The bar at The Whistler
Liquid courage: Sip and spell tonight at the Whistler

Nerds of Chicago, unite! Logan Square’s hipster haven The Whistler—known for its craft cocktails, offbeat live music, poetry readings, art installations, and more—adds its first ever spelling bee to the mix tonight at 8 p.m. Hosts Seth Dodson and Kellen Alexander of the improv group 1, 2, 3 Fag! will be leading the proceedings and mocking bad spellers. Bee organizer and Whistler staffer Shelby Allison tells us what to expect.

The Chaser: Do I have to be smarter than a fifth grader to participate?
Shelby Allison: The first-round words were pulled from a seventh-grade-level list. The second-round words are all pulled from popular culture, so you just have to be smarter than Us Weekly. For the third round and some of the fourth-round words—the categories are “Literature” and “Science & General Nerdiness”—it would help to have some memory of high school English and science terms. We pulled words from everywhere: sci-fi conventions, lists of ingredients, how-to manuals, bus stops, Facebook posts.

Any last-minute study tips?
Read TMZ, your old biology book, some poetic manuals, and spell-check your e-mails! A lot of the words aren’t difficult to spell, just long, so practice spelling long words without writing them down.

Will cheating be allowed?
While we can’t stop the audience from yelling out hints, we won’t be allowing any phone-a-friend cheats.

How much heckling can poor spellers expect? Do we get a free beer if we cry?
There’s no crying in spelling! [No free beers, either.] The mocking shouldn’t be too bad. Neil Hamburger isn’t hosting, after all.

Anything else spellers should know?
Get there early! The Whistler has a small capacity, just under 80 people, so we’re expecting to fill up quickly. We’ll open registration at 7, and the Spelling Bee will begin at 8. It’s free to register and/or watch, and there are 40 spots for spellers.


Photograph: Neil Burger