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Chris Hardwick: The Hardest

Working Man In Comedy

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Chris Hardwick speaking at the 2013 San Diego Comic Con International.
Image by Gage Skidmore and used under a Creative Commons license.
The Eternally-Positive @Midnight Star Brings His Stand-Up Act To Phoenix And Talks About Hosting TV Shows, Geeking Out at Comic-Con, and Why He Loves Arizona

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By Ryan Scott
Modern Times Magazine

Nov. 12, 2015 - Chris Hardwick will be taking some time out of his unreasonably busy schedule to bring his Funcomfortable stand-up comedy tour to the Orpheum Theatre in Phoenix on Nov. 14. As many ticketholders may know, the show had to be rescheduled, but Hardwick wasn’t without his reasons. Most notably, he is working on yet another TV show, a new game show called The Wall for NBC.

"The Wall, the show for NBC, was very fun. Very emotional. It's very up and down. You spend a lot of time with people and you get really emotionally attached,” Hardwick said.

He also noted that at one point someone could be up a million dollars only to lose it, so it was hard not to get emotionally invested.

"I've always loved game shows and as you see @Midnight is ultimately a game show format and this is a real game so, it just sounded fun,” Hardwick said. "I went in and hosted a bunch of run throughs to see if I was a good fit for the show, and it really was fun so I decided to do it and it was just a question of fitting it into the schedule. Fortunately, I was able to do that. I gave up my hiatus on @Midnight.”

As many comedy, TV and podcast-loving folks are already aware, Hardwick is arguably the busiest man in Hollywood. He is the driving force behind Comedy Central’s @Midnight, which airs four nights a week; voices Craig on Nickelodeon’s Sanjay and Craig; hosts the insanely popular Walking Dead aftershow, Talking Dead; and still finds time to put out three episodes of The Nerdist podcast every week. Oh, and he also travels around the country to do stand-up on weekends.

With all of that on his plate, Hardwick still felt that taking on The Wall was well worth it, because he gets to do what he wants for work everyday.

"Ultimately, I don't have to do anything that I don't want to do in terms of work. So that's a rare and fortunate place to be, and I appreciate that very much. So it really just boils down to what sounds fun. That's really my main criteria,” Hardwick said.

“That's why I do so much stuff at [San Diego] Comic-Con. I don't think anyone in my position would pass this stuff up. If you care about the things that I care about, why would you not wanna do Star Wars, Quentin Tarantino or X-Men [panels]? I don't think anyone in their right mind who likes what we like would pass that stuff up,” Hardwick said.

He also noted that even though it seems like he takes on everything that comes his way, people don’t see just how many things he turns down.

“I'm in a position now where I get to do that stuff. There's no reason to not. I can't just go 'well, I really wanna do this but this random guy on Reddit is going to be really pissed if I do.' I just can't worry about that stuff,” Hardwick said. "That's why I'm always so encouraging to people on the podcast and in general. It's an amazing opportunity and an amazing place to be. I think everyone should be in a position where they get to pursue all of the things that they really care about."

Hardwick speaks with an upbeat tone that is virtually impossible to fake. It comes through on The Nerdist Podcast, and it comes through just as much, if not more so, when talking to him, even when he is trying to squeeze in a quick lunch at Starbucks while granting an interview simultaneously. He is so notoriously positive, in fact, that he actually receives a good amount of criticism for it.

"It's funny, someone else was interviewing me and they said 'does it bother you that people give you flack because you say you're excited about stuff all the time?' Is that a criticism? We're in a weird time where people don't trust positivity or enthusiasm. They are suspicious of it. They feel like it's not authentic or that the only real stuff is negative stuff. I just feel like that's a lazy and immature path. I don't support it,” Hardwick said.

It is evident that Hardwick understands how lucky he is to be working at all, let alone being able to pick and choose passion projects that just so happen to pay the bills (and then some, we would imagine). As a man who has publically acknowledged he was an overweight, mostly out of work alcoholic for a good handful of his post-MTV days, one can’t accuse him of taking things for granted.

“Things are great,” he said simply. And they have no reason not to be.

His company, Nerdist, became so successful that Legendary Pictures stepped in a few years ago and bought it, but Hardwick is still in charge. Oh, and as if he didn’t have enough full-time jobs already, he also recently purchased half of the animation company PUNY, which currently has a pilot called Danger & Eggs on Amazon.

“I always wanted to make cartoons. I took animation when I was in school at college. So I think that would have been my career if hosting hadn't worked out. My friend Shadi [Petosky] owned this animation, gaming and interactive company. As it turns out, one of her partners was like 'I wanna go do something else.' So I bought half of the company and this is the first project,” Hardwick said.

Amazon has been developing original programming for a couple of years now, but it doesn’t handle the process like other networks. It simply facilitates the content creation and lets the audience decide what stays, a process that works out to Hardwick’s liking.

“Networks are baffling a lot of the time. I promise you there are probably thousands of amazing pilots that just didn't get picked up for whatever reason. This [Amazon] is a great way to just put it out there and let the people decide. 'You like this? You want more of it? Great! We'll make more of it,’” Hardwick said. “So now we're just trying to get people to watch and like and comment."

However, for all of the things that Hardwick finds himself doing these days, his first love was comedy, and it remains his true passion. That is why he spends much of what would be his free time working on a new hour of stand-up for a special he will be taping for Comedy Central in January. The show in Phoenix is one of the remaining stops on the tour before the special tapes, and he is ready, but never totally ready.

"I don't know if I'll ever feel like 'Ah the set is is perfect! 100 percent!' I feel good about it, but I'm still constantly tweaking,” Hardwick said. "I still have a ton of shows between now and the special to continue tweaking.

Many people in the entertainment industry, not to mention someone as busy as Hardwick, could have just as easily cancelled the Phoenix show altogether and never thought twice about it.. But he didn’t want to do that, and it’s partially because he genuinely loves Arizona. And also, as any Nerdist fan will tell you, he absolutely loves his fans.

“I love Arizona. I spent a lot of time in Arizona. My ex-girlfriend is from Tucson, so we spent six or seven New Years in Arizona and I love it. Phoenix is a great town that has a fantastic comicon. Phoenix Comicon is great! It's really great,” Hardwick said in a tone that wasn’t at all pandering and was in keeping with his usual upbeat and positive nature.

“I feel like the right audience is going to be there, and it's a good time of year for those not acclimated to your climate to come to Arizona. I'm very excited about it.”

Chris Hardwick’s Funcomfortable tour will be in Phoenix on November 14 at 8 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix. For more information or to buy tickets, visit phoenix.ticketforce.com. You can follow Hardwick on Twitter and Instagram @Hardwick.

Ryan Scott is a contributor to Modern Times Magazine.
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