The other day, I was lucky enough to be sharing a room with two men suffering from what appeared to be the biggest quandary of their lives. Either man could’ve been mistaken for the President of the United States, with their hands hovering over the big red button. The answer to my question seemed to be tantamount to an existential crisis. But, the issue at hand didn’t concern the advent of nuclear war; I simply asked my interviewees Nathan Turner (above right) and Ben Eidam (above left), ‘what nerdy thing are you most excited about coming up in 2016?’ With both hands despairingly on their heads and murmurings of ‘oh god’ and ‘oh my gosh’, I’d imagine they’re still changing their minds even now.
Nathan and Ben, from The Lazarus Pit Pod (TLPP), the official podcast of Final Frontier Comic Book Shops, evidently have passion for their nerdy interests bursting from the seams, as around thirty minutes flies by all too quickly. In Nathan’s words, on TLPP, “we talk about anything we deem nerdy: comic books, TV, movies, games, that sort of thing.” Recording every Tuesday, with one-off pods occasionally throughout the week, TLPP is structured into three parts: the latest nerdy news, the ‘bit between the news and the main topic’ and the main topic. Although the pair admit to regularly going off on a tangent, they do stress that “we don’t ever veto what anyone says or wants to talk about. We just want to talk about as many geeky things as possible, which appeals to a wider audience as well as making everyone feel included.”
Needless to say, podcasts live and die by the personalities of the team, so, thankfully for TLPP, other members Rob, Jack and Olly all appear to be equally brimming with enthusiasm for their own geeky interests. “Jack likes his indie comics,” says Ben, “he’s not much of a Marvel or DC fan. He even writes his own comics.” “He makes me sick really” jokes Nathan. At least I think he’s joking. “Olly sort of treads the line between indie and the more mainstream comics, he’s more about TV specials, says Nathan, “he has claimed to have read every page of the internet. He’s our Reddit man, our Game of Thrones go-to guy.” “And then there’s Rob,” he continues, “we call him the UK’s foremost Batman-ologist.”
“we don’t ever veto what anyone says or wants to talk about. We just want to talk about as many geeky things as possible”
Unsurprisingly, when it comes to Nathan and Ben, nerdiness has been a big part of their lives from a very young age. For Nathan it was comic books that started it all: “I’ve probably been into comics from the age of about five. When I was a child I would never read, so my mum put Ghostbusters comics in front of me and I read them cover to cover. So, it’s quite frankly my mum’s fault that I’m into comics.” Ben, on the other hand, has “always been a film fan. Any kind of film you can think of really, just not the indie stuff so much.”
The team are quite clearly opinionated about the stuff they love, but I was anxious to know how a collection of guys with such wide ranging interests, and strong opinions, decide what fits into the hour long pod each Tuesday. The guys might have started with a focus on comics, but every member is most interested in getting a debate going about pretty much anything nerdy. At no stage are anybody’s views allowed to eclipse those of others. Nathan feels strongly that, “it’s very important to have an opinion about stuff, but we’re very keen on not putting anybody’s opinion down on the podcast. It’s more about the debate. I would love people to message me after the podcast and tell me ‘you’re wrong’, I would love that.”
In fact, for the team, the debate and discussion surrounding the films, TV shows and video games they love is the best part. “What I like is hearing other people’s opinions and views,” adds Nathan, “I like having that debate and seeing what other people think about things. It makes me feel about things in a different way. We have to disagree to even have a conversation.” It’s the appreciation of all sorts of views on a range of different nerdy topics that is the most important part of TLPP.
However, to have a conversation you need an audience, and the podders are working tirelessly to build a listenership. “We don’t have as much feedback as we would like” concedes Ben, but having been going for only a year, the podcast is going from strength to strength, thanks to it now being downloadable on iTunes and their official partnership with Final Frontier. Also, Nathan says, “We tried out the hashtag #nerdschatting and it turns out nobody’s using it. So that’s ours, we’ve claimed that.” Pretty much everything the team do has #nerdschatting in there somewhere, and using it is a great way to get in contact with the TLPP guys.
“‘I’ve had a crap time and your podcast has kept me going'”
For Ben and Nathan, just producing the podcast and sharing a laugh and a chat with like-minded friends is reward enough: the podcast doesn’t make anything financially, it actually costs them money. However, just sharing these nerdy chats can end up making somebody’s life considerably better, as the team discovered when a usually reticent Final Frontier regular approached them one day. “We’d seen him a couple of times in the store,” Ben recalled. “We didn’t know him and had never spoken to him,” Nathan added. “He said to us, ‘look, I’ve been through a terrible break up in the last couple of months. I’ve had a crap time and your podcast has kept me going, because you’ve been making me laugh so much.”
Part of what motivates each member of TLPP is including as many people in the conversation as possible, especially those that feel alienated by mainstream society, or have been made to feel as if their interests are not valid or worthwhile. Nathan cites cosplayers as an example — fans who will regularly attend conventions of all descriptions dressed as their favourite characters from pop culture. “I really love those guys. I love their passion, the effort they put into their costumes and how much they love their favourite characters. We’re not intending to paint everyone with the same brush, but the stereotype is that, behind their appearance, cosplayers can be quite introverted in public.” Cosplayers were often bemused by the interest the podders showed in them at these conventions, but, Ben maintains “when we’ve been to conventions like DevCon, it’s been great to give these types of people a voice.”
And, in essence, that’s what TLPP is, really: a place where like-minded people, with interests that might not necessarily be endorsed by the mainstream, can share their passions and hear those of others. I wondered whether Ben and Nathan’s passion for inclusion was grounded in personal experience. “When I was in school, there was a stigma against the things I enjoyed” said Nathan, “I felt like an outcast because I was a big nerd.” Ben could sympathise: “I became acceptable as a member of society when I could tell people what was great about Quentin Tarantino films. Before that I was a complete and utter social outcast.”
This is what is particularly striking to me about Ben, Nathan and The Lazarus Pit Pod as a whole: these guys aren’t the stereotypical nerds that hide away in their bedrooms, erecting impenetrable gated communities around their interests. Instead, Ben and Nathan are fascinated in what everyone has to say, especially if those opinions disagree with theirs and a debate can then be had. Being a nerd, essentially, is just being passionate about what you’re interested in, however weird and wonderful it might be. Whether you’ve never picked up a comic book before or you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of the antics of The Flash, you can get involved with #nerdschatting.
Oh, and Ben’s most anticipated nerdy 2016 event, in the end, was “The Walking Dead. Deadpool also. And, I’m looking forward to Batman vs Superman. I’m probably going to say Deadpool. Or am I going to say Game of Thrones?” Yeah, he still won’t have decided.
Find out how you can enter TLPP’s competition to win tickets to DevCon on March 13th by listening in to pod ‘Week 32: Justice League Civil War #NERDOFF’ (above).
You can always get involved with the podcast using the hashtag #nerdschatting, but you can also do so in these other ways: