Chris Hardwick in Tacoma

On Friday night, The GF and I did something unusual. We started our evening adventures at 9:00 PM by hitting the road for Tacoma.  We had 10:30 Tickets for the Chris Hardwick show at the Tacoma Comedy Club.  It was a blast.

When we got there, I knew we were in the right place because there was a Storm Trooper standing in the parking garage. "These are our people," I said to The GF.  "These are your people," she said with a slight smile and roll of the eyes.  But I knew she appreciated the presence of an aspiring member of the 501st as much as I did. She's used to me by now.

We would later see another member of the Storm Trooper's party. It was Codex, which was awesome (and which another club attendee mistook for Kotex, but that's another matter).

Most attendees weren't in full costumer, but there were a fair amount of people sporting Doctor Who paraphernalia, video game themed items, and more. I was fairly confident no one would give me a hard time about my Captain Kirk T-Shirt or my Portal "Test Candidate"  hoodie (both gifts from The GF -- see? She is used to me).

Our favorite @Nerdist did sell out all the shows apparently, so we got to share a table with Eric and Erica, a lovely couple from Tacoma with excellent taste in beer.

After a host and two openers, Chris Hardwick took the stage wearing a Muppet Pantone shirt. He quickly borrowed a pair of blue, plaid, finger-less gloves from an audience member, and then began his set.

Chris Hardwick (@Nerdist) at the Tacoma Comedy Club with gloves
(Blue, plaid, knit, finger-less gloves help this Californian adapt to the frigid Pacific Northwest)

Since Comedy Central recently released his special, Mandroid, he retired his existing set and is rebuilding. That's pretty standard for a stand-up. One thing that sets Hardwick apart, though, is his crowdwork. It seems half his set was built around asking the folks in the first row what they do and making humorous remarks about them that didn't belittle members of the audience. It was all good-natured, if still NSFW.

What I find interesting is how well he manages that spontaneous portion of the set. I imagine he has a mental bag of comments and reactions that he can pull from. After a few thousand shows, he probably doesn't encounter too many new reactions.  Still, it means that big chunks of his act can't be memorized, and he has to more aware of his environment.

And that plays well into Hardwick's strength. He's a host. That's why he does so well with the Nerdist podcast and facilitating conversations with his guests. That's why he takes a lot of hosting gigs. And when it comes to his stand-up, even as a headliner, he's still a friendly host. He doesn't tell jokes; he tells stories. He doesn't mock the crowd, he engages it. It makes the entire set feel like you're hanging out with someone funny rather than hearing a prepped presentation.  There's nothing wrong with the latter; it's just not a Hardwick show. And a Hardwick show is a treat.

Most of his prepared material wasn't geeky or nerdy in nature. If you don't know Star Wars from Star Crash, you can still appreciate most of his act. I think. It seemed like it could appeal to all groups that were willing to hear about the impact of decades on male anatomy or about adventures with blow up dolls. His material is definitely more "adult." If you are looking for a family-friendly performance, this is not it. Not in the least.

This isn't the first time I saw Hardwick perform. I also saw him at SXSW in 2011.  The highlight of his set was when he walked out into the audience, hugged a woman, and creepily stroked her hair while quietly reciting the digits of Pi. It was awesome. The rest of the set was a more traditional set, though.  It was entertaining, but not as entertaining as Friday's performance. That seems to reflect his growth as a performer and increasing comfort level in his own skin.

I picked up a copy of his book earlier in the week. The Nerdist Way by Chris Hardwick is a self-help book for nerds that is intended to help folks focus their nerdy, obsessive behavior in ways that can help them succeed in life. I brought it with me.

Chris Hardwick -- The Nerdist Way

About 10-15 minutes after the show, Chris came out to greet a line of fans. Before I could even ask, he offered to autograph my copy of his book. I know, it wasn't much of a stretch for him to think that's what I wanted, but still, it was cool.  He opened the book, asked my name, and when I said, "Cromely," he said, "Great name!" Since it's my chosen Internet name, I get to take some credit for that.

Chris Hardwick autograph

He took also took the time to get his picture with us. This was after midnight and after his second show of the night, so it's all the more awesome that he spent the time to great his fans.

Chris Hardwick (Muppet Pantone Shirt), Shoebox Chef, and Cromely

After all that, we headed back to the car and did the only thing you can do at that time of the night when you've got a 45 minute drive ahead of you. Denny's. It was a great way to balance out the evening.

(No, we didn't finish it all)

All in all, it was a great way to start the weekend and to warm up for further geeky and social adventures in February.