Tournament of Nerds Melts Down L.A.

Fanboys have debated for decades this single question: who would win in a fight? Could Batman defeat Snake Eyes? Would Wolverine slice up the Terminator? Can the Hulk smash Jason Voorhees? All of these questions will be answered if Upright Citizens Brigade members Hal Rudnick and Justin Donaldson have anything to say about it. Part one of their new show, "Tournament of Nerds!" premiered at Los Angeles' Meltdown Comics this week to a full and excited crowd.

Hosted by Donaldson (wearing a Superman cape) and Rudnick (in Spider-Man pajamas), the show takes 16 improbable battles between comic book and sci-fi movie characters, sets them up in a "March Madness" style bracket and let's comedians and local fans debate their merits. A panel of celebrity judges then decides the winner and in the case of a tie, the audience gets to vote. The judges on this night included "Beat the Geeks" host Blaine Capatch, "Human Giant" writer Jonah Ray, comic book writer Marc Andreyko ("Manhunter") and "Watchmen" actress Malin Akerman.

Different debaters used different tactics, some coming with a laundry list of reasons why their character would win. Others adapted the clothing and personality of the character they were defending, such as the gentlemen who argued on behalf of Allan Quatermain, speaking with an English accent and growing a real mustache for the part. Other characters represented in full garb included Wonder Woman and Freddy Krueger.

The show was designed to take place over two nights, the first at Meltdown, and the second, tonight at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. The Meltdown show on Thursday featured Superman vs. Predator, Gandalf vs. Freddy Kruger and Thor vs. Voltron, just to name a few. The opening rounds eliminated 24 of the 32 original contestants, leaving eight to battle it out Friday night. The final eight consist of Rorschach ("Watchmen"), Wonder Woman, Predator, Mr. Miyagi ("The Karate Kid"), Batman, Jason ("Friday the 13th"), Darth Vader and Iron Man.

The finale will feature more spirited debates, scene reenactments from comedy troop, Convoy, and celebrity judges Jeff Katz ("Booster Gold") and "Run Ronnie Run" writer Scott Aukerman.

CBR News talked with the emcee and the shows co-creator Hal Rudnick about his love for comic books, how he came up with the idea for the show and where it goes from here.

"I originally thought it would make a good video for the Internet, where I would play a character living out these battles with action figures," Rudnick told CBR News. "Then I was pitching it to some writers at UCB and they thought that it would make a very compelling live show. UCB has themes for every month and July's theme is animation, so I was talking to the UCB artistic director and he agreed it would be a perfect, fun show for animation month so I just moved forward with it. I asked my friend, UCB writer Justin Donaldson to work on it with me and that's when we hooked up with Meltdown. We met Linda Pine who organizes the comedy shows at Meltdown and she helped us out with a lot of the logistics of the show."

Debaters were gathered via a mailer sent out by the UCB, looking for the most passionate fans around. Flyers were also passed out at Meltdown itself, yielding what Rudnick calls a "healthy mix" of professional comedians and fans. "It was good to balance comedy pose and stage presence with hardcore nerd knowledge," he said.

Rudnick and co. had so much fun on Thursday at Meltdown, they're already talking about bringing the "Tournament of Nerds" back. "We've even talked about doing it with different genres," he said. "You could do, Led Zeppelin vs. The Beatles or Jimi Hendrix vs. Kurt Cobain. Or even The New York Yankees vs. The Boston Red Sox and then combine everything and have a 'Tournament of Awesomeness.'"

Growing up, Upright Citizen Rudnick subscribed to "G.I. Joe" and "The Punisher," and has always been a fan of genre films like "Alien," "Predator" "RoboCop" and "The Terminator." "I always loved playing with action figures. Now, I enjoy comics," he said. "I read a lot of indie comics. I really like [the comic book] world. I have so many friends who are into it as well that I just thought that doing this show was a really compelling idea. I think a lot of us have had these debates with our friends just sitting around, drinking and arguing about who would win in a fight, Terminator or Robocop?"

And who does Rudnick think would win? "The Terminator would win because Robocop still has human flesh and the Terminator would just rip it off," he said.

Will Batman be able to defeat Iron Man? Can Mr. Miyagi out mind trick former Jedi, Darth Vader? How will Rorschach do against Wonder Woman? If you want to see who will be left standing between the final eight and crowned King of the Nerds, you'll have to go to the conclusion of the show tonight at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, in Los Angeles.

WHERE: UCB Theatre, 5919 Franklin Ave., Los Angeles

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday, July 11, 2008

PRICE: $8.00

INFO: (323) 908-8702

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