Comedians Find Their Niche At Comic-Con

Comic-Con, the annual comic book and pop culture convention, begins in San Diego Thursday. An estimated 125,000 people will swarm the beachside city, some in costume, to check out the latest comic books, movies, TV shows and comedy performances.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Comic-Con, the annual pop culture convention, begins today in San Diego. One hundred, twenty-five thousand people are expected to swarm the city - some in costume - to check out the latest comic books, movies, TV shows and comedy. Comic-Con comedy - say that five times fast as you listen to NPR's Nina Gregory.

NINA GREGORY: Amongst the caped crusaders and masked men, there are those who come to Comic-Con, not to don their alter egos but to find the funny. Not funny pages, but funny people. Tucked away in the little rooms of the San Diego Convention Center, fans seek out panels and performances from their favorite comedians.�

Keith Phipps is the editor of the entertainment paper, The AV Club. He explains what kind of comedy works at Comic-Con.

Mr. KEITH PHIPPS (Editor, The AV Club): For the last few years, it's kind of anything that can stir a cultish following has a home at Comic-Con. And certainly, comedy is no stranger to cult followings, from Monty Python on up.

GREGORY: One show that fits that cult comedy niche is "Children's Hospital." It's a parody of hospital dramas on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.�

(Soundbite of TV show, "Children's Hospital")

Unidentified Man: Guess it takes more than the healing power of laughter to perform a successful operation.

Unidentified Woman: Yeah, sometimes it takes an actual medical procedure.

Unidentified Man: Sometimes, sometimes.

GREGORY: Rob Corddry is the show's the creator and star. He talks about why he goes to Comic-Con.

Mr. ROB CORDDRY (Actor): I have to be honest about it. I guess my involvement in Comic-Con is more parasitic than anything. Like I am going there, you know, A: to have fun. And B: to, yeah, hopefully get more viewers for my show.

GREGORY: Corddry will be on a panel where fans can ask him questions. And this is part of the draw: fans get to see sneak peeks and exclusive performances. They get to connect with the people who make and star in these shows. And they get to meet other fans. Again, Keith Phipps.

Mr. PHIPPS: There's sort of nothing like sharing space with people who have your same obsessions. And whether that's, you know, comic books or "Children's Hospital," Comic-Con seems to find room for everyone.

GREGORY: Well, not everyone. Comedian Kurt Metzger is on, "Ugly Americans." That's an animated, comedy-horror series on Comedy Central. Metzger plays an unemployed - and undead - zombie roommate. Despite this pedigree, he says fans at Comic-Con can be tough critics.

Mr. KURT METZGER (Actor): There's a certain kind of nerd that's like a real Robespierre type, you know, where they start out like kind of effete and weak seeming, but then once they have a little bit of power they're just vicious. You know, it just bugs me. I mean, I thought we were all nerds and we're not like that.

GREGORY: Oh, but in the modern day French Revolution that is the blogosphere, these nerds do have the power to behead. And, of course, leave it to comedians to then reject Comic-Con.

Mr. TIM HEIDECKER (Actor): Everything we try to do is a rejection of everything else. So, we can't just say, oh, well, we finally found our little home at Comic-Con. We have to find our home at Comic-Con and then reject it.

GREGORY: That's Tim Heidecker. He and Eric Wareheim are the stars of the Adult Swim show, "Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job!" Yes, that's the show's actual title. And, despite the fact that its surrealist style of comedy is practically tailor-made to suit the discriminating tastes of Comic-Con-goers, Tim and Eric rejected Comic-Con.

They took up residence at a nearby park where they staged their own makeshift convention, Awesomecon. And their loyal fans followed. And that's the great thing about Comic-Con: the pleasure is in finding the funny - whether in a small room or a park down the street.

Nina Gregory, NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

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