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Chris Hardwick: Mandroid DVD Review

Chris Hardwick: Mandroid DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Chris Hardwick: Mandroid
Special & DVD Details

Original Airdate: November 10, 2012 / Running Time: 63 Minutes (Extended) / Rating: Not Rated

Writer/Performer: Chris Hardwick / Director: Ryan Polito / Executive Producers: John Irwin, Chris Hardwick, Alex Murray / Producer: Casey Spira

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Surround 2.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired; Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: January 22, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on CD ($9.99 SRP) and MP3 ($9.99 SRP)

Buy Chris Hardwick: Mandroid from Amazon.com: DVD • CD • MP3

Hosting such shows as MTV's "Singled Out", G4's "Web Soup", and the syndicated dating series "Shipmates" has established Chris Hardwick as an entertaining television personality. But, much like Joel McHale and Daniel Tosh, Hardwick has supplemented on-air cable work with stand-up comedy. Now, Hardwick has his first solo hour-long Comedy Central special to prove it.
Following its cable premiere last November, Chris Hardwick: Mandroid hits stores next week in an extended, uncensored DVD.

Taken from two February 2012 shows at NYU's Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, Mandroid puts Hardwick in front of just 800 non-paying audience members. Appearing on a bright stage he shares with light blue decor, Hardwick wears a shiny silver suit with a black shirt and tie. The DVD's rear cover declares Hardwick The Nerdist, his company's name and Twitter handle, a label he wears proudly and lives up to with unexplained references to Star Trek and Harry Potter.

No poindexter with horn-rimmed glasses and asthma (that's something more like what he defines here as a "dweeb"), the 41-year-old Hardwick actually seems a bit too cool to be a nerd, with his good looks, lean physique, and stylish hairdo. If the image he cuts isn't enough to give you doubts, then Hardwick's material might do the trick, as he talks about having a threesome under the influence but forgetting it, brags about almost losing his virginity at 15, and recounts tales of killing a bird and a shark. Some of these anecdotes emerge with an air of self-deprecation and Hardwick does show enough geek cred in places. Still, his act is a lot like any other stand-up comedian, peppered with profanity (all of it heard here) and told with a touch of postmodern edge.

Chris Hardwick performs his brand of nerd comedy in close-ups... ...as well as medium shots of him in shiny silver suit against electric blue stage decor.

Hardwick is funniest when he doesn't seem to be trying to impress at all, like when he likens today's MySpace to the Detroit of RoboCop as part of a bit on social networking. Hardwick is careful to distance genuine nerds like him from hipster nerds who wear their fandom ironically and cynically. Too often, there's a touch of awareness, as when he seems to subtly enjoy that his gently mean, not especially funny tweet about John Mayer supposedly struck a nerve. Hardwick's sex comedy seems to come from the fact that sex is something stand-up comedians tend to talk about. So, he recalls his near-loss of virginity and pontificates on the nature of strip clubs and how Adolf Hitler has come to be associated with a pubic hairstyle.

Hardwick has a comfortable manner, decent rhythm, and adequate jokes. He seems aware of the craft's hallmarks, but doesn't overly sweat things like transitions and pauses.
He doesn't have a strong comedic voice, but his easygoing demeanor is easy to warm to and his comedy isn't as edgy and dark as most of his contemporaries. It's also not as sharp as the work of the better ones.

As is, Hardwick's act is diverting enough to warrant a moderately approving reaction throughout. With better material, it's easy to imagine Hardwick excelling at the profession. But this is simply one of many gigs that pays him. Having voiceover work, podcasting, an AMC "Walking Dead" talk show, a BBC America Britcom block and other comfy opportunities to fall back on removes the stakes and pressure, turning stand-up into more of a hobby than a job. While he still takes it seriously and performs professionally, he's there to have fun and not exorcise demons or try to get ahead.

At 63 minutes, the DVD presentation of Mandroid must run twenty minutes longer than what Comedy Central aired censored. Some of it is easy to spot, like the humorous water breaks he claims will be cut out. Some of the racier bits might also have been too much for basic cable. I can't pretend to know if Standards & Practices draws the line at hamster ejaculation these days.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The nerd in Hardwick must be bummed that Blu-ray eludes Mandroid. Gladly, though, standard definition offers this special a perfectly fine presentation. The 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer stays clean and sharp, with no sign of compression concerns. It's surprising that there's no 5.1 audio option, but the Dolby Surround 2.0 mix gets the job done and the English SDH subtitles are a nice touch that many Comedy Central DVDs have lacked.

Hard (Chris Hardwick) 'n Phirm (Mike Phirman) perform "Coraz๓n", which the English translations behind them reveal as a factual song all about the human heart. The creative pulp/comic cover art also understandably serves as a fitting main menu.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The DVD includes three extras featuring Hard 'N Phirm, a musical comedy duo Hardwick ("Hard") comprises with his friend, guitarist Mike Phirman ("Phirm"). They perform a vulgar, historically dubious ode to "Abraham Lincoln" (6:20) and, after a bit of banter, "Coraz๓n" (7:40),
their version of a Latin love song. A screen behind them with textbook illustrations and random clips displays subtitles translating their Spanish lyrics, which prove to be indisputable facts about the human heart.

Finally, the totally not hidden "Totally Hidden Easter Egg" (8:26) shows Hard 'N Phirm's performance of the Abraham Lincoln song derailed by unforeseen difficulties. The two pals see the humor and keep it flowing through goofs, improvised lyrics, and the such.

The static main menu reformats the DVD's creative cover/disc artwork, a cross between a comic book and a pulp novel cover. Submenus uphold the scheme.

Chris Hardwick entertains a small, pink-tinted, non-paying audience of 800 at NYU's Skirball Center in his Comedy Central special "Mandroid."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Mandroid is unlikely to either win or lose Chris Hardwick many fans. It presents a decent hour of his notion of nerd comedy, rarely straying from "moderately amusing" even as it gets cruder and more profane than Hardwick's broader outlets probably allow. The extended DVD is inexpensive and preferrable to a censored TV broadcast full of commercial breaks. Hard 'N Phirm fans should appreciate the 20 minutes of extras. Still, I can't imagine this being more than a one-time viewing even for those who really enjoy Hardwick's sense of humor.

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Reviewed January 13, 2013.



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