Chris Hardwick is living the sweet life for a fan of geek and pop culture. As part of his Nerdist podcast empire, which caters to all brands of geek passions from science to comic books, he has bowled for charity with the cast of “Doctor Who” and interviews people such as legendary comic book creator Stan Lee. He hosts two talk shows based on two of the most popular shows on television – “Talking Bad,” which will end with the series finale of “Breaking Bad” on Sept. 29, and “Talking Dead,” which will start up again when “The Walking Dead” returns Oct. 13. In late October, he’ll host a celebrity-filled game show that targets social media called “@Midnight,” following “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central. On top of all of that, he also gets to do stand-up comedy. On Friday, he’ll be performing at the Wilbur Theatre.
We spoke with him by phone about his impressive resume and what it means to be a nerd.
Q. You have some of the best jobs a nerd could want in the entertainment industry. Does this seem like a dream come true for you?
A. I think it’s actually beyond what I imagined I would be able to do. Any one of the jobs would be, oh, this is a dream job. But there are a handful of them. It is sort of weird. I’m looking at my podcast schedule for the next two days, and today we’re recording Stan Lee. Tomorrow is like a comedy nerd’s dream. It’s Adam Scott, Nick Offerman, and Tenacious D, like one right after the other. It would be silly for me to say, “How did this happen?” because I work really hard. I knew where I wanted to go, but the other part of it is like, how am I allowed to do this?
Q. Do you have a favorite among your jobs?
A. I like them all differently. But stand-up is still my favorite. That’s the thing I always wanted to do, that’s the thing that I get the most excited about. It’s you and the audience, and that’s it, you know? And you know right away if stuff works or not. And I like the crafting-the-joke process.
Q. Do you feel you have to shape your stand-up in a certain way to preserve your nerd cred?
A. I don’t think of it in those terms. In the last set I’ve been doing, I have a long chunk about my dad. Some girl told me, “That wasn’t nerdy enough.” I’m like, “Yeah, but it happened.” Your brain just expresses what it wants to express. And I think if you try to engineer that too much, it just doesn’t read authentic. Some bits are nerdier and some bits aren’t. I don’t think I go out of my way to say, oh, this really has to be a nerdy bit. My stand-up special was just all stuff I wanted to talk about.
Q. When nerds become cool, are they no longer nerds, by definition? We’ve had that give-and-take in culture these days where nerdy stuff has become mainstream cool.
A. I think that’s assuming that you have to be awkward to be a nerd. Or you have to be an outcast. I think being an outcast is what sort of strengthens the nerd movement, because you’re isolated, so you have time. But ultimately, I’ve always said that I don’t think it’s what people are into that makes them nerdy, it’s how they’re into those things and how they process information, and how intensely they follow those things. And I think whether or not that’s cool is kind of irrelevant.
I do find some of the meanest, most exclusionary people are the nerds. And they rebel against other nerds! What are you doing? As much as I love nerds and the nerd movement, the nerd-on-nerd violence is really bad. A lot of times, nerds are the meanest ones online. And also, the trolling can be very extensive because they’re smart.
Q. Have you gotten to preview the new “Walking Dead” season yet?
A. No, but I’ll be coming on that pretty soon. I kind of wanted to separate “Breaking Bad” and “Walking Dead.” I have such respect for “Breaking Bad” that I want to wait till it’s over before I start.
Q. You’re adding a game show to your resume?
A. It’s sort of a game show because the contestants are comedians. The soul of it’s more like a British panel show, but we’re just using a game show format to make fun of social media and celebrities and tweets and that sort of thing. It should be fun. It’s been really fun to get ready for it.
Q. That becomes what number of jobs for you, then, if we list them all?
A. “Breaking Bad” is ending, so that’ll go away. The main ones are just “The Talking Dead” and this show, which will be called “@Midnight.” And then running Nerdist and doing stand-up. So it’s really like four big jobs altogether.Nick A. Zaino III can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.