COMICS LIKE Chris Hardwick can't simply be standups anymore. Nowadays, they have to have their hands in a dozen projects at once: podcasts, web series, memoirs, screenplays, acting. And that's on top of doing standup sets at whatever club or theater will have them.
"I'm surprised Entrepreneur Magazine hasn't written an article on standups," Hardwick says, speaking on the phone. "We really are branding machines and our own marketers. Everything I do, in the back of my mind, I'm thinking, 'Will this get people to my standup shows?'"
The 42-year-old has certainly set up plenty of self-promotional opportunities for himself these days. He's a regular presence on television, as host of @midnight, the faux game show where he and a trio of fellow comics poke at the wasp's nest of the internet, as well as Talking Dead, a kind of post-game wrap-up show that follows each episode of The Walking Dead.
He's also the majordomo of Nerdist Industries, a production company that maintains a geek-centric news site, cranks out an alarming number of podcasts and webshows, and oversees NerdMelt Showroom, a comedy theater situated in the back of an LA comic book store that hosts tapings of Doug Loves Movies and standup shows of all stripes.
"I guess this is a byproduct of how my brain works," Hardwick says of his exhausting schedule. "I don't know if that's good or bad. I just know that I built this schedule that allows me to jump around to a handful of different things and have everything work in a complementary way."
The most impressive aspect of Hardwick's busy life is that his standup hasn't suffered as a result. It helps that there's a breezy tone to his stage work. His extended bits about traversing the online world and past screw-ups involving teenage sexual encounters and his days as an alcoholic feel just like conversations you and your friends might have on a Friday night.
Like everything in his professional life, what keeps Hardwick's standup material so good is a lot of hard work. His calendar tends to be chock full of club dates around the US, so to keep his work fresh, and to keep himself writing, he has a standing twice-monthly gig at NerdMelt where he performs 20 minutes of brand new material.
"It's a place to just be experimental," he says. "And it's free, so if I bomb the audience doesn't feel ripped off."
One avenue of show business that Hardwick doesn't care to venture down anymore is acting in sitcoms and movies. He's dipped his toes in that world before, particularly in the wake of his success as the co-host of MTV's '90s-era dating game Singled Out, but his interest in it quickly dried up.
"A couple of things happened," he remembers. "First, Hollywood said, 'We don't want you to be in these things.' And second, as I started making my own stuff, I got less excited about doing someone else's stuff. It feels so rigid to me now. Plus, acting is fucking boring. The actual time that you're acting is a minuscule percentage of the time you're in that business. Standup and podcasting, that just suits me better."