Chatting with Xander Jeanneret: King of the Nerds, LGBTQ+ Geek Culture, and More!
I’ve got a confession. I’m a huge fan of King of the Nerds. And this guy, Xander Jeanneret? He’s one of my favorite contestants the show has ever had. Of course, when I eventually get on the show (it will happen, mark my words), I’ll totally be my own favorite contestant, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is, when I saw Xander on the guest list for Amazing Hawaii Comic-Con, I knew I had to see him. Being the insanely cool dude that he is, he responded to my totally casual tweet request for an interview and took some time out of his brief stay in Hawaii to chat with me.
I am such a big fan of King of the Nerds – I’ve got to start off with that. How did you discover the show and how did you apply for it?
They contacted me for season one of the show, actually. I was part of a gay gaming group and so they contacted a bunch of different types of nerds and different groups like that and I said no because it was a nerdy show on TBS and [I] was like ‘they’re going to be making fun of the nerds, I don’t wanna be a part of that.’ And then I watched season one and was surprised – pleasantly surprised – with how they did it because it was a celebration of nerddom. [I] was really happy and was like ‘hey if you’re still considering me for season two I’d be happy to do it’ and they did! So, I did the whole submitted a video and another video, and went into hotel jail where there’s like 30 contestants, or potential contestants, and they screen you through.
I agree. I mean, at first I thought that King of the Nerds was going to be like that, too, but I watched it and I really enjoyed it. It didn’t feel like we were being made fun of. I felt like we were being celebrated.
Yeah! Exactly. I think a lot of people didn’t give it a chance at the beginning. I probably wouldn’t have watched it if I hadn’t been contacted because I had those preconceived notions about what I thought it would be. And we’ve had a lot of hate from people that have never seen an episode, but think they know ‘Oh, this is just making fun of nerds.’ I know that Curtis [Armstrong], one of the executive producers and the host, he is 100% in the camp of ‘We have to make the show for nerds, not making fun of nerds.’ It’s just very admirable, and they’ve always had that at the core of the show.
So, Library Bards. I caught some of your show last night. It was great. How did you start and how long have you been doing this?
Thank you! Well, Bonnie Gordon from ABC’s The Quest [and I] were friends before either of us got our shows and we got booked on reality shows at the same time. So she went out to go film The Quest and I went out for King of the Nerds and we first thought that we had the same thing, but she’s like ‘I’m going to Austria in a castle’ and [I] was like ‘I’m going to Glendale.’ We’re in two different things, but we knew that like reality show celebrity isn’t really a lasting thing but we love going to comic cons, we love performing, and being on panels, so together once the shows were done we were like ‘we’ve got to do something.’ Library Bards came out of that. We were like, we want to do something with music, we want to do something with nerdiness, we do nerd parodies of songs off the radio. And we’ve loved it and we’ve gotten to travel all over the U.S. We’re on tour right now with the Amazing Comic Con, so we’re here in Hawai`i, which is insane to think about. Like something that you create yourself with another person and gets you to do something like this is just amazing.
The Geekiary focuses a lot on representation in geek culture and you’re kind of known as the ‘Gaymer.’ From my perspective as a bisexual woman in the geek community I felt like it’s very welcoming. I was wondering if your experience in the geek community [feels] as welcoming. What’s it like to be part of the LGBT spectrum in the geek community?
I love this question. I am a full advocate for that. Before I had gone on the show a couple of like papers and stuff like that wanted to do interviews with me and they were very concerned, and they were saying like, ‘man on television people are going to come after you. They’re going to be terrible.’ And I hadn’t really thought about it because I really just wanted to be myself and I’ve had super positive experience after it aired. So people have reached out to me. Sometimes it gets a little bit intense, especially in the LGBTQ community. There are a lot of people that are in a bad place, because they haven’t been able to come out or they have come out and their experience has been terrible. So they’ll reach out to me like ‘hey, I’m suicidal’ or something like that and I always point them to the Trevor Project or something like that because I’m not a licensed psychologist. I can only give advice from so far, from my experiences.
But it’s been generally positive and really I haven’t had a lot of negative comments from my appearance on King of the Nerds. I did get kind of roped into a GamerGate interview and I didn’t do research on the channel ahead of time and that was when it got pretty bad. [It was] ‘conservative,’ but I don’t want to give those conservatives a bad name, it’s just like, like really awful people reaching out in private messages or public forums and just lashing out at me for opinions and things like that. It’s just something that comes with it.
But I do think that representation is just something that’s super important, especially for bisexual people because there is so much bisexual erasure that has happened in the past and continuing to go on to this day that I think that everybody needs that representation. If I can be that for someone, I’m honored to. I’d love that.
It felt pretty great to have some representation on that show, especially because like, in the geek community, I do feel that it’s pretty welcoming, but it’s great to see that represented.
Yeah, it’s funny because a lot of the times with my geeky friends, experiences that I’ve had in the past I’ll be like, ‘I’m gay’ or something like that and they’re like, ‘Ok, let’s get back to the game.’ Whereas in [in the] gay community I come out as a nerd and they’re like, like ‘what really!?’ So it’s crazy to kind of have to come out in [the gay community.] ‘Oh, bye. Like date over.’
So, now, onto some fun stuff. You said this was your first time in Hawaii? What have you done so far and what do you plan on doing?
Oh my goodness. Well, I lived in Japan for a year, so coming in I’ve just pretended like I’ve been living in a dubbed anime because there’s so much Japanese stuff and everyone speaks English. So it’s so great! One of my favorite things is we walked into a food court and saw Nagasaki Champon restaurant by Ringer Hut and I lived in Nagasaki. I flipped my tits. I was like, ‘Holy crap!’ Then we went out [and] we did a photoshoot yesterday morning on, oh I forget what it’s called, it’s like Magic Island or something like that…
Yeah, right across from Ala Moana Mall?
Exactly, yeah, and it was beautiful! It was amazing. We went to that beach afterwards and it’s everything like that you think it’d be coming as a tourist. Like having Piña Coladas and being on the beach.
There’s a Quidditch team that practices on Magic Island every weekend.
Get out! Oh my gosh!
It’s one of the most beautiful places to practice, but yeah, every weekend, Quidditch, on Magic Island.
The geeks are definitely represented out here.
Yeah, what we found out, especially with this Comic Con, is that the Hawaiian geeks are thirsty for nerd content.
Oh yeah, definitely.
Like, they are out here in droves and they’re like, ‘We never get this type of thing.’
Yeah, I mean there used to be [only] one, there was Kawaii Kon, which is an anime con and then this year there’s three new conventions. There was Honolulu Comic Con last month, and then there’s Amazing [Comic Con] which is now, and then there’s going to be a new anime convention in November. And it’s like, it’s just exploding. So, I got here at the right time.
Exactly, yeah! Absolutely, yeah. And who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii for a convention? Like it’s amazing.
I know, we got Stan Lee!
Exactly! Yesterday was Stan Lee day. They announced it like with like the mayor.
Thanks for the chat, Xander. I hope you get to come out next year and see more of our beautiful island. And hell, maybe you can join us for a game of Quidditch or two!
Stephanie “Angel” Wilson is the admin of The Geekiary and a geek culture commentator. She earned a BA in Film & Digital Media from UC Santa Cruz. She’s contributed to various podcasts and webcasts including An Englishman in San Diego, Free to Be Radio, and Genre TV for All. She’s written for Friends of Comic Con and has essays published in Fandom Frontlines.
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