‘King of the Nerds’ exit interview: Josh Wittenkeller on Zack’s outburst, Bill Nye, Pokemon, and more
For the rest of this fine “King of the Nerds” season, we’re going to be bringing you exit interviews to give you just that much more insight into anything and everything that happened in those hallowed walls of Nerdvana.
We begin today with Josh Wittenkeller (or JWittz, if you prefer to call him that), the People’s Nerd and YouTube / Pokemon superstar who was very likable over the course of the first two episodes of the show. The unfortunate thing for him is that he ran into people who were very much interested in playing the game at his expense. As we wrote and podcasted about last week, the Titans of Rigel deliberately went after him just to make sure that resident loose cannon Zack could stay in the game, and possibly destroy the Midas Touch Attack from within.
Josh’s elimination is just one of many topics that we discuss in a lengthy conversation (conducted by email over this weekend) below.
CarterMatt – While so many of the other contestants entered the competition with their own set of skills, none of them had the same level of public recognition as you did. Did being a YouTube star, and someone who knows how the internet can react to everything you do or say, impact at all the way you prepared for the show and acted during it?
Being on the internet as long as I have definitely helped gear the way I wanted to present myself while on the show. I came in understanding that multiple days would be edited into very small chunks. My number one goal was ‘don’t do anything you’d be ashamed of once they edit.’ Things got very tense – especially during the end of the second episode – but I’m overall very happy with being able to keep a level head.
Was being the People’s Nerd something that ever really came up on the show? One of the theories we’ve been bouncing around on this end was that your popularity online could have been a disadvantage, at least if anyone was worried about the public potentially getting to vote on something at the end of the season.
Oh, the Peoples Nerd. I’ve been keeping up with your podcast enough to know how much you guys despised the concept of it, and I definitely get how it can give off a bad vibe. While voting was a factor of it, there became a point in the ‘People’s Nerd’ contest where voting no longer mattered, and I still had to go through the same interviews/psych evaluation/producers greenlight as the other contestants. I did submit an application through ‘regular’ casting the day it was available to the public, but I wanted to be a part of KoTN so badly that I figured I should take any shot I had.
To answer your question, I think it actually helped me more than harmed me. Several of the contestants actually told me they voted for me during the voting rounds of the People’s Nerd competition. Early in the season the other nerds pulled together a pseudo-‘crowning’ for me as People’s Nerd, titling me ‘Nerd in The North’ (in Game of Thrones reference). It’s definitely possible it rubbed some of the contestants the wrong way, and could have put a target on my head, but on a personal level the other nerds were very positive about it.
How did you keep from completely nerding out the moment Bill Nye entered the room? (Also, congrats on that composure.)
Oh we did. There’s about three seconds of us reacting to Bill on camera, but I’m pretty sure we degraded into lunatics chanting ‘Bill Bill Bill!’ in unison. It was also genuinely nerve wracking because Jack had adamantly decided he wanted to parody Bill for his part of the presentation. We had no idea he’d be showing up!
Is there anything that you wish in retrospect that you wish you had done differently or suggested for the science fair, and do you think there was any way that you could have used your mad beat-boxing skills (yes, that does sound like a statement someone’s uncle would say) effectively in that? Save for the ring, what was the biggest problem with your presentation?
I think in general we had a sound concept, but I think we could have potentially scaled our limited theatrics back even further to differentiate ourselves from the Purple team as the ‘science-based group.’ One big aspect of our presentation that was cut was that we spent a long time on our presentation relaying the theme ‘Mt. Doom might be fictional, but the real volcanoes that Tolkien and Jackson based it off of are very real and very destructive.’ Perhaps talking about a real-life volcano instead of the fantasy backdrop for one would have been a better idea.
I stand by my claim that beatboxing has no place in a science fair.
Is there any one person in particular that deserves the blame for your entry in the Nerd-Off? From our vantage point, it looked like either Xander or Chris was the architect in making sure you were sent in.
I was surprised to see Xander taking such an active role in sending me out! We hung out often in our free time at Nerdvana (we even got a few games of Soul Calibur V in!). Because my job takes me to LA often, Xander is also one of the contestants I’ve been able to hang out with outside of the show. Ultimately though I think our similarities made it advantageous for him to try and eliminate me. We both have drama backgrounds, both avidly game, both have a presence on YouTube, etc.
I could definitely see Chris being the architect of sending me home. Once again, we got along very well inside the show, but ultimately only one person can be crowned the winner. Chris had a very strategic mind throughout the game, keeping a dedicated journal filled with analysis on every player. He correctly judged me poorly in science, and it made sense to try and eliminate me there. While there are aspects of science that I’m strong in, such as physics, the challenge ended up being biology – essentially sealing my doom.
Obviously, we have to at least spend a minute talking about Zack. Did his condescending attitude towards you bother you at all, and what was it like actually going through some of the drama with him on the show versus watching it on TV?
Zack’s antics definitely got under my skin, but I always try very hard in life to be slow to judge others. A large part of my job is learning how to deal with thousands of people that hate you and say nasty things, and I think because of that, Zack ended up frustrating me less than the other members of my team. He clearly took the competition very seriously, but whatever defense mechanism kicked in inside of the throne room was a surprise to all of us.
Everything they showed between me and Zack in episode 2 was pretty much exactly what I remember happening while I was there. The only major thing I can think of that got edited was that I was originally part of that “alliance” between Nicole and Zack. Once I saw how helpful both Jack and Mary Kate were in the team competition, I told both Zach and Nicole that there’s no point in an alliance if I’m forced to vote against my strongest teammates.
What was your perspective on the experience overall? Even though you probably wanted to last longer, how fulfilled are you with your time in Nerdvana and your new friends?
I had a great experience at Nerdvana! I was so skeptical of the first season before it aired, but once it began I saw it as a great way for nerds to celebrate the things they loved. I really wanted to become a part of that message, and it was an honor being a part of Nerdvana. Even after the show, all of the contestants are well-connected and we try and get together whenever another nerd is in the area. While the competition had excellent set pieces, and I finally got to satisfy my curiosity for a “behind-the-scenes” look at reality TV, making new friends was definitely the best part (insert My Little Pony reference here).
My one regret is that I was hoping the show would give me a chance to show off my deep passion for many things beyond Pokemon, such as my love for comic books, science fiction, and fantasy. And while I didn’t get to show off all my tricks, I’m glad they included some of my best Pokemon puns :P
Every ‘King of the Nerds’ interview needs one ridiculous question, and this is it for this one: With next week being a cosplay challenge, is there a single Pokemon that you would love to cosplay as if given a chance?
I love cosplay, but have never been a big fan of gijinka. While being a bespectacled one often limits my options in terms of characters, Pokemon has recently given me a few characters with glasses I’d like to cosplay as some day. Colress and Cheren are the big ones on my bucket list.
Thanks Josh! You came across as a super-nice guy on the show. Thanks for answering the Qs.
Thanks for having me!
Our final impression on this interview? That we have to be very appreciative of anyone who references both “Game of Thrones” and also “Soul Calibur” (Nightmare and Tira are the best!) over the course of several answers. Josh, you shall be missed.
For now, click here to read the rest of our “King of the Nerds” coverage, and we will be back on Wednesday with the second wave of contestant rankings. Also, sign up for our CarterMatt Newsletter if you want to get more updates sent to you weekly via email.