Monday, February 4, 2013

Podblast! The Nerdist

After a good night's sleep and a chance to decompress, I think I'm over the Japanese Ninja Turtles cartoon.  It was rough, and there are still questions I have, but as it is I can only assume that the people scripting the series were children, as I'm reminded of a story I heard told by a woman who sat next to a young child on an airplane.  After take-off, the girl turned to her and asked, "When do we get smaller?"  After all, that had been her first trip to the airport, and as she clearly saw with her own two eyes, every plane that left got tiny.

That was the writers of that series.  They were children who managed to look at the facts presented to them and reached the unavoidable wrong conclusion.  I mean, seriously, how does a show expect me to believe that cleaving a skyscraper in half cause it to fall like a tree and land on a giant MechaShredder's h-.....

...okay, deep breaths.  Let's look at something that usually helps me calm down.

I present the podcast I've probably listed to the most number of episodes from (although probably not as often as I've listened to other podcasts repeated), Chris Hardwick's The Nerdist Podcast.

Chris Hardwick is a stand-up comedian originally being known as "that guy who's sick of being asked if he slept with Jenny McCarthy when he hosted "Singled Out" on MTV" or "that guy who was once Wil Wheaton's roommate."

Since then, he's acted on numerous shows, hosted Web Soup, and has had a lengthy career in stand-up, but what he's most well-known for now is founding Nerdist Industries, which produces content for television, the radio, and the web.  He has The Talking Dead, which airs after AMC's hit show The Walking Dead, several video series based off of the hit video game Skyrim, the video series for Startalk (which I've already discussed before), and, my favorite, he does All-Star Celebrity Bowling with a rotating cast of guest stars.  Because, seriously, who doesn't want to see a group of comedians bowl against the cast of Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, Doctor Who, or Mythbusters?

Seriously, the guy's made quite the little media empire, and it seems to just keep growing.

However, the thing I turn to every week is the original podcast, which currently is well past 300 episodes.  Chris Hardwick has a natural talent for interviewing people, whether it's celebrities like Tom Hanks, Neil Patrick Harris, or Mel Brooks (seriously, Mel Frickin Brooks), or simply rising comedians, scientists, or Internet personalities.  His podcasts are truly unique, because unlike a traditional "interview," it's mostly just him spending over an hour talking to his guests about whatever they want to talk about.

Someone comes on wanting to discuss their typewriter collection (spoiler alert: it was Tom Hanks), that's what they talk about.  Someone wants to discuss what they watched on TV the night before or the history of British comedy or simply where a good place to get food in Los Angeles is, that's what they talk about, but Chris manages to keep the guest engaged as well as act as a great foil for us, the audience, since he asks the questions and makes the jokes we're thinking about.

There are also occasional "hostful" episodes, where it's simply Chris and his two cohosts, and while I wasn't as fond of these episodes as I was the interviews, I actually feel like I somewhat know these hosts as people, just not random voices on my mp3 player.  I could listen to a radio host talk to celebrities forever without learning anything substantial about them, or watch Jay Leno or David Letterman talk to stars every night without really getting a sense of who the host is (not including the times when animals visit, those show pretty quickly what the host's personality is).

Plus, I think it helps that, at its core, the Nerdist Podcast is about celebrating what makes you a nerd, something that Chris is regular to point out is nothing to be ashamed of.  He likes to point out that, in today's world, the nerds won.  Everybody has an mp3 player and a computer, video games are multi-billion dollar industry, comic book movies are the biggest blockbusters Hollywood has seen, and it just keeps growing and growing.  Whether you're a programmer, a scientist, a filmmaker, or just someone who likes James Bond a little too much, there's a bit of nerd in everybody these days, and it's those positive "nerd" traits (y'know, the ability to focus and be imaginative to solve problems, not the "unable to talk to other human beings" thing) that should be encouraged.

I almost wanted to put Chris Hardwick down first on my "influences" columns, as I've recently picked up his book The Nerdist Way to read, as it seems to talk a lot about how to use those traits that once got you stuffed in a locker to realize what potential your life has and seize it.  However, I'm still only part way into it, so we'll see how well it does on that.

In the meantime, I can't recommend enough that people go to his website and check it out, I can almost guarantee there will be something there you'll find that tickles your fancy.

After all, the man got to do the music video for a new Ben Folds song, guest-starring the Fraggles for their 30th anniversary.  The man's making quality entertainment.

No comments: