Beauty and the Geek - Chicago Style

When is a 'geek' a local 'hero'? When his name is Joe Block, and he is a nice boy from Chicago who appears as a 'geek' on the reality show, 'Beauty and the Geek 2'. The show that pairs brainy men and beautiful women and is seen on Thursdays on the WB network and in Chicago on WGN, channel 9 at 8:00 p.m. By his own definition, Joe is 'a geek, a somebody', and not a 'nerd' or a 'dork', both somewhat socially inept. He is, in fact, a' geek' who plays speed chess and music and was cast on the second season of the show by Ashton Kutcher.

Joe Block

Joe Block is your local home- grown variety 'geek'. He grew up in Joliet, attended High School at Lake Forest Academy, received a B. A. from the University of Chicago in Philosophy and is currently working on a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering at Northwestern University. With his affinity toward Math, Joe was the 'geek' in his liberal arts family. I asked Joe how it he happened to become the famous 'Chicago Geek'.

1. What inspired you to try out for the show?

I thought to myself that I could do that show if I put my mind to it. Moreover, I had so much to learn about life, women and pop culture having spent a large portion of my time on more academic pursuits. I figured it could only benefit me.

Beauties and geeks pyramid

2. What changes were most noticeable to you as the result of participating in the show?

My friends would certainly say my confidence. Prior to the show, I had ideas about how to be more social and successful with dating; after the show, I'm really putting the theories and teachings into practice. The show really gave me a good foundation for interacting with people I often assumed wanted nothing to do with me. but you'd be surprised at how many good looking people do want to know more about your pursuits and are probably even more insecure than you.

3.Did you have an opportunity to explore Los Angeles and if so, what was this experience like?

Unfortunately, a large portion of the show dealt with interacting in the mansion located in LA, which meant limited time outside the house. To the extent I can comment, we did run into some celebrities in various settings, which was a neat experience. The weather was
great, compared to the snow and ice typical of Chicago at this time. I did a lot of swimming in the mornings and
Found the Los Angeles air to be surprisingly pleasant compared to what you normally hear. We did get to leave the mansion for challenges, although it was much less about sight seeing and much more about staying on the show longer. The food, which was catered by various Los Angeles restaurants, was amazing.

Karl, Brittany and Joe at Chevy's

4. How was it that learning took place on the show?

There were study materials provided for us on the various topics. However, a great deal of the learning really took place through interacting with our partners and even other
people on the show. Thankfully, everyone was very friendly and cooperative so that if your partner did not know something per se, you could ask someone else.

5. Can you compare and contrast your University of Chicago and Northwestern University experiences?

University of Chicago and Northwestern are very similar yet different experiences to me. Part of it too, is that I went to the former for undergrad and I am currently attending the latter for grad school. University of Chicago focuses primarily on theory; as such, they don't offer degrees in engineering or architecture or anything too applied. The social life at University of Chicago--often described as miserable--really wasn't so bad for me. They had a weekly bar night where students could go and be social; there were also plenty of cultural type events and my usual nights of chess til the wee hours. I also had the advantage of being from a nearby suburb, so I had friends from back home to socialize with as well.

University of Chicago, Henry Moore atomic bomb sculpture

Northwestern is a much more typical, yet stunningly beautiful, campus. It's right along the lake
With a downtown loaded with every type of restaurant and activity possible. There's an 18 screen theater... University of Chicago had a run down one that was seldom open, it seemed. Northwestern has a great sports program... no comment on University of Chicago's. Northwestern's facilities are amazing. They have everything one could want for doing graduate research. The main difference I notice is that the teachers collaborate a lot more than at University of Chicago. University of Chicago seemed more competitive and solipsistic, whereas NW really has a team oriented spirit, which I find really attractive. The interdisciplinary programs, and having the engineering/science fields in the same building is conducive to collaborations and interaction, which I believe is key to success.

Northwester University Technological Institute

All in all, both experiences have benefited me greatly. I wouldn't trade either and have 0 regrets. I would recommend either place to anyone who asked.

6. How does it feel to be back?

It's nice to be back in the swing of things, though I do miss the people and time in LA. It never felt like work in the house, so it really made me think twice about the possibility of pursuing more film/entertainment opportunities. I don't know if I have what it takes,
But I'd certainly be willing to give it the old college try. I do really appreciate my life, friends and family here in IL, which makes leaving hard. In fact, I went to high school further away from home than to college or grad school!

7. In what way have your friends and family reacted to your stardom?

Honestly, it's not really stardom. That word is probably misleading. We're on a show to learn. People don't really recognize me; not sure if it's my limited amount of [geeky]
lines on the show or my low-key life style, but it doesn't bother me. People who found out I'm on the show have
been very kind and gracious. I think I handled myself well on the show so I don't have to worry about how people will treat me afterwards. In short, my family is really excited, maybe more than me. My friends have always been there for me and will always be. They too have enjoyed being able to watch and tell people that they know me.

Joe, Beth and Karl at preview


8. How do you think this experience might influence your future?

I really have no idea. I never thought I'd be in engineering PhD grad school after a degree in philosophy,
but I am. I never thought I'd be on TV, but I was. I would like to pursue music, film, writing and other creative endeavors while I'm still young. I have so much to accomplish, from writing books on philosophy, dating/reality TV experience, screen plays and possibly
playing music professionally, and inventing some things I've had in my head for a while. There's a lot
I could do and the last thing I want to do is limit my options. But when the next big thing happens, I'll make sure to let you know about it.

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