Chris Hardwick Explains How One Nerd Rules Them All, Tech Industry’s Future, G4 + More
The virtual Wild West known as the World Wide Web has been somewhat of an enigma for companies to capitalize on. While almost 80 percent of the population in North America use the internet, it's been a challenge for most brands that don't have Google in their name to actually make a substantial profit and grow their presence. One individual who is breaking that trend and becoming a Renaissance Man in today's digital age is Chris Hardwick, founder of the Nerdist Podcast.
Most will remember Chris Hardwick from his appearances on shows like the host of MTV's Singled Out, G4's Attack of the Show!, AMC's Talking Dead and roles in Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses and Halloween 2 films among others. Hardwick has also been writing for Wired magazine since 2007. However, the 41-year-old Louisville, KY native decided to create his own media empire in 2008 when he launched The Nerdist Podcast.
The weekly podcast features guests from comedy, music and geek culture, with big time names like Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl, Rob Zombie, Ozzy Osbourne and Stan Lee appearing on the show. While Hardwick had ambitious goals for The Nerdist Podcast, he wasn't sure if it would catch on with the at-times fickle internet audience.
"I've always wanted to do a lot of stuff with it," says Hardwick. "I didn't know if any of it was going to work, but I'd always planned to expand it into areas that I wanted to work in. Things I wanted to do or people that I wanted to work with. So I always knew, 'Well some day I would like to produce television shows,' and now we started to produce television shows. 'Some day I want to make movies,' so now we're going to start making movies."
Hardwick continues: "It all came from a very organic place. I never would have been able to start it all at once. The website had to start and that had to grow, and then the podcast. Then the YouTube channel and the TV show. It was all very gradual."
The Nerdist Podcast took its next step to becoming an important entertainment entity when it merged with GeekChicDaily to become Nerdist Industries in February 2012. In July of that year, film production company Legendary Entertainment acquired Nerdist Industries and made it its digital division, giving Hardwick complete control over content.
"We operate pretty independently and they're great," Hardwick says of Legendary. "It was one of the reasons why I was okay with that happening because I love what they do. They said, 'You guys just be your own company and let us just support you and give you resources.' That's what it's been and it's been great."
The words "nerd" and "geek" have gradually become just as worn out as "emo" and "dubstep" when describing a lifestyle that's suddenly become accepted into mainstream media. Talk to a 16-year-old girl who watched the latest Twilight movie or The Walking Dead episode and she'll claim she's a nerd. While the perception of who a nerd is may have changed, Hardwick sees more positives than negatives in pop culture's acceptance of geekdom.
"A lot of people use the word [nerd] now, but I think there's more upside to that than downside because it just means the culture is accepted," states Hardwick. "There was no 'nerd-cool' when I was growing up. You liked the things you were into and you had three friends. There was not an internet available and so it's not like you could connect with people all over the world to support your habits. You basically just had your two or three friends in your school or in your town and you sort of felt like an outcast, and that was that [laughs]."
"While there might be some minor downsides to, sure, people are claiming that they're nerds and they may not necessarily be classically nerds, the fact is they're interested in nerd culture," Hardwick continues. "It's helping people be comfortable exploring things that they used to be ashamed of."
Since I was a huge fan of G4 TV, and its previous incarnation TechTV, I was disappointed to know that Comcast planned to repackage the channel into the Esquire Network on April 22. Longtime shows X-Play and Attack of the Show! aired their final episodes in January, with some fans thinking it was for the best since they believed the programs were shells of their former selves. Hardwick says his time spent at G4 was great but filled with uncertainty about the future of the network.
"The funny thing about working at G4 was that every year always sort of loomed that it would be the last year that G4 would be around," the "Gadget Pr0n" reviewer shares. "Everyone worked there under that cloud so when it finally happened it wasn't so much, 'Oh my god! What?' It was more like, 'Alright, we knew this was going to happen sooner or later.' G4 just didn't really have the funding and support that it needed. There were only a handful of original shows and the rest of the channel was reruns of Cops and Cheaters."
Hardwick elaborates further: "Television network has a lot of things to satisfy. When it was TechTV or just a video game channel, that's almost too niche of a thing for a major network that's owned by a big company. They're looking at bottom lines and they have to make a certain amount of money every year to keep the parent company happy. So they start making really fear-based decisions. The network was sort of in between identities, being kind of a nerd-centric channel and also being like the Playboy channel. Just in terms of like, 'Let's do all these porn conventions,' you know what I mean? The demands on it were so great that it kind of watered down what the message of it was."
"With that being said, I loved Attack of the Show!, I loved doing Web Soup. X-Play was really fun. I absolutely loved working there. It was just a fun four years of my life."
Just as the Free Beer & Hot Wings Show are doing their own live show at The Intersection as part of Gilda's LaughFest, Chris Hardwick is doing the same with Nerdist Podcast Live! on Friday, March 15, at Fountain Street Church in downtown Grand Rapids. Joining Hardwick will be his usual co-hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira. Fans can expect more than just three guys talking about geek culture at a table.
"There is certainly the round table element where we do the podcast, but it's not just people watching us do a radio show," Hardwick explains. "We all do stand-up at the top of the show and we're super interactive with the crowd. We come out and say hi to people after the show and hang out. It's sort of like a very social variety show if that makes any sense."
Listen to the entire interview below, where Hardwick shares his thoughts on Sony's PlayStation 4 announcement, where consumer technology should be heading and more.
Tickets to see Nerdist Podcast Live! with Chris Hardwick, Jonah Ray and Matt Mira March 15 at Fountain Street Church start at $22.50 and on sale at all Ticketmaster outlets, LaughFestGR.org and Ticketmaster.com.
Listen to Chris Hardwick Interview Part 1
Listen to Chris Hardwick Interview Part 2