This article was first published March 25th, 2012 on Good Girls Gone Geek
Click for original source
Debuting in Feburary of 2010, the Nerdist podcast has had a tremendous rise in both the geek and comedy podcast worlds, being named one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 10 comedy podcasts after having been on the air for just over a year.
Having recently moved to Atlanta, I jumped at the chance to see a live recording at the Variety Theater in the Little Five Points district. If our show was a typical show, here’s what you can expect.
Chris Hardwick – Comedian and host of several shows over the years, including The Talking Dead on AMC; Jonah Ray – comedian and writer for The Soup on the E! Network; Matt Mira – comedian and producer.
The logistics: The entire set is about 3 hours, with the first hour dedicated to a short stand-up set from each host, the second hour the recording of the podcast and the third, quemments (questions and comments) from the crowd. The fellas signed autographs and posed for pictures after the show. If the MPAA were to give the show a rating, it would undoubtedly be R for both language and content, but as a teacher of high school students, I can say most teenagers have heard worse and none of the material is vicious in nature or derogatory toward women or other races. Use your judgment when it comes to bringing the kiddos.
Expect to feel really good about being a nerd
Those of us in our 30s know it’s hard out here for a geek. As our college friends scatter apart, we often find ourselves surrounded by more normals than geeks and while we know they mean well, the looks they can’t quite hide when we bring up Doctor Who or Battlestar Gallactica make us just a wee bit sad in our hearts. The world quickly conditions us out of such behavior and much of our geekery is relegated to the magical world of the interwebs.
So, there is something exceptionally exciting about listening to people talk about the things we like in person. If you had asked me to write down everything that I geek out about before the show, I would have been able to check off 95% of the list by the time the night was through (hint for the missing 5%: apparently, winter has not hit Nerdist-town). Not only was there the expected discussion of The Walking Dead and Doctor Who, but can you believe these M-F’ing angels-among-men talked about Poltergeist, The Neverending Story and Atari? For those in the audience born in the 70s, it was such a perfect storm of nostalgia and geekery, we nearly wept.
There was also an inclusive feel to the evening. As an audience, we believed them when they said that we were among the kind of people that they would hang out with. In the warm-up phase, Hardwick demonstrated a tremendous capacity for quick thinking and bonding with the crowd. After spotting a pair of leopard-print pajama pants in the front row, he called up an adorkable 17-year-old named Amadeus (oh yes, really) with whom he and his compatriots had a great deal of fun throughout the show, much of it crude, but none of it unkind. This ability to find a few gems in the crowd and turn them into running bits with no preparation never ceases to amaze me, and all three of the performers delivered.
Expect them to take your questions seriously
Jonah Ray (click photo for source)
The quemments from audience members fell almost exclusively into three categories: 1) advice on doing stand-up 2) advice on writing and 3) awkward fan love. There was plenty of hilarity during the questions, but there was also a lot of good advice given, much of it centering around the thesis “At some point, you have to stop thinking about it, worrying about it and dreaming about it, and just do it.” Your high school counselor, parents, friends and colleagues can tell you this same thing over and over (Hell, I even told you this), but something about these guys saying it elevates it from a cliché that doesn’t mean anything to words to live by. You know why? Because clearly, that’s what they did, and here they are. While it got a little tiresome hearing the same questions a few times, Hardwick, Mira and Ray never did anything less than give thoughtful, solid advice and encouragement to those asking.
The occasional undercurrent of hostility that can work its way in to all question and answer forums was dealt with in varied, but equally effective ways including humor, cursing and sincerity. Hardwick in particular seemed to have an internal utilitarian scale on which he balanced the importance of asking the question to the questioner with the importance of making the audience comfortable even when the questions are super duper awkward and/or antagonistic. With just a small gesture, he could keep the crowd from turning on a questioner while at the same time speeding things along.
Expect to make friends, at least for the evening
Much like DragonCon, the Nerdist Live Podcast experience began long before anyone took a seat and the
Matt Mira (click photo for source)
performers took the stage. Conversations were struck up in line; stories told, advice given, laughs shared. There is something remarkable about striking up a conversation with the person next to you, comfortable in the knowledge that you have something in common. Do not underestimate the power of this. Having yet to make any geek-friends in Atlanta, I attended this event alone. By the end, I knew the couple next to me well enough to cheer on the fella as he worked up the courage to go ask a question, and comfort him when the evening ended before he had a chance to ask it. His better half and I did the whole “go to the bathroom at the same time so the guys at the end of the row don’t have to get up for both of us separately” thing (see, fellas – we go together because we are thinking of you) and managed to have it not be awkward. You know where that happens? Nowhere. Nowhere but geek universe, that is.
Expect to leave a little in love
If I went on a first date in which we ended up geeking out about everything the Nerdist Three talked about with the audience that night, I would marry the guy. Guaranteed. I felt cupid’s arrow strike in the moment Chris Hardwick brought Amadeus on stage. The rest of the night only deepened the sentiment. At the core of the entire performance was a sense of decency, rough but real respect for fans, and a spirit of fun. When one brownie-carrying audience member let them know she had lost weight by only allowing herself to listen to their podcasts if she was exercising, Hardwick exclaimed, “Wow, you’re super hot.” To her credit, she did not simply turn red and fall over, as I might have done. Without a doubt, those guys, each of whom asked her for a hug, made her day. Hell, her week. It was kind without being sappy; flirtatious without being lascivious.
The long and short of what makes these three performers so special is that they manage to be tremendously funny guys – occasionally crude, especially when arguing with each other – without ever being mean-spirited.
Truly, individually, they are each a Nerd among nerds. Together, they give us all the feeling that liking this crazy stuff we like is not just OK, but undeniably cool.
Want more event reviews? Check out Proffitt’s review of DragonCon.