Showing the world its Blerds and -ish
Keith Cooper and Mark Wallace host a podcast for Black nerds based in Baton Rouge and broadcasted worldwide.
There is a podcast for Black nerds that broadcasts out of Baton Rouge.
That’s the story.
Well, there is more to it than that, of course, but words in an article alone could not fully capture the experience listeners and guests have when Keith Cooper and Mark Wallace take on the podcast airwaves to broadcast their show, Blerd-ish!.
This Baton Rouge-based duo has the energy of two cousins arguing over the best baller, clapping each other, and throwing verbal jabs with hilarity. Their laughter, vernacular, and wordplay flow into an hourlong podcast on the best and worst of all things nerdish and Black — especially comics.
Blerds are not uncommon, Wallace explained. “We’ve always had Black people who were nerds, but there wasn’t as much a cultural clout being a nerd.” It wasn’t until he was a student at Southern University that Wallace —who majored in physics— met other self-proclaimed nerds like him.
“Nerd culture, blerd culture goes coast to coast,” Cooper said. “We as Black people consume pop culture, anime, comics, movies differently than our fellow patrons who might like the same things. It’s a microcosm of anything else: it affects us differently. We wanted to highlight a lot of independent—and I stress independent—creators who are not a part of the Big Two… so we created a platform to discuss it.” Cooper is a finance guy turned librarian who loves this creative space and “talking about nerdy things.”
“Yes, we (Blerd-ish) have the most marvelous, creative minds of Black people,” Wallace said. With more seriousness he said, “We are a couple of blerds who love Marvel, DC , movies, and various TV shows.” Cooper, the more serious of the two, laughs and explained, “One of our goals is to highlight as many independent creators. We enjoy the things we love and want to share them, having as much fun as possible.”
“I have to give Coop credit. He is out there. He has his fingers spread all throughout the blerd community,” said Wallace who handles the technical aspect of the podcast. In fact, Cooper has clocked many hours hosting pop-ups and attending comic cons, maker fairs, and anime events where he meets creatives, cos-players, and comic lovers. The Blerd-ish exhibit table is covered with as many as 30 varied titles spanning from Kid Carvers comics to the latest Crescent City Monsters.
Crescent City Monsters was created in 2017, and started out as a web comic series by Haitian-American writer Newton Lilavois and Filipino artist Gian Carlo Bernal. (c) Dream Fury Comics
“We literally take a community approach with our tables,” said Cooper. They’ve had graphic artists like Lazy Nerds Design and Gavin Michelli Art join them in selling merchandise and meeting art and comic lovers. They also sell pop culture merchandise online at www.blerd-ish.com.
“We curate the dopest things for people who may not have seen them,” said Wallace.
As part of the East Baton Rouge Parish library’s Mid-city Micro Comic Con committee, Cooper has helped introduce and expand the Black comic-culture to library patrons. He has also participated in Afrocon, Coast Con, and Afrocomicon. Generally, Comic Cons presents a range of comic styles and fandom groups. Commonly, comic conventions are multi-day events with a primary focus on comic books and comic book culture and hosted at convention centers or college campuses. Fans gather in the hundreds to meet creators, experts, and other fans. These events feature discussion panels, a marketplace, cosplay, workshops, film screenings, games, and competitions.
Cooper invites participants and panelists to showcase their extraordinary talents. Magnifying this network of community support is a mainstay of Blerd-ish.
“When we started podding we started coming across different people like cosplayers who are part of a bigger community,” said Wallace on the Jay Decote Show on Talk 107.3FM. “We share our platform with them. We push them and they push us.”
Since 2016, they have interviewed comic store owners, artists, event hosts, authors, and cosplayers Wakanda Moon and Gamma Rae Cosplay. They’ve also included fellow geek host NERDSoul, and Leslie Moore of GetWreckt(ech) Support, Keef Cross creator of DayBlack, Eisner award-winning comic book artist Rob Guillory, and a NASA scientist K. Renee Horton, Ph.D. on the show.
Wallace said they set out to have fun producing the show and adding to the multiple streams of information people consume. “We decided early on that we would not be legit media like trained journalists… We try to be authentically ourselves talking about the stuff we love,” he said.
Without a doubt, listeners can expect Cooper and Wallace to go as deep as possible into the movie and comic industries in their critic and support of creatives. They also delve into sharp-witted debates and jokes around science, technology, and politics. Blerd-ish features creative people who are “serious about their craft,” said Wallace. “The artists are creating marvelous, eye-catching, interesting indie comics. They are spearheading thought trains that others (within the comic, anime, and movie industries) are picking up.”
New episodes are posted monthly-ish at www.blerd-ish.com and distributed to podcasting platforms including Anchor and iTunes. The site is also home to blerd merchandise like t-shirts, stickers, masks, and hoodies, many created by the hosts.
The duo—who Wallace calls the “Dynamic Duo from the Dirty South”— is developing a comic-coloring book hybrid with local graphic artists after listeners and friends begin demanding more of their content. “They are bananas for blerd-ish,” Wallace said, laughing. They plan to complete it in 2021.