For 25 years, Meltdown Comics has been a part of our Sunset Square neighborhood. At the end of this week, they’ll close shop, another brick-and-mortar casualty of online commerce.
As the largest tenant on the block, Meltdown was the area’s commercial anchor. Its closure will help the landlord, Jack Ilulian, demolish the low-slung retail building(s) consistent with the area’s historic character. Armed with encouraging “donations”/bribes to compliant politicians, Ilulian hopes to get approval to build “7500 Sunset,” a massive, out-of-scale “mixed use” project, with high-end retail on the bottom and luxury apartments on the top. To many, this will be seen as progress.
To those of us who have lived much of our adult lives in this idyllic urban nook, the closing of Meltdown symbolizes our neighborhood’s — and our City’s — descent into Manhattanization, where anything modest and unobtrusive gets replaced with something tall and imposing. We have a little slice of Larchmont Village here; thanks to greed disguised as “moving forward,” our neighborhood is creeping toward overbuilt annihilation.
Meltdown, with its colorful neon sign and pastel green veneer, was funky and fun, the antithesis of a national retail chain. It started in 1993, the year after we arrived in town. Originally, it was as a small mom-and-pop business on the other side of the street, launched by a young man named Gaston Dominguez-Letelier. He and his wife sold collectibles and the latest releases. They had a pinball machine and Hollywood ambitions. After a few years of building nerd cred — and a customer base of arrested adolescents — when the unfortunately named children’s furniture store “Sid’s” closed, Meltdown made the big jump to the south side of Sunset, occupying a space approximately 15x larger than the north side location.
Shortly thereafter, Gaston’s brother Francisco started managing the huge retail store, welcoming D&D players, stoners, Dr. Who freaks, representatives of the entire autism spectrum, and, refreshingly, dogs. (You got an extra 10% off your purchase if you brought your mutt.) It was a community. Meltdown became a nationally known hub for nerd culture.
And then it became something like World Headquarters. Partnering with Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist Network, Meltdown transformed its spacious back store-room, where extra junk was kept, into the NerdMelt Showroon. In less than a year, the small theater earned a reputation as one of the best places in the world to see “alternative” comedy. You didn’t have to buy unwanted drinks; you were always less than 50-feet from some of the greatest comedians on the planet, and sometimes face-to-face. And it was in the back of a comic book store that welcomed dogs.
NerdMelt produced “The Meltdown, with Jonah and Kumail,” launching the careers of Mssrs. Ray and Nanjiani, and featuring just about every comedian you like. It’s where Troy Conrad’s sensational “Set List” show held down the last Saturday of the month. It’s the location on earth where I’ve laughed more than anywhere else.
A partial list of the geniuses I had the pleasure of watching up close at NerdMelt…
Robin Williams. Maria Bamford. Reggie Watts. Kate Berlant. Rory Scovel. Moshe Kasher. Eddie Pepitone. Rick Overton. Dana Gould. Arden Myrin. Greg Proops. Todd Glass. Louis CK. Sarah Silverman. Daniel Tosh. Andy Kindler. Jeff Garlin. Carlos Alazarqui. Brent Weinbach. John Dore. Rick Glassman. James Adomian. TJ Miller. Anthony Jeselnik. Bo Burnham. Ron Lynch. A hundred others…
I also had the sublime pleasure of smoking countless joints with many of these blazingly intelligent comedians in the Meltdown parking lot, outside the back door. And I had the honor of performing on the small, three-inch high stage, several times as a guest and many times during the NerdMelt Showroom Open Mic, considered by most working comedians as the best in the business.
Losing Meltdown and the NerdMelt Showroom immediately lowers the quality of life in our neighborhood. We’re so sad to see them go — and grateful for the unforgettable experiences.