Talking To The Nerdist’s Chris Hardwick – The Awl

byGrace?

Bello

ChrisHardwickhasmadeacareeroutofbeinganerd。

Well,actually,hehasmadeseveralcareersoutofbeinganerd,asthehostof“WebSoup”awriterforWired,anauthorandthehostofTheNerdistpodcast。

PasteMagazineandRollingStonebothnamedTheNerdistoneofthetenbestpodcastsoftheyear,whichmeansthatit’snowaTVshow,withaspecialairingtomorrownightonBBCAmerica。

Thepodcasthasalsospawnedacommunityoftech,scienceandnerdcultureenthusiastsonNerdist。

com。

YearsbeforehecreatedNerdistIndustries,Chriswasalreadysowingtheseedsofhisenterprise。

Hespenthisadolescenceseekingoutnerdartifactssuchascomics,videogamesandcomedytapesasiftheywerethemissingshardoftheDarkCrystal。

Here,hetalksaboutworkingwithDavidCrossathisfirstjob,whatnerdsdidbeforetheInternet,andhowbuildingNerdistIndustrieshasbeenlikeagameof?

SimCity。

GraceBello:Youwrotein?

Wired

thatnerdswere“onceatorturedsubraceofhumanscondemnedtohidingindarkcornersfromthebrutalhandofsocialtorment[andare]nowcaptainsofindustry!

”Howdothefansofyourshowandyourpodcastfeelaboutthat?

Dotheyagree?

Ordoyougetemailsthatsay,like,“Oh,actually,I’mstillacloseted?

nerd”?

ChrisHardwick:Well,moreandmorepeopleare“comingout”aboutitasnerds。

IfyouwereanerdwhenIwasgrowingup,inthe’80s,youweresociallyostracized。

Wewerejustintothingsthatmostotherkidswerenotinto。

Therewasaconsumerelectronicsthinghappening,butit’snotlikeeverystoresoldcomputers;therewasn’tanApplestore。

You’dhavetobuildyourowncomputer。

Andmostkidswhowereconcernedwithbeingpopularwouldn’ttakethetimetodoit。

Ittookwork。

Andtheonlyreasonyouwoulddothatextraworkandsacrificeanykindofsociallifeisifyouwerereallypassionateaboutwhatyouwerepursuing。

Andwewere。

Andthosewerethingslikecomputersandchessclubandcomicbooksandthingslikethat。

Butnoweverything’ssoreadilyavailableeverywhere,allthetime。

Peopledon’tnecessarilyhavetobeintojustoneortwothingsanymore。

Also,whenIwasgrowingup,nerdsweren’tbillionairesyet。

Sothepopularkidsnowhavesortofglommedontothenerdsbecausenownerdsarepowerful。

Therewasnomoneyfornerdsthen,whichmeantthattherewasnopoliticalgain,whichmeantthattherewasnomanipulationofthenerds。

Ifitmanifesteditselfinanyway,itwassortoflikenerdstutoringthedumb,popularkids。

Thatwasthesortofpowerthatthenerdswould?

have。

Throughyourpodcast,yougettomeetsomereallyamazingpeople,likeJonHamm,PatrickStewartandNeildeGrasseTyson。

Oftheguestsyou’vemet,whohaveyoubeenthemoststarstruckby?

Mostofthepeoplewhohavebeenontheshowarefriendsofmine。

IknewJonforyearsbeforehedidthepodcast。

PatrickStewart,I’dnevermetbefore;Iwasprettystarstruckbyhim。

NeilTyson,Ihadnotmetbefore?

—?

andisitweirdtosayyou’restarstruckbyanastrophysicist?

HewouldactuallymathematicallybeabletotellmetheimpactofhowstarstruckbyhimIwas。

It’sgreat。

EverynerdiconI’vealwayslookedupto,I’msystematicallyinteractingwithalloftheminsomesortofcapacity。

Ialwaysflashbacktomeasakid;ifsomeoneweretohavetoldmethen,“Someday,you’regoingtobefriendswithWeirdAl。

”It’slike,“What?

”Ialmostcan’tprocessit。

I’mafanboyasmuchasanyoneelseinthiscommunity。

IthinkI’vemanagedtocompartmentalizemybrainandholdthefanstuffdownreallydeep,anditcomesoutwhenI’mnotaround?

people。

Howdidyoucultivateyourinterestsincomedyandcomicswhilegrowingup?

Thatwaspre-Internet,sowereyoulurkinginarcadesandcomicbook?

shops?

That’sexactlyit。

Thedistributionismuchwidernow,butbackthen,wejusthadadifferentwayofacquiringthatcontent。

Ifitmeantsomethingtoyou,youwouldfindit。

Itwasalmostmoresatisfyingasanerd,inaway,becauseyoudidhavetogoonaquestforthosethings。

Andtheyweretreasuresthatyouhadtohunttofind,whetheritwasundergroundcomedytapesthatyouwouldtradewithsomeoneoroldcomicbooksthatyouwouldtrade?

—?

itwasmoreinthephysicalworldanditwasn’tadigitalprocess。

Italsowasn’tinstantgratification。

Itwasdefinitelydelayedgratificationandalittlebitofacrapshootwithwhatyou’dbeabletofind。

Thenyou’dalsogetaccidentallyexposedtothings,andtherewaskindofanerdpridetobeingawareofthingsthatpeopledidn’tknow。

Youhaddiscoveredthishiddentreasurethatwasverypersonal。

Whereasnow,youclickonawebsite,andthere’sasuggestionengine。

Wetakeforgrantedthatyoucanfindanythingandthatyou’regoingtostumbleacrossstuff。

Buttherewasatimewhenyouactuallyhadtoworkfor?

it。

It’snotlikeanyonewasgoing,“We’reallapartofthisscenethat’sgonnaultimatelyyieldabunchofdeliciouscomedyfruit!

”Theywerejustlike-mindedcomicswhoweren’tgettingstagetimeattheclubsandmadetheirownthing?

happen

Whatmadeyoupursuecomedyasopposedto,say,goingintothetechindustryorthesciences?

Idon’tknowifanyonechoosestobeacomedian;Ithinkit’ssomethingthatyoufeelcompelledtodo。

It’sprettyunrewardingforalongtime,youknow。

You’reperformingfortwopeople,andyou’reconstantlyaskingyourself,“AmIdoingtherightthing?

”Ifit’snotsomethingthatyouaregeneticallypredisposedtodoing,you’llquitdoingit。

Theonlyrewardthatyouhaveforsolongisjustthefactthatyou’redoingit。

SoIfeellikeIdon’tknowwhatelseIwouldhavedonewithmylife。

Itjustsohappensthatallmysub-interestswerethingsliketechnologyandsci-fiandvideogamesandcomicbooks。

Butstand-upcomedywasalwaysthethingfor?

me。

Whowereyourcomedyheroeswhenyouweregrowing?

up?

SteveMartin。

IhadalltheSteveMartinrecords。

GeorgeCarlin,RichardPryor,SamKinison,RodneyDangerfield,BillHicks,EmoPhilips,BillCosby…IftherewasacomedyspecialonTV,Itapedit。

Iwatchedeverything。

Itwasn’tlikeIlimitedmyselftoonekindofcomic。

Ilikedalldifferentflavorsofcomedy。

Andpeopledon’treallywatchcomedythatwayanymore;we’resuchaniche-yculturewhereyoucansurroundyourselfwithveryspecifickindsofthings。

ButIwatchedanykindofstand-up。

Ilovedit?

all。

Doyoufinddoingthepodcastasfulfillingasperformingstand-upinfrontofanaudience?

Well,it’sfulfilling,butit’sfulfillinginadifferentway。

They’recompletelydifferentformsofcommunication。

InTheNerdistpodcast,we’reconversational,andwedon’tgooutofourwaytocraftjokesinthepodcast。

Thereisn’taliveaudienceformostofthepodcast;althoughwedoliveshowseveryonceinawhile。

Butstand-upisjustyouandtheaudience。

Andyouhavejokesthatyou’vewritten:someofthemaregoingtowork,someofthemmaynot。

Iftheydon’t,you’vegottafigureouthowtomakethemworkreallyfast。

They’recompletelydifferentbutbothsatisfying。

Whatadvicewouldyougivetoayoung,aspiringcomedianwho’stryingtostarthisorher?

career?

Wetalkaboutthisonthepodcastalot。

There’snotreallyanyadviceotherthan“youhavetostartperforming。

”Youcan’tevengivesomeoneadviceuntilthey’vebeenonstageabunchoftimes。

It’snotanythingthatyouhavetoprepareforsixmonthstodo。

Youjustgetupandstartdoingit。

That’showyoufigureitout。

There’snofasttrackway。

There’snorealwaytoprepareforitbecauseit’sunlikeanythingelseyou’veeverdone。

Findopenmicsinyourarea,gotoopenmics,getuponstageasmuchaspossible。

Whenyou’vebeenperformingforafewmonths,thenyoucankindoftakestockandfigureoutwhereyou’reatandwhatyouseemtobegravitatingtowards。

It’sreallyaboutgettingonstageandbeingcomfortabletalkinginfrontof?

people。

Canyoutellmeaboutwhatitwaslikeworkingon“Trashed,”theMTVgameshowyouhostedin1994?

Imean,whatwasitlikeworkingwithBrianPosehnandDavidCrossbackthen,bothofwhomwouldlatergoontodo“Mr。

Show,”amongotherawesome?

things?

Yeah。

DougBensonworkedonthatshow,JaneaneGarofalodidstuffontheshow,SteveHiggins?

—?

whowastheheadwriterfor“SNL”andwho’stheannouncerontheFallonshow,JoelHodgsonfrom“MysteryScienceTheater3000”…Itwasaninsanegroupofpeopletoworkwithasmyfirstjob。

AllIcanrememberisnotreallyknowingwhatIwasdoing。

IwasshoutingalotbecauseIthoughtbeinglouderwasmoreentertaining。

Wewereallyoungcomediantypestryingtofigureitout,butitwassuchanamazinggroupofpeople,andatthesametime,thepeopleinthatcastwereinthissortofparallelalternativecomedyscenethathadjustmigratedfromSanFranciscodowntoL。

A。

ThatwasthegroupthatsortofspawnedtheDavidCrossesandPattonOswaltsoftheworld。

WhenIlookbackonit,it’snotlikeanyonewasgoing,“We’reallapartofthisscenethat’sgonnaultimatelyyieldabunchofdeliciouscomedyfruit!

”Theywerejustlike-mindedcomicswhoweren’tgettingstagetimeattheclubsandmadetheirownthinghappen。

Itwasgreatforme。

IwasrightoutofcollegeandIwasworkingonMTV。

Itwasaweird,funexperience。

Oh,I’lltellyousomethingthat’sonthenerdbucketlist:aglassdomeunderwaterlair。

Whatwasitlikehosting“SingledOut”onMTV?

Whatwasitlikehostingadatinggameshow,period,letaloneahugelypopular?

one?

Youknow,“Trashed,”Ithought,wasgoingtobeabighitshow。

Itwasfun,andIthought,“Ofcoursepeoplearegoingtowatchthisfunshow!

”Andnoonereallywatchedit。

Soitwentawayprettyquickly。

Sowhentheyofferedmethejobhosting“SingledOut,”whatIhadlearnedwasthat,well,showsgetcancelledrightaway。

Iwasnotmentallypreparedforthatshowtobesuccessfulatall。

Itwasn’tuntilthreeseasonsinthatIfinallythought,“Oh,maybeitisdoingOK。

”Idon’tknow;Iguessitwastherightshowattherighttimewiththerightagegroup,youknow?

I’msuretheshowwouldberidiculousandtamebytoday’sstandards。

Atthetime,therereallywasn’tanythingelselikeit。

Idon’tknowwhyitresonatedsomuchwithpeopleinacertainagegroup。

Butnow,ifImeetpeoplewhowerebetweentheagesof13and24whenthatshowwasontheair,thosepeoplestillremember?

it。

Nerdcultureseemstobereigningrightnow;Comic-Consandsuperheromoviesarereallyhugefranchises。

Whataresomeofthemoreunder-the-radarthingsinnerdculturethatyou’reintoright?

now?

Everyyear,wedoastand-upcomedyspecialonthepodcast?

—?

anepisodewhereit’smaybecomediansthatpeoplehaven’theardofyet?

—?

justbecauseIwassoinfluencedbycomedyspecialswhenIwasgrowingup。

That’sagoodplacetostartwithunder-the-radarcomedians。

TherearesomeBritishsci-fishowsthatIreallylike。

There’sthisshow“TheMisfits”that’sreallyfun。

Um,“TheFades,”premieringonBBCAmericarightbefore“TheNerdist。

”I’mahuge“DoctorWho”fan;thatseemstohavecaughtonquiteabitintheStates,whichisgood。

IalwaysgotoReddit。

com;maybethat’smorelikememesandnerdsilliness。

IguessRedditisaprettygoodsourceforup-and-comingstuff。

Imean,that’swherethesereallystrangememescomefrom,likeGothsUp?

Trees。

Yeah,somanythingscomeoutofReddit。

Itreallyisapetridishofmemes。

It’ssortofaplayground。

I’mreallylikingGooglePlus;I’vebeenusingthat。

Obviously,I’mstillonFacebookandTwitter。

IstillhaveaMySpaceaccount?

—?

it’slikeanabandonedminingtown。

Allthewindowsonmyprofileareprobablybrokenandshuttered。

Abunchofgraffiti。

There’sprobablyahobosleepingbagintherethat’scoveredincobwebs。

GooglePlus,it’sreallyjustagoodmicrobloggingservice。

Andnow,sinceNerdist。

comhasbecomemoreofawebsitethat’snotnecessarilyaboutmeanymore,Iwouldn’treallyputsilly,personalthingsonthere。

Like,IwasinPortlandovertheholidays,andIpassedbythisoldstore,andtherewasthisbigsignthatsaidthattheyweresellingcatstickers。

SoItookapictureofit,anditwasn’treallyappropriateforNerdist。

combecauseit’snotreallyastory。

It’sreallymoreofaTumblrthing;IhaveaTumblraccount,Idon’tuseit。

Butit’sperfectforGooglePlus。

Icanputthepictureonthere,it’sinthestream,IcanwritealittlestoryaboutwhereIwasandsharethat。

SoIfeellikeit’sacleanerversionofFacebookright?

now。

So,atthemoment,you’rejugglingatonofthings:you’rehosting“TheNerdist,”you’rehosting“WebSoup,”youwriteforWired,youwroteabook。

Isthereanythingthat’sstillonyourcomedianornerdbucket?

list?

Oh,yeah。

There’satonofthings。

ThewholeNerdistIndustriesthingthatwe’rebuildingislikeagameofSimCity。

Iwanttoseehowwecangrowitandexpandit。

That’sallexcitingtome。

NowI’vepartneredwithaguynamedPeterLevin,who’sgreat。

WehavethispremiumYouTubechannel。

We’redoingabunchofgreatstuffatComic-Con。

AndwehavealivetheatrespacewherewedoalotofshowsinL。

A。

It’snotlikewe’regoingtogostartaNerdiststeakhouseoranything;everythingisrelatedinsomeway。

It’srealizing,“Oh,wehaveapodcastnetwork!

Well,wehavealivetheaterspacewheretheycanperformandrecordshowsanddocomedyshowsandstand-up!

And,oh,thosepodcastscanbedevelopedintotelevisionshows!

”Soeverythingiscomplementary。

Soasfarasabucketlist…Oh,I’lltellyousomethingthat’sonthenerdbucketlist:aglassdomeunderwaterlair。

IthinkifNerdistIndustriescouldbeinaglassdomeontheoceanfloorsomewhere,thenthatwouldbeabigoneforme。

Interviewcondensed,editedandlightlyreordered。

GraceBelloisafreelancewriterbasedinNewYork。

HerwritinghasappearedinTheAtlanticandonMcSweeney’s。


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