“I envision a Nerdtopia where video games are free, Cheetos are currency, and robot concubines sate our sexual thirsts. I am confident that Peter Levin, his brain-trust of genius partners and their combined business acumen will provide the infrastructure to help me accomplish this,” Hardwick said today.
While he hasn't achieved a world in which Cheetos are recognized as currency, Hardwick has accomplished quite a few other achievements in the past year: launching a popular podcast edition of Nerdist, turning the back of Meltdown Comics in Hollywood into the NerdMelt Theatre, selling a pilot to BBC America (which also will see him hosting that channel's comedy block this summer), and writing a book, The Nerdist Way, due out in November. He's also been involved in an animated pilot at IFC for Hard N Phirm, and continues to host Web Soup on G4.
Said GeekChicDaily founder and CEO Peter Levin: “We look forward to working side-by-side with Chris to elevate the Nerdist brand and bring the offering to a variety of new channels and consumers.”
If Comedy Central passes on the pilot of Tonight's Funniest, it won't be for a lack of jokes. I attended a taping of it last week in Harlem (in the same studios where CC taped the first season of Important Things with Demetri Martin, btw). It's a faux game show. Think Match Game, only without the contestants getting in the way. Or if you're not old enough for that reference, how about thinking of Whose Line Is It Anyway, except with stand-ups sitting down.
Chris Hardwick hosted the proceedings, with comedians Joe DeRosa, Jared Logan, Michelle Collins, Sherrod Small and Kurt Metzger writing punchlines on the spot for topical premises provided by Hardwick. The audience then used remote control devices to vote on who delivered the best joke on each premise. Each of their names are on the back with a corresponding number on the keypad. Ooh.
Anyhow. Twas loads of fun. Lots of riffing and joke-making.
During a break between tapings, Hardwick took me into his green room to talk just a little bit about the process of filming pilots. Fun times! Even if you don't see Hardwick on your Comedy Central in 2011, although you should, you can still see him hosting Web Soup on G4, as well as providing gadget reviews on G4's Attack of the Show, as well as nerding it up on line at Nerdist.com. OK. OK! Roll the clip.
Related: Chris Hardwick also is hosting another TV pilot taping on Sept. 16, for NBC, called That's A Record! It's a TV version of people setting their own records, thanks to the folks from URDB with production help from Jimmy Fallon?!? Oh, that looks like a go, people. Taping occurs in Simi Valley, Cali. Get tickets here.
Furthermore: Hardwick also appears in the new Garfunkel and Oates music video (NSFW!) that has been circulating this week. Note: Circulating is not exactly the right word, is it.
Chris Hardwick is a self-described nerd, so much so that his site and his Twitter handle are both called Nerdist, and he's building a whole wide web of nerds, literally, on his Nerdist site. So when he asked me to call him shortly after 5 p.m. (Pacific) on Monday, right after his live spot reviewing a new PC for G4's Attack of the Show, I figured I'd have to ask the man who sings about Pi if he cared that he was talking to me at 5:06:07 on 8/09/10. Yes. We started with lunacy right from the beginning.
Did you get wrapped up in the 8/9/10 silliness? "No, but I should have been. I've been traveling so much, I consistently forget what day it is. Several times I have to go, is today Friday? No...so I didn't even realize it."
That's good, though, right? If you're working that much, that a sign that things are going well. "I've been traveling a ton, and I'm getting ready to work six weekends in a row. (NOTE: Chris Hardwick comes to NYC this weekend for several shows at Carolines. For the rest of his late summer schedule, find his tour dates on his Nerdist about page!) It's getting back into it. I started, I guess it's been a couple of years since I decided, well, I should go out on the road and write jokes that are not just for Los Angeles. It's just kind of slow during the summer. I did all three Just For Laughs Festivals. So that was a few weekends right there. And then I did Comic-Con."
How was Comic-Con for a nerd king like you? "It's amazing. The first one was the Wootstock show, and the other show was Patton (Oswalt) did a show at the House of Blues, so I did a guest set on that...for me, performing for nerds is the best. I understand them, they understand me, it's a good match. I've done comedy at Comic-Con for three years. They've always been so good to me."
How does that compare to performing for audiences in mainstream comedy clubs? "The nerds have slowly been overtaking the regular comedy club folk. It'll be interesting to see now...before the summer was up, the podcast hadn't been up very long, and the website wasn't doing that well, and Web Soup wasn't on for that long. I'll be curious. You know, it always comes down to a promotional issue. I can do six shows in a market, and it'll always be the day that I leave, someone will go, 'Why don't you do a show in Denver?', and I'll say, 'I was just there!' It's such a pain to promote shows. There's not a lot of budget to promote shows, from the club end, especially if you're doing a rock club or theatre, you might get a mention in the town's alt-weekly, but much of the time people don't really know you were there. It's an interesting challenge. This weekend will be another check of the thermometer of the asshole of progress."
Since you just talked to Paul F. Tompkins for your own podcast, it's only fitting to ask if you've considered going his route and doing your own version of The Tompkins 300. "It's genius! It was one of the things that motivated me to see if anyone would be interested in doing street team promotions. Which is a throwback to what we'd do in radio. We had street teams all the time...it's just a really fun grassroots way to do it, and meet a lot of creative nerds in the process. And maybe they meet and hang out and form lifelong relationships, and we can meet again in 10 years."
"Part of me says, well that's Paul's idea. But it's so general...I'm trying this promotion. My plan is to do an hour next year, so to spend the time trying to get isolated dates it'd take too long, so that's why I'm doing all of these weeks. The other thing about theaters and rock clubs, is, I enjoy talking to the crowd, not because of any other reason but because I like it, and the mechanics of it are tougher to pull off in a rock club or theater, because they're not as intimate in that way. Comedy clubs is, you're in the trenches. I feel like they're having a contest of who can have the smallest stage in comedy clubs, so a lot of times it feels like you just stood up in front of a bunch of people and started talking to them."
That's what they used to do with the soapboxes. "It's exactly like the old soapbox. Exactly. Exactly. Except instead with vagina jokes. I don't think anyone ever got up in front of the town square and said, 'Farts are weird!'"
Refresh all of our memories. Had you done much comedy before getting MTV's Singled Out? Or did you do MTV first, then stand-up, or then Hard 'N Phirm, and then stand-up? "Well, I had. But it was sort of a weird trajectory. At UCLA, we had a thing called the UCLA Comedy Club. It wasn't a physical club. We would meet on Wednesday nights and flesh out material, and perform in the dorms...in retrospect, it wasn't enough for me to say I was a stand-up but at the time, I thought it was. One of the guys now is a co-E.P. for Family Guy, another guy works at Family Guy. That's where I met Mike Phirman. MTV came along and I essentially left school to work for MTV. After that, I was in that mindset where I said, do I start doing stand-up now? I tried to do it a few times between college and the end of Singled Out, to varying degrees of success. Half of the times it was fine...then, 1999, I finished working on Singled Out and i decided, I'm really ready to pursue this. So the weird answer is I did, but I didn't really until 1999."
"When Mike finished school, we stopped working and Mike went into visual effects. He was doing digital compositing for, like, CSI Miami, the CSI franchise, directing some second unit stuff. So coming out of that, I convinced him, there was Comedy Death Ray at M Bar, let's do one of our old songs, and it was fun. It was right after Tenacious D, and there was a brief opening where people didn't think you were a jag off for doing musical comedy...We did our half-hour in 2007, and then three years of shitloads of stuff as Hard 'N Phirm, and then we both agreed to do our own stuff again. We don't do a ton of stuff together anymore. Like Doug Benson's doing a show that we're doing the theme song for (The Benson Interruption on Comedy Central), and Mike has his own solo album he's got coming out. And we have eight songs together that we haven't put out. But we'll get to that. We essentially have sold a pilot, I can't say where it is, but it'd be an animated Hard 'N Phirm show, and if we get that, you'll see it. Hard 'N Phirm is not a comedy club act. It's good for festivals...in a comedy club, people just need a little more joke-per-minute ratio. If they don't get one of our songs in the first 10 seconds, they have to sit through it...if you're cranking out a bunch of jokes, it's easier for them to check in and out...rather than if you're singing a song about American dinosaurs. We tend to do a lot better in non comedy-club venues. We're not like Stephen Lynch. I'm not being shitty about him. He has a more comedy club friendly kind of act. We have more of a comedy nerd friendly act."