Q&A with Chris Hardwick, nerd extraordinaire
By Brianne Hogan
Chris Hardwick reviews gadgets, writes for Wired, runs a successful blog, acts and does stand-up. Oh, and he’s also a huge nerd. He’s like this generation’s Bill Nye the Science Guy, but cooler. We caught up with Hardwick, who’s performing stand-up for two nights over at Comedy Bar next week, to chat about comedy, Skyrim and the revenge of the nerds.
You have an eclectic career: television host, stand-up comedian, gadget reviewer, podcaster, blogger, tweeter. Was the plan to wear all those hats?
I think the plan was to do as many things as I like doing. I sort of realized that everything I was doing was a part-time thing. Working for G4 was part time, writing for Wired was part-time, comedy was part-time and I thought I could probably do a full-time career doing 10 part-time jobs. And I was involved with things that I liked doing and cared about. I’ve been working in the business for a long time and when I first started out, I just wanted to work. You never consider, ‘is this what I really care about?’ So I decided to work on things that I really care about.
You’re obviously a busy guy. I hear your book, The Nerdist Way, discusses tips on time management. How do you keep your life organized?
It’s all about keeping a tight calendar. Planning for stuff. I have to schedule time to just screw around so I allow myself time to do that. My iCal has eight different calendars that are coded with eight different colours.
So what gadget, social app, etc., makes your life easier?
The iPhone makes everything easier for me. My to-do list is on there, my emails. Technology has made everything so easy to be organized. I mean, 15 years ago, you had to carry around those heavy, leather-bound organizers with papers falling out of them.
I still have one of those.
You do? Well, it’s all about whatever works for you.
So have you always been a nerd?
Yes. I got my first computer in 1981 and I was in the chess club and in a Dungeons and Dragons club. Everything I was in could be classified as a nerdy pursuit.
How did the Nerdist come about?
I was a part of the blog explosion. I had a blog in the early 2000s and back then, everyone had those fancy, graphic-filled ones. And then in the mid-2000s people realized those fancy blogs were too hard to load and blogs were stripped down to a clean format. I had a personal blog like most performers. But I didn’t really write anything on it. I thought it was too narcissistic for even a comedian. “I went to a coffee house and had a latte today” — who really gives a shit? I thought there was something happening in our culture with the Internet and those niche cables like G4 and magazines like Wired. I realized nerd culture had become pop culture in a way it hadn’t been seven years previously. So I began thinking about a website that was bigger than me and would talk about things that I really cared about, like movies, games, technology. Nerdist was the first thing I thought of, and shockingly, the domain was available. I got the Twitter account for it and I said, ‘I’ll focus on this idea and see what happens.’ I wrote the site alone for a year and half. Then I had to start bringing people in because I started getting busy. Then contributors came in, editors, and then pod casts started tying things together. It built very organically.
Basically, it’s now cool to be a nerd. Why do you think the stigma changed?
It changed because technology rules our culture and technology is made by nerds. Nerds are billionaires, and when there’s money there’s power. It’s capitalism, unfortunately, and that’s what it is. It wasn’t that way in the ‘80s, when I was growing up. The craziest redneck has a cell phone or a laptop. All of the things nerds make basically support our modern day culture. Part of it, too, is when you see any kind of group get stepped on when they’re young, they always try to reclaim it when they’re older and I think that’s what the nerds did.
What are you geeking out on right now?
I’ve been playing Skyrim. I’ve been playing Skyrim a lot. Any shred of free time goes to playing that.
You’re performing at Comedy Bar for two nights. Have you ever performed in Toronto before?
I performed a couple of years ago as part of Just for Laughs. I did the week in Toronto before going to Montreal. And to be honest with you, Toronto was the coolest part of the experience. I think Toronto’s sense of humour skews closer to American humour than Montreal. They’re more European. Toronto was just so much fun.
What do you like about the city?
It’s like New York City but well planned. It’s simple, clean, people are nice, you have good hot dog stands, you have a clean underground transportation system. I think Toronto is a perfect city.
It’s close to Valentine’s Day. So do you have any advice from your “Singled Out” days for those without a Valentine?
Listen, Valentine’s Day is a nice idea in theory, but I think it makes people who don’t have the perfect romantic night feel bad about themselves. I totally support people who decide to get a gallon of ice cream and watch shitty movies on Valentine’s Day. It’s a day is to celebrate wherever you’re at that that day. If you’re single, be happy. If you’re in a relationship, be happy. Oh, and masturbate a lot.
Chris Hardwick, Comedy Bar, Feb. 10-11