By Curt Wagner, @ShowPatrol
7:00 PM CDT, March 28, 2013
Chris Hardwick is a busy guy. He runs the popular podcast and website The Nerdist and travels the county doing standup. Last fall, his "Talking Dead," the popular aftershow in which he and guests dissect each episode of "The Walking Dead," grew to an hourlong chat fest.
As if Hardwick doesn't have enough on his plate, his "The Nerdist" specials on BBC America have been transformed into a weekly variety/interview show.
"I'm pretty good with time management," he told me earlier this week. "I'm a color coded calendar guy ... I know 'Talking Dead' works on Sundays, BBC America works on Saturdays, the podcasts record during the week, script meetings happen during the week, stand-up's at night.
"Don't get me wrong, it's a seven-day work week, but it's all fun stuff. And everything is very modular in that way."
The series premiere of "The Nerdist" airs at 9 p.m. CT March 30, focusing on BBC America's Supernatural Saturday lineup of "Doctor Who" and "Orphan Black" earlier in the night. The season finale of AMC's "Talking Dead" will be shown at 9 p.m. CT Sunday after the season finale of "The Walking Dead."
With Hardwick's very big weekend approaching, I asked him a very nerdy question: If you were transported to a horrific world where you could watch just one of two shows, "Doctor Who" or "The Walking Dead," which would you choose and why?
"Damn it, how could you do that to me? How could you do that to me? That's impossible," he said. "I mean, listen--man, why would you do that? No, it's a fair question. It's a fair question.
"The only difference between the two shows is that there are ... many, many seasons of 'Doctor Who,' so I guess just for having more content to watch over a period of time I would maybe--I don't know but then, see, if I take 'Walking Dead' and I'm only allowed one thing then it reminds me that I've been in some kind of apocalypse basically watching a drama about the apocalypse.
"I don't know. But then I feel like if the TARDIS just popped up in Atlanta then the Doctor might find the source of the zombie-ism and cure all the walkers somehow. It's probably some sort of an alien virus that he could change the frequency with a sonic screwdriver and manipulate it and then cure everyone.
"You asked me an impossible question. How could you 'Sophie's Choice' me like that? How could you?! You bastard."
I guess it goes without saying, but Hardwick geeks out for both shows.
He shared more about the new version of "The Nerdist," which you can read after the clip below.
Will your new "The Nerdist" be like the past BBC America specials?
No, it will be different actually. This is not going to be a satisfying answer; it's similar but different. When we first started the show, I had sort of pitched it as a turbo version of the podcast. The first episode of the BBC America show that we shot, my idea was let's go in, let's record a podcast in front of an audience with a nice set, and then we'll just chop down the 45 minutes or 50 minutes or whatever and cut it up for television.
Quickly we realized that it didn't work that way. Television really has to have some structure and the podcast is essentially structure-less. It's basically a phone conversation. I mean we're not on the phone but it works like a phone conversation or like meeting someone for coffee that you're interested and you want to learn more about.
So it evolved pretty quickly throughout the specials, but we never really caught any momentum because we were doing them at little bits at a time. But with this, since we have 10 episodes all at once, we blew out the set, kind of borrowed a little bit more.
We kind of moved away from, like, Chelsea Roundtable stuff and made it a little more "Graham Norton"-y in the sense that the set's more casual and there are sketches and games on the show and it's really kind of like a big hangout.
And the last act of every show is standup because I really feel like there's not enough standup comedy on television and I know a lot of really funny people. And so you know, the last act of the show is just basically us saying goodbye, but the second to last act of the show is a standup performance.
And we got amazing comics that I love like Maria Bamford and Ron Funches and Paul F. Tompkins and Natasha Leggero and Matt Kirshen--just some really great people who are complementing the guests. We aimed really high with the guests this season, like, well, why not?
And I have the same bookers, Ashley and Debbi, who book everything "Nerdist"-related. They book the podcast, they book the channel, they book "Talking Dead," they book our TV show. And they both worked at "Conan" for years, so we've just gotten to a really good rhythm with guest booking and they're so amazing.
And we got most of the people that we shot out for. So like, Seth Rogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zach Galifianakis and Buzz Aldrin and Katie Sakhoff, Gillian Jacobs, Elijah Wood. It's just been an insane lineup. I would put the guest line up against any network late night talk show.
It's really just a hangout chat. I don't think it feels like an interrogation with the guests. I think it kind of has the soul of the podcast but structured a little more like television. So in the end I think we ended up with a nice, fun, relaxed Saturday night show.
Matt Smith will be on the show, but not necessarily on the set?
Yes, we built basically like a robot Matt Smith. I did basically a satellite interview with Matt. So then we built a Matt Smith mannequin body and then put this video monitor head on it, which No. 1 I thought was appropriate for the Doctor. ... I just thought it was a really cool way to do that rather than just have him on a monitor because obviously, he's in England and that makes it very difficult to get the Brits on the show when they are on the opposite time zone. I came in at like, 6 o'clock in the morning one morning and we did this interview but it was pretty cool. It worked out.
"The Nerdist" season has been pre-recorded, correct?
It's pre-recorded. The BBC America show shoots on Saturdays and "Talking Dead" shoots on Sundays. So you know, I've basically been working weekends for the past month or so. And we gang shot a bunch of the episodes at once and then we'll parse them out throughout the season.
So our first episode, because BBC America brought us back, we're kind of celebrating Supernatural Saturday. Our first episode basically is a tribute, sort of like our love letter to the BBC. It's all BBC America people on the show. Matt Smith does the thing that we do with him and Tatiana Maslany from "Orphan Black" and Dominic Monaghan. And then we shot some stuff in England that we're going to roll.
The first episode is basically BBC themed and then the next nine episodes after that--some of them are themed but some of them not themed. We don't always need to find reasons to just mash up cool people together that we love.
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