The comic book heroines, the "Star Wars" references, the Vikings sexual practices? Topics run the gamut at Nerd Nite, a "month-ish" meeting at Teatro Zuccone showcasing theatrical presentations by Northlanders for Northlanders.
During a recent Nerd Nite, people filtered into Teatro Zuccone as the "Ghostbusters" theme played overhead. That evening's topics included H.P. Lovecraft, The Satanists Next Door, and Defriending Foucault.
Co-leaders Luke Sharman and Mary Hall sported an orange jack-o'-lantern suit and cat PJs.
Hall has been "hooked" since her first Nerd Nite where a presenter talked about "The Golden Girls." She has been a co-leader for about six years, curating prizes, soliciting speakers and dishing memorable presentations. See: the Japanese toilet.
"That's what I get remembered for the most," she said.
For the curious, the johns in Japan can be high-tech with music, heat controls, an electronic bidet; in rural areas, you're basically squatting over a hole in the floor, she said.
Funny and informative has always been the vibe for Nerd Nite, which launched in 2003 in Boston. It made its way to Duluth in 2010, thanks to Crystal Pelkey, Adam Brisk and Jeremy Nilson.
Today, there are events in more than 100 cities around the world including Chicago, Denver, Hong Kong and Melbourne. Nilson helps continue the tradition with Hall and Luke Sharman, who came on after Lawrence Lee moved about a year and a half ago. "If you need another white, bald guy, let me know,'" Sharman recalled saying.
During Sharman's recent talk on Foucault, he compared China's social media credit score to an episode on "Black Mirror." Days later on social media, a Facebook follower linked to the episode on the Nerd Nite page.
Engaging, sharing and laughter is at the heart of Nerd Nite, and yes, the group has seen repeat pitches.
"Zelda," "Doctor Who," a bazillion different "Star Wars"-related presentations, Hall said. They do try to steer these to more specific angles to avoid redundancy.
The group also aims to avoid topics that have an agenda or a strong opinion. That means no politics or religion unless it's purely for academic purposes because they want the event to stay inclusive, she said.
Tony Barrett of Duluth has been going for about three years. "You know it's going to be a good hour," he said.
Asked if he'd consider presenting, Barrett added, "I could teach economics, but it certainly doesn't get people excited."
Stage fright can make it tricky to book presenters, and one of Sharman's roles is to mentor those new to the stage.
That's not a problem for Jess McCullough. He's presented on satanism in the media, why he doesn't like "Firefly," Viking magic. He gives professional presentations at academic conferences, but sharing at Nerd Nite is a welcome change, he said.
Anybody who grew up pursuing hobbies wants someone to share it with, and Nerd Nite is like a low-pressure Ted Talk. It's all about the enthusiasm for your topic, he added.
At Teatro Zuccone, Luke Moravec and "a special guest" talked American horror author H. P. Lovecraft. He was animated, drawing laughs with a costume change, an accent. And the audience engaged afterward with questions about spinoffs to Lovecraft's works and their own tidbits of info.
It was Moravec's eighth time on the Nerd Nite stage. He's done Scooby-Doo, becoming Santa, the unlikely existence of the Reuben sandwich. He also recalled a point-counterpoint debate with Sharman on "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
Sometimes, presenters are fanatics geeking out on stage, other times, people flesh out subjects that have been gnawing at them. The latter is how Moravec landed on Lovecraft, an author he's been reading for a couple of years. It took him two months to prep for Nerd Nite, which isn't a norm.
"Presenting, if you're doing it well, can and should be an art form," Moravec said. Nerd Nite offers a welcoming space to put your opinions on display.
What's next is their Merry Nerdmas event. Expect a look at Jim Henson, a Christmas playlist and an examination on fanfiction originality and legality from 7:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 19 at Teatro Zuccone.
Nerd Nite is a way for people who identify as nerd, geek, bookworm or something else to share some fellowship, Sharman said.
As for the term "nerd," it has had a negative connotation, but that has changed, and maybe doesn't apply in Duluth, Hall said. The community supports the culture with gaming businesses, groups like the Browncoat Society, pub trivia.
Added Sharman: "I think Duluth is very much a city of social introverts, and we really see that in Nerd Nite."
If you go
What: Merry Nerdmas
When: 7:30-9:30 p.m. Dec. 19
Where: Teatro Zuccone, 222 E. Superior St.
How much: $5