This is quite the event: Bill Gates, ultra-billionaire brains behind Microsoft and perhaps the Nerd King, making his debut appearance on the Nerdist podcast. Host Chris Hardwick and his two co-hosts Jonah Ray and Matt Mira, are granted a 40-minute audience with Gates, somewhere in the bowels of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation HQ in Seattle. The occasion was the recent release of the Foundations annual "Letter" -- a humanitarian manifesto of sorts that spells out difficulties in the world, the Gates' plans to thwart those problems.
"But is this comedy?", you say aloud, to no one in particular. Sometimes comedy is where you find it and where it lies in this interview is that the appearance is clearly set up for Bill to get word out about the Letter. Hardwick and friends are just as determined to lure their guest into talking about the early days of the PC and all the trappings. At one point, some PR flack interrupts to make sure the interview is going to get back to the information in the Letter. From there on out, the humor comes in knowing Hardwick is going to slip in as many of his questions as he can before he feels obligated to get back to the subject at hand.
And they do cover a lot of ground on both fronts. Gates waxes reminiscent about revving up the Microsoft machine with Paul Allen, learning to make characters on a screen be more than just letters and numbers, and how to trick fonts into having more resolution than they were supposed to have. In between, he paints broad stroke details about how the Gates Foundation works with companies, laboratories and individuals to bring change to third world countries, working to eliminate disease, starvation, and ignorance.
Hardwick cleverly draws his guest into pointing out the parallels (and differences) between pioneering high tech advances and fixing the world's ills.
After Bill splits the scene, Hardwick welcomes two Gates Foundation folks in -- Jay Wenger, director of the Gates Foundation's polio eradication efforts; and Julie Sunderland, director of program-related investments.
It's hardly a laugh-a-minute show, but there are some grins and -- what the heck -- you could actually learn something.
Portions of this review originally posted as part of This Week In Comedy Podcasts on Splitsider.com.