The Nerdist founder and stand-up comic on posture, porn stars, and the importance of nerd unity.
You may recognize Chris Hardwick as the co-host of MTV's erstwhile dating show Singled Out. But he also founded Nerdist.com, maintains a prolific podcasting schedule, and presides over a veritable empire of geekery, including contributions to G4's Attack of the Show and Wired Magazine. He's also a stand-up comic whose newest special, Mandroid, premieres this Saturday, November 10, at 11 p.m. EST on Comedy Central.
What's the one thing we should know about your comedy special?
Basically, I've pumped a neurotoxin through the TV sets of America, the antidote to which is composed of very simple household chemicals, and the formula for that antidote is laid out in the special. So it's crucial — not just for my ego and for comedy — but for the survival of humanity in general, that everyone watch this special.
You and Wil Wheaton were roommates in college. Let's say both of you are single, and you're out at a bar trying to pick up chicks. Who does better?
Oh, Wheaton for sure. We were friends when he was doing Star Trek, and we'd go out, and these girls would just flock to Wil, and he was always very uncomfortable with it. He'd be like, "Uh, thanks. Leave us alone." And I'd be next to him saying, "Wil, what are you doing? People are throwing gold at your feet, in the form of sex!" He was never really comfortable with it, but you know, he's got the beard, and he's… Wil. I mean, c'mon. Wouldn't you?
Yes, emphatically. You've talked about taking "baby steps" into interacting with people, dating, etc.
Well, they were baby steps in the sense that every two or three inches, I would fall on my face. I dated around some, but I've always been a serial monogamist. I don't know how people date around a lot, and not want to stab themselves in the face with a sharp object.
The top comment on the YouTube video that I'm referencing above is, and I quote, "Oh my god Chris Hardwick is so gorgeous." How do you deal with being a sex symbol for nerds?
I don't know. I don't think I am. I think it's part of the comic gene, where 100 people could say something nice to you, and one person will say, "You're dumb," and you immediately think, "Yeah, you know, I think am dumb." I think there's some inability to read a bunch of comments that are all nice and say, "You know, you guys are all right, and I agree with you." I just can't do it.
Here's a quick advice question: My girlfriend is really vocal in bed, but I personally don't really think there's any way for guys to be vocal in bed without it sounded really weird and porn-y. Any tips?
Go in with a script and just start referencing stuff from your favorite movies. Mine would be like, "We've got bush!" or "He slimed me." Or just as you're about to climax, yell "Eighty-eight miles per hour!"
You worked with both Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra on Singled Out. At this point, Carmen Electra — strangely — looks like the saner one. Is that fair to say?
I haven't really talked to Jenny that much over the years, and I certainly haven't really sat down and talked to her about what she's saying. I don't really trust the media that much — we live in such a headline culture that something she said could have very easily been taken and blown out of proportion. And she's always been very sweet to me on an interpersonal level; we had a very sibling-like relationship. Of course, I don't have kids, and if a former game-show host came on TV and was like, "Hey, here's a thing you should do with your kids," I would probably consult my doctor about that. But that's it. If celebrities say things you don't agree with, don't do it.
You started hosting Singled Out when you were a mere twenty-four years old. You even co-wrote a Singled Out-themed advice book. What kind of advice were you qualified to give at that age? How would your advice differ now?
Well, one of the reasons that I love being a part of nerd culture — Comic-Con and cosplay and all that — is that the sexiest thing about someone is the confidence that comes with being okay with you who are, and this is a culture that encourages people to be comfortable with who they are and what they're into. I think nerds in general have a problem with being trapped in their heads all the time and having a hyperactive inner monologue, so being part of a culture that encourages confidence is always a good thing.
What's your best confidence-building advice?
Stand up straight. If you stand up straight, you will instantly feel better about yourself, and you will project a better image to the world, one that says you don't feel like you have to be hunched over and closed off. But I really believe that the best dating advice is just, know who you are and what you want. Very few people are willing to come in and pick up the reins for you, like, "Oh, yeah, this is what you need to do…" Who wants to do that?
You've said that there are probably just as many nerd girls as nerd guys out there, but it seems like we only ever see the "hot nerd chick" — the Olivia Munns or Aisha Tylers. As the mainstreaming of nerds continues, do you think that's going to change?
Well, it definitely has. When I was growing up, being a nerd was almost its own quest, you know? But now, it's so interwoven into our culture that the lines about what it means to be a nerd are totally blurred. People who look like all types of people are into "nerd culture." You can't really pin people down as easily as you could when I was growing up, because it was just a small cluster of us in the computer lab. So it might seem that those beautiful women are getting held up as nerds, but really, it's just that the culture has become so much more accessible that those beautiful women are now involved in it.
There was a Cracked article a while back where the writer went after porn star April O'Neil for appearing at Comic-Con and trying to appeal to "nerd culture." Given that nerd culture kind of dominates pop culture in general at this point, is it fair for nerds to be territorial?
It was dumb of him to do that, because basically, if any group of people should be accepting of others, it should be us. And I know April personally, and I know that it's not an act. This whole idea of nerd-on-nerd violence is fucking bullshit. I'm not surprised there are a lot of porn-star nerds. Nerdy people are big into the sex. And also the porn. I mean, we have Blu-ray as a format because of porn.
Have you ever caught yourself calling "bullshit" on someone's nerd claims?
Yeah, I mean, listen: sometimes if I see a fashion model go on a talk show and say, "Yeah, I'm just a big nerd," I think, "No, don't think that just because you're too attractive for people to feel comfortable around, that makes you a nerd." But then I also think, who am I to know?
But it's part of a larger issue: now that nerd culture has become a little more mainstream, a lot of big media companies are trying to understand it, to capitalize on it and exploit it. And that means that we have to represent the culture faithfully, because otherwise, we're up against them doing their version of it, which is usually very derisive and very forced. Ultimately, I think that what that means as a community is that we we should be trying to band together to create more authentic things instead of trying to exclude. We should be trying to strengthen the community instead of trying to kick people out.