If you were one of the lucky Canadians that somehow got the mythical MTV piped in from America in the 90s, you might be familiar with Chris Hardwick as a the co-host, along with a pre-autism-controversy, post-Playboy Jenny McCarthy, on Singled Out. Apparently, it was some kind of hip, Gen X dating show. But, listing that as an essential part of Hardwick’s bio is starting to be silly, almost anachronistic. He’s much much more than a former television host.
As the host of the popular Nerdist podcast, Hardwick has helped push that artform—
the podcast—into a cultural powerhouse. The podcast led to other podcasts that he
produced and a YouTube channel, and coming full circle, television hosting gigs—
this time without any former Playboy bunnies.
But above and before all that, Hardwick was a stand up comedian; a born and bred
comedy nerd. A pretty damn good one, too, as demonstrated by his new special,
Mandroid, which seems him talking about pop culture, his past, and of course, shark
We caught up with him before the release of the special on an awkward conference
call. Awkward both because we could hear the tail end of the interviewer before us,
and because he was about to go the washroom. But, through it all, Hardwick was as
professional as you’d expect.
SHARP: I’ve actually just been listening in on the last interview, too, so you won’t
even get any time to rest at all.
Chris Hardwick: [Laughing] I sleep on planes.
SHARP: You can sleep when you’re dead, man.
CH: Yeah, I can sleep when I’m dead, next week when I’m exhausted.
SHARP: I’m from Toronto, that’s where my magazine is from.
CH: Good town, good town; The Comedy Bar.
SHARP: Yeah, I saw you at The Comedy Bar when you came last year. I’m sure you
remember me. I was the white male that was there.
CH: Oh, you were that guy!
SHARP: While you were working up to Mandroid’s taping you were working on the
road quite a bit. Was there anything that surprised you about
your material and how it works differently in different places? Did any of that affect your end result?
CH: From the time that I started working on all that material to the time I was done,
the main difference was that in the middle of that people started coming to
see me on purpose. I feel like Mandroid sort of rides this line, in my head at least,
between older material that was a little broader for, basically, rednecks that I was
performing for in the middle of the country, versus, ‘oh, people are actually
getting these references now, I’m safe to kind of explore this stuff that I really
want to talk about more.’ So, I think that was kind of the big thing. And now that
I’m getting to start from scratch it’s sort of fun to really ask, ‘what do I want to say?’
And really plan an hour special, as opposed to before, where basically I was taking
a bunch of sets that I had been doing on the road and figuring out how they
were related and then stringing them together.
SHARP: Cool, one of the things that I’ve noticed about The Nerdist podcast and
about show business these days is this new model, and you guys are a great example
of it. You’ve built up Nerdist industries based on the podcast and website, and things
like that. But one of the things I’ve noticed is that the end result is still kind of an
old media thing; a TV show. Take Marc Maron, he does this podcast, and now he’s
getting a show. I wondered if it’s all coming back to the same thing, or if there
really has been sort of this new revolution in pop culture.
CH: No, there has been, but television is still a very important platform, and I
don’t think it’s going to be one or the other, I think they’re going to merge. A
television audience is still fairly substantial. I sort of have an eye on trying to create
programming that would work on digital and on television for the inevitable merge.
SHARP: The singularity.
CH: Yeah, exactly, the media singularity. And I’m certainly not the only one. But
I still think it’s important to be thinking five years down the road with your
programming, and where you’re going, and how it’s all tying together, because you
know eventually everything will merge.
SHARP: How did you develop that brain where you’re obviously very business savvy, and
you seem to really enjoy that part, and then also maintaining this, looking at life
through a comedian’s lens?
CH: I think stand-ups actually are pretty well-equipped for the transition because,
when you think about the way that digital content works, it’s about building
a community and listening to your audience and forming a relationship with
them. That’s what you do as a comic. It’s not that different, it’s just a different
expression of content than telling jokes. As far as the business stuff, I just look at
it all as kind of a resource building game. I always compare it to Sim City or
Warcraft: you build up a little area and then that sort of starts running itself, and you
build up another area, and then that starts running itself, and then you can connect
those things. I mean, honestly, the whole thing feels like a giant expression of a
video game to me, and I think that’s what I love about it.
SHARP: One of the things that you are sort of known for is being a nice person.
CH: Fuck you.
SHARP: Yeah, that’s what I was hoping to get. Now, I’m blowing this story wide open.
CH: [Laughing] Fuck you says Chris Hardwick. I just said that to a kid in the audience
last night at one of the shows, because he was just 19 and I was like, ‘fuck you.’ He
was like, ‘why would you say ‘fuck you?’ I was like, ‘oh I’m just jealous that you’re
SHARP: I like how he asks, ‘why, did I do…did I do something wrong?’
CH: Yeah you did something wrong! You were born nineteen years ago and not 35
SHARP: But does your kindness set you apart in the many different businesses that you
run in? Or, is it all just an act?
CH: I don’t think so. Having worked in the business for as long as I have, I just see
people get treated like shit, or made to feel like what they like isn’t okay. I, as a
person whose done a lot of radio interviews, I felt like, ‘wow, I didn’t really matter to them at all. I was just killing time for
them and they didn’t listen, and they were kind of rude. I think I just feel like people
should be treated like humans, you know?
CH: And I also feel like there’s a certain level of compassion that we as a culture have
kind of let go because, again, we are so used to interfacing with machines that we
forget that there are human beings on the other side of those machines, so people
are shittier than they would be if they were face to face with someone. And so, I
just, I don’t know, I guess I just feel like there’s enough cynicism and shitiness in the
world, so why not be nice to people?