Chris Hardwick: Pop Culture Maverick
Chris Hardwick has come a long way from his stint hosting the MTV dating show “Singled Out.” He’s now not only a comedian and television personality, but also a chart-topping podcaster and the CEO of the multi-media platform monster Nerdist Industries, a conglomerate that includes nerdist.com, a YouTube channel with more than 900 thousand subscribers and a podcast network including the Nerdist Podcast that averages 6 million monthly downloads. Hardwick also hosts “The Walking Dead” after show “Talking Dead” on AMC and “@Midnight” on Comedy Central. Prior to his appearance at the Pabst Theater on Friday, May 8 as part of his Funcomfortable tour, the Shepherd Express caught up with Hardwick to find out how he manages his mounting jobs.
Why do you think you’ve been able to grow The Nerdist from a homegrown operation to a massive empire?
I think part of it is that I care about what I’m doing and I care about the content. So that means I work harder than I would if it were just a job that I would go in from 9 to 5 that I wasn’t really connected to. And I have amazing teams of people. It’s not like I do everything alone. I have an amazing team at The Nerdist, I have an amazing team of people at “@Midnight” and the “Talking Dead” crew is great. It’s definitely team efforts on all of it. So I think I’m sort of lucky enough to attract really good people to work with and that all really helps make all that possible. It allows me, when I’m at “@Midnight,” to focus on “@Midnight” because I know that there are people at Nerdist that I can trust in handling day-to-day stuff that I don’t have time to do. And then when I go do Nerdist stuff, at “@Midnight” is going to be OK.
You said in an interview that it’s important to switch jobs without thinking about it. With all your projects going on, is that how you keep on top of everything?
I think so. If you think about stuff too much then you’ll talk yourself out of it or won’t do it or it’ll seem like too much effort. I was just asked that on the podcast yesterday: “How do you go from one job to the next? Is there a transition period?” And I said, “No, they just have different modes and I know how to get in and out of them really quickly and I don’t really think about it.” I think if I did I wouldn’t be able to do that as easily.
You had a tweet recently about one of your fans creating something on Reddit based on a segment on “@Midnight.” How do you feel about having that kind of influence?
On “@Midnight” we talk about communities on the Internet basically, like any place that has social media. And I don’t mean status media updates but comment threads, dating communities, Reddit, any of the communities. To feel like we’re part of that is huge for us because, look, I’m a person who loves the Internet. I’ve been online for over 20 years. Any piece of social media that embraces what we’re doing and plays with it and evolves it and makes it their own and has fun with it—to be part of that means the world to me because that’s the community I came out of. So it’s like having your hometown root for you. It’s incredible.
What should people in Milwaukee expect from the Funcomfortable show if they haven’t seen you live before?
I’ve always been a really socially awkward person. I can perform in front of thousands of people. But if I’m in a party situation or I’m one on one with people, I get a little weird and socially awkward. So really it’s a collection of weird, awkward. That’s why the tour is called Funcomfortable. It’s sort of like a series of weird, awkward stories that are the product of my specific personality. And the show is very interactive. I talk to people in the audience a lot. I think if you saw two shows back to back you wouldn’t see the same exact show twice. And it’s fun. I think the shows generally are fun. I don’t feel I just get on stage and bark a bunch of jokes to people and leave. I feel that the jokes are more of a conversation with the audience I guess. It’s a little dirty so I wouldn’t bring small children. I wouldn’t say I’m a filthy comedian but some of the content is a little R rated, maybe PG-13.
What are some of your favorite observations or unique things you’ve heard about Milwaukee?
Well I’ve been to Milwaukee before and Milwaukee is a great town because you guys have a lot of venues. There are a lot of theater venues. And I feel that not every city is really great at understanding about coming in to watch a show but there’s a real theater culture in Milwaukee. The architecture is really cool and a lot of the older buildings have been revamped. Milwaukee has a great look to it and a good vibe. And I think the last time I performed there, I performed at the Pabst Theater with Joel McHale in 2009 maybe and the show was really fun. So I’m looking forward to coming back and stuffing my face with cheese I can’t get in Los Angeles.