CHRIS HARDWICK at Comedy Bar, February 10-11. comedybar.ca. Rating: NNNN
If you noticed fewer people playing World of Warcraft or downloading Doctor Who episodes on the weekend, chances are they were at the Comedy Bar for one of four sold-out sets by their nerdy hero, Chris Hardwick.
Point of fact: at the final show late Saturday night, members from Canada's Doctor Who Society took up several rows; another guy, sitting front and centre, had attended all four shows, and Hardwick acknowledged his commitment by letting him contribute to the raunchy punchline of a particularly funny joke.
Hardwick is the extremely gifted creator of Nerdist, host of its popular podcast and AMC's post-Walking Dead live show, Talking Dead, among other things. It's hard to imagine the cleancut guy with the chiseled features and DJ-ready voice (he does some voiceover work for animation) as a nerd, but he proved his cred early on in the show by bantering with the Dr. Who geeks, at one point lifting up his sweater to reveal a Dalek T shirt when someone in the audience said she'd seen a vintage porn involving sex with one of the extraterrestrials. Priceless.
Hardwick's material is super smart. Sure, he can slip in a quick joke about marriage ("it's like prison without all the sex"), but a few minutes later he'll make you see the earth as the agricultural equivalent of a piece of Crispix cereal: all corn on one side, rice on the other.
His jokes on social media are well-honed, from comparing MySpace to Robocop's Detroit (where your abandoned profile has "kids making meth inside") to deconstructing the field day that psycho exes can have with Facebook. Best of all is his story about the flak he got for joking on Twitter about John Mayer, whose life, he tells us, is like the "Willy Wonka factory of pussy."
Other good bits included his hate-on for Twilight ("the name of that vampire who ends up with that bored looking girl") and his love for The Twilight Zone, with a clever suggestion for how each episode should end.
And while defending his fellow nerds, even that guy who stabbed someone with a pencil at Comic Con, he had nothing good to say about hipsters. His joke about some hipster dude's "curlicue moustache" was comic brilliance: "it's like a shrug on his face - it doesn't want to be there either."
Slick host Andrew Ivimey got things off to a fantastic start with his joke about playing the "is he gay?" card with women. He went on to discuss why nerds aren't bigots, then offered his own translation of R2D2's beeps. This was great lateral thinking material, perfectly calibrated for the audience, and he even pulled off a facial joke without losing the women in the room.
Dom Pare, after his brilliant set last week at Yuk Yuk'sDowntown, delivered more great material that included rants about how magicians have ruined top hats and how Spanx have affected one night stands.
Pare doesn't have the most interesting onstage presence, but verbally he's astonishing. He's at his best when he accesses deep reservoirs of rage, about the differences between the F, N and C words and what women really mean when they're crying or celebrating.
Rob Mailloux, whose Dark Comedy Festival co-produced the event with Ian Atlas's Epic Nerd Show, struggled early on with his material. Maybe delivering a Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown joke hours after news of her death had broken had something to do with it.
But the cocky comic soon found his footing with good jokes about loving animals, his eating disorder and a pedophile's unhealthy interest in donating to World Vision.