Best in Comedy 2012: The breakout year of Chris Hardwick

BBC America announced Wednesday that it’s giving Chris Hardwick and his Nerdist colleagues a promotion — a full, regular season of hourlong episodes of The Nerdist comedy variety show for 2013.

“As a huge fanboy of nerd culture stuff, we at the Nerdist Podcast gush about the things we love constantly, and the fact that BBCA lets us do that AS OUR JOBS puts me forever in their debt,” Hardwick replied. “They have been exceptional at allowing us to grow the show and its audience. Plus, I’ve met THREE Doctors since I started working there. Perry Simon doesn’t know this yet, but I’m going to hug him REALLY HARD next time I see him-until it gets awkward. Six extra seconds oughta do it.”

Perry Simon is the GM for BBC Worldwide America. For his part, Simon said: “We could not be more pleased to be expanding our relationship with Chris,” who he described boldly “America’s #1 Doctor Who fan, hosting countless Doctor Who-related events for our channel.”

Simon isn’t the first industry executive who has expanded his or her show-business relationship with Hardwick in the past year. Far from it. Much closer to say that 2012 has been Chris Hardwick’s year in comedy. Or at the very least, his year to break out.

Yes, yes. Louis CK set an individual Emmy record this year.

Louis CK, however, was most likely the first person to tell you that Tig Notaro delivered the biggest individual stand-up comedy performance of the year. Since “Louie” seemingly can do no wrong in the eyes of anyone writing about comedy during this current boom — in which daily coverage of the minutia of stand-up comedians, funny Twitter accounts, Webseries, and full-on plot recaps of sitcoms that comedy nerds love more than comedy Nielsen ratings would suggest have joined full-on recaps of comedy podcasts that tell you about every waking thought of every comedian who can grab an offstage microphone. Since Louis CK is telling the people who tell you that he is comedy’s current king to look elsewhere, then it shouldn’t take a nerd to look at the year’s objective evidence to see that the man behind Nerdist is becoming one of us, no matter who you think us is.

To wit, let’s add up Hardwick’s gains in 2012.

  • Hosted a live, half-hour, interactive talk show that followed back-to-back broadcasts of new episodes of AMC’s cable series, The Walking Dead, which this fall beat out every BROADCAST show on the networks among ages 18-49. When the zombie hit returns on Feb. 10, 2013, Hardwick’s Talking Dead will air immediately after new episodes an hour earlier and broadcast for a half-hour longer. His abbreviated talk show had been drawing 2.2 million viewers at 11 p.m. Sundays by the beginning of December.
  • In July, Legendary Entertainment, the company whose movie studio division produced blockbusters such as InceptionWatchmen300Man Of Steel and The Dark Knight Trilogy, acquired Hardwick’s company, Nerdist Industries.
  • In online video, Hardwick’s official Nerdist YouTube channel grew to include more than 300,000 subscribers (301,301 as of this writing, a very nerdy number). His roster of Webseries talent is varied enough to include TV star Neil Patrick Harris and star astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, as well as new insight on old sketches of Kids in the Hall by Kids in the Hall.
  • In the world of podcasting, Nerdist’s roster of regularly scheduled podcasts now numbers 22. His own Nerdist Podcast with Jonah Ray and Matt Mira has graduated from comedians talking to comedians about whatever, to full interviews recently with the likes of WWE Champion CM Punk, Malcolm McDowell, Paul Williams, Kevin Bacon, Anthony Edwards and Mel Brooks.
  • In the world of the living, breathing audience members wanting to see and hear live stand-up comedy, Hardwick’s own comedy club, NerdMelt, books talent on shows throughout each month that competes on an equal footing with the longstanding trio of veteran mainstream clubs (The Hollywood Improv, The Comedy Store and The Laugh Factory) or the hippest alternative place to find a Hollywood casting agent (The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater).
  • At Comic-Con, San Diego’s annual summer event that has become the biggest pop-culture convention of the year, you can usually find Hardwick leading at least one panel or major event (he moderated a Walking Dead panel there in 2011, which led to the AMC offer) — and presiding over Course of the Force, an Olympic-type relay held in conjunction with Lucasfilm Ltd.
  • In November, his first hourlong stand-up comedy special debuted on Comedy Central. A full-packaged CD and DVD version of Mandroid will be released in 2013.
  • And then there is his new BBC America deal, which will find Hardwick fronting the cable channel’s Supernatural Saturday programming block — Doctor Who, Being Human, Orphan Black, plus his televised version of The Nerdist podcast.

It’s enough change that Hardwick had to update his online bio as recently as the first week of December, and it’s already outdated, in a good way.

Hardwick has become busy enough in 2012 that he no longer could continue contributing gadget reviews to G4’s Attack of the Show, a live show quite popular among fans of gadgets, superhero movies, pop culture and more, but not popular enough with G4 brass to make it to the Mayan “apocalypse.” AOTS broadcast its final show on Wednesday, in fact.

But Hardwick’s run is far from over. His 2013 calendar already is putting him front and center in front of more and more of you.

That’s what we call a breakout year.

Congrats, Chris.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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