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Don't Hate Chris Hardwick, Hate the Game

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | July 19, 2017 |

By Dustin Rowles | Celebrity | July 19, 2017 |

A lot of people don’t like Chris Hardwick, and I get it. He’s the face of the after-show talk show format. He’s rarely critical of anything within the fanboy community. He’s overexposed. He’s a sycophant. He talks about himself too much. He’s just another pretty straight white male taking up too much oxygen.

I get it. I do. But the man has hustle. He’s the hardest working guy in the business, and I respect the hell out of a person who places work as a priority over sleep, and I’m not sure that Chris Hardwick has slept since 2012.

He’s also a guy that completely turned his life around, one of the very, very few MTV personalities of the 1990s who actually managed to establish a career afterwards, but he did so only after hitting rock bottom with an alcohol problem and then rebounding. In a huge way.

Chris Hardwick hosts The Talking Dead, which airs after two of the three highest rated shows on cable, The Walking Dead and Fear of the Walking Dead. He’s never critical of the show, despite some major stumbles in recent seasons, which irks the hell out of me, but I get it. He’s a promoter, not a critic. He also hosts a primetime network game show called The Wall, the last five minutes of which I used to see every week before This Is Us, and it’s a terrible game show with rules that seem made up on the spot. He’s also not just the host of the Nerdist podcast, but the creator of the Nerdist Media Empire (purchased by Legendary Pictures in 2012, but Hardwick remains co-president). He was one of the first people who figured out how to leverage social media. As a podcast host, he not only popularized the podcast but he helped to shape the interview format. He also hosted @midnight on Comedy Central for four seasons (its cancellation was just announced); he moderates every other panel at San Diego’s Comic Con; and oh yeah, he still frequently performs stand-up around the country, and through him (and Maron), I’ve gained a lot more insight and respect for the art of comedy (even if comedian is last on the list of Hardwick’s talents).

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The guy has an insane work ethic. But he’s also incredible at what he does, it’s just that many people do not like what it is that he does, namely: Promote celebrities and nerd culture and sell advertising. He’s the nerd Ryan Seacrest, who is also disliked by a lot of people for doing his job well enough to gain multiple jobs in his field.

And the thing about hosting is, it’s under-appreciated work. I don’t like after-show talk shows, but I gained a lot more respect for Hardwick’s abilities on them after watching Andy Greenwald clumsily talk his way through the Mr. Robot after-show, and after Bill Simmon’s awkward Game of Thrones after-show, cancelled by HBO after one season. There’s a particular talent for that work that is difficult to master, see e.g. Brian Dunkelman. There are thousands of podcasts, and yet Nerdist still thrives because few outside of Marc Maron or Joanna Robinson (holla!) have mastered that format. It’s incredibly challenging work; I couldn’t talk to my wife for an hour and a half without feeling mentally and emotionally taxed.

But more than anything, whether you like him or not, he’s a good guy. He’s a cheerleader for both the comedy and the nerd community. He has helped foster a lot of great people (Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon, as one example), and he is relentlessly positive, which ironically is often the very thing that people like least about him (meanwhile, what most people dislike about Marc Maron is how crusty he is).

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I’m not a fan of much of what Chris Hardwick does and I think there are some who do it as well or better than him who should be given those opportunities (Aisha Tyler, for instance), but I respect the hell out of that guy. He’s got hustle, he’s good to those around him, and he remains unflappable in the face of a constant barrage of hate. He’s a modern day Regis Philbin, and I just find it difficult to muster any disdain for that, even as he tries to convince me that there’s merit to the latest Fear the Walking Dead episode.