Chris Hardwick has made being a nerd a cottage industry. The comedian and former MTV dating show host started the Nerdist podcast a few years back and has since transformed it into an entire podcast and web series network, making him a CEO of sorts. Yes, the geeks have inherited the earth, and Hardwick's first stand-up special, Madroid, is proof positive of that. Taking that stage at New York City's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts in a sleek, shiny silver suit (deliberately chosen to appear more robot-like), Hardwick is hardly the textbook image of a socially awkward "nerd." The only thing nerdy about Mandroid is all the references to things like Harry Potter, chess club and technology; the proof that the nerds have won is that the audience gets every reference. Hardwick isn't just speaking our language -- he is our spokesperson. Nerds have come a long way in the last 10 years.
But is Mandroid funny? Yes. Very. Harwick has been writing, honing and refining this material for years as a touring comic, improving his delivery and improvisational, on-your-feet style on his podcast and studying the part of Head Nerd since the day he was born. Because of Hardwick's status as an elder statesman of all things geeky, Mandroid could easily have pandered only to that audience -- it could have been frustrating in its single-minded focus on "nerds" and the references could have become overkill. The end product would have been exclusionary, the way that some of the "Blue Collar" comedy goes out of its way to separate that fanbase from everyone else on the planet. But Hardwick is too smart and too nice a guy to spend his entire special laying out the differences between his fans and other people. Yes, he tackles "nerdy" subjects and makes genre references, but that's just because it's how he talks -- it's in his very fabric. It's the difference between being a real nerd and playing the part of one on TV. Mandroid is funny even if you don't watch Doctor Whoor play Dungeons & Dragons. That's because Hardwick successfully does what all good comedians are able to accomplish: he establishes a very specific world view and draws the audience into seeing things the same way. He makes observations about the absurdities of strip clubs; he tells embarrassing stories about animal encounters from his childhood; he muses about the difficulties of getting older. The mixing of nerd culture combined with the universal aspects of Mandroid are what make it work.
Mandroid feels a little like a victory lap for Hardwick, who once toiled away on the bottom rungs of showbiz before reinventing himself and defining his career on his own terms. He has performed comedy for years. He has developed a loyal fan base. Mandroid celebrates those things will cluing in the uninitiated that, yes, the host of Singled Out is a terrifically talented comic whose career has survived the worst and is now at its peak. There has never been a better time for Hardwick to record his first hour-long special. Mandroid isn't just the comedy special we want. It's the comedy special we deserve.
- Original Comedy Central Premiere Date: 11/10/12
- DVD Release Date: 1/23/13
- Studio: Comedy Central