As the host of G4TV’s flagship television program Attack of the Show, Kevin Pereira knows how to stay busy. Whether it’s interviewing video game developers, scouring the net to bring his viewers the hottest new viral videos, or setting a record for the world’s largest t-bag (see above), Pereira is constantly working to ensure that he has his finger placed firmly on the pulse of the nerd community, and he’s poised to redefine live entertainment with his latest creative endeavor, leetUP.
Described as “Coachella for nerds,” leetUP combines podcasting, live music performances, discussion panels, technology demos, and a slew of other ingredients to create the ultimate party. The inaugural event, taking place at Club Nokia on March 1, will be hosted by Pereira himself, and features guest appearances from Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, Felicia Day, and a long list of nerd culture icons. Pereira promises plenty of surprises in store for those lucky enough to score a ticket.
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Pereira about his career on Attack of the Show, the inspiration behind leetUP, and what to expect from his upcoming webseries, The Playlist.
First things first, thanks very much for taking the time – I know you must be incredibly busy with less than two weeks to go until leetUP, plus all of your regular duties at G4, so we really appreciate you giving a few minutes to us.
Are you kidding? Thank you, man. Any chance to ramble incessantly about myself or an event I’m trying to throw together, I’ll take it, so thank you.
Fair enough. Before we get into the event itself, let’s start with a little background info. You’ve been at G4 for pretty much the entire life of the network, you’re sort of the face of the company.
Yeah, 37 years, going strong. (laughs)
But yeah, I started at G4 when I was 19 years old. I came down to L.A., didn’t know anybody, didn’t know anything, that kind of story, and was a P.A. at the network. But at the time, P.A. meant not only was I getting Balance bars and coffee, but I was line producing a show and writing scripts and putting together comp reels and all sorts of madness, which was great. I went from P.A. to writer to on-air talent to associate producer to now, I’m executive producer of Attack of the Show. It’s been a wild ride.
In the time you’ve been there, we’ve seen almost a sort of revolving door of co-hosts on Attack of the Show. What’s been your inspiration to stick it out at the network while so many others have come and gone?
Well, I’m inspired by my lack of talent, and no offers to do anything anywhere else, so I just sort of hang out. (laughs) You’re right, the revolving door analogy is there, except they don’t come back, so I guess it’s more of a one-way. (laughs)
But you know, I truly love this shit. Pardon my language. The network’s awesome, I love my co-workers, I always have. Especially old G4, young G4 – people always said “oh man, this feels like what early MTV must’ve felt like,” this idea that we have of all these like-minded guys getting together and just making weird and random and fun content about something they love, and being able to do that.
And despite certain missteps and errors on the part of the company over the years, that aside, it’s still such an amazing place to work, and it’s filled with so many of my friends, so I just absolutely love showing up for work and hanging out with the guys. They’re not just co-workers, it’s truly a family. We hang out all the time, and we’re all into everything we’re talking about, so I have no need to go someplace else. Where else can I get paid to talk about a skateboarder shattering his nuts on a rail? That’s part of my job.
Yeah, that’s fantastic. Aside from Attack of the Show, we see you making guest appearances on the Nerdist podcast from time to time, and you’re also extremely outspoken on Twitter. You were involved pretty heavily with promoting the Occupy Movement, and your latest battle has been against AT&T over the throttling issue. Do you ever worry about how outspoken you are and how it might affect the show and your position?
Actually, that’s a fantastic question. No, I don’t worry about it, and that’s actually a huge saving grace of Attack, we’ve always maintained our editorial integrity, and it’s really hard to do that in this day and age. I think it’s not as hard to do that on the internet, in many ways, it’s not hard to do that on Twitter so much, but as a show we have always maintained that editorial integrity, we do not allow anyone to dictate what we can and can’t say about a product or service, and if it looks like that could happen, we shoot our flares up into the sky and raise our red flags and we’ll figure out how to sort of navigate that channel, but not in corrupting what we do.
For me personally, I’ve always said that if I can’t be who I am and if I can’t say what I want to say or do the things that I want to do because of a day job, then it’s the wrong job for me. You know what I mean? I don’t know if that makes sense, but for me… clearly there’s somebody better for the show, or there’s a better show for me, if that job means I can’t say “fuck you, AT&T, this is terrible, I’m a paying customer, how dare you?” Or if I can’t call out Chris Brown without fear of someone saying “well, he might be a guest on your show.” I need to be able to be who I am and remain authentic, and thankfully the show allows for that and encourages that, and that’s really a blessing. It’s not easy to find a gig like that on television these days.
I think one of the reasons viewers, and myself personally, enjoy watching Attack of the Show is that it’s very evident how passionate you are about the product and about what you do. For example, your segment this past week with Kevin Smith, you could tell that the camaraderie and the banter between you guys… none of that felt forced, it all felt very natural, because you’re both talking about something that you’re interested in, and I think that makes for much better television versus sending Kevin Smith to Barbara Walters, because it wouldn’t have been the same interview at all, and I think that connection lends itself well to what you guys do at G4.
Thank you, that’s incredibly kind of you to say. That means a lot. But first of all, Barbara Walters interviewing Kevin Smith would be fucking hilarious. I would love for Kevin Smith to go on and ramble with Barbara Walters about his Fleshlight and his porn-viewing habits. I would love nothing more than to see that interview, so I do think there’s value in Barbara Walters interviewing Kevin Smith. (laughs)
What we always talk about, and by “we” I mean not just internally at G4, but with friends, is authenticity in the work that we do, time and time again. Is something authentic, does it feel authentic? And not just when describing what we do and what we love, but when describing what other people do, what they love, and I think that energy and that vibe that you’re picking up on and that I pick up on, especially during that interview – I love chatting with Kevin Smith any chance I get, which is why I’m so psyched that he’s coming to leetUP – but that vibe is authenticity.
It’s something that was tarnished for many, many years in the media. People were in positions influencing other people and talking about things that weren’t terribly interesting to them and that they weren’t being authentic about. But now the internet has sort of changed that, podcasting has changed that. Thankfully, I think at Attack of the Show we still have an authenticity sort of holdout, it’s a bastion of hope on the cable landscape. If you don’t have that authenticity you’re going to be lacking that vibe and that feeling, and people will notice it right away. Like-minded folks understand it, and they get when it’s not there, it’s very glaring when it’s lacking.
I agree, absolutely. You mentioned that Kevin Smith will be at leetUP. Another guest, someone you have a pretty extensive background with, is Chris Hardwick. He’s worked with you at G4 for a number of years and you’ve been on his podcast – how did that relationship get started?
I fucking hate that guy. He’s horrible, he’s just a terrible human being. He’s probably, right this instant, drowning kittens in a barrel. (laughs)
First of all, to answer your question and not leave me to ramble incessantly, he was brought on by our old executive producer who now works for Jimmy Fallon. It was sort of “hey, there’s Chris Hardwick!” He was doing stuff for Wired magazine at the time, and we needed a guy to come in and talk about gadgets, and we just had him on the show randomly.
I just remember them saying “hey, remember Chris Hardwick?” And I was kinda like “ummm, kinda?” and they were like “the Singled Out guy, he’s gonna come on and talk about cell phones or whatever.” And I went “alright, cool, that sounds great, I’d love to meet him.” And honest-to-God, he came in, we did a quick rehearsal, and the live version of his first Gadget Pr0n was nothing like the rehearsal, we just laughed pretty much the whole time through. And when it was done, we instantly knew.
He left the studio and it was like “great, oh my God, so nice to meet you,” and I remember Gavin came to the studio and was like “what did you think?” and I was like “he’s fucking amazing!” Gavin was like “yeah, we should have him back” and I was like “yeah, we need to get him on all the time,” which is the single worst thing I could’ve ever said because he’s so much more talented than me. I basically said “yeah, sign up this guy who could run circles around me to come on the show… oh crap, did I just do that? Dammit.”
Thankfully, he’s got a billion other projects that he’s dominating the world with, so my job is safe for the meantime. Truly, truly… stab me with a fork if I start rambling again, but he truly is one of those guys that, minutes into meeting him, I was so impressed and taken aback with just how quick he was and how talented he was and I’m very, very proud to say, how nice he is. He really is that guy, and if there’s a formula for success, it’s all that plus the fact that he works tirelessly. I’m a huge Chris Hardwick fan.
So are we. You’ve got Hardwick, you’ve got Kevin Smith, you’ve got Felicia Day – there’s a massive guest list for this event. Tell us a little bit about how this idea was conceived and what you’ve done to put it into motion.
Sure. I’ve been going to conventions for years, about ten years or so, both professionally and personally. From CES to E3 to Comic-Con to countless music concerts, and like NAMM – I’m a big music nut as well – and I started finding as I was looking around, professionally and personally, I was seeing a lot of the same faces. I was seeing similar friends and similar acts and similar themes. Years ago, I said “man, why do we wait? We only have like two or three opportunities to celebrate this stuff each year at these sort of major tentpole events – why don’t we do something that takes a piece of each of those events and throws it under one roof? It could have a live stage show, it could have some tech, it could have some gaming.”
At one point, I tried to get Attack of the Show to tour. I realized that we had a big college following and I said “look, we can go to the college towns and do Attack live onstage for a week, just take this thing on the road and do the viral videos and play the games and review the gadgets.” This was several years back, probably about four years ago, and they said “well, it’s cost-prohibitive, and it’s this, and it’s that,” and I sort of resigned myself to the idea that something like this could never happen, it’s just another one of those pieces of pie floating in the sky, and I’m crazy.
Fast-forward to about four months ago, I got approached by Charles Hirschhorn, who was one of the original founders, ironically, of G4, and he said “I would love to do a live event.” And I said “oh my God, I have this idea for one with podcasting, with music, with tech, with games, with cosplay, with all of these elements kind of stirred up into one night and all going on at the same time.” He said “that sounds insane, do you wanna do it?” And I said “yes, I’ve wanted to do it for years.” I’d purchased the leetUP domain and name ages ago. There were like six different names for it and I was like, “I like that one.” And now here we are, having this conversation.
There’s already been a lot of positive feedback online, and the website says that you’re looking to take it on tour after the inaugural event. Will you also be involved with the tour, do you plan to go out on the road with the event?
I would love to, yeah. The idea is, if this first one is successful, which we all hope it’s going to be, we’ll take it to cities that normally don’t get events like this, that’s what we wanna do. L.A. is our backyard, so logistically it was easier for us to try to put this event together here, and most of the talent is here as well, so that just made sense. But the idea is to take it on the road to places that don’t get a chance to see this kind of entertainment, and for me personally, I would love to be a part of that. But the goal for all of us, for iam8bit and Charles and myself, is to create this event as a brand that could exist without me having to host or be there, in case I can’t be or in case someone pops up that’s better suited for it, I’m happy to step back and let it be on its own. But it’s my baby right now, it’s my passion project, so I couldn’t imagine not being at leetUP 2: Electric Boogaloo, if and when that ever happens.
We mentioned earlier that you’ve made guest appearances on podcasts, and you’ve been a guest at the annual GameStop conference for the past few years – do you ever think about branching out into standup comedy or creating your own podcast?
Oh, absolutely. I think leetUP is kind of a step in that direction. Not so much for the standup thing, I have too many glaring insecurities right now to really attempt the standup thing, but I would love to do that. I respect the hell out of standup comedians and I wish that was something that I had. Maybe one day.
But yeah, I think leetUP is a step toward having that podcast. I’m going to be moderating a panel with Felicia Day, Alex Albrecht, and Epic Meal Time, and then another one with Kevin Smith, Chris Hardwick, Jimmy Pardo, Greg Fitzsimmons, and Doug Benson. That, to me, that’s a podcast right there. It wasn’t the initial kind of thought, but it’s sort of come out of it that leetUP will also be a sort of videocast-slash-podcast as well, so I’m definitely heading in that direction.
Also, on March 1st, I’m actually launching my music battle show, which is a bit of a webseries called The Playlist, and that’s gonna launch day and date at EnterthePlaylist.com. It’s a Pioneer-sponsored music battle between two different VJs for episode one, and the next episode is gonna be two different controllerists, or beatboxers, or drummers, kind of like the Iron Chef of music, if you will. I’m really proud of that, as well, that’s something I’ve been working on for a long while and I’m really excited to share that with the world.
That sounds great. I’m a bit surprised that we haven’t seen anything like that before.
You know, to be honest, it kinda pisses me off. There’s all this music going around, and the VJ and controllerism kind of culture doesn’t get enough respect and attention. These guys are making incredible stuff, and they’re remixing all the popular songs in ways that are more popular than the singles themselves, and these artists aren’t getting any love. So we sort of created this show that was a little bit educational, and a little bit performance and competition, and we called it The Playlist. Our log line for it was “where technology and music collide,” and when you’re looking at it, it’s like “this is a TV show.”
As we started sending it around, we were hearing things like “well, you teach people what these instruments are, and you teach people what these decks and buttons do.” And we’re like “yeah” and they’re like “well, the audience doesn’t really want to learn.” I was like “excuse me?” and they’re telling me “you can’t say your show is educational, audiences don’t wanna learn.” And I was just like “you’re so wrong, you’re absolutely wrong, I can’t believe it!”
So we heard that a lot, and we also heard “music doesn’t work.” Excuse me? “Yeah, music doesn’t work on TV, that’s why no one does it anymore.” And I went “well, I think people still do it, or at least parts of it, but everyone loves music. People listen to music. You might have a different genre that you prefer, but I think pretty much everyone loves music, so if it doesn’t work on TV, that means it doesn’t work because you haven’t been doing it right.” And I’m not pointing to the bleachers and saying we’ve cracked the formula or code, but it starts getting back to the authenticity thing. We’re so passionate about this project and this scene, and I certainly love it, and I hope others do, and we’ll find out on March 1st.
You’ll get a crash course in what a VJ is from VJ Mike Relm, he does a performance, then you’ll learn about two of the hottest VJ teams in the world, and they show you how they make what they make and then you watch them battle it out in a cage, with Suicide Girls as the round card girls, by the way. It’s quite a spectacle.
That sounds fantastic. Like you said, it comes down to your passion for the project. If it’s an idea that you don’t believe in, you’re just wasting your time, but hearing the enthusiasm in your voice shows that you’re totally behind this idea, and the same goes for leetUP.
Again, I really appreciate that. I worry about having so much passion for something and so much energy behind something, because there’s always that fear of “what if it blows up?” That fear, admittedly, kind of ruled my creative existence for many, many years, and I came to realize after watching people like the Chris Hardwicks of the world or the Kevin Smiths and all these other guys I was meeting… as long as my head and as long as my heart are in the right place, you can’t fail. So that means when The Playlist launches, if no one watches, it’s still not a failure, it’s still something where my head and my heart were in the right place, and I’m super passionate about it, and I like it.
It’s already not a failure, because projects can’t fail. Projects can lose money, the leetUP event might not sell tickets – things can certainly fail on those terms, but for me, I’m filled with so much pride and passion for both of these things right now that, again, it’s kind of bone-headed to say, but they can’t really fail for me, because I’m already so proud of all the work that we’ve done.
Absolutely. We’ve taken up enough of your time, but before we go, I know tickets for leetUP are still available, and I know there was something mentioned about VIP tickets with some gift bag action – any chance you can give us a hint about what to expect there?
Yes, I can give you a hint. I can say that there will be some merchandise inside the VIP bag, and one item in particular puts it at quadruple the value of the ticket, or at least three times the value of the ticket, that one item. There’s going to be… oh man, what can I say about that? There’s a couple of items in there that are really cool. One of the items VIP ticket holders will get, I think two to three months in advance of everybody else, and it’s a very nerdy object. (laughs)
There are so many sponsored deals and whatnot that have restrictions that I’m not entirely sure what I can reveal and can’t reveal. The idea with the VIP thing was A) to have a cool meet and greet. That, to me, is the biggest part of the VIP experience. If you’ve ever gone to Comic-Con and tried to go out of your way to meet somebody that you like, you’re in a fluorescent-lit convention hall, you’re waiting in a giant line, probably for some wristbands to get into another line, and when you make your way up to the person you want to meet, the celebrity or the artist or creator, you have about five seconds to say hello. They may or may not look you in the eye, which isn’t necessarily their issue, sometimes it’s just a time issue and they have to quickly sign a headshot or poster that you have, snap a picture and move on. And it all takes place on a card table.
It’s just weird. It’s not the coolest experience, in my opinion, to meet somebody. I’ve met fans that way, and I always feel bad that I can’t give them more time and hang out and chat with them about what the hell’s going on in their world. It’s kind of like a factory or an assembly line. So with VIP tickets at leetUP, we’re going to have a reserved bar section up top at Club Nokia, which is a beautiful venue. They’ve got these lounges, these booths, tables, and there’s gonna be a DJ sitting there, and for 200-some-odd people, I think that was the amount of tickets we had for VIP, you’re gonna be able to hang out a half hour before the event begins with some of the talent that’s going to be onstage, and some of the cosplayers, and just hang out and chat and have a beer. To me, that’s something I’ve always wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to offer that.
That sounds awesome. I might have to grab one of those VIP tickets myself. There’s never been an event quite like this, so we’d be happy to help support it.
That is so awesome, thank you. That’s so nice to hear, I’ve literally got goosebumps, driving down Sunset. At first, this was sort of like this creative risk for me. Everyone said that L.A. was very tough, they said “you will not sell tickets in L.A. and you won’t turn a profit in L.A.” Thankfully, the first one was never about profit. Selling tickets would be great, and obviously we’re trying to do just that, but what I’ve really gotten from this project is those goosebump moments like that where someone says “this sounds awesome, we’d love to support you.”
And I literally, I’m gonna be completely candid, I was crying while sending emails just about three or four days ago, to Jimmy Pardo and to Ask A Ninja. I had written them and said “guys, I’m trying to put this show together, here’s what I have so far, and I’m thinking maybe you could do this,” and I felt bad asking them, because they’re already donating their time and talent, and now here I’m saying “can you do this thing for me?”
And they both shot back these very eloquent emails that basically said “Kevin, we’re happy to do whatever. We love the event, we love you, whatever you need, let’s do it.” And I literally started crying at my email, because this has been a new experience for me, and it’s so touching that not only is the talent lending their time and their energy and their name to this sort of unproven event, but that other people are reacting and responding in that way, as well. They’re not just buying tickets, they believe in what we’re trying to build and do as an event, and they’re willing to risk their money and hours of their evening on it, and I don’t take that responsibility lightly.
I’ve literally been reduced to euphoric tears over this event. As well as some panic attack tears, I’m not gonna lie.
Again, Kevin, thanks so much for your time. We’re a small outlet and we’re just getting on our feet, so to have an opportunity to speak with someone of your stature in the nerd community is something we greatly appreciate.
Oh, of course, man. Thank you so much, and again I can’t say enough for not only the kind words about leetUP, but the kind words about Attack of the Show. It’s always nice to hear that people care, so I really do appreciate it.
No problem at all. We’ll see you in a couple of weeks at leetUP.
Sounds great, man, I’ll see you there.