Recently I got the chance to talk with a huge influence of mine Chris Hardwick from The Nerdist Podcast. His first ever hour long stand up special “Mandroid” will be airing on Comedy Central on November 10th. The interview was so long we broke it up into three parts (and one podcast). The first part we did for Yahoo! which you can find here. This is the second part which Chris and I continue to talk about the stand up special as well as “The Talking Dead.” Also minutes before our interview it was announced that Disney was buying Lucas Films so I got to be the first person to talk with The Nerdist about that.
If you’d like to listen to the podcast version of this interview you can do so here:
Zoiks! Wasn’t Rob Zombie going to produce or direct a comedy special for you awhile back?
Chris Hardwick: He was yeah. He was going to uh, I guess maybe it was 2004, right around the same time I started doing the Hard and Phirm stuff. He said, ‘hey I want to produce a comedy album for you,’ and I said, ‘great.’ I started recording sets, back then on mini disc (laughs) and going through the material. I didn’t really feel ready yet. I didn’t feel like it was, quite frankly good enough to put out. You get a little…well maybe everyone doesn’t, but you get a little precious about your first hour because you only get one first hour. If you’re a comedy nerd like I am, I grew up just devouring people’s comedy albums and comedy specials. You have a very big idea in your head of what a comedy special means and so I didn’t want to just throw it away and be like, ‘ah this’ll be good enough.’ I needed more time, I needed more experience, I needed to figure out who I was. It takes a long time in comedy to figure out who you are and what your voice is. I feel like I’m only really just figuring that out now after all these years.
Z!: Did you enjoy the process of putting this special together and is it something that you think you’ll do a little more often now that you have the first hour complete?
CH: I don’t think I’ll do it as often as Louis (C.K.) does it (laughs) cause that guy is a freaking machine. I would say every couple of years. The process is amazing because it really…at the heart of it, of all the stuff that I do, stand up is still my favorite thing. When I get to be a comic it feels incredible. I found out in early December that they wanted to shoot the special in early February. At that point I’d done a bunch of stand up on television already. I’d done John Oliver episodes, I’d done other stuff on Comedy Central, Doug Benson’s show. I’d done a bunch of stand up on television. I’d really burned through a half hour of my act already. What I was left with was a half hour. I’d been so caught up and busy trying to build the Nerdist stuff that I hadn’t been on the road as much as I’d been in previous years. I had this half hour, but you really need like 70 to 75 minutes to do a stand up special.
You’re going to want at least an hour for the DVD, you’re going to want stuff for them to cut down to whatever it is, 42 minutes for Comedy Central so that the show’s really tight. I had like two months to come up with another forty minutes (laughs). That part was really fun because it totally got me back into the mode of where I had been for years, which was performing every night and really just trying to piece things together and think about my act as a whole and what I want to say. What’s exciting about burning through all that material…and the process was a blast, I loved it, it was super fun, and easy, well not easy it was a lot of work, it was breezy that’s a better word. Now that all the material is burned through, I get to start over and that’s actually fun.
It’s fun and scary because when you do your first hour it’s really just a collection of the stuff you’ve been doing for the last couple of years. When you start over from scratch it’s like the difference of building a house made out of found items the first time. It might match, it might not match, it could be charming it could be a disaster. Maybe it doesn’t all fit together. Then when you start over it’s like, ‘oh ok, now I know how to build a house.’ Now I’m going to lay a foundation, now I’m going to figure out what the arcs are, what I want to say, is there a longer narrative that I want to create. You really get to be more of an alchemist rather than just kind of a…’oh I’ll just do these jokes and tie them together some how.’ Now I actually get to design the hour which is really exciting.
Z!: I think “The Talking Dead” is a genius idea. Do you think other shows and networks will catch on and start incorporating that idea into their programming?
CH: Probably, I mean not every show needs one. It’s really shows that are so dense with characters and story that really need an after show or could benefit from an after show. Some shows you just need therapy after them because there’s so much to deal with, so many things to sort through. If you were a fan of “Lost” you remember by the third or fourth season…I at least was on the phone talking to people, ‘what does this mean, what does that mean, I saw something in the background does that refer to something else?” Going online and deep diving…really getting into in the world of the show, almost like an alternative reality, like the ARG type stuff. It just allows people a way to come down and deal with their feelings after the show in a light hearted way that kind of helps you blow off a little steam and also helps you get some information and theories about what’s coming up on the show. I don’t know what’s coming up on the show because I watch the show week to week like everyone else.
Z!: You’re an actor, comedian, host, writer, podcaster. What do you want to be considered?
CH: I don’t know what the name is. If I see people on a plane or something and they ask me what I do I never know what to say. If I really describe everything I do, it sounds like bull shit (laughs). It sounds like I don’t really do anything and I’m making up a bunch of things, but I really do all those things. I’m the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Nerdist Industries and that houses podcasts and a podcast network and the You Tube Channel and a television production entity and hopefully someday soon a film production entity a live events company.
Also with my partner Peter Levin, he’s the CEO of Nerdist and I’m the Chief Creative Officer, he runs the business and I run the creative which is exactly what I want to do. We are also Co Presidents of Digital for Legendary Entertainment which acquired us a couple of months ago, so there’s that too. But yeah then I host shows, we have a comedy theater, the Nerdist Theater at Meltdown Comics and I do stand up. A lot of times I just say I’m a stand up comedian. I say I’m a comedian who runs a thing, that’s about as specific as I get. I don’t know, I just want to be someone who never has to take a job that I don’t want to take. I only want to work in areas that I care about and am passionate about, because I think that is where the best results come from and that makes me the happiest. So I don’t know, ‘he got to work in a lot of cool things and made awesome stuff.’ So I don’t know what else I’d want people to think. I’m so much a fan of everything that I’m involved that I don’t really think about that other part of it too much.
We just shot a video with “The Fraggles” and Ben Folds and I’m a huge fan of Ben and I’m a huge fan of the Henson Company and “The Fraggles” and I got to work with “Fraggles.” That’s just an awesome thing that I get to check off in my brain. ‘Hey remember that time I got to make a “Fraggle Rock” video?’ Or “Doctor Who” or “Walking Dead” or Lucas Film, we have a big Light Saber Charity Run heading up to Comic Con every year. I guess for me it’s basically like being a kid, I look at everything I love and say is there a way that I can help promote that or work with that or just play with it. I just want to play with stuff.
Z!: What was your take on Disney acquiring Lucas Films today?
CH: I just heard about it. I haven’t read any of the details yet, so I don’t know yet.
Z!: When I was waiting for you to get on here I was reading that “Star Wars Episode VII” is going to come out in 2015 or something like that.
CH: I heard that too. Listen, “The Avengers” was a pretty freaking good movie. I don’t have the reaction of, ‘what!?’ That could be awesome. I’m hesitant to comment until I read more of the details. I’m sure it wasn’t a hostile take over, I mean George can pretty much do whatever he wants, so if he feels comfortable with it I don’t see any reason why I shouldn't feel comfortable with it. When did Disney buy Marvel?
Z!: I don’t know off hand.
CH: I’m trying to look it up now…give me a sec.
CH: Ok, so you know, we got a super kick ass “Avengers” movie. I don’t know I want to read more about it before I comment on it.
Z!: Fair enough.
Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org.