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Q&A: Chris Hardwick on Standup and Running Nerdist

Chris Hardwick casually tells Variety that he has “a full schedule.” That’s an understatement. Aside from his five-day-a-week comedy quiz show “@midnight,” he oversees Nerdist Industries, which is now a division of Legendary.

Why did you start Nerdist?
It developed as a reaction to the powerlessness you have as a performer — powerless in terms of how and when people decide to hire you, but also the type of things you end up working on. I was happy to be working, but in 2007, I decided as long as I can make enough to live on, I’m only going to pursue things that I care about. We have a pilot and we’re making, pitching and developing stuff for TV and digital platforms.

Do you ever take vacations?
My time off consists of a day here or there, or a few hours, that makes me feel I’m OK. One of the life challenges for a comedian who’s putting a lot of energy into the world, you have to save some for your home life. There is not an endless supply of energy, so you have to use it wisely.

What do you love most?
Standup is my favorite thing, that’s what I will always want to do. One reason I started everything was to get more people to see me in shows. During the ’80s comedy boom, standups had numerous channels to get their voice out there, so people could decide whether to come see them. Now, outside of Comedy Central, there’s not a lot of standup on television, so that’s why a lot of us went to podcasting and Twitter and blogs. It’s Comic Survival Mechanism.

Some standups seem angry, but you don’t.
I don’t think we’re angry, I think we’re just sensitive, but you have to be if you’re a comic. The tool of your craft is being hypersensitive to the world and observing what’s going on.

Were you a geeky kid?
In grade school, I was on the chess team. I was president of the Latin club. I was sort of popular for being unpopular. I also was weird because of the comedian gene. I was a smarmy nerd, not afraid to mouth off, even though I should have been, because I was small and weak. I identified with Anthony Michael Hall in “Sixteen Candles.”

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