Scott Fitzgerald is famously misquoted as saying there are no second acts in American lives. Anyone can prove the folly of that quote by jumping onto the Internet where celebrities reinvent themselves as the subject of memes, ironic YouTube videos, and pithy quote machines on social media. Chris Hardwick is arguably one of the greatest success stories in his second act. Once known primarily as the non-Playboy Playmate half of MTV’s Singled Out dating show, Hardwick rebuilt his brand as one of the faces of the nerd ascension. His Nerdist empire, started as a single podcast, has grown into a gateway to geekery allowing folks across the country to stop worrying and learn to love their d20. Hardwick bought a love of all things geeky (and filthy) to the Pabst Theater Friday night, with an audience full of people who probably have spoken Klingon at some point in their lives.
The show began with April Richardson sucking up to the Milwaukee crowd by wearing a Laverne & Shirley-themed T-shirt. Though she lost some points by asking where the Shotz Brewery’s real-life counterpart was located, she recovered well by setting the tone for the evening. Her set was made up of relationship jokes, nerd references, family foibles, and calling her stepfather’s bushy mustache a “dicksweeper.”
Hardwick’s set followed a similar path, covering his own anxieties about relationships and sharing dirty stories about his recently deceased father. Hardwick opened up about his low points, his celebrity encounters with a grumpy Harrison Ford, and a karaoke duetting Tom Cruise, and even admitted to losing his virginity to a blow-up doll (which apparently counts). The set was a little bit scattershot between different topics and a few interactions with the audience. Fans looking for long discussions of Talking Dead or Hardwick’s many projects might have come away disappointed, but Hardwick’s polish and quick wit as a stand-up kept the audience entertained for the entire set.
The audience was fairly well behaved, with only a few slurred “Points!” shouted out during the set. Hardwick worked the crowd toward the end of the show, though the sweetest moment was setting up a marriage proposal between two audience members. The groom-to-be had contacted Hardwick online, and eventually surprised the bride to a round of rousing applause. Much the like the rest of Friday night’s show, it was a match made on Reddit.