irl club is an anti-ted talk for new york’s coolest nerds

The founders of IRL Club, a real-life forum for NYC’s biggest internet fans, talk Sad YouTube, Chatroulette and 4chan.

by Alice Newell-Hanson
15 June 2015, 8:20pm

courtesy IRL Club

IRL Club 5, the fifth in a series of "talks by cool people from the internet," is happening in Brooklyn tonight. On the Facebook page, its organizers — some of the most URL-fluent media editors in New York — have posted some polls. One, written by the series' founder, Adrian Chen, asks "I just bought new Tevas. Should I wear them to IRL Club?" Another, by BuzzFeed editor Katie Notopolous, reads "If you aren't attending IRL Club, why?" and includes the option "I don't like Adrien Chen."

IRL Club was founded by Chen (a former staff writer at Gawker) in 2012. And he organizes the events with a group of friends and "internet media people" including current Gawker editor-in-chief Max Read, writer Laura June Topolsky, The Awl co-editor John Herrman and Notopoulos. Previous panelists have included: Writer Emily Spivack, who spoke about her project Sentimental Value, in which she collects strange stories about clothing from eBay. The Cool Freaks Wikipedia Club, a Facebook group whose members dig up insane information from Wikipedia. And Leon Chang, a regular speaker and co-organizer with an amazing Twitter account.

In some ways it feels like one big in-joke — something born out of long workday chat conversations between IRL friends — but it's also serious about celebrating all the genuinely cool things that come out of the internet. If it's a joke, it's one that anyone can get in on if they have internet access and a sense of humor.

Ahead of tonight's event — which will feature talks by VFILES casting director Preston Chaunsumlit and poet/videomaker Steve Roggenbuck — I emailed for more info.

May 22, 2015

Max Read: LMAO. I wrote her back.
Adrian Chen: We should see if we can be in a fashion editorial. "The real huge nerds of New York."
Katie Notopoulos: Adrian you should go nude.
Adrian: What if Leon interviewed us?
Laura June Topolsky: I'm available.

May 23, 2015

Leon Chang: First question: What is IRL Club?

Katie: Hi, I'm Katie Notopoulos. I'm a senior editor at BuzzFeed. IRL Club was Adrian's idea.

Adrian: My name is Adrian Chen and I am a freelance writer. IRL Club began in 2012 when I emailed some people that I knew from the internet to meet up. Surprisingly, we got along even better "IRL." I think one thing that united us was a similar sensibility about the things we liked on the internet: DIY, weird, often made haphazardly by people in their spare time to amuse themselves or a small group of friends, and done with sincerity even if the result was entirely ironic, if that makes sense.

Max: My name is Max Read; I'm the editor-in-chief of Gawker. I think we sort of originally conceived IRL Club as an "anti-TED talk" but in practice it feels, in the best way possible, like the day in English class when everyone has to present their book projects.

John Herrman: I'm John Herrman, I co-edit The Awl and barely help with this.

Laura June: I'm 50. This will be my last email. (Because 50 is when you die.)

May 25, 2015

Leon: So what sort of "internet things" do you like to talk about? I'm also super interested in people's internet "history." For myself, it's always been centered around internet communities surrounding games. What about your histories?

Katie: One of my favorite presentations at IRL Club was from Marina Galperina about Russian dashcams and Russian LiveJournal. She's this hilarious, passionate speaker, and I think that's a perfect IRL Club experience: to learn about some weird internet thing in a way that's really entertaining, not lecture-y. Re: how I got onto the internet: I'm old as heck so I didn't have email until college. At some point in like 2004 I had this really awful roommate who loved Gilmore Girls so whenever she was home in the living room watching Gilmore Girls on DVD, I'd hide in my bedroom using the computer instead of watching TV (which I would've preferred). I got really into 4chan and other stuff out of necessity.

Adrian: I spent a ridiculous amount of time in high school playing Counterstrike and Starcraft online. I really wasn't interested in "communicating." I think I joined a shitty clan once but mainly I just killed people alone sitting on this tall hard wooden stool that I think my parents used as the computer chair to keep me from gaming for hours, which utterly failed.

After I stopped gaming in college, having discovered binge drinking, I really didn't do much on the internet until my friend, an early Vimeo employee, convinced me to start making stupid videos and post them to Vimeo. The day Gawker blogged about my stupid internet videos remains the best day of my life.

Max: I loved Mark Slutsky's Sad YouTube presentation. I love that project so much; it's one of the things that makes me love the internet. I love those moments when the web's frictionless communication reminds you of how pathetic and human and needy everyone is.

June 9, 2015

Leon: Ok, one last question for everyone - what's your dream presenter for IRL club? If you could get any person in the world.
John: Founder of Chatroulette.
Katie: @dril
Adrian: I was going to say @Dril, Katie. I guess my answer is Satoshi Nakamoto, then.
Adrian: BTW, John we probably could get the Chatroulette founder. What is he even doing these days?
John: Nobody knows man.
Adrian: "Ternovsky chose the name "Chatroulette" after watching The Deer Hunter, a 1978 film set in the Vietnam War in which prisoners of war are forced to play Russian roulette.[5]" Holy shit that is so dark!
Katie: Can we give them this photo of us:
It's Creative Commons.
Adrian: That is us. So, yeah.

IRL Club 5 is happening tonight, Monday, June 15 at 7:30pm, at The Bell House, 149 7th Street, Brooklyn.


Text Alice Newell-Hanson
Image courtesy IRL Club

Preston Chaunsumlit
steve roggenbuck
leon chang
katie notopoulos
Emily Spivack
adrian chen
irl club
john herrman
laura june topolsky
max read