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What Color Fishnets Go Best With a Stormtrooper Helmet? The Northwest Tradition of ‘Nerdlesque’

Zemekiss Photography
Courtesy of the Geekenders


The performance artform of burlesque has been enjoying a renaissance in recent years. Ranging from the basic “parade and peel” to elaborately themed shows, burlesque is a big tent with plenty of room for creative subgenres.


And lately, the Pacific Northwest has become something of a capital of a very particular brand of burlesque: Nerdlesque. This genre takes two phenomena that mainstream culture rarely links: nerdiness and sex. We’re  talking Harry Potter (sexy Dumbledore, anyone?), Tolkien (“Lord of the Schwings!”) and, of course, Star Wars (“A Nude Hope,” “The Empire Strips Back,” “Reveal of the Jedi”).


Nerdlesque is a nationwide phenomenon, but seems to have found a spiritual home in the northwest. Seattle’s Jo Jo Stiletto, the “Professor ofNerdlesque,” credits it partly to the region’s tech-heavy culture.


“We are a tech boom city,” said Stiletto, a performer and producer who also goes by Jessica Obrist. “Like, we love our nerd. We are the indoor kid.”


Stiletto says that has led to the development of a loose network of producers from Portland to Vancouver experimenting with the form, from “sexy cylons” to “Starfleet Insignia pasties.” And crucially, she says, nerdlesque embraces satire, body positivity and a feminist cultural critique.


Click “Listen” above to get a taste -- but be warned, you’ll never look at Dumbledore the same way again.


Dyer Oxley writes for MyNorthwest. A version of this story originally appeared on the podcast NW Nerd.


Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.