Headlining the stand up showcase at the Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival Cody Melcher is ready to bring the funny. The festival includes a nerdy cabaret, non hit songs from television shows like Battlestar Galactica, Improvised Jane Austen, and Plan 9 Burlesque.
Cody has a bimonthly podcast called Tomefoolery where he picks a book to discuss with his co-host. He is a cast member and co-producer of 100 Proof Comedy at Comedy Sports; at the same venue he's a writer at Talk Hard, a nightly midnight talk show.
He is beginning a web series with new projects including a novel, a children's book and two film scripts, a TV pilot and a play.
Windy City visited the Stage 773 space to sit down and get to know the funnyman a bit more.
Windy City Times: Hi, Cody. First off, where are you from?
Cody Melcher: I was born and raised in Houston, Texas, originally. I went to college in Austin.
WCT: What did you study in school?
Cody Melcher: In college I was a double major in rhetoric and writing plus radio, television and film. I'm one French class short of a film degree.
WCT: Did you always want to perform?
Cody Melcher: Yeah. when I was a little kid I wanted to be a stand up comedian when I grew up. I read Dogs Tell Jokes and Richard Belzer had a stand up book that I read when I was young as well. I was obsessed with Louie Anderson as well as Eddie Izzard. Eddie is one of my biggest influences.
I used to tell my mom that I wanted to go to open mic when I turned 16. I have anxiety issues and got scared at the one thing I wanted to do. I started to think of other things to do that were similar but different.
WCT: For example?
Cody Melcher: Film writing. I wanted to be a writer and still do. Right now I am working on a novel and writing some scripts. I am also working on a kids book. I wanted to be a musician but I was terrible at music.
I fell backwards into doing improv at college. I then did improv and sketch in Austin for over three years. I then moved here for that. Improv was very hard to break into here. I auditioned for Second City many times and didn't make it. I wanted to keep moving forward so made several troupes myself. I took a stand up class at Second City then I fell into that. That was a really long answer for a short question!
WCT: How long have you done stand-up?
Cody Melcher: I have been doing it for a little over two years. I have been doing comedy for six years. My biggest regret is not starting sooner because I let the feeling of not doing well get to me. It is that old standbythe only things I will regret are the things I didn't do.
The minute I broke the seal in the first open mic I did, it was no longer a thing. I don't get freaked out in most shows these days. Even if there are members of the industry there I don't get too scared. I just have to focus on that audience and that particular show. You are there to just entertain those people.
WCT: So it is about knowing your audience.
Cody Melcher: Yes. I lucked out that I was a very weird kid growing up. It takes a lot for people to like me and get me so I developed a strong personality early on. I used to wake up early on Saturday mornings to watch VH1 videos to keep up with what the kids were listening to. I was reading Moby Dick on the playground in first grade. I was very much like Niles on Frasier. He was a huge influence on my life.
My comedy spawns a lot from that.
WCT: When did you decide to be openly gay in your act?
Cody Melcher: It was tough. I had a really hard time coming out in real life.
WCT: How long have you been out?
Cody Melcher: I came out twice. The first time was in high school and the second time in college so five years ago.
I was never afraid of being gay onstage. I grew up in a business family so I still think about the business aspects of it. I had a lot of fears of being categorized. The problem is when you get put in the gay-comedian category [and] then you are only thought of in that way.
WCT: Does it limit your audience?
Cody Melcher: It does a little bit. I love doing gay rooms because I feel comfortable as a person. I did a show in Houston and half the audience hated me the moment I walked in without me saying anything. I didn't even mention I was gay until I closed my set. Because they could tell they were hissing and making disgusted noises during most of set. They were not interested in what I had to say.
I love gay audiences but my comedy is more weird and nerdy. It is intellectual, which works great for this festival. If I am going to be niched I would rather it be as the nerdy, smart guy than as a gay comic because sometimes my comedy doesn't go over that well in gay rooms. I did a queer show recently and half of the audience was on board with me and half was not. Some people told me after the show that they liked me because my headspace was thinking about things in weird way. It just wasn't the personality of the other part of the audience.
When I play Wrigleyville sometimes they are not interested because they are into sports.
WCT: That sounds tricky.
Cody Melcher: The problem I have is when you put people in a category of sexual orientation that is supposed to be the kind of comedy they are into and really creating a monolith of what it means to be queer. What it means is all queer people are a certain type of person.
I did an episode of my podcast with a comedian who in the episode naturally assumed that I would help her get dressed because I was into women's fashion and I am obsessed with sex and clubbing.
WCT: She was stereotyping.
Cody Melcher: Yes. Just because I am a gay guy doesn't mean I am the same as other gay guys. People assume that we are all the same. One time someone assumed I had seen Les Miserables and would know what he was talking about. I have never seen Les Mis. I'm not a huge musicals guy.
It is the same with queer comedy. Not all LGBT people have the same humor as everyone else. When I book any show it is a mix of people from all over Chicago. But, that's not to say I disagree with the idea of queer shows. It creates a great and safe space for the performers and audience and a chance to connect.
WCT: How did you become involved with Nerd Fest?
Cody Melcher: A friend of mine did it last year and it seemed like a lot of fun. Someone told me about it because I do a show here called Just the FAQs the last Sunday of every month. It is a British-style panel show. It sounded right up my alley. I put on my application that I worked at a comic book store in middle school. I was ranked 5th in the Yu-Gi-Oh! trading card game in the city of Houston. I was always a nerd.
When you get into nerd stuff that is like being in a tribe.
Comedy to me is a lot of ranting about things I care about because growing up no one else would want to hear what I cared about. Now is the time for the audience to listen to me address the things I care about. I feel like that is a nerd thing.
WCT: It was not cool to be a nerd when I was a kid.
Cody Melcher: It didn't become cool until when I was in college then it felt like it was in vogue. Even that got weird when I had to explain I am not a hipster but was into this even when I was a kid.
WCT: The Nerd Festival is in this building?
Cody Melcher: Yes, and apparently it will be in one theater here at Stage 773 and it will roll into the next room. Every night is a couple of different acts with sketch and improv. I am headlining in the only stand up showcase. Two comedians that will be performing are Kris McDermott who is great and she just started producing queer comedy at Zanies. Dave Losso is also the featured act. It will be a fun show.
WCT: What are you planning for your act?
Cody Melcher: I am probably going to swap in two bits that I normally don't do because it is sometimes harder for people to jump on board with them. One is about creationism and the other is how I hate centaurs.
WCT: Why do you hate centaurs? It's a shirtless hot man!
Cody Melcher: They are a bullshit magical creature. It's just a dude with a horse body.
WCT: So you don't think centaurs are hot. What about minotaurs?
Cody Melcher: No, they are just bulls with legs! I do have a bit about going on a date with the great-grandson of a Nazi war minister.
WCT: Did you meet him on Grindr?
Cody Melcher: No, my mom tried to hook us up.
WCT: Now that sounds like a fresh new joke. "Ever hear the one about my mom making me a date a Nazi before?"
Cody Melcher: The funny part is it's true!
The Chicago Nerd Comedy Festival runs March 19-22 at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets are $10 for individual shows or $50 for an all-festival pass. Schedules can be found at chicagonerdfest.tumblr.com or www.stage773.com . More Cody can be found at CodyMelcher.com .