Posters in the Tri-Lambda house include: the Beatles in their early years; Thriller-era Michael Jackson; the Space Shuttle being launched; a 1984 calendar/poster with a topless woman; a Devo poster, featuring the band members in their signature "energy dome" hats; and an Albert Einstein poster.
The University of Arizona agreed to let the filmmakers shoot at the campus, then revoked permission after reading the script. Eventually they changed their minds and let them shoot. Many students were used as extras.
A display in the background of Tri-Lambda's performance at the end is provided by a Tandy Color Computer using the Audio Spectrum Analyzer cartridge. One of the nerds carries a board with shoulder straps that has a CoCo attached to it.
To test the effectiveness of their "nerd" makeup and wardrobes, Robert Carradine and Anthony Edwards attended a college rush-week, when real fraternities were reviewing prospective pledges (wanna-be members). The fraternity leader of the first house took one look at them both and said, "No way!"
When Jeff Kanew was interviewed by the producers, they asked what kind of movie he thought he could make given the material. He responded, "One I would be embarrassed to have my name on." They hired him immediately.
The film deleted a subplot of the Nerds visiting the Tri-Lambda national conference in Las Vegas, in which the Nerds are outcasts and in which Gilbert talks to his uncle at the hotel where the conference is being held. These deleted scenes can be found on the new "panty raid edition" DVD.
The exterior shots of the Pi sorority house were actually the Phi Delta Theta fraternity house at the University of Arizona. Donald Gibb is a brother of Phi Delta Theta from the University of New Mexico, which helped securing permission from the chapter.
Lewis' name is a play on the name of the famous American physical chemist, Gilbert N. Lewis; who studied acids, bases and photo-phosphorescence. He is credited with coining the term "photon" and was the first to produce pure deuterium oxide, otherwise known as "heavy water".
On the documentary for the Special Edition DVD, it was revealed that many of the actors (including Robert Carradine, Curtis Armstrong, and Timothy Busfield) initially did not want to do the film but gave in because the movie either paid well or it was a chance for some of them, who were struggling actors, to get into a movie.
Because the script didn't have much of a plot (as the interviewed actors and filmmakers have stated), many of the actors were allowed to ad-lib scenes. Timothy Busfield recalls that he ad-libbed Poindexter's painful yell when watching the video of the girls dorm. Robert Carradine remembered that in the scene where he "serviced" Betty in the fun house, his line was originally "All jocks think about is sports. Ever since we're ten, all we nerds ever think about is sex." He didn't like the line and dropped the "Ever since we're ten" part. Curtis Armstrong recalls that it was by pure chance that Booger and Takashi ended up bunked next to each other in the gym and they improvised the running gag of them playing cards and Armstrong's line "What the fruck is a frush?"
Robert Carradine says that when he read the script, Lewis' laugh was described as a "goose honk" he wasn't sure how to do it. But by chance, the first scenes shot were of his father dropping Lewis and Gilbert off at college. When actor James Cromwell did the laugh, Carradine mimicked it.
Although many of the actors had reservations about appearing in a movie called Revenge of the Nerds, they had a terrific time filming it. The actors described the filming as a "fraternity atmosphere", and frequently partied with the University of Arizona students, many of whom appear in the film as extras.
These things were ad-libbed: The Coach's "Shit, we forgot to practice"; Takashi's "salad" comment in the locker room scene; Gable's "Do you know karate?"; The Dean saying he has allergies; Poindexter's painful scream during the Pi-watching scene; Poindexter's date grabbing his crotch during the party; Lewis' "We love you when you're mad!"
Timothy Busfield ad-libbed Poindexter's painful yelp during the Pi-watching sequence. It was inspired by the sound of a former neighbor having sex. Many crew members had to run away to keep from breaking out in laughter and ruining the take, but the director can be heard snickering just before the camera cuts away to the next scene.
Although Booger is arguably Curtis Armstrong's most famous character, he initially didn't want the part. According to his comments on the Panty Raid DVD edition, he originally read for the part of Gilbert, but was later asked to read for Booger. He recalls telling fellow actor Bronson Pinchot that if he was offered the role of Booger, "They could just fucking forget it. I'm not picking my nose on camera for anyone."
Curtis Armstrong, Michelle Meyrink and Timothy Busfield all play their own musical instruments. Timothy Busfield is not a violin player, and he was told his inept practicing would be overdubbed by a proper violinist. He was dismayed when his discordant screechings made it into the film.
Robert Carradine moved to the University of Arizona two weeks before shooting to get into character as Lewis Skolnick. He brought only his "nerd" clothes to wear. He couldn't bring himself to leave his hotel room for three days.
Contrary to the common anecdote, the belching sound was not the sound of two camels mating. Rather, it was the combination of a person's belch with that of a camel (added for resonance and longevity.) The man who donated his belch to the film was a studio craftsman by the name of Bill Livengood (uncredited).
While standing in the gym in a queue for food Gilbert, Lewis and Booger have a conversation about Judy. This conversation is quoted in a song called "Computer Camp Love" by the Norwegian band Datarock. The quoted conversation is the following: "Her name is Judy/That's a nice name/Yeah she's a nice girl/Big deal/Did you get in her pants/She's not that kind of a girl booger/Why? Does she have a penis?"
In Spain, the film was translated into "La revancha de los novatos" (Revenge of the Freshmans), because in that time there wasn't an official translation for the word "Nerd", until several years later.
The song the Pi's sing to offer themselves as dates to the the Tri-Lambs (Hello Lambdas we're the Pi's/SAnd we're here to say/We thing you are special guys/Lambdas all the way...)is sung to the tune of "Aura Lee" an American Civil War song written by W. W. Fosdick (words) and George R. Poulton (music). Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender" is a derivative of it, and a version with different lyrics is sung in "Trading Places", as well. (sung as "Constance Fry")