In many ways, Chris Hardwick personified the "zero-to-hero" story arc that so many video games and comic book plotlines were based on. As a young man, Hardwick was the typical high school geek who preferred role-playing board games to working in front of cameras. His perception changed after moving to Hollywood and discovering his natural talent as a comedian. In the mid-1990s, Hardwick landed his breakout television role as the host of MTV's "Singled Out" (1995-97), a popular dating show that marked the network's transition from strictly airing music videos to reality and lifestyle programming. Hardwick parlayed his "Singled Out" success into the occasional acting appearance on scripted shows and in feature films, yet it was as a TV host that he truly shone. During the meteoric rise of digital media and electronic gaming in the 2000s, Hardwick reached a broader audience as host of the tech-based programs "Attack of the Show!" (G4, 2005- ) and "Web Soup" (G4, 2009- ). The self-professed nerd further increased his visibility by launching the popular "Nerdist Podcast" in 2010, a highly ambitious and personal Internet-radio show that expanded into television, books and other projects, establishing Hardwick as a multimedia mogul.
Christopher R. Hardwick was born on Nov. 23, 1971 in Louisville, KY to Hall of Fame bowler Billy Hardwick and real estate agent Sharon Hills. He spent his youth in Tennessee and Colorado as a math geek, president of the Latin club, and an avid fan of the fantasy role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. After his mother and stepfather moved the family to Los Angeles during Hardwick's senior year of high school, he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles to study philosophy. While attending UCLA, Hardwick roomed with actor Wil Wheaton, who had starred in the coming-of-age drama "Stand by Me" (1986). A fellow member of the Chi Phi Fraternity at UCLA, Hardwick also launched his career as a stand-up comedian and built up his Hollywood résumé. One of Hardwick's first television appearances was a bit role on the ensemble drama series "thirtysomething" (ABC, 1987-1991).
In 1995, Hardwick landed his breakout role as co-host of MTV's popular dating show "Singled Out" alongside former Playboy Playmate of the Year Jenny McCarthy. Inspired by classic game shows such as "The Dating Game" (ABC, 1965-1973) and "Love Connection" (syndicated, 1983-1999), "Singled Out" featured a group of 50 men and 50 women who competed, based on mutual interests and timed stunts, to win a date with a blindfolded "picker" of the opposite sex. Hardwick's stand-up background and McCarthy's outspoken bombshell image appealed to MTV's Gen-X audience and established one of the network's first hit reality programs. Hardwick remained the host for the entire run, while McCarthy left in 1997 and was replaced by Carmen Electra. Hardwick's popularity as host landed him on several MTV specials such as "MTV Spring Break: Lake Havasu" (1995) and "MTV's Singled Out: Dirt on the Dates" (1996).
As one of the network's most eligible bachelors, Hardwick caught the eye of fellow MTV celebrity Jacinda Barrett, a cast member of "The Real World" (1992- ) whom he was briefly engaged to. After "Singled Out" went off the air, Hardwick continued performing stand-up and moonlighting as an on-air DJ for Los Angeles alternative rock station KROQ-FM. He made another attempt at acting with a lead role on the UPN sitcom "Guys Like Us" (1998-99) about bachelors Sean (Hardwick) and Jared (Bumper Robinson) who end up as the guardians of Jared's six-year-old brother. The series lasted only one season. Hardwick made a leap to film roles in the early 2000s, landing supporting roles in the horror feature "House of 1000 Corpses" (2003) and the action blockbuster "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines" (2003). Still, the stardom he hoped for continued to elude him.
Hardwick's television career began picking up steam once again when he returned to hosting duties. In 2007, the cable channel G4 - aimed at young males, electronic game enthusiasts, and comic book geeks - brought Hardwick in as a commentator on its flagship comedy and talk series "Attack of the Show!" His widespread knowledge of technology and passion for playing video games made Hardwick one of the network's resident experts on gadgets, digital media and tech trends. Two years after making his "Attack of the Show!" debut, Hardwick began hosting the weekly comedy series "Web Soup." A spin-off of "Talk Soup," the popular and long-running program that launched the careers of Greg Kinnear and Joel McHale, "Web Soup" featured hilarious segments based around viral videos, news topics, and other Internet-based phenomena. Hardwick's took his success with the G4 demographic - even calling himself "Nerd Overlord" - and launched other projects close to his heart. He regularly contributed to Wired magazine, voiced several characters on the animated program "Back at the Barnyard" (Nickelodeon, 2007-11), and hosted "Talking Dead" (2011- ), AMC's "The Walking Dead" (2010- ) after-show.
In 2010, Hardwick created the online radio program "The Nerdist Podcast" where he and co-hosts and fellow comics Jonah Ray and Matt Nira discussed such pressing topics as video games, and superheroes. The podcast consistently held a Top 10 spot on iTunes and attracted guest stars including Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis, and the Muppets. In less than a year, the podcast grew into Hardwick's own tech and comedy empire, which included a website, a talk-show called "The Nerdist" (BBC America, 2011), a book titled The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life) (2011), and a brick-and-mortar "Nerdist Theater" in West Hollywood, CA.
By Candy Cuenco