It’s hard to believe that comedian and podcaster Chris Hardwick has any time at all to work on his stand-up material. Even after running The Nerdist podcast network, writing for Wired, and hosting AMC’s “Talking Dead,” Hardwick still has time to star in his first one-hour Comedy Central stand-up special “Chris Hardwick: Mandroid.”
Hardwick has been an icon in geek culture ever since he launched Nerdist Industries in 2010. Dedicated to all things geek, Nerdist Industries has since grown to host an expansive YouTube channel and a podcast network with over 15 original shows.
“Chris Hardwick: Mandroid” will be focused primarily on the geek genres that Nerdist borrows so frequently from. I caught up with Hardwick to talk about the evolution of his stand-up material, YouTube comedians, and the most important of discussion questions – cyborg or android?
Your early stand-up focused more on living in Los Angeles and working in entertainment. Over time, you’ve focused more on geek-themed material — why take your stand-up routine in that direction?
Chris Hardwick: You would hope as a comedian that you do evolve your material, and I think that stand-ups are a product of their environment and what they are experiencing. My early stand-up was because I started stand-up in Los Angeles. So, that was what a lot of it was about. Because Los Angeles has Los Angeles audiences, you can make inside jokes about the entertainment business. Those were things I was experiencing at the time and the frustrations I was feeling at the time. But then you go on the road and remember that no one else gives a shit about the entertainment industry. For a while I was doing jokes that played well on the road and were a little broader. I had a huge chunk that was about being from Tennessee and what that was like growing up as a nerdy kid. But then after a while you start going, ‘Well, what do I want to talk about?” So “Mandroid” is the product of stuff that is much closer to things that I actually care about at this moment in time.
Your job forces you to know about and understand all things geek — how do you keep the things you love doing as a hobby fun even though they’ve become your work?
It doesn’t feel like work because the thing that composes work is all stuff that I love. There is nothing that feels like “I gotta watch ‘The Walking Dead’ again?” I’m excited to watch it; it doesn’t feel like work. You just have to find time to squeeze things in.
How have online video outlets like YouTube and Vimeo changed things for stand-up comedians?
All digital culture — social networks, microblogging, I think we are in the downslope of the blogosphere — anyway a comic can get their voice to the world so people can make the decision to come see them live or not. There was a time when that was very easy because every television station had nine comedy shows on it, then that went away, and it really hasn’t come back. I think Comedy Central is making a push to get more stand-up on television, but there really isn’t that much stand-up on other channels. That is where the Internet comes in: YouTube and podcasts are very much in the spirit of stand up, which is “as long as I have a platform, whether that be a stage or a video-sharing platform or a podcast, to say what I want to say and get my voice out in the world, that is all I need.” Comics don’t have an excuse anymore. In the old days, people had to decide if you were good enough to put on television — that’s all gone now. Digital culture has completely equalized standup; funny people will rise to the top because they will get shared and people will find them. It is a wonderful time. There is a shit-ton of competition, but that is good — it makes you work harder or smarter.
Your special is called “Chris Hardwick: Mandroid.” If you had to choose, would you want your consciousness placed in an android or would you rather be a cyborg?
The thing with the android is I think you can still get an emotion chip, and the cyborg, I think because … ah, man that is really tough. You could really become an efficient killing machine as a cyborg. I guess I have to go android because you are still anatomically … well, I guess cyborgs are too. I don’t know; no one has ever asked me the android/cyborg question. I’m going back and forth thinking either one would be acceptable. Do you have a choice?
I would probably go with cyborg simply because I feel like cyborgs still have a level of humanity. I think androids in the future will be looked down upon like in “Blade Runner.” But cyborgs will still have humanity in them, so I think people will let them slide a little more.
But couldn’t we program humanity into the androids?
It would still be programmed though, and there would be “Blade Runner”-style tests I would have to take constantly, and Harrison Ford would …
But look what Murphy had to go through in “RoboCop;” he had a serious existential crisis.
From what I understand of “RoboCop,” everything works out for him doesn’t it?
It does, but that was his experience. I mean, the thing with the android that is a little less sad is he never had humanity. But the cyborg had humanity and probably lost it. That is a bummer.