Nerds We Love: A Celebration of Nerdliness in Pop Culture


Look around. Nerds are having their moment. Real and fictional, from Elon Musk to Mark Zuckerberg, nerds are turning up on big and small screens, getting filthy rich, and changing the image of success in the wider culture.

Here at New Relic, of course, we like to celebrate all things nerdy. We unapologetically proclaim: “We are all data nerds,” and we’re not kidding. If you look around, nerd culture is spreading far beyond software developers and data scientists to pull in athletes, writers, journalists, actors, musicians, and other cultural icons.

We think that’s a very good thing, so we wanted to offer shout-outs to some of the people helping to make nerds cooler than ever. We don’t care exactly what the person does, just that they do it proudly nerd-style.

So who fits the mold of Nerds We Love? We could start with Billy Beane, manager of the nearby Oakland A’s baseball team, made famous in Michael Lewis’ best-selling book and the Academy-Award-winning movie Moneyball. Beane uses a nerd-centric, stats-driven approach to get the most from his team’s limited resources, taking plenty of flak from baseball’s old guard while consistently exceeding expectations.

And then there’s Nate Silver, who parlayed an obsession with advanced baseball statistical analysis into a high-profile position at the New York Times, where he predicted the outcome of the 2012 presidential election with stunning precision. Now he’s running (named after the number of Electoral College votes) for ESPN, using advanced analytics to address everything from golf to who people want to date.

Perhaps Beane and Silver helped inspire the Stanford Women’s Basketball team, which made it all the way to the Final Four while helping make this awesome #NerdAnthem music video:

In fact, that video is a follow-up on a Nerd City Kids video the team made a couple years ago. The team’s star, Chiney Ogwumike, spent two months last year interning in the Nigerian petroleum ministry–hardly the mainstream off-season. By now, all of Stanford has bought in to the nerd persona: the campus bookstore even sells black horn-rim glasses frames with white tape over the bridge!

On TV, there’s Mike Judge, the creator of Beavis & Butt-Head and HBO’s new Silicon Valley, widely acclaimed for doing the best job yet at capturing the unique zeitgeist of tech startup culture? Google says he’s an actor, animator, screenwriter, film director, producer, cartoonist, and musician – but you’ve got to add nerd to that list, too, right?

Or Neil deGrasse Tyson, America’s favorite scientist and host of the new reboot of Carl Sagan’s iconic Cosmos series, tracking the evolution of everything from the Big Bang to life on earth. Where did it all come from and how does it all fit together? Star stuff, indeed.

Let’s also not forget actress/stand-up comedienne, Aisha Tyler. Tyler started out as a gamer girl, and proudly recalls winning her middle-school science fair. She’s also rocked a voice role on Halo!

Finally, Rolling Stone just crowned Chris Hardwick King of the Nerds for having “built an empire out of reviewing gadgets, Internet binging and hosting conversations with past and present genre icons.” Apart from helping podcasts go mainstream with the Nerdist, he also hosts Comedy Central’s @midnight and AMC’s Talking Dead.

Clearly, there are lots of busy, brilliant, creative nerds out there changing the world. We love them all!

*N-E-R-D-S image from YouTube'

Fredric Paul (aka The Freditor) is Editor in Chief for New Relic. He's an award-winning writer, editor, and content strategist who has held senior editorial positions at ReadWrite,, InformationWeek, CNET, Electronic Entertainment, PC World, and PC|Computing. His writing has appeared in MIT Technology Review, Omni, Conde Nast Traveler, and Newsweek, among other places. View posts by .

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