Anson Williams – Happy Days
Almost anybody will look uncool next to the scientifically-formulated Fonzie, but everyone on the cast of “Happy Days” called Anson Williams’s character Potsie Weber a nerd. Potsie wasn’t even his real name – it was a nickname thanks to his habit of pottery, and of being a patsy. But Williams was cool enough once “Happy Days” ended.
He was in “I Married a Centerfold” in 1984, had a few spots on “Baywatch” like himself in 1996, and has acted as recently as 2016. He’s also gotten plenty of work as a director for numerous well-known kids shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” and even episodes of Star Trek, both “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.”
Alyson Hannigan – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
In normal-life Sunnydale, CA, Willow Rosenberg was a nerdy computer whiz and best friends with Buffy Summers. Channeling her smarts, she harnessed magical powers and transformed into a formidable force with an array of spells at her disposal.
In real life, "Buffy" costar Alexis Denisof scooped up and married the stunning Alyson Hannigan who portrayed Willow. The actress went on to play Lily in "How I Met Your Mother" and win a People's Choice Award in 2009. If that's not cool, we don't know what is.
Jim Parsons – The Big Bang Theory
Sheldon Cooper is the quirkiest nerd in the nerdisphere. He out-dorks an all-dork cast and brings a rare blend of humor that is at once adorable and grating but always witty.
Jim Parsons plays one of the best on TV, but just look at him here! Looks like being one of the highest-paid TV stars in history works wonders on one's appeal. His career has sent him on roles on TV, stage, film, and even video games! He also gets some extra cool points for dubbing an animated character alongside Rihanna in the movie "Home".
Matthew Gray Gubler – Criminal Minds
Dr. Spencer Reid is superhero-smart on "Criminal Minds." With an IQ of 187 and an ability to read at lightning speed, he is one very special asset for the FBI team.
Actor Matthew Gray Gubler is not a real-life certified genius, but he is cool nonetheless. His cool credentials include modeling for A-list designers like Tommy Hilfiger, painting, and writing children's books.
Mayim Bialik – The Big Bang Theory
Amy Farrah Fowler is married to the nerdiest of them all — Sheldon Cooper, so we know her nerd credentials are solid.
But Mayim Bialik does not just play a neurobiologist on TV, she is a verifiable scientist with a Ph.D. in neuroscience. Don't believe anything those kids in middle school told you. We all know that advanced degrees instantly make you a cool person. And it only takes some stylish clothes to see she’s beautiful from the outside too.
Wilmer Valderrama – That ‘70s Show
Wilmer Valderrama came of age as Fez on "That ‘70s Show". The out-of-place foreign exchange student amuses with his awkward attempts to fit in with American culture.
In real life, he’s so cool that he’s dated a virtual catalog of A-listers including Ashlee Simpson, Mandy Moore, Lindsay Lohan, and Demi Lovato.
Gillian Anderson – The X Files
Dr. Dana Scully from "The X Files" is one of our favorites. This offbeat character is a legend in geekdom. Gillian Anderson grew up as an outsider. Her coolness was actually apparent from a very young age. As a teen, she moved from England to a small conservative town called Grand Rapids.
She said, “There were only six punks there. We were weird. It’s not like London.” Underneath the tough punk exterior which included dyed and shaved hair, plus piercings (before the look was a global trend), was this gorgeous face.
Zachary Levi – Chuck
In this "Slacker"-meets-Stanford television series, Chuck Bartowski is a geeky software whiz who ends up as a CIA asset.
His character gets kicked out of Stanford (not his fault), and he ends up living with his sister and working an electronic superstore at the Geek Tech desk. But seriously, look at him. He’s no geek. Not only that, but he's also played two iconic cinematic roles: Flynn Rider in "Tangled" and the title character in the DC superhero movie "Shazam!".
Jewel Staite – Firefly
Joss Whedon, the creator of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" is behind the sci-fi FOX series "Firefly".
The mothership in this futuristic tale is called “Serenity” and Kaylee Frye is the vessel’s mechanic, even though she’s never been trained. The clever girl from 2517 was lovely then as Jewel Staite is today. Add that to her numerous roles in sci-fi and fantasy, and you got yourself the coolest girl in Comic-Con.
Alexis Bledel – Gilmore Girls
Rory Gilmore is a classic nerd. Her biggest problem was choosing between Harvard and Yale, for crying out loud.
The striking Alexis Bledel was chosen for the role because of her charming naivete. At the time, she was a model with no acting experience. Today, she has quite an acting record and she still looks sweet and charming. But the coolest thing about her was the way she made "Gilmore Girls" fans swoon over her 4-year-long relationship with co-star Milo Ventimiglia. The designated bad boy of the show tamed by the good girl in real life? Yes, please!
Melissa Fumero – Brooklyn Nine-Nine
As a rule, cops aren’t cool (and if it rhymes it must be true). On "Brooklyn Nine-Nine", Sergeant Amy Santiago dreams of being captain of the NYPD. The ambitious, young smarty is an obsessive-compulsive organizer and a stickler for rules.
The best and worst thing about Amy is her infatuation with office supplies. But real-life Fumero is the coolest cat there is. In 2004 she was cast in the daytime soap opera "One Life to Live," and met her now-husband — David Fumero. The two now have two children together which are undoubtedly as cool as their mother.
Donald Glover – Community
Troy Barnes was a high school jock who sported his letterman jacket at community college, but that didn't make him any less of a nerd.
In "Community", a show from the creators of "Rick and Morty", Troy hangs with a study group gathered to keep each other from failing their Spanish class. We soon find he is a teddy bear whose sensitive side is irresistible. But just one look, and we can see he’s really a super smokin' famous rapper. He also dubbed Simba in the newest installment of "The Lion King" alongside Beyonce. And anyone who's been in such close proximity to Beyonce has to have a major cool factor.
William Jackson Harper – The Good Place
In the Netflix hit "The Good Place", Chidi Anagonye is a Nigerian-Senegalese professor of philosophy who made it to heaven (or so we are lead to think).
During his life, he used to teach morals and ethics at the Sorbonne but then he starts trying to save a soul from “the bad place.” Take off his glasses in real life, and he's a total looker. He is also a self-proclaimed nerd, which makes him even more attractive. And the coolest thing? Not only is he a talented actor, but he is also a playwright! His play, "Travisville" first hit the stage in 2018.
Louise Brealey – Sherlock
"Sherlock" fans, this is your time to shine. Molly Hooper is a highly trained doctor working at the hospital’s morgue.
She has a secret helpless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock. But sadly, he isn't as perceptive of that as he is of crime-solving. In real life, however, it's hard to believe she will go unnoticed by any man of her choosing. Other than her on-screen credentials, Brealey has written scripts and music scores for television as a young girl and lent her voice to various audiobooks. Can she be our friend, please?
Tina Majorino – Veronica Mars
In the 2014 "Veronica Mars" movie, Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie works for a software company. She dropped that job like a bad habit to help out Veronica at Mars Investigations where she could put her hacking skills to the test.
In real life, Tina Majorino probably couldn’t hack into an Android device, but with that smile, she could open anyone’s heart. Her coolness didn't slip from the eye of one miss Shonda Rhimes who cast her as Dr. Heather Brooks on Grey's Anatomy.
Bebe Neuwirth – Cheers
Dr. Lilith Sternin’s severe style as a highbrow socialite and a clinical psychiatrist is out of place mounting a barstool at "Cheers". But after marrying Frasier, she hangs out with the gang.
She tags along with Kelsey Grammer for the spinoff "Frasier" to play his ex-wife. In real life, she’s an animal lover with a charitable heart and a former dancer who you’d more likely find behind a pottery wheel than practicing medicine. How cool is that?
Cole Sprouse – Riverdale
With a name like Jughead Jones, you don’t need to show any dork credentials. The "Riverdale" character on the CW teen drama was based on Archie Comics and lifted Cole Sprouse to teen idol status.
No one can deny this suave young man's coolness now (especially when you see him trolling his twin brother, Dylan, on social media). With those dashing looks, he was a "Teen Beat" pinup faster than you can say "Jughead Jones".
America Ferrara – Ugly Betty
Betty Suarez is a painfully awkward Latina teen from Queens. Acquaintances called her geeky, ugly, and other not-so-fun names. But she endears us, nonetheless.
America Ferrara has won a SAG, a Golden Globe, and an Emmy for her role. In the real world, Ferrera is as cool as they come. She stands up for what she believes in and has been involved in politics since 2008! "Time" named her one of the top 100 most influential people in the world.
Adam Scott – Parks and Recreation
As state auditor, Ben Wyatt is the only professional in the room. The buttoned-up bastion of rationality seems boring, but his character is simply hilarious.
outside of the "Parks and Recreation" set, you’ll find Adam Scott podcasting about his favorite rock bands and bragging that he appeared in R.E.M.’s music video “Drive.” And it doesn't take more than appearing in a rock band music video to let everyone know how cool you are.
Janel Parrish – Pretty Little Liars
Nicknamed “Loser Mona” in high school, Mona Vanderwaal uses her smarts to plot revenge against the popular girls in "Pretty Little Liars".
As a villain, her intelligence as a hacker and language expert makes her dangerous. In real life, Hawaii native Janel Parrish has a very sweet side and no one would dream of pairing her with another group but the 'pretty girls'. Over the course of her career, Parrish participated in films, TV shows, and even music videos, but the coolest thing she's done yet was coming in third in season 19 of "Dancing With the Stars".
David Schwimmer – Friends
No one is going to deny that Dr. Ross Geller is the only one of the close-knit "Friends" group who lives the nerdy life. The lovable and naïve academician barely fits in.
But, seriously, David Schwimmer’s a dashing A-lister. On top of it all, he’s a real smarty in real life having graduated from Northwestern. Schwimmer is not only a successful actor, but he is also a social activist and is especially involved in treating rape victims. Nothing cooler than a man who deals with such important issues.
Adam Brody – The O.C.
On "The O.C.", outsider Seth Cohen was adopted into the Atwood family and became a brother to his close friend Ryan. Awkward, nerdy, and a loner, the popular kids at high school bullied him relentlessly.
On the show, Adam Brody’s character lacked a cool edge. In real life, however, the dashing actor, who married beauty Leighton Meester, has no problem hanging with the cool kids.
Tina Fey – 30 Rock
Nothing says dork like a single woman who's married to her job, eats nothing but off-brand Mexican Cheetos and leads a disastrous dating life.
This is exactly Liz Lemon — a quirky, overworked comedy writer who is one of the most entertaining characters on the show "30 Rock" or generally on television. Tina Fey, the legend, is really married with two kids and a much better sense of style. Not to mention, she stands at the helm of some of the most successful "SNL" skits out there. Cool, cool.
Zach Braff – Scrubs
J.D.’s quirk as a medical doctor is an epileptic fit of daydreaming. The complicated mind of Dr. J.D. Dorian is revealed to us through a voice-over stream of consciousness which also serves as the narrator of "Scrubs".
In real life, the actor has a pilot license, a Porsche, and a live-in relationship with Florence Pugh. Bonafide cool.
Danielle Fishel – Boy Meets World
Topanga Lawrence was that weird outcast kid who was into environmentalism and only ate organic vegan foods.
Okay, so that’s normal now. But, decidedly, when "Boy Meets World" first aired in 1993, she did not sit at the table with the cool kids. In real life, Seventeen magazine featured the beautiful actress and "Teen People" named Danielle Fishel one of its 21 Hottest Stars Under 21. Add her good looks with her brains as a math tutor and you got yourself a pretty cool kid.
Linda Cardellini – Scooby-Doo
As kids watching Scooby and his mystery-solving cartoon entourage we could never imagine a live-action rendition, but it happened.
Velma Dinkley was always a quintessential nerd. And, Linda Cardellini, lead actress in "Freaks and Geeks" as well, is good at playing one, but wow, she sure doesn't look like a nerd! In 2009, she even got an Icon Award from TV Land, and we all know you don't get that unless you're uber-cool.
Jasika Nicole – Fringe
Another natural-born geek actress is Jasika Nicole. In "Fringe" as agent Astrid Farnsworth, she majored in music and linguistics, minored in computer science, and was fluent in five languages.
In "The Good Doctor", she was the head of pathology. With those nerd credentials, you’d think she’d be one in real life, but she is as cool as it gets. She even designs and makes all of her own clothes!
Danica McKellar – The Wonder Years
Nothing was more adorable than Kevin Arnold’s crush on Winnie Cooper. The super-smart sweetie and Kev seemed like a perfect match. But did life imitate art? Or did art imitate life? Because in real life Danica McKellar became a superstar math whiz.
Not only has she penned a shelf load of math books for teens, but she also co-published a unique math theorem at UCLA where the actress graduated summa cum laude. Or should we say, summa *cool* laude? Sorry for the dad-joke. We'll see ourselves out.
Amy Acker – Person of Interest
Root, from "Person of Interest", is a complicated villain. She’s a dangerous cyber sleuth and an occasional assassin. She survives as an opportunist who doesn’t take sides and she’s inventive enough to develop a special digital relationship with The Machine.
Eventually, Amy Acker voices The Machine. But in real life, she’s both cool and studious as a former model and as a graduate of Southern Methodist University.
Kumail Nanjiani – Silicon Valley
The funny part is that the character Dinesh Chugtai is a lot like Kumail Nanjiani. As a computer science and philosophy major, Nanjiani said, “When I graduated college, I sort of assumed my life was going to be working with computers.” But he told NPR, “The problem was I wasn’t very good at it and I wasn’t interested in it at all.” From a computer nerd to Hollywood stardom? Coolness overload!
Jaleel White – Family Matters
Steve Urkel is a classic nerd. With a nasally high-pitched voice, super high-waisted pants, and coke-bottle glasses, he’s a grotesque caricature.
He shows his cool side on "Family Matters" when he transforms into Stefan Urquelle by drinking a magic potion. Interestingly, Stefan's character is the actor’s normal self. Just think of all the coolness he had to reign in to become Urkel!
Tobey Maguire – Spider-Man
Director Sam Raimi’s Peter Parker brought to us by actor Tobey Maguire, goes out of his way to make Spider-Man’s alter-ego as dorky as humanly possible.
The Marvel comic book character finds his roots as a high school orphan from the Queens borough, and so does this Peter Parker. This could make him the most authentic Spidey. Spider-Man was a $100 million success story at the box office and the most successful comic hero movie ever. You can say that makes actor Tobey Maguire pretty darn cool.
Felicia Day – Supernatural
It’s no surprise IT nerd-turned-hunter Charlie Bradbury is a "Supernatural" fandom favorite. Introduced as the “Girl with the Dungeon and Dragons Tattoo,” Charlie’s a venerate badass whose hacking skills put any male geek to shame. At the same time, she’s irresistibly feminine.
In real life, Felicia Day is not just another pretty face. The self-proclaimed gamer (cool) launched her own production company (cool) called Geek & Sundry, and she still has plenty of geekiness in her (also cool, to be honest).
Robert Carradine – Revenge of the Nerds
Louis Skolnick is the IT geek prototype. Back in the ‘80s when a computer whiz was truly nerdy, "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984) totally nailed it.
Louis epitomized someone like Bill Gates. But when Steve Jobs came along with the iPod, the rest of us finally had to admit that possessing digital superiority was a pretty cool asset, after all. Robert Carradine is clearly dashing and celeb au naturel. The man was born a star. Robert Carradine was literally raised in Hollywood, California by the prominent Carradine show business family, so yeah, coolness runs through the man's veins.
Patrick Dempsey – Can’t Buy Me Love
Ronald Miller was a dorky, unpopular high school kid who rode a lawnmower for a part-time job. His problem was that he fell in love with wealthy, popular, cheerleader Cindy Mancini, who he bribes for a date.
It’s a silly rom-com, but sweet—the exact typecast we have grown to expect from Patrick Dempsey. In 2014, the man out-cooled himself when he debuted his second career as a professional race car driver.
Josh Saviano – The Wonder Years
Paul is Kevin’s best bud who is super smart and a total dork. He can barely walk straight. He is debilitated by allergies. He also has a crush on Winnie, but this nerd does not get the girl.
Granted, Josh Saviano graduated actually from Yale and practices law, but he’s pretty cool anyway. There is even a conspiracy theory that says he is in fact, Marilyn Manson! When asked about it, he said he is quite happy with people thinking he is a rockstar rather than some dorky kid.
Emma Watson – Harry Potter
Hermione Granger is not just a nerd — she's a magical nerd. "Harry Potter" fans soon realize her proficiency in spells and concocting magic potions makes a valuable asset out of their classmate.
In real life, Emma Watson has always valued her education. She grew up to be stunning and smart, and she graduated from Brown. Oh, we almost forgot — she also played in her college lacrosse team. So, let's see — looks? Check. Brains? Chek. Successful career? Check. Plays sports? Check. Yes, she definitely qualifies for a cool stamp.
Alfonso Ribeiro – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Standing next to Will Smith, anyone is going to look like a dork. The Fresh Prince’s cousin Carlton Banks is signed, sealed, and delivered as far as dorkiness goes.
He is also annoying, arrogant, awkward, and known to flaunt a superiority complex to a comical effect. The television star is still on TV. Alfonso Ribeiro hosts "America’s Funniest Home Videos". This means his job is to talk about funny internet videos. That may very well be the coolest job on the planet.
Ariel Winter – Modern Family
"Modern Family"’s Alex Dunphy is smart, sarcastic, and snarky. Her intelligence causes her to be impatient with her family who she considers dumb as dirt. She’s the middle child who feels like an outsider and would be glad not to be related to them.
In real life, Ariel Winter is all grown up and not afraid of wearing clothes that accentuate it no matter the criticism. When faced with some of her haters' comments, she told them to simply “Get a hobby.” Only cool kids can say it like it is and she's definitely one of them.
Paul Rudd – Clueless
Josh is a college nerd. He cares about the environment, social issues, and geopolitical foreign policy. He reads Friedrich Nietzsche for fun.
It’s been 25 years since the film came out, so if he doesn’t really seem like a total geek, rest assured, next to "Clueless" fashionista and supermodel hopeful Cher (Alicia Silverstone), he is a bonafide dork. In real life, clearly, he’s drop-dead gorgeous. Oh, and did we mention he co-owns a New York candy store with actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan? You don't need us to tell you that candy is cool, do you?
Mara Wilson - Matilda
We are met with Roald Dahl’s Matilda in kindergarten. The lovable child-genius is played by Mara Wilson In the 1996 film version. Her character has a despicable dad who lords over the Wormwood household, and she deals with him with an ironclad anti-intellectual bent.
Wilson has since quit acting and turned to professional writing. She has even published a couple of books: "Sheeple" and "Where Am I Now?: True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame". Definitely cool. Oddly enough, she doesn’t consider herself exceptionally attractive. She even tweeted “Hot people’s lives are WILD. Their Instagrams alone. They don’t even have to try.” Somehow, this makes her even cooler.
Alexa Vega – Spy Kids
In "Spy Kids", Carmen Cortez transforms into an international secret agent to save her parents who are real secret spies but have gotten into a bit of a bind. She’s cute and funny and has a pesky baby brother.
In real life, Alexa PenaVega is a beautiful, happy mother of two, raising her family in Hawaii with her husband Carlos PenaVega. Vega's talents stretch beyond acting and reach the realms of singing and dancing. She has contributed her voice to the soundtracks of many of the films she starred in and came in sixth in season 21 of "Dancing With the Stars". That's pretty darn cool if you ask us.
Daniel Lee Curtis – Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide
If you were a Nick kid, you remember this nerd with a certain token of affection. “Cookie” from "Ned’s Declassified", was a cyber geek with a built-in monitor screen on his eyeglass lenses. He kept his motherboard in his school locker but don't tell anyone.
Daniel Lee Curtis is a comedian, actor, and rapper and, must we say, super suave, dapper, and dashing. All the ingredients required to get his cool certificate.
Chris Owen – American Pie
Chuck Sherman is a fan-favorite geek. Also known as “The Sherminator,” the character appears throughout the "American Pie" franchise. In the original 1999 film, he’s a dorky high school kid who is obsessed with Arnold Schwarzenegger movies.
This time the geek gets the girl, but, then again, "American Pie" is one of those vulgar teen flicks, so no surprise there. In real life, what makes Chris Owen cool is how down to earth he is. In 2014, when his acting career took a dip, he started waiting tables at a sushi restaurant. Thankfully, his career bounced back up eventually.
Andrew Garfield – The Amazing Spider-Man
In "The Amazing Spider-Man" (2002) we get a slightly different dorky Peter Parker. He’s smart and shy and, of course, secretly superhuman.
Many Marvel fans won’t think twice to say this Spidey movie is the best of its kind, even better than Sam Raimi’s. People are entitled to their opinions. One thing we know is that Andrew Garfield is a knock-out off the set. And he has to be cool, or his Spiderman co-star Emma Stone would never have dated him.
Michael Cera – Juno
In "Juno", Paulie Bleeker, your average unpopular high school kid, gets his crush pregnant and he’ll do anything to keep her. His adorability factor grows on Juno and, and to be honest, on us as viewers, too.
In real life, Michael Cera is a very handsome man, and he has a talent for music too — he plays both guitar and bass, and can sing pretty well. Despite all these cool points, he keeps being cast as a dork quite often.
Ed Helms – The Office
The character of Andy Bernard is a model suit from a privileged background with a position of authority, but he is crippled by his gnawing insecurity. He makes us laugh as he tries so hard to be the boss.
Ed Helms says Andy the character is like an unhinged version of himself. On TV, he’s the office nerd, but in actuality, Ed Helms is the great success Andy wishes he could be — he's a successful actor, musician, and comedian. According to science, that's cool.
Leonard Nimoy – Star Trek
Part human, part Vulcan, Spock possessed superhuman intelligence and was Captain Kirk’s trusted guide at the helm of the Enterprise. His intelligence made him nearly inhuman, at least emotionally, seemingly free of those weaknesses. But when they did show, we loved it.
"Star Trek", and Spock’s influence, is alive and well in the Trekkie fandom. Nimoy, however, left us in 2015 at age 83. He was a cultural icon. He wrote one memoir titled "I Am Not Spock", and later he wrote a second autobiography called, "I Am Spock". A true space-level cool move.
Dana Carvey – Wayne’s World
When the “Wayne’s World” skit first aired on "SNL", you knew it was going to be a hit. Wayne was the “cool” one and Garth was his dorky friend.
The two were broadcasting a show from Wayne’s parent’s basement and this comedic segment obviously became a movie in 1992. Garth is played by Dana Carvey who is decidedly super cool, funny, and successful. They don't let you into "SNL" if you aren't cool. That's just a fact.
Jason Schwartzman – Rushmore
Max Fischer is at the top of his class at the elite prep school, Rushmore. He spends all his free time on extracurricular projects to enhance his high school accolades. It gets a little crazy when he’s expelled, but that’s when the hilarity sets in.
Jason Schwartzman is a movie star and a Hollywood director. He calls Francis Ford Coppola “Uncle” and Nicolas Cage and Sophia Coppola "Cousins". In case you haven't noticed, Coppola, Cage, and cool all start with the same letter. Coincidence? No way.
Jon Cryer – Two and a Half Men
Older brother Charlie might have the golden touch when it comes to women, and Alan can't catch a break. In real life, actor Jon Cryer not only got famous for his spot-on “Two and a Half Men,” but in movies like “Superman IV: The Quest for Peace,” and “Hot Shots” (also with Charlie Sheen.)
He's still acting, writing, and directing, and currently provides the voice of Lex Luthor in the DC Comics animated television series. Cryer has been married to British actress Sarah Trigger and is currently married to entertainment reporter Lisa Joyner. The two have one child together and have adopted another.
Eden Sher – The Middle
Due to an error on her birth certificate, her name was written down twice, almost dooming Sue Sue Heck, played by actress Eden Sher, to middle child ignominy.
In real life, Sher is married to Nick Cron-Devico, a screenwriter, tying the knot in July of 2020. Raised by a single mother, Eden was first interested in getting into acting after she appeared in a “Jaywalking” segment on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.” She began acting at the age of eight in school plays and theater productions. She is also known for her vocal talents in “Star vs. the Forces of Evil” on the Disney Channel.
Peter MacNicol – Ally McBeal
While he isn't the traditional nerd, John Cage has plenty of eccentricities, such as whistling with his nose, performing a “dismount” from the bathroom stall, and more. Peter MacNicol is also known for being Galen in “Dragonslayer,” Stingo in “Sophie's Choice,” Janosz Poha in “Ghostbusters II,” and David Langley in “Bean.”
He's been married to his spouse Marsue Cummings since sometime after 1986. You might have also seen him in “Grey's Anatomy,” “Veep,” “The Big Bang Theory,” and “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” He also provides the voice of the Mad Hatter in the Arkham series of Batman video games.
Danny Pudi – Community
As a pop-culture fanatic – not just a fan – reality can sometimes seem strange to Abed Nadir from “Community.” While sometimes very matter-of-fact, he also can accurately predict the outcome of most of the study group's schemes thanks to how well he knows narratives and tropes.
Outside of the show, actor Danny Pudi is married to Bridget Showalter, whom he met while they both attended Marquette University in their freshman year. They have twins, a son named James and a daughter named Fiona, both born in 2012. When he isn't acting, Danny is an avid runner, having completed several marathons.
Tony Randall – The Odd Couple
When his wife throws him out, finicky Felix Unger – played by Tony Randall – has to move in with his slob of a friend Oscar. This show ran for five seasons before finally coming to a close as one of the most memorable shows of the sixties and seventies. Randall's career went on for more than six decades before he passed away in 2004.
During it, he got six Golden Globe Award nominations and six Primetime Emmy Award nominations, winning one for his work on “The Odd Couple.” The Hundred Year Association of New York awarded him the Gold Medal Award “in recognition of outstanding contributions to the City of New York” in 1993.
David Hyde Pierce – Frasier
Just like his older brother Frasier, Niles is witty and snarky and knows his way around a textbook. But even Frasier rolls his eyes when Niles spends a few minutes wiping down public chairs before sitting or fussing with his cufflinks.
Pierce has had a long number of rolls even outside of the ten-plus seasons of “Frasier,” including “Sleepless in Seattle,” “The Fisher King,” “A Bug's Life,” and plenty more. Pierce came out as gay in 2007, and married partner Brian Hargrove in 2008. His big contribution off-screen is working with the Alzheimer's Association, publicly campaigning for more funding to find a cure for the disease.
Tony Hale – Arrested Development
He's the epitome of a mama's boy, having spent eleven months in the womb. He and Lucille Bluth participate in “Motherboy” events, he gets revenge on her by dating her nemesis (also named Lucille) and joins the army to get her goat.
The actor behind this strange character, Tony Hale, has been doing plenty but got an even bigger break by providing the voice of Forky from “Toy Story 5.” Hale also appeared as one of the main characters in “Veep” from 2012 until the show ended in 2019, which earned him two Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Support Actor in a Comedy Series, in 2013 and 2015.
Jerry Mathers – Leave It to Beaver
The word nerd wasn't even something that people knew about when Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver started to appear on television screens. However, a lot of his personality traits would become classic nerd things, being geeky and picked on, even if his older brother Wally was there to protect him.
In real life, Jerry Mathers was quite the lady's man, getting married three times – Diana Platt, Rhonda Gehring, and Teresa Modnick. He has three children- all grown up. He was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1996, and later became the first male spokesperson for the weight loss program Jenny Craig. He's still with us but has slowed down acting.
Jack McBrayer – 30 Rock
Some call him a nerd, and some call him much more. Kenneth Parcell was a country bumpkin who achieved his dream of working for NBC. He's eternally optimistic, eager to please, and works hard. Jack McBrayer began acting in 1999 as a bit part in “Early Edition,” quickly moving onto bigger and better things.
Not only does McBrayer have a huge collection of roles that continue to this day, but he's also been in a few video games, he's also, of all things, been in a Mariah Carey music video (“Touch My Body”) and was on Broadway in a production of “Crazy for You.”
Gabrielle Carteris – Beverly Hills 90120
In a crowd full of rich, fashionable kids, being the level-headed smart one of the group doesn't get you much acclaim. Still, Andrea Zuckerman had plenty of moments when her friends would have been much better off listening to her words of wisdom.
Gabrielle Carteris went on to be much more than braces and glasses – she went on to become the executive vice president of SAG-AFTRA, the trade union that represents over a hundred thousand actors and actresses, as well as other entertainment professionals. She's been hitched to Charles Isaacs since 1992 and has a pair of children.
Masi Oka – Heroes
Masi Oka got to play every layman's greatest dream – one day Hiro Nakamura was just your average office worker and comic book geek, and the next he has superpowers. Being an actor who is known around the world for a single role is pretty cool in and of itself, but there's more.
Oka was also Doctor Max Bergman in “Hawaii Five-0.” While Oka is most known for his acting roles, he has also appeared as a producer, and also worked as a digital effects artist – his first job after graduation was at Industrial Light & Magic, the motion picture visual special effects company that George Lucas founded.
Wayne Knight – Seinfeld
Newman joins Kramer on a number of his zany schemes, and he's Jerry Seinfeld's main foe for the most recognizable sitcom of the nineties. Wayne Knight, who played Newman, isn't as diabolical as Newman – or his character in “Jurassic Park,” who was the root cause of the disastrous dino breakout.
Knight has now been married twice, first to Paula Sutor from 1996 to 2003, and getting married to Clare de Chenu in 2006. He and Clare have a son named Liam. His career began back in 1979 and includes “Space Jam, “ Hercules,” “Dirty Dancing,” and plenty of other famous titles.
Anson Williams – Happy Days
Almost anybody will look uncool next to the scientifically-formulated Fonzie, but everyone on the cast of “Happy Days” called Anson Williams's character Potsie Weber a nerd. Potsie wasn't even his real name – it was a nickname thanks to his habit of pottery, and of being a patsy. But Williams was cool enough once “Happy Days” ended.
He was in “I Married a Centerfold” in 1984, had a few spots on “Baywatch” like himself in 1996, and has acted as recently as 2016. He's also gotten plenty of work as a director for numerous well-known kids shows like “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” and even episodes of Star Trek, both “Deep Space Nine” and “Voyager.”
Russell Johnson – Gilligan's Island
After joining a three-hour tour for information on his book “Fun with Ferns,” Professor Roy Hinkley becomes the driving force behind getting the castaways back to civilization, even if Gilligan tends to mess up his projects.
But Johnson was cool long before he landed on the island, having appeared in both “Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” episodes. He's also achieved the highest level of cool possible – being a Western movie star. In addition, Johnson reached the rank of first lieutenant in the United States Army Air Force, flying a total of forty-four combat missions in the Pacific theater of World War II. Undeniably cool.
Tracey Gold – Growing Pains
A lot of sitcom children go like this: cool older sibling, geeky middle child, and weird or mischievous younger sibling. Carol Seaver from “Growing Pains” fits in perfectly in the middle. She wants to be part of the cool kids, wants to do well in school, and wants to catch cute boys' eyes. In real life, Tracey had no problem getting attention from guys.
She married Roby Marshall in 1994, and the two now have four children together. Gold suffered from anorexia beginning in 1988 but managed to defeat it. At one point she was down to five hundred calories a day and weighed only eighty pounds, but she's healthy and happy now.
Mary Lynn Rajskub – 24
Chloe O'Brian from “24” might lack social skills, but her abilities at the computer not only make her an important part of Jack Bauer's team but makes her a solid nerd. While the actress who plays her, Mary Lynn Rajskub, is best known for her portrayal of mission control for Bauer, she's done quite a lot else.
From “Mr. Show” to “The Kings of Summer,” Rajskub's filmography is quite extensive. She has also spent a lot of time on the stand-up comedy circuit, which is where she met her husband of ten years (and now ex-husband) Matthew Rolph.
Emily Bett Rickards – Arrow
Felicity Smoak, played by Emily Bett Rickards, was only supposed to be in one episode of “Arrow.” However, the quirky MIT computer nerd won the hearts of viewers and turned into the eponymous Oliver's main love interest. She also delivered a lot of comic relief in an otherwise dark show. In real life, Rickards is a big philanthropist.
She has worked with campaigns of the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, made a public service announcement in conjunction with the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation for advancement in spinal injuries, and has founded an acting scholarship with Vancouver Film School.
John Ratzenberger – Cheers
Cliff Clavin might not be your standard nerd, but as an endless repository of random – and often incorrect – facts, he has a few qualities. He even makes it onto “Jeopardy” as part of the show, losing in the final round.
Even if you've never seen “Cheers,” you're probably familiar with Ratzenberger's voice. He's had a part in almost every Pixar film ever, from the piggy bank in the Toy Story films to Fennwick the cyclops construction worker in “Onward.” “Soul” is the only Pixar film to not have him in a role. In fact, Ratzenberger has the largest aggregate box office for films he's appeared in EVER. That's pretty cool.
Kevin Weisman – Alias
Marshall Flinkman has an eidetic memory and a wide range of knowledge in plenty of fields. He creates all of the gadgets that SD-6 and later the CIA use in the field, and his awkward babbling turns him into one of the funniest nerdy characters on the list.
Once he finished portraying Flinkman, Weisman didn't stop acting, appearing in plenty of shows and movies. Most notably he was in the show “Runaways” from 2017 to 2019 and has also had numerous movie gigs. Weisman now resides in Hollywood Hills with his wife and children. He practices yoga and is a vegan.
T.J. Thyne – Bones
Though Dr. Jack Hodgins has a wealthy family, he'd rather spend his time in his lab, examining bugs, reptiles, algae, and other crime scene elements. He loves to make things go boom, and has experience in botany, mineralogy, as a forensic palynologist (plant spores), and as a forensic chemist.
His actor, T.J. Thyne, was engaged to beautiful model Leah Park, quite different from his nerdy and unsocial on-screen persona. Thyne has had the good luck to work with some of the coolest actors in the biz – Chuck Norris on “Walker Texas Ranger,” William Shatner on “Boston Legal,” and Tim Allen on “Home Improvement.”
Pauley Perrette – NCIS
With the look of a cool goth chick and the bubbly personality of a prom queen, Abby Sciuto is hard to classify. However, she has plenty of nerd in her thanks to her triple major with full honors, and her master's degrees in criminology and forensic science.
Pauley has had plenty of cool roles, such as Lois Lane in “Superman vs. The Elite” and she also had a main role in “Murder One.” She's even given her voice to one cool video game, “Blade Runner” in 1997. This actress is also an entrepreneur, co-owning Donna Bell's Bake Shop, which is named for her mother. If you're in the Manhattan area, look it up.
Melissa Rauch – The Big Bang Theory
Melissa Rauch's character, blonde and brainy Bernadette, first shows up in season three. She's one of Penny's coworkers, and she and Howard quickly hit it off. She was a series regular starting in season four, and she's just as nerdy as Howard. Rauch might not look like a nerd in real life, but she does tend to nerd out.
She played wild villain Harley Quinn in the animated “Batman and Harley Quinn,” and got to appear in the vampire show “True Blood” in 2010. Bernadette was no slouch when it came to the looks department, but Rauch out of her character takes it up another notch, too.
Don Knotts – The Andy Griffith Show
He's smug, he's self-important, and he thinks he's smarter than everyone else, but anybody who tuned in to “The Andy Griffith Show” (which meant everyone) had Barney Fife pegged from the start: an incompetent goof.
The word nerd wasn't in wide use during the show's run, and he didn't have the brainy activities most often associated with the term, but still. Don Knotts went on to be a huge actor, appearing in dozens of famous movies. He earned five Emmy Awards from his time with Andy Griffith, and couldn't keep the ladies away – he married three times, his final being with Frances Yarborough until his death in 2006.
John Francis Daley – Freaks and Geeks
Surviving high school at all can seem like an impossible task when you're staring down the barrel of four full years. Surviving when you're nerdy and anti-social is even harder. Such is the case for Sam Weir, played by John Francis Daley, who was labeled “Sam Queer” by bullies and stuck to comedy shows for his getaway.
John Francis Daley is now not only an actor but a musician as well, playing keyboards and singing in the band Dayplayer. He's also a screenwriter, putting pen to paper for movies including “Horrible Bosses,” “Vacation” (which he also directed), and even “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Rainn Wilson – The Office
Nerds are sometimes the smartest person in the room. Other times they think they're the smartest and won't shut up about it. Such is the case with Dwight Schrute, everyone's favorite punching bag on the legendary sitcom “The Office.” Rainn Wilson did such a good job as this dorky doofus that he had to immediately branch out into other roles when he could to avoid being typecast forever.
Those roles include providing the voice of Superman villain Lex Luthor in numerous animated films, appearing as a professor in “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen,” and violent crime fighter Crimson Bolt in “Super.” Such versatility is quite the cool trait.
Tatiana Maslany – Orphan Black
Tatiana Maslany managed to not only play a number of different clones in the show “Orphan Black,” but she did it in a way that made each of them unique and memorable. Cosima, the bookworm of the group, enjoyed reading and researching, and let the other clones handle the intense stuff.
Maslany had to get plenty of makeup done to turn her into the dowdy Cosima, but she's quite the stunner in real life. Maslany also lent her voice to the audiobooks of the “Hunger Games” series, reading the Katniss Everdeen parts. She's gaining awards faster than you might think and has even had a nom for a Primetime Emmy Award in 2018.
Julia Sawalha – Absolutely Fabulous
One of the longest-running and most popular British sitcoms, “Absolutely Fabulous” introduced us to Julia Sawalha when she played the character of Saffron, the most mature person on the show despite being one of the youngest.
Cynical Saffron was a scholar and overachiever, and Sawalha is no different, but while Saffron ignored fashion, Sawalha was a bona fide brunette beauty. She has a huge list of roles on TV, in movies, and even video games, and while she's never had a big breakout role, there are lots of people on the other side of the pond who consider her a star.
DeRon Horton – Dear White People
Netflix's ten-episode adaptation of the film “Dear White People” brought us, DeRon Horton, as Lionel Hughes, a shy, reserved, closeted freshman who finds himself as a loner in college. While presented as nerdy, it's clear that Horton cleans up nicely.
Born in Texas but raised in Saudi Arabia, Horton has had quite the life. There's not much about him – he doesn't even have a Wikipedia page – but he's been in “American Horror Story,” “Burning Sands,” “Lethal Weapon.” He has plenty of roles that are coming up soon, and as Yoda said in “The Phantom Menace,” we will watch his career with great interest.
Shannon Purser – Stranger Things
“Stranger Things” wowed us with fun visuals, funny characters, and great storylines. Shannon Purser's character, Barb Holland, didn't last too long in the show, but fans fell in love with her while she tried to keep Nancy Wheeler on the straight and narrow.
Barb is quite the classic eighties nerd, but Purser is the exact opposite, stunning every time she appears in public. In real life, Purser is an amateur visual artist and musician and is a hard advocate for mental health and anxiety awareness. She was the titular loser in “Sierra Burgess Is a Loser” in 2018.