If you go see comedian Chris Hardwick when he performs at Stand Up Live February 8 to 10, don’t be surprised if he leaves the stage to get into the audience for some one-on-one interaction.
That’s what happened the first time I saw his live stand-up act.
That was in 2014 at the Oddball Comedy Festival in Irvine, California. I was familiar with him from his Emmy Award-winning Comedy Central show, @midnight with Chris Hardwick, but didn’t really know what he had to offer as a stand-up. Not sure that at the time I really cared. The main stage lineup that night was ridiculous, with Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, Louie C.K., and Jim Gaffigan, just to name a few.
When it was Hardwick’s turn, he delivered a few hilarious lines, emphasizing the quick, conversational style that kept @midnight’s pace fun and frenetic.
After getting warmed up, he made his move from the stage into the audience, rendering it hilarious by announcing “Parkour!” as he made an uncomplicated jump into the crowd. It was such a fast and simple joke, but as he said it, he continued his motion into the fan-filled seats with a look that simultaneously saw him laughing at himself and embracing the crowd.
What he did was reveal his blend of sincerity and charisma, along with wicked comedic chops that did nothing but slay long after he "parkour’d" his way back onto the big stage. Put it this way: He’s funny. And yep, as fuck.
Leaving space in his set to get involved with the crowd is something Hardwick says is important to his stand-up show. Rather than obsess over sticking to certain themes or locking into one inflexible set, he likes things to be fluid.
“We are inundated with so much information daily,” he says. “There’s always so much to talk about. I like to keep it open."
Hardwick knows about information overload. Hardly a dilettante, he has immersed himself in a multitude of media projects, many happening at the same time, and has shown his dedication and skills consistently.
That full schedule includes working on a variety of TV shows for different networks. On AMC, he hosts and produces the Talking line of shows, like Talking Dead, Talking Saul, and Talking Preacher. And yep, Talking with Chris Hardwick, because he isn’t short on things to say.
Over at NBC, he’s the host and executive producer of The Wall, and has another show in development.
Hardwick says that this level of busy is a part of his nature. Let’s not forget that he’s also been a radio DJ, an actor, and a writer. Oh yeah, he is also the founder of Nerdist Industries, which he started in 2012 to host his own podcast. Later that year, it was acquired by Legendary Entertainment and now produces multiple programs. He continues to serve as the CEO.
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Hardwick tells us that when one endeavor ends, he’s usually so busy that he doesn’t have time to dwell on missing it, and that he stays more focused on enjoying things for what they offered, understanding that everything has a course and sometimes it’s better for something to end rather than wear out its welcome.
His show, @midnight, however, is something he does allow himself time to miss. The show aired late at night – obviously – and was an internet-based panel game show. What he missed most, he says was “the forum it gave to so many great comedians out there,” referring to comics having a different and fun way to showcase their skills that wasn’t focused on them doing stand-up bits.
It was also a perfect vehicle for his quick and clever quips, and his dry style that kept the show running for four years.
You can check out the prolific comedian and his wicked wit at his three-day special event at downtown’s Stand Up Live, where he’ll chat about current events and quite possibly whatever you have on your mind.
Chris Hardwick performs February 8 to 10 at Stand Up Live, 50 West Jefferson Street. Admission is $35; attendance requires a two-drink minimum. Call 480-719-6100 or visit standuplive.com.