The Nerdist Podcast

The following is the sixth entry in a series of articles covering the booming comedy podcast scene. For the purpose of explanation, a podcast is a program-driven form of digital media (audio or video) released episodically by download through web syndication.

Chris Hardwick is a nerd and he’s not afraid to admit it. You wouldn’t think so from this good looking comedian and current host of “Web Soup” on the G4 Network. But he has taken his love of all things nerdy and translated that to the increasingly popular Nerdist podcast.

The podcast, an extension of the Nerdist blog, came about when Hardwick convinced himself to create a new venture after a television project fell through. In a ‘do-it-yourself’ effort, Hardwick looked to close friends Matt Mira and comedian Jonah Ray to help start it up. Launched in February 2010, the basic premise of each episode is a free-form conversational interview with actors, comedians, writers, and musicians.

In the beginning, Hardwick used his comedy connections to have the likes of Tom Lennon (“Reno 911”), Joel McHale (“Community”) and Drew Carey on. They taped their first live show at the Largo theater in Los Angeles with Mythbuster Adam Savage. In just a matter of weeks, the show began growing and inched its way towards the top of the iTunes comedy podcast chart.

But whats makes the show interesting is the common theme of “being a nerd.” Considering Hardwick would not appear to be the typical nerd, he feels his podcast is less about “Star Wars” and comic books but more about how people (whether they admit to being a nerd or not) obsess over the things they love. Comedy, movies, literature, and science topics are discussed amongst the guests and how their fascination and curiosity shaped them to who they are today. A common point of discussion in a typical episode is Hardwick’s inquiry into a guest’s creative process, whether it comes to acting, writing, or performing comedy.

In a Wired magazine article Hardwick wrote for a Q & A session with comedian Andy Samburg (which doubled as a recorded Nerdist episode), Hardwick describes how podcasting has come along and the impact on his career: “Like all comedians, I have a podcast. Mine is called the Nerdist, and starting it was my single best career decision ever. Doing a weekly show let me burrow into a niche and connect with like-minded nerds. Plus, it has done more to increase attendance at my live shows than all of my TV projects combined.”

(Left - Right): Jonah Ray, guest Zach Galifianakis, Chris Hardwick, Matt Mira

For “nerd” listeners, many guests tend to be involved in the entertainment world that have achieved a “cult” status amongst fans. Wil Wheaton (“Star Trek”), Nathan Fillion (“Firefly”), graphic novelist Neil Gaiman, and Damon Lindelof (co-creator of “Lost”) have appeared. Regular listeners of the show have come to know how big of fans the hosts are when it comes to the long-running British science fiction show “Doctor Who” and were beyond excitement to have actor Matt Smith (who played the 11th incarnation of Doctor Who) on their show. Cult filmmaker and prolific podcaster Kevin Smith invited the Nerdist hosts to record at Smith’s Smodcastle theater. The following is a fan-made animated clip of that episode (contains explicit language).

Originally releasing an episode a week, last January they decided to record an additional “hostful” episode each week, i.e. no guests but a casual conversation between the three friends. Topics include stories from their adolescence, their day-to-day lives, or whatever forms of entertainment they’ve been recently obsessing over with. While some listeners may tune into certain episodes just for a guest interview, those who have come to love the natural rapport between the three friends can experience being a fly on the wall during a great conversation.

Earlier this year, the Nerdist took up residence at Meltdown Comics in Los Angeles, which doubles as a comic book store and venue for movies and stand-up performances. Los Angeles’s KTLA station reported on the Nerdist podcast and interviewed Hardwick. At the time of this report, the Nerdist had held its first ever live panel discussion with the actors and filmmakers behind the already-cult classic satirical blaxploitation film “Black Dynamite.”

Just a year and a half old and still going strong, the Nerdist podcast keeps expanding. At this summer’s Comic Con in San Diego, the podcast taped two live shows. One with cast members of “Doctor Who” and another with the audio commentators behind Rifftrax, which features Michael J. Nelson of “Mystery Science Theater 3000.” Last May, Hardwick was tapped by BBC America to host the “Ministry of Laughs” comedy block and has committed to a pilot television show based on the Nerdist podcast. This October, Hardwick's first book "The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Read Life)" will be released. A self-improvement style book, Hardwick taps into the average nerd's brain and helps them obtain their true potential.

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joawmeens 5 years ago from Hopewell, Ohio

I really like this podcast, especially the live episodes. Who knew Adam Savage was so good at stand-up?

Great hub.

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