Risky Business. Revenge of the Nerds. Better Off Dead. Moonlighting. Supernatural. American Dad. New Girl. What do all of these movies and television shows have in common?
A legendary comedic second banana to a litany of major stars, Curtis is forever cemented in the public imagination as Booger from Revenge of the Nerds. A classically trained actor, Curtis began his incredible 40-year career on stage but progressed rapidly to film and television. He was typecast early and it proved to be the best thing that could have happened.
But there’s more to Curtis’ story than that.
Born and bred a nerd, he spent his early years between Detroit, a city so nerdy that the word was coined there in 1951, and, improbably, Geneva, Switzerland. His adolescence and early adulthood was spent primarily between the covers of a book and indulging his nerdy obsessions. It was only when he found his true calling, as an actor and unintentional nerd icon, that he found true happiness. With whip-smart, self-effacing humor, Armstrong takes us on a most unlikely journey—one nerd’s hilarious, often touching rise to the middle. He started his life as an outcast and matured into…well, an older, slightly paunchier, hopefully wiser outcast.
In Hollywood, as in life, that counts as winning the game.
What We Thought:
I grew up in the 1980’s and 1990’s. I grew up a nerd with a love of movies and television. You wouldn’t need to tell me what movies Curtis Armstrong was in for me to recognize the name. He’s Booger! Curtis may not love the fact that I immediately refer to him as Booger, but over time, according to the book, he’s grown to accept his spot in pop culture/nerd history.
Besides running this website, The Nerds Templar, I’m also an actor and filmmaker. As a nerd and someone in the film industry, to say Revenge of the Nerd is right up my alley is an understatement. Armstrong’s book and look at his life/career is honest, fascinating and even a little gossipy!
The first few chapters give the reader a really good understanding of who Curtis was before becoming a great character actor. He’s brutally honest in his telling of being an outcast in school. He grew up surrounded by books and travel. He split time in Detroit and Switzerland giving him a worldly approach to things. If you were ever picked on as a kid, you can relate to Curtis’ storytelling. You understand why he sat at the spazz table at lunch and why he was bullied.
But then he developed a love for acting. Real acting. Stage acting. I had no idea “Booger” was a classically trained actor. He started out in Michigan, moved to New York, as any stage actor would, and never really considered “selling out” to do commercial or film work. Then came Risky Business and the part of his career we all know and love.
At this point in the book we get what we expect from the book. We get stories from his early days as an actor on projects like Risky Business with Tom “Crewes”, Revenge of the Nerds, Better Off Dead, Moonlighting, and so on. And if you thought Curtis wasn’t shy in his stories about masturbating as a teen, he’s certainly not shy about telling us what he thought of the work he was doing and the people he was working with. It’s not surprising news that Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd did not enjoy working together, but getting Armstrong’s first hand take is pretty eye-opening. The show should have been called Divas if half of what Curtis says is true.
The most shocking information to me is about John Cusack. Cusack in the 1980’s came across as a lovable, All-American, funny guy. Better Off Dead and One Crazy Summer are classics as far as I’m concerned. Reading this book has changed my opinion of Cusack. He hated working with the director of those films, Savage Steve Holland. It all seemed very political too. Armstrong doesn’t hesitate to talk about his political beliefs, but that didn’t seem to interfere with his professionalism and ability to work with others. Cusack on the other hand lacked that professionalism. Maybe that’s why he’s making Straight-to-Video movies now.
I can go and on retelling the stories Curtis talks about in the book. He has many stories about the Revenge of the Nerds franchise and costars. The book mentions some of his voiceover work and guest stints on TV shows especially as Metatron on Supernatural. But don’t read what I have to say, read what Curtis has to say. I highly recommend Revenge of the Nerd for anyone who grew up on his films and television shows. Curtis turned into one of the better character actors of the past 30-40 years whether he wanted to or not. He’s come to terms with his career and shares some funny and honest stories with us.