The League of Extraordinary Nerds wants to reform the tired bar scene with some cultural infusion and a healthy dose of charity. Syyn Labs, the digital arts company widely known for helping make Ok Go’s Rube Goldberg viral music video, invites dozens of their closest friends on a monthly excursion to explore cultural innovation around L.A. in their fanciest formal attire.
Last February, after a tour of Steve Glenn’s famous super-green house, the tyrants capped off the night with four-hour bar crawl. The best part: A fraction of the proceeds from each event raise money for local charity. “We’ve now had two events; we’ve raised over $2,000 for charity while having a wonderful, fantastic, debaucherous night out on the town,” says Doug Campbell, Syyn Labs founder.
Tuxedo Tyrants was born of Campbell’s social experiment to encourage his friends to donate money while reading stories from his globetrotting around the eastern hemisphere in a tuxedo. After raising $2,000 trekking from Hong Kong to London (mostly by ground transport), he and fellow Syyn Laber Daniel Busby decided to make the experience more frequent and accessible for their local friends.
Doug likes to think of his new venture as “experience engineering.” “The idea is to get people people out of their typical bubble,” says Campbell. He likes to help his participants “create sort of a curiosity to the world around them.”
Last weekend, the Tyrants carved out room in a Santa Monica art complex, set up an overflowing bar, and invited guests to watch two matches of chess boxing, a growing sport that interlaces rounds of chess and boxing, the winner being the first contestant to checkmate or physically knock out their opponent.
As the match began, a wall of finely dressed party-goers nervously circled the two fighters, unsure if they could contain the Goliath-like proportions of 290-pound Andrew McGregor or the calamitous exist of his much shorter opponent from the makeshift ring of people. The fight proceeded on a relatively tame note, with frequent interruptions by the tuxedo-clad referee and encouraging shouts for the underdog opponent. After the contender braved three rounds of sustained domination, the fight was mercifully ended in checkmate. Both fighters enjoyed several drinks together before the night concluded.
Proceeds from the ticket sales went to benefit Tiziano, a SXSW-award winning social enterprise that trains citizen journalists in conflict regions. Founded by the very the same chess boxing powerhouse that crushed his opponent that same night, McGregor’s relationship to the event is a playful illustration of how Syyn Labs’ connection to eccentric entrepreneurs feeds its creative and unpredictable projects.
The night is capped off with a bar crawl deep into the next morning, with each Tyrants episode exploring a different area of the greater Los Angeles area. To keep the increasingly tipsy participants abreast on their sophisticated route, a Twitter account is set up to alert the crowd on the next location.
“Waking up the day with a hangover, maybe that’s inevitable,” explains Campbell. “But waking up the next day with a hangover and knowing that you raised over $1,000 for charity with your fun, that is a really fantastic experience.”
[Image: Syyn Labs Project Manager Geoff Emory]