An Anxious Introvert’s Guide to Surviving Nerd Comedy and Geek Conventions

By Josh Henderson

Recently, I joined The Dandies, coming on-board as one of the nerd comedy troupe’s two Heads of Media. I knew before coming on-board meant attending various meetings, shows, and conventions. I also knew all of these situations could be challenging for me. While it may be apparent that I’m introverted, it’s not typically apparent that I have an anxiety disorder.

Josh Jenderson. Photo credit: Danielle Cole
Photo credit: Danielle Cole

A lot of people wonder how anxiety, introversion, nerd comedy, and geek conventions can fit together.

Before I get into nerd comedy and geek conventions, however, I’d like to share a bit about my journey with introversion and anxiety.

I always had an innate sense I was an introvert, but I didn’t have the language to identify myself as such for a long time. Then I read Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. It’s not an understatement to say that the book changed my life. Not only did it help me learn what it means to be an introvert, but it also gave me the language to discuss my experience with others. Most importantly, though, it allowed me to embrace being an introvert. Once I did that, it became easier for me to express what I need, enjoy, and can bring to the table as an introvert.

My journey with anxiety has been a longer and bumpier road. For a long time, I didn’t realize that I was anxious or what it felt like, but looking back, I’ve been some level of anxious for most of my life. I just thought that other people’s internal lives were similar to mine.

It was only when my anxiety hit the point where it affected my relationship and work that my partner at the time suggested I see a therapist. At first, I pushed back on that idea, thinking I was fine, and could push through. I started to do a little research and came to accept that it was a continual factor. Eventually, I decided that it was at least worth speaking to someone about my experiences. Working with two therapists and my family doctor, I was diagnosed with social and generalized anxiety.

At first, I was reluctant to try medication. Then my anxiety reached a point where simple tasks like writing a single email turned into a full day affair. As soon as my medication kicked in, I was amazed. It was the first time I truly realized that most people don’t deal with crippling anxiety on a daily basis.

Putting the anxiety, introversion, nerd comedy, and geek conventions puzzle together

Being in a nerd comedy troupe, especially one that performs at major geek conventions, could seem unusual for an anxious introvert, but I’m not up on the stage, though. My work happens behind-the-scenes and between shows – and I love it. I enjoy how my skills as a photographer, cinematographer, and graphic artist can contribute to shows, videos, and promotional materials. My position in the troupe allows me to enhance audience members’ experiences in a way that suits my personality and skills.

As for the geek conventions, it is easy for me to be overwhelmed by the crowds and noise. I’ve already discovered some ways I can mitigate being overwhelmed…

Scoping out peaceful nooks

One of the first things I do at any geek convention The Dandies are performing at is to find my quiet places options. Then, if I need a break from the crowds and noise, I know where to go.

Eating and drinking

I’m one of those people who gets agitated when I’m hungry. That’s why, if I know I’m already going to be in a high stimulation space – like a busy geek convention – I try to make sure I regularly pause to eat and drink water throughout the days.

Expressing what I need

This one is still hard for me. With my anxiety, I have a lot of worries about “bothering” other people. I have many loving, generous people in my life, though, who work hard to remind me that having needs isn’t a bother. In fact, these people want to know what’s going on with me! So when I can express what I need, it helps them feel like they don’t have to worry all the time that something could be wrong and it allows me to get what I need to enjoy my work and my downtime at each convention.

Asking for check-ins

As expressing my needs can be hard for me – and gets even harder in places with a lot of stimulation, I ask my friends and fellow nerd comedy troupe members to check in with me throughout the day. By them asking me, I have the perfect opportunity to express any needs I have at the time. Even if I don’t have any, it’s a nice reminder that the people around me care about me and my experience.

Taking time to relax

With all the nerd comedy shows The Dandies put on, it can be easy for each geek convention to feel like a full-on whirlwind. I know I need downtime to stay calm and content, so I create it. In the mornings and evenings, I try to take at least a bit of time for myself. That way, I’m recharged and prepped to go again the next day. When the convention is over, taking downtime to decompress before heading back to the weekly routines is also crucial.

One of the things I enjoy most about nerd comedy and geek conventions is how inclusive they can be at their best. They are not only for extroverts or for those without anxieties. So whether you’re looking to catch a nerd comedy show or attend a geek convention, don’t let being an introvert or anxiety make you feel like you don’t belong. You do and you can have a great experience. Just make sure to engage in the self-care you need to survive – and thrive – in a geek convention environment.