I am so incredibly excited to introduce you to today’s featured artist. I met Bernie Bregman, of Nerds Like Us and Club Cosplay, at DragonCon in 2014. Not only is he an amazing cosplayer and proponent of nerd culture, he’s also one of the nicest guys you could hope to meet on the convention floor. He’s known for some of the most hilarious and larger-than-life characters and putting a real emphasis on the “play” part of cosplay.
Q: What exactly is Nerds Like Us?
Nerds Like Us is an event planning company that I created and founded. I’ve been creating and promoting events, of various style, for about 15 years. Primarily a lot of Rocky Horror and alternative cult kind of stuff. And I’ve branched very hardcore into the nerd culture scene over the last 6/7 years.
I do everything from midnight movies, bringing back classics of the 80’s and 90’s, things like Ghostbusters, Goonies, Back to the Future, Hook, Hocus Pocus, Galaxy Quest, Labyrinth… all that kind of stuff.
To Club Cosplay, which is a night-club for nerds. Literally, it’s the classic night-club experience but in what we’ve coined, the term “nerd-safe environment.” And it’s allowing you to hang out with other nerds and have an awesome party and not be off in the corner on your cell phone like us nerds normally would be when we’re out at a night-club.
I throw after parties for conventions. I do the Comikaze after party every year for Stan Lee’s convention. I do LA Cosplay Con’s after party. I’ve done it for Long Beach Comic Con and I’m looking to branch out a little further to the east and start doing some big Nerds Like Us parties out there.
Q: How did Club Cosplay get started?
Ivan, who is not a cosplayer, but an X-Men toy collector kind of nerd was programming M15 Bar&Grill in Corona. He was looking for how to do something nerdy. At the same time I was working on something, different from what it became, but similar aspect like nerd parties and things. How to make this kind of a bigger thing? Out in LA there’s clubs and parties galore of various things and every once in awhile they’ll have a costume night, some of us will go to that, but they’re not super inviting in general.
When he started posting online, who’s a person that should host a thing that was Club Cosplay? Everyone responded with me. He and I got a conversation going. He meant to interview me and I basically turned around and interviewed him for 3 hours. Like, who are you? I don’t know who you are. We figured out that the ideas we wanted to work on were along the same path and so Club Cosplay got started.
We’ve done shows for 2 years now. We’re coming up on our 2 year anniversary in June. We’ve done 13 or 14 Club Cosplays and we’ve done after parties. I also do after parties separately under the Nerds Like Us banner. It really just depends what the convention is looking for, which brand would be right.
That’s how it got started and we were like, “Who do we wanna bring in?” That we think will be good in their roles and also representative of the community? People the community respect because when you first think about it “A Nerd’s Night Club” sounds like a disaster waiting to happen. There’s a thousand ways you can do it really really horribly – I think for the most part we have a very good formula.
First one was about 500 people. 6 weeks later we did one that was close to 800 people cause there were a lot of people that were like, “I wonder how this is gonna be?” And they didn’t go to the first one. “I trust Bernie, we know Le Anna [Vamp]… but we’re not really sure about all this.”
Sky’s the limit for how far that can go. We have Cosplay Denver opening up in a couple months. We’ll see, we wanna be in every major city or at the very least give each region a Club Cosplay. So that everyone around the country has something that’s a reasonable travel distance or trip for them.
Q: How did you get into cosplay?
So, Rocky Horror was kind of my gateway drug to cosplay. Some would say that Rocky Horror is kind of “cosplay on steroids” because you’re not just dressing up, you’re actually performing as the character from somebody else’s work. Plus when you’re shadowcasting you’ve got a 30 ft measuring stick of how good you are right behind you.
My first convention experiences were really going to promote Rocky Horror or when conventions would ask our cast to come out and perform. As I was winding down on Rocky Horror in general, I was just like “Okay, I think I’ve done everything in this community I could possibly do. It is time for a different hobby.”
And my wife at the time had just gone to her first convention. She’s a costume designer and she was testing that as a way to market her business. And I was like “Hmm, that’s cool. That’s a thing we could do together. That’d be fun… But I’m only gonna do it, if I can cosplay Dark Helmet from Space Balls.” I don’t want to be the 85,000 Deadpool, you know? There’s enough of that. I wanna do something that’s me.
I got together an awesome Dark Helmet costume, rolled that out and it was immensely popular. The first time I rolled that out was in San Diego at San Diego Comic Con and I couldn’t move like 3 feet on the con floor – all day – without being stopped by photographers.
“What speaks to what I’m doing and also what speaks to me – and how am I gonna have fun with this?” I really like the ‘play’ aspect of it. I’m not a costume designer. That’s not my strength, I don’t fabricate. I can do small stuff but I can’t fabricate these big crazy things, so that’s not what I’m gonna stand behind.
Cosplay is for everybody, however they wanna do it. I play as the character and I play hardcore as the character. And there’s few people that will go start to finish, all day long and immerse in the character the way that I do it.
And it’s a lot of fun, especially for anyone that’s not my close friends that have to deal with Ace Ventura or Mugatu every other weekend. I started picking characters like that, that are out there, that are recognizable – but no one else does them. Rarely do I run into another of whatever character I am when I’m at a convention, when I’m doing those ones that are out there. I kind of like that – I like kinda being the Clown Prince of Cosplay.
Q: Do you have a favorite character to cosplay? Why?
It’s probably, I mean, Dark Helmet is hard to beat. But that’s just because he’s so silly and Space Balls is just one of those gems of history. I would tell you though, Ace is growing into being my favorite character, at least to cosplay, simply because the costume is very comfortable. I get a lot of flexibility with that. Anything anyone says or answers to me, I’ve got a line from one of the two films ready to go.
Dark Helmet ultimately is gonna be my favorite. But I’ve done it so much and it’s not the most comfortable costume, so it’s becoming Ace for all those reasons.
Q: What’s one of your favorite characters that you haven’t cosplayed (yet)?
Oooooo, this is gonna be hard because there isn’t like one that I keep putting off that is like “I love the character.” If I love it that much I’m just gonna do it, you know?
Well, okay, I always thought I’d do a Han Solo – even though that’s whatever, there’s like 15 Han Solo’s every con. But I mean, you know he’s like the OG.
Let’s see, I’ve been planning to do a Tropic Thunder group. Whenever I do a new cosplay for the first time, unless I post that I’m gonna do it – nobody knows it’s me, because I do that character so hardcore.
The very first time I did Mugatu, when I do Super Troopers, people don’t know it’s me. I think I can hide in plain sight without anybody knowing it’s me – all day. Even though I know thousands of people that are there.
So I wanna do Les Grossman, which is Tom Cruise’s character from Tropic Thunder. Have a boombox in the background playing Flo Rida, dancing around – that’ll be really funny. Those are 2 that I know are in the future at some point.
But the one that I’m gonna complete before I get to any of that stuff is the CW Flash. I’m gonna get that up and running. It’ll be my first conventional character.
Q: What would your dream cosplay be with unlimited resources?
Hmm… you know I really always loved the guards in Stargate with the retracting kind of head armor. Whether they were the Anubis or the Apophis, whichever. Those were really, really awesome. So that’d be fun to be one of the Jaffa but it’d have to be a fully robotic, retracting serpent head. That would be wicked cool.
I’ve seen them sculpted. I’ve seen them at DragonCon. But I’ve never seen them retracting but with the technology and the resources to do that, that’d be pretty freaking cool.
Q: How do you feel about the cosplay community?
Oh man! You should know, I could have 300 episodes about how I feel about the cosplay community. There are so many aspects to it. My overall thought is I think it’s great. I think cosplay is a fantastic hobby and community, where people can express themselves and make themselves more comfortable in ways that they generally can’t in their everyday life.
You see a lot of people who are quiet and reserved otherwise, you know, come out of their shell and put themselves out there. It takes a lot, internally, to put yourself out there. To roll around, have pictures taken of you, and essentially… we always say that we’re not judging but we’re all judging. And you’re gonna be up on the internet, you’re gonna end in blogs, you’re gonna end up being shared by people and that can be scary for a lot of people. So they tackle some of their fears and I think that’s a great opportunity and avenue provided by that community.
You find a lot of talent, one of the things doing Club Cosplay that’s been really cool is that we find talent within the nerd community and give them a stage. We found an amazing woman, who is now one of my closest friends, her name is Rhapsody. And she does Ms. Swan from MadTV, her impression is perfect. She’s also an incredible singer. Now we give her two sets, one where she’s Ms. Swan and one where she sings. And that’s just one example, there are DJs out here that are cosplayers that will DJ in character. I love all the talent.
But like any community, there’s the negative sides. And there’s people that are either, intentionally or unintentionally detracting from the experience. You know, there are some people that are just not socially well adjusted. So, they can bring your experience down and accidentally creep, or just be a little irritating or more zealous than you want them to be.
Then there are people that are downright predatory. I’ve been on so many cosplay is not consent panels and cosplay psychology panels. And it’s not something that’s gonna go away – we have to do our best to minimize it and we have to, as a community, get together and point out behavior like that and make sure it doesn’t happen. But it’s just the name of the game, when you have a community this big.
There’s no way to – not only is there not a way to prevent it, you kind of can’t because you don’t want to be a nerd elitist either. Right? We’re about being inclusive of everyone. I was just on a panel at WonderCon that was “Over 30 Cosplay.” I thought that was really funny because it counts, I’m an over 30 year old person that does cosplay. But I didn’t know if that would be a panel people would care about and it was packed. And a lot of it was about people in our age group or older, one of the things they talked about was that it can feel uncomfortable because they can feel like it’s “not for them.”
So we don’t want to accidentally become elitist about who is and isn’t a part of this thing. We just have to watch for people respecting each other but again, like I said, I think the community overall is great. And it’s not going away anytime soon. For anyone that thinks the convention bubble is gonna burst, that the cosplay bubble is gonna burst… Marvel and DC have 10 years worth of movies slated that will keep pop culture and superheroes front and center in the mainstream media.
Q: What would you say to a first time/hopeful cosplayer?
Don’t be afraid to fail. That’s kind of my advice for your first time anything but especially with cosplay. You know, there’s the university of Youtube – there’s DIY for everything! So you can arm yourself well in advance to do whatever it is you want to do. There’s people that I remember their first cosplays from like a year ago and now they’re making crazy armor and stuff like that. Or they’re people who do commission work now cause they’re good enough to do it. They’re the people who didn’t do this 2 years ago.
Don’t be afraid of anything and you know, just go for it! At the end of the day what matters is, are you happy with the work that you did? That’s all that matters. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is looking at.
For your first time, pick a character you enjoy. Don’t pick what other people wanna see. And then execute it in a way that you’re happy with. If that’s being a post-apocalyptic Joker or a Renaissance fairy version of Harley, whatever. Have fun with it!