"Normally, whenever I'm doing a show, I like to find out what people do for a living. Should there be a zombie apocalypse -- which there will be -- I want to find out if their skills are applicable," comedian Chris Hardwick told his Comedy Works audience last night after doing extensive crowd-work. He spoke to a banker, a data analyst, a cancer research doctor, and a Comcast employee (who received boos from the crowd). "And so far, from everyone I've talked to, you're all going to be the first to die."
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Typically, a comic engaging an audience like Hardwick did is a kind of gamble motivated by exhaustion with his/her own material. But there was a brazen amount of audience participation from the unruly crowd, seemingly fueled by their over-familiarity with his wildly popular podcast, The Nerdist. This inspired him to become casual with his presentation, while the crowd gave more intimate feedback.
"No, I can't tell you that one," Hardwick said while absently flipping through his notes, to which the crowd responded with jeers, shouts and personal heckling, drowning out his protests even with the microphone. "Okay, okay. I'll tell you. But you're not going to like it. And my girlfriend's going to kill me."
"A lot of ladies are not comfortable making love at certain times of the month, while most gentleman do not care," he continued, gesturing pointedly. "We will have sex anytime, under any circumstance. It could be the first day of the apocalypse, hiding in a dumpster, after fighting zombies all day and losing your family, and at the pitch black of 3 o'clock in the morning, you could still feel a poke in your side and a guy going 'Eh, you asleep?' Guys don't care when it is. Ladies can be sensitive about this, so do not -- as I have learned -- as they are removing their obstruction, jokingly throw out the line, 'Time to de-bone the fish!'"
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Transcribed into sentences, many of Hardwick's jokes come off as simplistic and juvenile -- yet the real magic of his set came in the familiar sarcasm and intimate rapport he'd developed with the audience through Dragon Ball Z references, questions about their occupations ("'You work in a bookstore?'' 'It's called The-Book-A-Near, in Aurora.' 'Oh my God, that's so adorable; I want to fuck your bookstore for being so cute,'") and going through a woman's purse while she was in the bathroom, only to randomly recite her business card info to her a half hour after she returned.
Whether intentional or sincere, Hardwick's show was mostly filled with improvisational material gleaned from what he could get out of the audience members, who were more than willing to holla back to every other premise he laid out (which is something most comics hate, but Hardwick seemed to thrive for).
And to continue the intimate mood of the evening, he opened up about some embarrassingly cozy details from his domestic life, including a story about him and his girlfriend purchasing Kigurumi pajamas -- which are Chinese, fleece, animal onsies. He was dressed as a wolf, while his girlfriend was clad in a fox outfit, just as the delivery man showed up with dinner, and the dog is about to have an epileptic seizure.
"So the food's here, and I go hide in the kitchen -- because I'm not ready to be judged by the delivery guy for my pajama choices," he told the crowd. "I didn't just go in the kitchen; I'm hiding in the corner. Then I hear a scream from the living room, and apparently the chihuahua got so excited by the delivery guy that his brain fried and he had a seizure. So my girlfriend freaked out and dropped the food, and the delivery guy is stuck there waiting for someone to sign the receipt. So what he sees is a grown woman dressed like a fox, standing in a pile of soup, next to a spasming chihuahua, when all of the sudden a giant grey wolf comes screaming around the corner. 'What's the problem! What's the problem!'"
"I tried to calm the situation with levity," Hardwick continued, "since she was dressed like a fox and I was dressed like a wolf, I looked at him and said 'DON'T JUST STAND THERE; HELP OUR SON!'"
And that is how Chris Hardwick got out of signing a credit card receipt.
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For more comedy commentary, follow me on Twitter at @JosiahMHesse.