heckling turned mean: we heckled a competitor when he didn’t answer in the form of a question. Chapman admonished us.

1. Winning team #nerdalert with Ryan Chapman: Lauren Reddy (Workman Publishing), Liz Stein (Penguin Group), and Angharad Coates, who works at a fashion PR firm. Handsome bunch. 2. One part of the integral fuel of the night, Max Rivlin and Mike Schapira, purveyors of free wine and founders and editors of

After Round 1, #nerdalert had a healthy lead against The Behemoths, with Sexy Swamp People lagging behind. For us audience members, we were challenged to order Marcel Proust’s oeuvre in order of publication. The un-Googleable challenge: the titles were provided in French. One devoted Proust reader answered it on the first try for 100 glorious dollars to McNally Jackson. Round 2 was fierce and #nerdalert increased their lead in categories like The “C” Word and Watch the Throne. At Final Jeopardy, the crowd hummed Jeopardy’s theme song while the teams pondered the author of the classic “Auld Lang Syne.” Both #nerdalert and The Behemoths answered correctly — Robert Burns — but the latter was the only team awarded real money. They were left with one, lonely point which materialized itself into a real dollar.

The next Nerd Jeopardy is happening on 4/17 at McNally Jackson, which all of you should attend. Details can be found here at the FSG: Work in Progress blog. Any one who wants to be on a team with me should find me on the Internet so we can start intensive training, which includes 5 A.M. jogs, protein gel shots, and flogging. During all of this, we’ll be spewing speed lit trivia to each other. It’ll be so fun!

— Ryan Chang is a writer and student living in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in Thought Catalog. He is on the Internet here and here.

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