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."
Believe it or not, the "Soup" franchise of TV snark soon will surpass both Law & Order and CSI in the number of separate-but-equal editions of a single-concept television program, as the trades announced overnight that the G4 network will launch Web Soup on June 7, with host Chris Hardwick (Hard 'N Phirm, MTV's Singled Out, and currently recurring on G4's Attack of the Show) examining the highs and lows of Internet videos.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m., Web Soup will feature segments such The Daily Upload, This Week in FAIL and Things You Can’t Un-See. G4 President Neal Tiles said: “Not only can Chris Hardwick dole out hilarious off-the-cuff commentary, he also possesses a deep knowledge of digital culture, which makes him the ideal host for Web Soup. We are excited to put G4’s spin on this popular franchise.”
This will make four projects from the same executive producers ostensibly serving up weekly one-liners about high-profile foibles caught on camera. Danielle Fishel dishes about celebrity fashion mishaps each week on The Dish for The Style Network, which debuted last summer. Matt Iseman tackles sports bloopers both on and off the field in Sports Soup for the Versus (VS.) network, which arrived last fall. And then there is the original, formerly Talk Soup, and now just The Soup, which has provided a career stepping-stone for Greg Kinnear, Aisha Tyler and now Joel McHale.
We can only wonder what happens when a show comes along that's a reality contest featuring athletes in horrible outfits on the Internet. How will they decide who gets to mock it? Or will they have a special crossover episode like they do for the CSIs?
As Hardwick notes: "BIG HEADS UP: This song may not be suitable for work (unless you work in a dispensary). It unleashes a volcano of swears. In fact, I DARE you to figure out how to make a radio edit of it (it would probably sound like a 4-minute test of the Emergency Broadcast System)."
So if you have headphones or don't care who hears it, play "SFH".
Chris Hardwick, aka the Hard in Hard 'N Phirm, aka @nerdist, broke news minutes ago via Twitter that he would not be able to make his live comedy gigs this weekend at SXSW in Austin because...he just got hired to host the pilot for the new game show, The Whole 19 Yards, for the CBS television network. Hardwick said he couldn't divulge much info about the show, other than he's working across the lot from Wheel of Fortune. But the Internets have told us that Endemol is behind the project, and was seeking potential contestants last month via Craigslist. Top prize of $50,000. J. Rupert Thompson, veteran producer/director of Fear Factor, Wipeout, Kid Nation and the revamp of American Gladiators, is directing.
Speaking of Super Deluxe, it's Friday, which means another look at the new movies and DVDs, courtesy of comedian Doug Benson and this week's NSFW installment of "I Love Movies." Also, duly noted, the theme songs provided by Hard 'N Phirm.
Comedy Central Presents rolls out two more new half-hour specials tonight, starting with Hard 'N Phirm, the musical comedy duo of Chris Hardwick and Mike Phirman. Certainly, more than a few of you will see these guys onstage, look at Hardwick and think to yourselves, "Hey, wasn't that guy on MTV's Singled Out, that dating show from the 1990s with Jenny McCarthy?" Why, yes. Yes he was. Turns out some people have more than one talent. And Hardwick is one of those some peoples. I met Hard 'N Phirm a couple of years ago at a national NACA conference and found them both to be charming, friendly and funny. If you haven't heard them before, you're likely to come to a similar assessment after watching their CCP tonight.
At the taping in August, they had some funny audience interactions during their opening song, and their set list included such chestnuts as "Anything" and "Pi"! There was a birthday song, the sappiest love song ever, def poetry spam, a Schoolhouse Rock-style song, that essential ode to patriotism, "American Dinosaurs," and someone got a memo to the crowd to spread that patriotism wide and proud. Which of these bits will make it into the half-hour once you throw in ads? Tune in tonight. In the meantime, here is a brief interview with the guys to get to know them better.
Related: Become their MySpace friends.
After the jump, another clip from their CCP (actually, the opening few minutes)...