09/19/2012 04:51 pm ET

Chris Hardwick On Nerding Out, 'The Walking Dead' And Why Internet Commenters Make Him Sad


If you have even one nerdy bone in your body, you're probably familiar with Chris Hardwick. The founder of Nerdist Industries has contributed a lot to nerd culture, including his popular podcast called -- yep -- the Nerdist Podcast. (Canadian nerds will be happy to hear he'll be broadcasting live from the JFL42 festival in Toronto later this month.)

These days, the former MTV personality is probably best-known for hosting one of the best after-shows around, "Talking Dead," which analyzes cult favorite "The Walking Dead" in nerdishly minute detail.

Ahead of his nerdy Toronto adventures, we caught up with Hardwick to chat about everything from his most prized "Walking Dead" memento (hint: it's gross!) to his encounters with jackasses -- both online and off.

You have a lot of nerd cred on your resume to date. Are there any nerdy gigs that you still covet?
I'd love to do a show at JPL [The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory] because I find that I tend to do better when there are more engineers and scientist types. Oh, I'd love to go to CERN [the European Organization for Nuclear Research] in Switzerland! I've been to Fermilab here in the States where we had our particle accelerator, which they essentially retired when CERN took over.

You've gotten to meet a lot of prominent nerds and nerd icons over the years. Do you have any favorites?
LeVar Burton was great. So was Patrick Stewart. Everyone from "Star Trek: The Next Generation" that I've met has been amazing.

Do you ever lose your cool at all?
Well, borderline. I have enough experience that I've gotten really good at keeping it down. I lost it a bit with Ian McKellen. It's not really that funny of a story, I just tripped over my own tongue.

Is there anyone out there you're still dying to meet?
Bill Murray.

How would you prepare for that?
That's the thing with Bill. You can't prepare for him! You just have to go with whatever happens.

What were some of your favorite moments from the last season of "The Talking Dead"?
Getting made up like a zombie. [Executive producer] Greg Nicotero gave me an ear necklace that Daryl used in the show. Getting to be pals with the cast, they're really super cool. It's a dream job.

Where's the ear necklace now?
It's in my nightstand. I keep it close to my bed, because then I know it'll be safe.

Wouldn't want anybody to steal that baby!
If they went into a drawer and found that necklace, hopefully they would leave the house, thinking I was a serial killer.

Does it freak you out when Andrew Lincoln speaks in his British accent?
The first time I wasn't prepared for it. I think I did know that he was British, but I see him so much with the southern drawl and then you hear this very educated British accent. It kind of throws you off a little bit. He's so great on the show. I think it's the mark of a really good actor when you go, wait, he's from somewhere else? What?!

Have you ever had a weird or surreal encounter with a fan?
No. The nerd crowd is pretty cool. They're non-confrontational. The only time I've ever had weird stuff with people is when someone comes up to you at a bar and they just want to be a dickhead. But I wouldn't say they're really fans of anything I do. They're just like, hey, the last thing you worked on was dumb, and you're like, thanks for coming all the way over here to say that!

How do you usually react?
Earlier this year, a guy came up to me and he was like, hey, I read your book. It wasn't that great but I'm sure you know that, or something like that. I was like why would you come over and say that to me?

At least he read your book, though! Hopefully he bought it.
He did, he did. But no one asked him, he decided to come over and just say that shitty thing. He was drunk.

Speaking of jerks, I love how you give a shout-out to internet commenters in your promo for the Nerdist channel. Do you have any favorite nasty comments from over the years? Anything that stands out in your memory?
Omigod. [Laughs] Even after all these years of being online, they still bum me out. I'm like, why would you say that to another human being!? I just get bummed for humanity. Not even about what specifically they're saying. Just what is going on in your life that you think it's OK to be that horrible to another person. The other thing that pisses me off about it is they're f--king cowards, y'know? You're saying shitty things behind a veil of secrecy and anonymity. Where's the bold move in that?

Do you have any strategies for dealing with the particularly nasty lurkers?
I end up hitting them back with either honesty or niceness. Like, hey, that's a shitty thing you said. I hope your life gets better! But really the best policy is to not respond at all. You shouldn't feed the trolls.

What can we expect from the JFL42 podcasts? Will you have any guests?
It's always impossible for us to plan that far out because it always just depends on availability. We probably won't know who the guests will be until a couple of days before. But in a way we don't want people to go to the show or not go to the show based on who the guest is just in case that person drops out. It shouldn't be guest-dependent.

Will you be doing anything a little bit different out here?
No. We'll be doing the exact same thing we always do. We'll all do standup then we'll have our guests on, then we'll take questions from the audience, and then we'll go out and meet people afterwards. It's kind of a variety show.

You can catch The Nerdist Podcast September 27 & 28 during JFL42 in Toronto.

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