The Nerdist Live at the Vic | Review
Segueing from struggling comedian to de-facto curator of modern nerd culture is no simple feat, but Chris Hardwick makes it look easy. Launching The Nerdist Podcast in 2010, Hardwick and co-hosts Matt Mira and Jonah Ray quickly established the weekly podcast as one of the premiere venues for deeply personal interviews with comedians and entertainers, all tempered with an abundance of pop-culture references. In the live setting, the conversations remain just as referential, while the hosts frequently interact with audience members and riff on current events. Even with the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo in full swing, the Vic became the nerdiest place in town on Friday night as Hardwick and company assembled onstage to record their latest episode.
Before the taping started, all of the podcast's hosts took the stage one-by-one and delivered short stand-up comedy sets. Sticking to mostly autobiographical material, former Apple Store employee Matt Mira described his days behind the Genius Bar while writer Jonah Ray lauded the Midwest's abundance of cheese curds and beer. Chris Hardwick's set took an even more personal route, delving into his sexual exploits as a teenager while surrounding the tale with allusions to Ghostbusters and Harry Potter—at one point likening teenage sex to trying to enter the mythical platform 9 3/4. Hardwick's brutally honest on-stage persona mirrored his frank discussions on The Nerdist Podcast, where he has elaborated upon his battle with alcoholism and a string of failed relationships.
Sitting side-by-side, the trio of comedians haphazardly commenced the recording with recollections of their journeys from Madison where the podcast taped the night prior. Hardwick and Ray griped about the Illinois Tollway while Mira attempted to recall the details surrounding a particularly drunken evening. The boys were eventually joined by actress Alison Haislip, who gave Hardwick a hard time about his Starbucks habit and described the intricacies of New Jersey's jughandle intersections. Local internet celebrity Cartman IRL also made an appearance—albeit from the venue's balcony—sporting his signature South Park-inspired duds.
After a lengthy conversation that focused upon how each member of the panel lost their virginity—Mira to a Dave Matthews Band song, Haislip to an Allman Brothers track—the group turned to the audience for a round of "quemments." Answering a series of questions and comments, Hardwick fielded everything from the mundane (What superhero would you be?) to the meaningful (How do you become comfortable on a stage?) Indulging in the overwhelming communal spirit of the gathering, fans offered programming ideas for the recently launched Nerdist YouTube channel and talked about their own Nerdist-inspired creative endeavors.
For all their Dr. Who references and Airplane quotes, the Nerdist hosts exuded an air of approachability, an unlikely yet fitting byproduct of the cult following which they have obtained. Unfiltered by earbuds, the show yielded charmingly candid observations in addition to a bevy of topical quips. Speaking to a growing group with passions for the unconventional, Hardwick and company celebrated their common interest in all things geeky. If the Chris Hardwick and Nerdist crew have their way, you'll have no choice but to enjoy your burrito (just look it up.)