Chris Hardwick (Voted #3 Ep of 2012)

Chris Hardwick (Voted #3 Ep of 2012)

The podcaster/ comic/ host/ writer/ entreprenuer opens up about finally using his obsessive nerd brain for constructive instead of destructive pursuits.  He gets honest about his history of panic attacks, drinking issues, middle-school humiliations and a lost decade after hosting MTV’sSingled Out didn’t bring the success he had hoped for.   Chris hosts the Nerdist (podcast and BBC America show), AMC’s The Talking Dead, G4’sAttack of the Show, and is the author of the book The Nerdist Way.

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Everything you want to know about Chris can probably be found at the Nerdist website.

Episode Transcript:

Paul: Welcome to episode 67 with my guest Chris Hardwick. I’m Paul Gilmartin. This is The Mental Illness Happy Hour, an hour of honesty about all the battles in our heads, from medically diagnosed conditions to everyday compulsive, negative thinking; feelings of dissatisfaction, disconnection, inadequacy; and the vague, sinking feeling that the world is passing us by. You give us an hour; we’ll give you a hot ladle of awkward and icky. This show is not meant to be a substitute for professional mental counseling. It is not the doctor’s office. It’s more like a waiting room that hopefully doesn’t suck. The website for this show is mentalpod.com. Be sure to go there, uh, there is, uh, a newsletter, a weekly newsletter, actually it’s not weekly because I’m kind of lazy about updating it, but there’s a newsletter you can sign up for there. There are surveys that you can take. You can join the forum. Um, you can support the show financially there, uh, you can ask me a question via email through there, um, all kinds of stuff. So please go check that out. Uh, the Twitter, uh, name to follow me at is @mentalpod.

 

And, I think that—oh, and, um, there is a new app out, a new iPhone app. Um, if you go to iTunes, it’s called Podcast Box. But, for some reason, if you go to iTunes and you search “podcast box”, it doesn’t come up. You have to go to iTunes, click on iPhone apps, and then search “podcast box” and then it comes up. So then you download, uh, it’s, uh $3.99, I’m sorry, $2.99, and, uh, after you download it and install it, go and search under the Health category and you’ll fine The Mental Illness Happy Hour. And, uh, I believe there’s about twenty, uh, episodes back, that you can go about that far back and have them all on your phone. And I believe it also works with, like, Android and other phone, but, uh, double-check on the iTunes website to make sure, it’ll give you more specifics about that.

 

All right, um, I think that is, uh, about it. I want to kick things off with a, um, Shame and Secrets survey. This was filled out by a guy who calls himself Elder. He’s bisexual. He’s in his thirties. He was raised in an environment that was a little dysfunctional. Um, “Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” He writes, “Some stuff happened but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse.” He writes, “My older sister’s friend would show me how to finger her. She would also perform oral sex on me, but I was around nine-ish. Also around that time an older boy grabbed my penis while I was at the urinal at school. He was a grade above me. It seemed like he was trying to jerk me off but I was paralyzed.”

 

Um, “What are your deepest, darkest thoughts, not things you would act on but things you are ashamed to admit you think about?” He writes, “I feel that my mind is extremely flexible in all aspects. I feel with a little conditioning, I’m capable of almost anything. I was once a Mormon missionary, now I’m a recovering heroin addict.” I’m s-o-o tired of recovering heroin-addicted ex-Mormon missionaries. Dime a dozen. He writes, “I feel I could do anything and learn how to twist my thoughts in order to deal with it. Basically, I feel I don’t honestly believe in anything and I am capable of believing in whatever is convenient to justify my actions. But what really bothers me is I feel like I don’t really love my parents or siblings, that I would be more at peace if I never had to deal with them again. There is just too much pain among us.”

 

Uh, “What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?” He writes, “What’s sad is that I would rather use heroin than have sex. In fact, that is generally the tradeoff I make when I relapse and it’s a very self-conscious decision. When I get sexually close to someone I usually relapse. I would rather be high and numb than have to deal with intimacy and someone else loving me.”

 

“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” Um, he writes, “No. It would hurt them too much to know that I find heroin more fulfilling than being intimate with them.”

 

“Deepest, darkest secrets?” He writes, “When I was nine or ten, I purposely touched my sister’s genitals while I was swimming underwater, under the premise that I didn’t see where I was going.”

 

“Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular towards yourself?” He writes, “I feel intense shame because my sister was later raped, and has suffered so much loneliness because she finds it so hard to trust others.”

 

Um, “Comments to make the podcast better?” He writes, “I really enjoyed your discussions with Dr. Zucker. Having a professional’s opinion every now and then is reassuring.” Well, thank you for that, that great survey, and, um, you know, hearing th-the stuff that you shared in that survey, my first thought is y-you don’t have a part in what happened to your—i-in what your sister is feeling. The person who raped her i-is the person responsible for that. And, I think you’re minimizing what happened to you at nine—when you were nine years old, and that intimacy scares you. I personally think those two are related and I think any, any professional, uh, would probably agree with me. Again, I’m not a professional, but, uh, I was on John Byner’s Comedy on the Road in 1991 and had a pretty fucking solid set. So suck on that. Uh, but, uh, lots of love going out your way. It sounds like you’re, you’re in pain, I-I’m certainly not trying to, uh, to make fun of your situation.

 

Um, alright, I want to read an email that, uh, it’s on the long side, but I’ve been meaning to address this for the last couple of weeks and I keep forgetting. It’s about, um, an episode I did three weeks back, and the subject of atheism came up, and, uh, I got quite a few emails from people who took exception to, uh, to the way I talked about atheism, and, um, this, this email comes from Anne, who is in, uh, who writes from, uh, Berlin.

 

“Dear Paul,

I have been listening to the Mental Pod for months now and I enjoyed every single show. I would even go so far as to say, that it has changed me for the better. So I’m a little ashamed that my first feedback to you is somewhat of a complaint. Rest assured that I will take it out on myself in the passive-aggressive manner that I have mastered over the years. Also, I’m gonna say some nice things about your podcast first for you to skip and/or ignore, eager to take in the harsh things this random stranger from the Internet might say to you J.

 

Nice things: I really think it is safe to say that your podcast has changed me and that it might have saved me from my darkest days, if I would have had a chance to listen to it earlier in my life. The experience, that someone … anyone feels the way I do, has been no less than a revelation. Especially your Fear-Offs. They have changed the way I feel about my own fears. The fact that the most talented and adorable people you had on the show so far (including the host!) have thoughts of self-loathing and incompleteness, has really put my own feelings in its place. It made me realize, that there is no place I could ever arrive at and nothing that I could achieve, to silence these fears, but that I can face them and above all, question them. This insight is something that is already changing the course of my life and is giving me the opportunity to live up to my creative potential, that has been buried beneath doubt, fear and depression for far too long. For that I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

 

Not so nice things: But the reason I write to you today is, that something you said on the show with your lovely guest Lauren Tyree hit me and doesn’t stop bothering me as I continue listening to the show. And I’m sure I am not the only one, so I hoped that someone else would do the awful job of criticizing you for your (mis)conception of atheism, but since three podcasts had already aired since then, I’m getting a little impatient … In the podcast Lauren expressed that she considers herself an atheist and you seemed to disagree with that, since she is too nice of a person to call herself that.

 

You probably already guessed it: I’m an atheist too. And I am also fucking nice for fuck’s sake, you dickhead!! … J Listening to the show for so long, I know that you didn’t mean to hurt anyone and that especially in the U.S. the word atheist comes close to an insult. That probably explains your reaction, but you know how the dictionary explains atheism? Being the nice person that I am, I’m gonna tell ya. J “Atheism is the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. Writers disagree how best to define and classify atheism, contesting what supernatural entities it applies to, whether it is an assertion in its own right or merely the absence of one, and whether it requires a conscious, explicit rejection.” (wikipedia) … but in the end, it only means that you reject any of the dozens of concepts of divine supernatural beings, just like you probably reject the existence of Santa. No big deal.

 

I’m not gonna bore you by trying to convince you that despite my being a godless heathen, I am an upright, moral, kind and caring woman and that even though I don’t believe in divine intervention and mind-reading supernatural creators of worlds, I cherish life and all the awesome things that come with it as the greatest good since the beginning of everything.

I don’t believe in a universe as a force of love and compassion, but I do believe in a universe that is as loving and compassionate as we are. I don’t believe that someone or something out there makes sure that I am well, how could I believe in such a thing, if I know that so many people are suffering the most unspeakable pain and injustice from the day they were born to the day they die? And yet I believe that I am the only thing that stands between me and the kindness and beauty that life has to offer. I believe in the atoms that make me. I stand breathless before an endless night sky, shaken by the vastness and unlikelihood of it all and in this tiny fracture of time in which THIS set of atoms, forged in the heat of a star, has the privilege to experience itself. I don’t believe in a greater scheme, but I believe in the human mind (or so my human mind tells me) and living up to its potential.

 

I don’t believe in divine justice, but I do believe in the complex mechanics of “what goes around comes around” and creating the world I want to live in by my everyday actions.

I believe in the power of the spoken and written word.

 

I would like to believe in a soul, but I really can’t, though I do believe that everything that ever lived is still an inherent part of this world. We are all connected. Not by gods, spirits or fate, but by our actions, by the very light bouncing off of the things we touch and create, from the eyes we looked into, little photons going on forever, energy never running out, only changing its course and form.

 

The light which fell onto my newborn body and into the eyes of my grandfather, still exists. The energy that his mind gathered in that very moment, to decide never to touch a drop of alcohol ever again, is still there. (Sorry for the cheesiness.)

 

And above all, I believe that letting go of god and religion has also helped me in becoming a more wholesome, mature person and I know for sure, that a lot of people feel the same way.

I don’t know why I’m writing all of this, other than for the sake of making myself miserable over the question whether you’re gonna read this and if you are going to understand. But I feel that the things you believe in are not so different from the things I believe in. We just have different names for it and it pains me that the mere definition of a word stands between that. Yeah, see … that’s what I wanted to say.

 

There you have it. J Hope you didn’t have too much trouble reading through this wall of text, since I’m not a native speaker and thank you if you did at all. Take care Paul, you amazing set of atoms.

 

Love and greetings from Berlin/Germany, Anne.”

 

Wow. I wrote her back and I said,
“Anne,

First, your English is spectacular. Truly, you have a better grasp of the language and grammar than 90% of Americans. And, second, I want to thank you for your kind words because they mean a lot to me. I kept meaning to address my remarks about atheism because it was upsetting to some people. I plan to do it on the next episode (which I’m doing right now).

 

In my awkward way of trying to state that my Higher Power is science, nature and karma, but I happen to call it God, I devalued the opinions of people who call the same thing “atheism.” I apologize. I know you’re coming from a good place and I value that you think enough of me to send me an email that expresses a criticism. So thank you. I would only use your last name and possibly mention that you’re from Germany, but I should warn you it’s really tempting to make an inappropriate World War II joke, but I imagine you guys are tired of them.”

 

And then she wrote me back,

“Thank you for your response, Paul. I’m really glad we’re on the same page. Now I can go on listening to the show without grinding my teeth. Feel free to use my email as you see fit. And by writing that I’m German, I think I have already agreed to inappropriate World War II jokes. Just don’t overdo it, or I’ll have invade your continent.”

 

[SHOW INTRO]

 

Paul: I’m here with, uh, with Chris Hardwick, who, uh, nobody knows. He’s, uh, he’s a young up-and-comer, and uh …

 

Chris: I just need a shot man. I just need a shot.

 

Paul: Uh, you guys, I’m sure, know, uh, uh, Chris from a thousand different things. His, uh, super-popular, uh, podcast The Nerdist, which is, uh, one of the most downloaded podcasts o-o-on iTunes. It’s really an industry now. There’s Nerdist Industries. You produce other people’s podcasts. You’ve got a show, a talk show on BBC. You have an awesome new book out called, The Nerdist Way, which, um, uh, I bought, and I’m a little, a little ways into—

 

Chris: Oh! I would’ve just given you one!

 

Paul: Uh, it’s ok, it’s alright.

 

Chris: I would’ve just given you one.

 

Paul: Uh, well I did—I-I like to read stuff o-on my Kindle, so I, uh, I did it, uh, I did it via Kindle.

 

Chris: I’m part of Internet culture. I just give shit away for free.

 

Paul: Well, plus I feel like, I don’t know, I feel like a cheese ball sometimes if I, you know, go ‘Hey man, I don’t want to spend six bucks. Can you send this to me?’ You know, I feel like somebody’s also gonna send me a can of food.

 

Chris: Right

 

Paul: You know, um, could you describe, um, th-the book to, uh, to people, because I-I want to attempt to do it, but because I’m only a couple of chapters into it, I don’t know want to not do it justice.

 

Chris: Sure. Well, I, I, uh, contribute to Wired magazine, and a few years ago I wrote an article the religion of time management. And, you know, the religion of self-help, really. Um, and so I took these three self-help programs, these three books, and I implemented them for two weeks at a time. And it was, it was really great. The proc—it was a fantastic process. Um, what I learned at the end was that there was no one system that I liked; it was the sort of piecemeal, you know, little chunks from each one. And, i-it really just kind of, I don’t know, it really just kind of got me thinking about the—because I was, you know, as, uh, as someone who, uh, been off the booze since 2003, and I-I guess I kind of realized that I had this sort of innate ability to focus on things, which I trace back to the kind of nerd brain that I had always had. Uh, and so I guess—you know, right before I wrote this Wired article, I kind of thought, “You know, I want to turn my life around and I want that to be the focus now. I want to try to be constructive where I was destructive for so—for my twenties.” And, you know, I realized you spend so much time in your car in Los Angeles, so I thought, “Hey, you know rather than listen to same fucking music I always listen to, why don’t I…” (There’s a leaf blower outside, I’m sorry)

 

Paul: It’s alright.

 

Chris: There’s leaf blowers in life, Paul! These leaves need to be moved from point A to point B and then left there. But, uh, I realized that I spent so much time in my car, so rather than listen to the same music I always listen to, I was going to get, like, self-help audiobooks. Even if they’re stupid and don’t—like, at least it’s constructive. If I can find, you know, if I can find common threads, then I think that will strengthen, you know, th-the truth of a lot of these pieces, or if I learn what not to do. Just anything, as long as I’m learning something while I’m in my car. And, you know, you know, you spend a couple hours in your car every day. And so I kind of became really, not obsessed, but really just kind of fascinated with self-help. So that’s why I pitched and wrote this article and—

 

Paul: And if I can just stop you f-for one second, I just want to, uh, highlight for—because I get a lot of listeners that are stuck and what you just described is, I think, the most important first baby step for somebody that’s stuck – is to just seek.

 

Chris: Yeah, that’s it. And, there’s no, there’s no excuse anymore to not—like, it’s not hard to find things anymore. I mean, you can just go on to iTunes and just start—and it doesn’t even really matter. You can just start pointing at stuff, and I feel like—I felt like the process of what I was almost more important than what the actual information was. J-j-just the idea that I knew that I wanted to try to do better, that I wanted to try to be better, or try to achieve more, or, you know, because what happens is, you can kind of, you know, you kind of think, in your mind you have this idea of, like, “Well, this is what I want.” And then you start exploring it and you realize, “Oh, actually I kind of want this other thing.” And that original goal doesn’t really make sense now that I kind of have more information. And so, you know, I think it’s important to not be too rigid when you go into these things. You have to be a little nimble so that you’re—you know, your goal is really just kind of, uh, i-it’s just a little bit of a target. Like a roadmap. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to end up there. It just kind of gets you pointed in the right direction.

 

Paul: And to not live in the fantasy that you’re going to see it your La-Z-Boy and come up with a fully formed idea of what your future is going to be without taking any tiny baby steps towards it.

 

Chris: I mean, I think that’s why we always tell people on our podcast to just start things. Because you never know—you know, some people go, “Well, I-I-I don’t know how to write a book. That could—I just don’t know.” And you go—yeah, if you said to yourself, “I have to sit down and write a book,” you wouldn’t—it’s just too overwhelming. But if you go, “Well, I have this idea that I want to explore.” (Leaf blower noises) Literally, right outside the door. And I feel like it’s unfair to say to the guy who is, is outside in the boiling sun blowing leaves, to be like, “Excuse me, we’re recording a podcast. This is more important than that.” Like, that’s so fucking arrogant. So I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna bother the guy. Um, but, you know, I always tell people, “Look – you just start the thing. It’s always gonna evolve along the way, so you just to start the process. And then when you do, the answers that you are seeking will begin to reveal themselves in the process. You’re just not gonna know everything up front, so that’s why it’s important to start things.”

 

Paul: Yeah. And that’s why fear can be so debilitating, uh, because you want to know, uh, that it’s gonna be ok, but that’s what faith i-is all about, whether it’s faith in, you know, whatever – faith in the process, faith in other people, faith in the universe, whatever.

 

Chris: Sure. Or in yourself.

 

Paul: Or in yourself.

 

Chris: Y-y-you’ll just start—I mean, th-that’s for me, I think, been the biggest thing for comedy – is just sort of developing the comfort of knowing, like, you know, even if I’m on stage and even if it’s not going great, I’ll figure it out. Or if I start going down a path that I don’t know, I know that one way or another I can bail. Like, I’ll be ok; like, I’ll bail out of it. It’s gonna be fine. Um, and I, and I think when you have that level of comfort then the rest of the world just sort of takes a cue from that and they’re like, “Ok. Alright, fine.” It’s not—I mean, you know, you know as a comedian, like, your worst bombs aren’t necessarily when the joke doesn’t land, the worst bombs are when you kind of fumble it and then you don’t recover, or you just make a dumb mistake, that’s when you feel bad about stuff. Like, if a joke doesn’t go over, it’s like, “Eh, alright, you didn’t like that, that’s fine, whatever, you don’t have to like everything.” So …

 

Paul: Uh, what I like about y-your book is how you take, uh, the, uh, role-playing th-that nerds love and you kind of create a character for yourself, and d-describe if you would …

 

Chris: So, I was a—I played Dungeons and Dragons a lot when I was a kid, and then also into adulthood, and the thing that’s—the thing that sort of make D&D manageable is that you kind of have this one-dimensional character and, you know, you know what his, you know, h-his class and his race and his, uh, th-th-the—or her, the sex, and the, you know. And so, there are a lot of things that inform exactly how this character’s gonna behave. And then you roll dice and you get a series of statistics that tell you: here’s how attractive your character is, here’s what the dexterity is, you know, here’s how wise they are, here’s—and so, you really have these values that are assigned to just very basic traits.

 

Paul: And it’s very exciting.

 

Chris: It’s very exciting. And those, those, uh, those numbers inform your decision-making process, and so. You know, one thing that I realized that most people never do is they never, they never think of themselves—they never kind of step outside themselves, and this was just a way to get people to try to quantify on paper who they think they are and what their strengths and weaknesses are. And then it just kind of—when you see it, when you bring it into the physical world, it just sort of helps you understand who you are a little better, understand why you do the things you do, uh, and then also helps you make decisions, where you kind of go, “Oh, yeah, I guess, you know, this is the kind of thing I like and this is what I gravitate towards.” Rather than just being sort of mindlessly piloted through life. Where you feel like you don’t have—most people just feel like, “Oh, I don’t really have a choice. And this is just how it is and life just happens and I don’t have over anything.” And you start to realize, like, “Actually, I have control over a lot, I just have to—.” You just have to quantify it a little bit. And then you can manipulate the data. You can start figuring out what you need to fix when you can see what the numbers are.

 

Paul: Right. Chris, Chris has this, uh, process where you set a large goal and you put, uh, often like on a video game you’ll see, ok, this character has strength. And so there will be like this—

 

Chris: A progress bar

 

Paul: A progress bar. And, you know, if you happen to have a character that’s super-strong, the progress bar is, is full. And so, you have created this, this, uh, way where you create progress bars for qualities of yourself and goals that you have, and then you break the goals down into mini goals so that you can see the progress. That you’re moving forward. That you’re not stuck.

 

Chris: Yeah, I mean it was basically just, you know, I mean, I can’t even really take credit for that concept, it’s just that I looked at, you know—David Allen has this idea, who wrote Getting Things Done, which is, you know, a bible to o-of self-helpers, um, but the idea of it is that you, you know—all of your goals have to be digestible and actionable and you can’t, like, you can’t write down as a goal, uh, “Clean out garage.” Cuz it’s just too—your brain can’t process—he refers to that as “an amorphous blob.” He’s like, “That doesn’t really mean anything. You know, what is it that you’re doing?” And even if—for some people, they even have to say, “Step one: go into garage. Step two: move boxes to corner. Step three: pull all of the orange things out and put them in this bin.” You have a series o-of bite-sized actionable items for your brain to go, “Oh, ok, I’ll …” Then you just start checking them off, “I’ll do this and this and this and this and this.” And so the idea of, uh—you know, I tell people to go and get a graph paper notebook cuz it’s easier to draw little progress bars a-and things like that. Uh, and, you know, as you’re sort of going through your little goals, your progress bar, you color it in, and you fill it up until, you know, it’s all full, and then you, you have achieved that quest.

 

Paul: Yeah, a-and I-I bought the, uh, the notebook, and I just keep staring at it. (laughs) Trying to work up the nerve to start it because, I-I’m terribly afraid of failure and not accomplishing things. And, I …

 

Chris: To the extent that you will just not do it—I know that, I know that fear well. So you just avoid—just avoiding, Like, well, you’re not going to accomplish anything if you avoid it. And I go, “Yeah, but I know I won’t fail either!”

 

Paul: Right!

 

Chris: Well, but you kind of failed by not doing it. So it’s sort of a—you know, your brain—I feel like your brain, um—I tell people in the book that you can ignore your brain. Because your brain means well, but it only really ever has, just for however it’s wired, it really only has your short-term happiness in mind—like, as it’s goal. And so that will tell you, like, you know, “Hey! Get drunk!” Or, “Eat that thing!” Or, “Don’t do that thing now, that’s a lot of work.” Because your brain just wants you to be happy in any given moment and it’s—you have to train your brain to say—or you can go, “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m ignoring you because I know that long term, this is really what I want.” And so it really is a weird process where you have to kind of, break it up into fucking (inaudible).

 

Paul: It’s like a corporation that only cares about its bottom line for the quarter.

 

Chris: Well that’s exactly right, yeah. Yeah, yeah, that’s a good, that’s a good analogy.

 

Paul: Corporations are people, Chris.

 

Chris: They’re made up of people. Like Soylent Green.

 

Paul: I-I’m sure a lot of people listening to this are familiar with you and have probably heard some of y-y-your childhood. Your dad was a famous bowler, uh, Billy, Billy Hardwick, and you grew up, uh, in bowling alleys playing video games and um … I wanna talk about the—you’ve been very honest about anxiety in your life, and I think that’d be kind of a good overall theme to talk about throughout this, uh, this episode.

 

Chris: That’s great, yeah, no, I’m happy to talk about that. And one of the things in the book is that, you know, so much of what you see and is written about anxiety is, like, super-heavy and really, you know, it’s, I don’t know, I-I-I just kind of thought, look, it’s a thing that a lot of people deal with and we all know it sucks and why can’t we kind of laugh at it a little bit to take some of the power back and, you know, um … And so, you know, I don’t really know why—I’m sure there’s, you know, a million reasons, probably, I’m sure there’s a million reasons, probably environmental and genetic for why I’m—my brain is wired the way that it is, but, you know, a-anxiety is just, uh, i-i-it tends to happen in, you know, a lot of nerds suffer from anxiety because they’re constantly in their heads and they’re constantly breaking things down. And, you know, I don’t even think that nerds have a-an internal monologue as much as, like, an internal dialog. And so, you know, it just—that stuff just creates anxiety. But what a lot of people I don’t think realize is that it’s a little more physiological thank they think it is. I so I tell people, like, you know, “If you can keep your heart rate down, you can keep adrenaline from pumping through your body, so that will, you know, that can help stave it off a little bit, you know.”

 

Paul: Breathing is so important.

 

Chris: Breathing is very important. A therapist once told me that you can simultaneously be in a state—in a relaxed state and have an anxiety attack at the same time. You can’t—if you—it’s one or the other. So when you feel yourself starting to go through that, if you, if you can get yourself calm and keep your heart rate down and breathe, and you will not, you will not have, you know—I mean, there are two types—there are a couple of different types of anxiety. There’s sort of the generalized anxiety and there’s the panic attacks, just the awful jolts.

 

Paul: Have you had those?

 

Chris: Oh, yeah, of course! Yeah, they’re the worst. Because i-i-it’s your body tricking itself. And even though you know that you’re, um, that you, that you are, uh, predisposed to have them, when you’re having one, y-y-you’re still saying to yourself, “I think I’m dying.” Even though you know that this is something that happens all the time and it—you’re never dying. I mean, I mean, yes, we’re all dying, in a sense, but I, but I mean, you know, you still—it still tricks you into going, “No. No. No, but this time i-it’s real. Not the other three hundred times, but this time it’s real.”

 

Paul: Because it feels so real.

 

Chris: It does!

 

Paul: It’s like depression. It paints a doomy picture of the future that George Lucas has nothing on. It’s beyond CGI.

 

Chris: It’s, you know, it’s a chemical cocktail of our brain, you know, a-and so it’s—you really have to really try to keep that, uh, you know, sort of close to your heart, that it’s—if you know that you’re predisposed to it. And, you know, some people find a degree of success with anxiety of just sort of going, “Fine. I’m dying. What next?” You know, like, where it just—where you kind of just take the—where you kind of stare it in the face and then it goes away.

 

Paul: And some people, uh, need, uh, to take medication, because it’s just physically beyond their, their ability, in my opinion, uh, beyond their ability to, uh, to control it. And, uh, I like to say that, uh, meds are, uh, I think should be a last resort, but you should never rule them out. I-I cannot rule them out. I would be dead if I, if I ruled them out.

 

Chris: And they’re, you know, th-they—for some people they save their lives, a-and for other people, I mean, you know, every—b-brain chemistry is very delicate. And unfortunately I think, you know, because the pharmaceutical industry is so profitable, like, there’s a lot of, th-there’s a lot of overprescribing of medication—

 

Paul: Absolutely.

 

Chris: And people who are, you know, just kind of bummed out, should not be on anti-depressants. I mean, some, you know, uh, it really, it really is dangerous. So I, I mean, the only thing I would say is that just really make sure—I would even say get a second opinion. You know, when you’re talking about fucking with your brain chemistry, you just want to make sure that it’s the right thing to do and in some cases it’s definitely the right thing to do and in other cases i-it’s really not the right thing to do. So just, so just do the research and be sure.

 

Paul: S-so let’s talk about, um, the seminal moments i-in your life that were, uh, painful, embarrassing, uh, poignant, transformative.

 

Chris: Um, how far do you wanna go back?

 

Paul: Uh, to your dad getting a hard on.

 

Chris: (laughs) Well, at some point my dad fucked my mom, I know that much. Uh, and, let’s see, embarrassing moments. Well, I never really …

 

Paul: Shame is, uh, something that, uh, we have a Shame and Secrets survey, uh, on the website, and people find it really cathartic to let go of their shame. Now, they’re able to do it anonymously on the, on the website.

 

Chris: You know, so much of what we do as comedians is kind of dealing with that. Like, stuff that we’ve done that we’re ashamed of. You know, and that—and so I don’t have a problem talking about that stuff. I-I think I—you know, my family moved a lot when I was when I was a kid and I never really fit in with other kids, y-y-you know. I mean, my friend group was just kind of the handful of outcasts, nerd kids, and chess club and the computer lab, and, and, uh, you know, I have a lot of memories of being mercilessly tortured by, by other kids. Um, and, you know, whether it be because I won a chess tournament, or, I mean, like, the (laughs) fucking bummer thing that happens is, you know, uh, I won the Memphis City Junior High chess tournament, and they said it on the announcements in the morning at school, which is just like—

 

Paul: (pained) Oh, oh!

 

Chris: Please don’t! Oh please don’t do that! And you’re sort of torn because you’re like, “Oh, I accomplished something and I want, I want people to congratulate me.” But on the other side, you’re like, “That’s not gonna be the thing.”

 

Paul: Why didn’t they say, “Chris Hardwick masturbated for the first time.”

 

Chris: (laughs) At least that’s something everyone could have been, like, “Yeah, yeah, I did that too, yeah.” Uh, but, uh, yeah, that thing. Or, you know the other weird thing about me is that I was, uh, I was the sort of prodigy bowler when I was a little kid, and so, you know, in addition to, in addition to that stuff, I did a lot of, uh, I did a lot of talk show appearances as a kid, as a kid bowler. And, um, you know, and that’s another thing that kids would tease me mercilessly—when, uh, I think maybe when I was, oh, I don’t know, eleven-ish, I bowled on a segment on The Captain Kangaroo Show. Like, did this little thing on “Kids Doin’ It For Themselves!” And so I bowled this match against a bunch of other kids and wiped the floor with them, and, uh, but, I was, I was sort of at the age where i-in my grade, like, Captain Kangaroo was sort of a, it was a kid’s show, and not a cool thing. And so I remember one day, like, walking into the lunch—the lunchroom was the gym at our school. It was a—I went to a small private school that was kindergarten through twelfth grade but, so, all of middle school on campus had one gym where they would have lunch. And I walked in, and then everyone just started chanting, “Chris Hardwick! Captain Kangaroo!” over and over again. Which wasn’t even really a direct slam but I knew it was—they were mocking me. And it sucked. It sucked. Some kid told everyone I fingered his cat. That lasted for years. For years, through middle school. He just, you know, like, we had a disagreement about something or he liked some girl and I told the girl that he liked her, and so his revenge was, uh—I remember this very distinctly, it was a sleepover—I was over at his house and his cat walked by and, you know, cats have these, like, you know, they have puckering assholes that just, they just display to everyone like fucking scones. And, so, the cat walked by and I was like, “Man, that would be really weird if someone fucking fingered a cat.” That’s all I said. It didn’t go any further than that. We didn’t have a deep philosophical discussion about that. The next day at school, he told everyone that I fingered his cat. So for a good two-and-a-half years—the only reason this stopped is because we moved away to another city. But I would be walking in the hallway and people who were predisposed to make fun of me anyway, just because of who—all the shit that I was into, they would follow me around, wagging their pinkie, going, “Here, kitty, kitty! Here, kitty, kitty!” Kids are fucking assholes.

 

Paul: They are. They are.

 

Chris: And, you know, you wanna go back, and, like, I’ve had a couple of experiences where I went back and saw people that were just fucking horrible to me in grade school, and you find out they turned out to be kind of—like a lot of times they’re just normal people, and they’re like, “You know, I was a shitty kid, and I had—my dad was an asshole.” And they you’re like, “Aw. That’s not the, that’s not the satisfying end I was looking for, but I have closure, I guess I have some closure.”

 

Paul: I was hoping to have my boot on your neck and you sobbing, “I’m sorry, you’re better than me.”

 

Chris: Yeah, exactly, exactly. But that wasn’t the, uh, that wasn’t the case. Those are a couple of really good, embarrassing stories, uh, that I can claim.

 

Paul: When, when did you begin to feel like your life, um—another thing that people would know you from is—kind of your big break was being the co-host with Jenny McCarthy on Singled Out on MTV.

 

Chris: Sure. Yeah, for a certain age group, that show was part of their culture quilt.

 

Paul: That was almost like their Brady Bunch.

 

Chris: A little bit. And, you know, the show was on, like, four times a day. It was different than any show that had been on. Uh, it was, you know, but not today’s standards, but the show was kind—a little dirty, but certainly not by today’s standards, but by 1995 standards it was.

 

Paul: And it was when MTV was really exploding. And, it was, uh, it was just something that everybody who was in their, uh, teens or twenties, uh, watched.

 

Chris: Yeah. Yeah, it’s weird now that, you know, people come up to me at shows and they go, uh—and they look like grownups and they might have kids, and they go, “I watched your show when I was nine.” And I’m like, (groans) “Oh. Oh, I think this knife is yours. Here you go, oof.”

 

Paul: Uh, after that, w-w-what happened?

 

Chris: Well, I think, you know, what happened, as nearly as I can figure now, as, you know, when I sort of go back and do the—and kind of dissect w-what I was thinking and where I was going was, you know what? I grew up sort of socially ostracized, and just, you know, just like, because I was into these crazy nerdy things, and, you know, didn’t really have a lot of friends growing up. And if I was popular for anything, it was just kind of for being a nerdy dork who, you know. And so um, I-I think in my 20’s, or in college in my 20’s, was sort of, like, my chance to, like, finally try to be one of the cool kids. And, it just didn’t suit me very well. And I, and I, you know, um, and I believe that, you know, in addition to—I mean, a lot of my drinking—th-that—I really started pretty heavily drinking in my 20’s. And I think a lot of that had to do with: A) self-medicating anxiety; and B) you know, I think I’m—it was a little bit of genetic programming there, um. My dad’s a drinker. I mean, he doesn’t he doesn’t get drunk, but, you know, he pretty much drinks every day of his life. He’ll have his, like, you know, five beers in the, in the evening, uh. I saw him a couple of years ago one t—and he said something to me, like, uh, we were talking about it, because I don’t drink anymore, obviously, and which he totally supportive of, but he’s like, “Yeah, I know, I think that’s good for you. For me, you know, it’s like now that I’m in my 60’s, you know, I probably drink, like, seven or eight beers a day. At some point in life, you really just gotta slow down.” Like, wow. Fucking hell.

 

Paul: Well, first, I find it hard to believe that a bowler drinks. But I will, I will take your word for it.

 

Chris: Yeah, no, it happens. I mean, I know it’s hard to believe. They all look like they’re in great shape. But um …

 

Paul: I love, by the way, the uh—any athlete that can walk around with an ashtray and have it not really affect their game.

 

Chris: At all, yeah. Uh, so, it—you know, there was of—I think there were a lot of factors and also then me just not really being comfortable, and kind of wanting to, really wanting to be popular and wanting to be cool and wanting to be accepted – just all those things that I never was. And so, you know, I, I pushed a lot of that aside in my 20’s and so when I really—when I got into my 30’s, which is when—I started to suspect the last couple of years, like, yeah, this isn’t—you know, I mean would drink so much that I would wake up in the morning at, like, you know, I’d kind of, you know, alcohol interrupts your sleep patterns so you just sort of jolt awake all of the sudden after only a few hours of sleep. And, uh, you know, I-I would feel awful and just hung over so I would go to the fridge and grab a beer and just, just knowing th-that would sort of take the edge off of the hangover so I could go back to sleep. And I, you know, I remember doing this and just, like, opening a beer and literally, it was just like a bad one man show moment where I was just staring at myself in the mirror and just going, like, “This is probably not good.” But, like, just knowing in the back of my head, “Yeah, this is not—y-you can’t do this forever.”

 

Paul: Yeah.

 

Chris: And so, uh, you know, I-I think, you know, with Singled Out I-I really wanted to be popular on that show and really pop from the show and I-I didn’t really, like, really Jenny kind of popped from the show, and I was really—it really bummed me out because I was like, “I was on the show….” But you cannot compete with an attractive girl who will make fart jokes, that people have seen nude. Like, it’s just—you know what I mean? Like, between good comedy and people fucking, what are people going to watch on television? They’re probably going to watch people fucking. You know, like, like, we’re just a little bit more driven by sexuality than we are watching some kid with floppy hair, uh, make Three’s Company references. So, n-now I understand, you know, at the time I just didn’t understand and it was so …

 

Paul: You felt slighted?

 

Chris: I felt slighted and I thought it was, you know, I, you know, which made me kind of drink more. Like, you know, you sort of, you sort of take it out on your body, like, “Fuck you.” I don’t understand the logic behind that, by the way. “Fuck you, I can drink a lot. Alright, well good.”

 

Paul: Sometimes I think th-there’s two, kind of two selves within our brain. I heard somebody once describe th-their brain as having the tyrant and the rebel. And they tyrant says, “You gotta do this. You gotta do that.” And the rebel’s like, “Fuck you, man.” You know, “I’m not doing that.” A-and sometimes we listen to one or the other and I-I think ultimately being able to find peace is a way to not really listen to either one.

 

Chris: Yeah, well, I think, you know, look, in retrospect I’m glad that it happened. I mean, I’m glad I went through it. I-I kinda, sometimes I regret not focusing sooner on, you know, on my career and work and getting better. But I think I had to fuck up for a decade to get to the place where I could actually appreciate what it meant to be healthier.

 

Paul: And sometimes I think we need t-to feel all those bad feelings and to feel some of that shame to be motivated enough to make change.

 

Chris: Yeah, sure, because you don’t—like, I know, you know, like, when I was sort of at the height of my drinking, you know, I was, like, thirty pounds heavier and I just looked like shit. And so i-i-it—just knowing, like, yeah, I don’t ever want to go—I mean, I—another thing I tell people in the book is: if you’re having a problem making changes in your life, you can start with vanity. Because for me, when I first quit drinking, I, you know, the first couple of days I was sort of, like, “I don’t know. I’m not sure if I should, blah, blah, blah. I don’t know.” But after a couple weeks, I just started dropping weight really fast because I wasn’t, I wasn’t drinking every day. I wasn’t drinking 20 beers a day, I wasn’t eating pizza at 3:00 in the morning, so, you know, I just dropped all this weight really fast, and so the first thing for me of, “Oh. This is probably a good idea,” was vanity-based. And then, you know, later on I figured out, like, “Oh. But there’s a whole slew of emotional problems that are the—a whole bunch of other reasons why you shouldn’t do this.” But, because I was able to, on the surface level, that quickly appealed to my ego and my sense of vanity then that was very motivating for me to continue the process, to then uncover all the reasons why I shouldn’t be doing—why I shouldn’t be living that way. So I tell people, like, if, you know, if you’re having a problem making a change, you know, appeal to your vanity first just to get the process started. So that was very, that was very helpful. That—I was very lucky i-in that way. And I never, um, you know, I went to a couple of AA meetings but it just didn’t really—AA for me just didn’t resonate. A-and I know it’s a lifesaver for some people and, you know, and I say, like, “Do whatever works for you.” I mean, I still, you know, I still have a therapist. Like, I still think it’s important to have some outlet, you need some sort of a sounding board, but, uh, for me, that group environment just wasn’t really what I was looking for. But I-I really do think that it’s important to, like, get someone that you can—that can kind of take your thoughts and ideas and aim that back at you in a way that you might not have thought of.

 

Paul: Yeah. I-I-I-I agree, you know. I always think of the GPS and, um, think of ourselves as a single satellite. You know, you’ve seen a GPS when it only gets info from on satellite – it’s sketchy information, it fades in and it fades out and then all of the sudden you’re picking up another satellite and it’s pretty good, and if you can get even a third satellite then it’s like you get a really clear picture of where things are, how large they are, what the perspective is. And, uh, I-I tend to think of, uh, you know, uh, the emotional, spiritual, mental world as, the things that we can’t see and touch, as still needing those different satellites t-to give us that clear picture. So we need to find at least one or two other ones, uh, other than us sitting in our La-Z-Boy trying to, trying to figure it out and plan the future.

 

Chris: Yeah, i-it’s almost just, you know, the—look, if you’re trying to expand, you know—like if you’re trying to expand an audience for a thing you’re making, you can’t just aim it at the audience that’s already watching. In other words, you can’t just be inside your own head. You have to go outside to get different points of view and expose, expose yourself to new, to new ways of thinking and, you know. Even if, even if someone tells you something that you think is dumb, it could be the thing that trips you into the thing that is not dumb. So, you know there’s never any, I mean, and I think, I really think as long as people are learning stuff, as long as they feel like they’re growing and then that’s always a positive. But it just—I mean, this really is a never-ending—life is just a never-ending learning and growth experience. And the second you stop all that is when you start to die.

 

Paul: Yeah, yeah. Um, what is—y-y-you talked about your dad a little bit. What’s your, uh, relationship like with y-your mom?

 

Chris: Um, it’s good. You know, my mom was, uh—both my parents were very, very supportive. Um, they, uh—my parents split up when I was eleven. Just a very volatile, very volatile relationship. And, so, my mom, my mom’s a wonderful lady, uh, a little obsessive.

 

Paul: Who did you live with?

 

Chris: My mom. Uh, and very overprotective of me.

 

Paul: D-did she kind of make you her partner then because it was just you and her?

 

Chris: In some senses, yeah. I mean, not in the gross way, but, you know, but in some senses, like, I became the companion and her life became about me, even more than it had been before. My dad really liked having a buddy relationship with me more than, uh—because he had a terrible rela—his father was kind of an asshole to the kids. Um, you know my grand—my father’s father was one of these guys that was like, you know, he was like a housepainter. ‘Yeah, you know, I work nine to five. I come home. I put food on the table.’ Like, he was—he really, m-my grandfather was really kind of the idea of the frustrated American dream, you know, post, post-war. You know, ‘What’s the problem? There’s food on the table. There’s a roof over your head. What the fuck do you need hugs for?’

 

Paul: Yeah, Hitler’s not in the neighborhood.

 

Chris: Do you see any goose-stepping outside? You’re fucking welcome.

 

Paul: Uh, the reason I ask you about your, about your mom is because so many guys that I talk to, uh, who, uh, whose parents got divorced and their mother got custody of them, um, there was almost, um—they became something to their mom that crossed the boundary of being, uh, uh, just their child.

 

Chris: Yeah, I mean, there might have—I think i-it’s just a human thing, of, like, well, this is my companion now, um, b-but again, not in any disgusting way, it just—but there is a lot of pressure o-o-on you to sort of be like, “Oh I gotta be the buddy or the parent sometimes.”

 

Paul: The happy maker.

 

Chris: Yeah, the happy maker.

 

Paul: Did you ever feel like, uh, I-I’m responsible for my mom’s moods sometimes and I-I need to kind of buoy her through tough times?

 

Chris: Not really when I was a kid. She’s, you know, she would always sort of put on a-a-a-a happy face and try to, like, “Oh! It’s just the two of us! We’re gonna be OK!” You know.

 

Paul: That’s great.

 

Chris: I didn’t feel like it was, you know, until a little bit later in life, th-that’s, you know—that there was an element of that. But I feel like my mom, you know, was—she just loves me so much that sometimes it’s a little, a little overprotective. And, you know, she, you know, if I let her, she would be super-involved in everything. But I set pretty clear, you know, I try not to be a dick, but I still feel like, “No, no, you can’t come to everything.” And, you know, even though she wants to, and it kind of hurts her feelings a little bit. Just cuz, you know, if I’m working I just—I don’t really invite anyone when I’m working, it’s just like, aaaa, I don’t want, you know, I’ll worry about you having a good time and it’s just like you don’t need to be there for everything.

 

Paul: Yeah, a lot of people don’t understand that with performers, is, is when people they know come to something, um, there’s a pressure on you, not necessarily to do well so you look good in front of them, it’s so they don’t have to pity you or give you consolation.

 

Chris: Look, it’s just, just the broader ideas that you just, you feel responsible for managing their happiness and, you know, maybe that’s true or not, but it’s just—I find that it’s always better for me if I can just do a show unfettered and just, like, eh, you know, just gonna do the show. And then, um, but, uh, yeah, you know, in a general, I mean, th-the—I guess maybe during the run of Singled Out, you know, my mom would come to like every taping and then, I don’t know, there’s an element to that that’s just like, oh, you know, I’m just like 22, 23 years old, and it just like feels weird that my mom’s at everything. I think it’s, I think it’s different—

 

Paul: Especially Singled Out. Singled Out is like such a parents’ show.

 

Chris: (laughs) Let’s give them those hot cross buns, or whatever they—the categories were. But, um, I think, and I think it’s difficult to explain to a parent that, you know, a mother-son relationship, it just has a—i-i-it should have a different dynamic than a father-daughter relationship.

 

Paul: And some moms don’t understand that.

 

Chris: And they don’t—I’m not saying it should, maybe that’s bad, I don’t want to generalize, I’m just saying, like—

 

Paul: I think it should

 

Chris: It usually, it usually does. Like, you know, I feel like with a father-daughter relationship, there’s a little more sense that the father is a bit of a protector, and maybe, you know, and with a mother-son relationship, it shouldn’t—I don’t know, I just didn’t want that kind of relationship. Because it’s—it feels weird when you’re a dude and your mom comes to everything. You’re like, ‘Why does that guy’s mom come to everything?’ I mean, i-it’s adorable when you get older, and your mom is older, but not when you’re 22, then it’s just like, ‘Why does he need his mom at everything?’ It’s sort of like you gotta get out of the nest.

 

Paul: “Hardwick! Captain Kangaroo!”

 

Chris: Exactly. You just gotta get out of the nest a little bit. And, you know, maybe it’s a dynamic that I don’t understand because I, you know, I don’t have kids. So, maybe I don’t understand—I-I know I don’t understand what it’s like. I mean, you know, it only comes from a place of, of love and just wanting to be involved, but, you know, early in those days I kind of set boundaries, of, like, ok, come to some stuff, you don’t have to come to everything, and let’s, you know.

 

Paul: You don’t, you don’t have kids, but would you ever compromise and have an ass baby?

 

Chris: I’ve thought about having an ass baby, um, they’re a lot easier to take care of. You just put a bowl over in the corner and then they just scamper over (gulp, gulp, gulp).

 

Paul: Do you, uh, is there anything you want to add before we take it out with, uh, a fear-off and a love-off?

 

Chris: Uh, well, I’m thrilled that you’re doing this podcast.

 

Paul: Oh, thanks!

 

Chris: I think this is an excellent, excellent that you’re doing. And I think it’s important for—I mean, th-th-the reason that I think comedians make relatively good therapists is number one: we, uh, a-a lot of us have dealt with a lot of shit, and humor is sort of our, you know, it’s sort of our mutant power, our defense mechanism, and everything doesn’t, you know, just because something is horrible doesn’t mean it has to be dealt with so heavy. You know, like, you can sorta have fun i-in the process.

 

Paul: There’s a real healing power to laughter.

 

Chris: Yeah, I mean, some things are obviously pretty serious, but other things—like not everything has to be like, “Oh my God! Let’s, let’s just come in and shut the drapes.”

 

Paul: Yeah, a-a-and sometimes it’s dealt—my experience, uh, in seeing self-help stuff is it’s either too condescending and authoritative or it’s too precious and new-agey.

 

Chris: Yeah, a-and I think also as comedians, it is our job to be these deconstructionists. And so …

 

Paul: And make it accessible.

 

Chris: That’s all we do is just break things down. Um, and it’s been really, you know, it—I remember when you started this podcast, m-my wonderful, but unfortunately now ex-girlfriend Janet had said, you know, “Paul’s gonna start this podcast and it’s really good.” And, uh, you know, so it’s—you know, I’m glad, I’m glad to see you kind of doing these things that are meaningful.

 

Paul: Thank you. Thank you. I really appreciate that and that means a lot to me, uh, coming from you. Uh, y-you’re somebody who, uh, who I look up to, and, um, and, you know, I see how much you get done and, uh, it’s, it’s an inspiration, uh, especially the fact that you have that, you know, that drinking low, that, where you were stuck. And to see that you’re out of it now and you’re getting, and you’re getting stuff done. Do you—well let me ask you this: do you ever feel like because you are so busy, you have so many projects, do you ever worry that work is now your alcohol?

 

Chris: I knew you were gonna ask that. I was actually gonna talk about that. A-and I knew that’s where you were going with that. And, yeah, you know, the truth is, of course. Of course, because you know, I-I have a relatively decent understanding of how my brain works. I don’t think I fully understand it, um, but I think it was a choice that I made pretty early on where I, I kind of said, “Look. I have, you know, I have an obsessive brain. And if it’s going to obsess about something, then I’m gonna give it this.” Like, rather than—and maybe this wasn’t the right approach, but it was my approach—rather than saying, “I’m going to cure myself of being obsessive,” I just said, “I’m going to, uh, I’m going to use it—I’m going to take control and use it for something in life.”

 

Paul: That makes sense to me.

 

Chris: And, so, with you know, with the book—it’s what I say to you know, people with kind of nerdy obsessions—I mean, th-th-the heart of what makes someone a nerd or a geek or whatever is not really what they’re into but how they like those things. Like, how obsessive they can become at trying to understand those things on a granular level. And so, you know, I say to these guys, I say to them, like, “Look. I-if you’ve proven that you can do that, whether it’s with, you know, action figures or Battlestar or, you know, whatever your obsession is, you’ve proven that you have the innate ability to focus on something. And so your brain is this kind of laser that, you know, hey, surprise, you can sort of refocus that on things that you want.” So for me it wasn’t so much about trying to fix my brain as just redirect what it has a natural, uh, you know, sort of a natural tendency toward.

 

Paul: Th-that makes, that makes sense to me. Do you, do you feel like it’s sustainable, or do you worry that there’s gonna, there’s gonna be a crack because it’s, it’s, um, it’s so intense?

 

Chris: It is, and of course, you know, I do, sometimes I worry, but that’s sort of, like, that’s the sort of generalized anxiety of, like, i-if I “what if” myself to death, yeah, I would forget about a lot of stuff. So I just sort of go, “Well, this is working right now,” and then maybe it won’t work later and I’ll deal with that then.

 

Paul: Do you give yourself, uh, time, time off and time to just kind of decompress and do nothing?

 

Chris: No, and I’m actually doing that in May. I’m gonna take a-a vacation, a two week vacation. I never, I never take vacations.

 

Paul: That’s awesome.

 

Chris: Because it’s hard for us to—I feel like it’s hard for people with our brains to sit and do nothing because that’s when, that’s when the worst chatter starts to happen.

 

Paul: Yes!

 

Chris: I found my most, my most anxiety, my most depressed, my most everything are when—actually, Janet pointed this out to me and I didn’t see it—was when I had just come off a project or something and then I had a couple of days off, I would have the worst anxiety attacks. A-and I often thought, you know—then I started to realize, ok, so this is either a little bit of a post-partum thing coming off of the thing that’s now done, but also just my brain needing something to obsess on.

 

Paul: Yeah.

 

Chris: Yeah, and I—and that’s, you know, something else I’d say, is that, is that when your brain runs out of things to (laughs) analyze and deconstruct and deal with in the external world, then it’s just is like, “Aaa, still hungry,” and then it just turns in on itself and you start—it starts consuming your own brain.

 

Paul: Oh I totally, I totally, uh, agree a-and relate to that. I-I’d like to, um, check back in with you, uh, after your vacation. You know, even if it’s just five minutes by phone or Skype or whatever.

 

Chris: Of course!

 

Paul: I’d be interested to know what your thoughts and feelings are, uh, after, uh, after those two weeks off.

 

Chris: Yeah, I’ll definitely check back in with you.

 

Paul: Uh, let’s take it out with the, uh, fear-off. Let’s, uh, let’s swap some fears. I was able to, uh, to come up with some more, um, because I have a bottomless pit of, uh, fear and anxiety in my little chunk of coal of a soul.

 

Chris: Good good.

 

Paul: Uh, so, I will start. I’m afraid my addictions are going to ruin my life.

 

Chris: I am afraid of regret. I’m afraid of getting older and saying, “I should have done this,” or, “I didn’t do that enough,” but then it’s too late.

 

Paul: Mm-hmm. Uh, I’m afraid that my depression is going to ruin my life.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of home invasions.

 

Paul: Uh, I’m afraid of being pitied.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of being wrongfully accused of a crime I didn’t commit.

 

Paul: Totally relate to that one. Um, I’m afraid of doing a one man theater show.

 

Chris: (laughs) I’m afraid of that too. I’m afraid of sickness.

 

Paul: Uh, I’m afraid of singing seriously.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of myself, like, being self-destructive when things are going well.

 

Paul: I’m afraid of, uh—this relates to your one a couple ago—I’m afraid of dying with the feeling of “shoulda, coulda.”

 

Chris: Yep. Same thing. Uh, I’m afraid of dread. Not so much the idea of, like, “Oh, I’m gonna die,” but just, like, something really dreadful happening.

 

Paul: Yeah. Uh, I’m afraid of being weak and hungry.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of going crazy.

 

Paul: I’m afraid of having to sleep in the cold without a tent.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of something happening to someone I care about.

 

Paul: Uh, I’m afraid that I’m not in a slump, I’m in a spiral.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of being swallowed by the ocean.

 

Paul: I’m afraid an opportunity will come but I will blow it.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of being irrelevant.

 

Paul: I’m afraid of being that guy who doesn’t know he should never take his shirt off.

 

Chris: I’m afraid of accidentally doing something horrible that I can’t take back, like the dream I always have of, like, “Why did I just smoke or drink or why did I just kill that guy?” And it’s too late, you can’t take it back!

 

Paul: Yeah. Uh, I’m afraid I will never find peace about my relationship with my mom.

 

Chris: I’m afraid I’m out of fears right now.

 

Paul: Uh, then I’ll end with this last one. Uh, I’m afraid that I’ve been creepy with a listener corresponding because I over-shared information about myself and my life. Uh, let’s go to the loves.

 

Chris: By the way, I’m not out of fears, I’m just out of the ones that I could think of for right now.

 

Paul: Oh, okay.

 

Chris: There are plenty more that I’ll bring back on a later episode.

 

Paul: Right on. Uh, well, I-I know you’re pressed for time, so we’ll just, uh, we’ll just go out with a, uh, a love-off.

 

Chris: Sure.

 

Paul: Uh, and I don’t have that many. So why don’t you, uh, why don’t you start.

 

Chris: I love processes.

 

Paul: Uh, I love the smell of a bakery.

 

Chris: I love discovering success and things that work.

 

Paul: Uh, I love not feeling ashamed taking a huge slice of pie.

 

Chris: I love chai lattes.

 

Paul: I love feeling platonic love from a female and feeling that, uh, I’m less ashamed of my history of objectifying women.

 

Chris: I am—I love exercise.

 

Paul: Uh, this one was influenced by you: I love when I bowl a strike and the pins explode.

 

Chris: Explode, yes! Just fucking cleans up. Um, I love those old kind of, like, resource building games like Warcraft and SimCity.

 

Paul: Uh, I love hockey playoffs.

 

Chris: I love—I love a very specific thing about standup, and it doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s that moment when all of your cylinders are firing and it’s like that scene from the first Spiderman, where he detects everything in the room, and, like, the flywings slow down. It’s just that moment of being super-aware of everything that’s happening in the room and feeling like you have complete control over it.

 

Paul: Yeah. That’s an awesome one. Uh, I love when someone’s story makes me feel less normal—I mean, when someone’s story makes me feel normal.

 

Chris: Normal, yeah.

 

Paul: Less alone.

 

Chris: I love Dr. Who.

 

Paul: Uh, I love hugging my wife.

 

Chris: I love my job.

 

Paul: Uh, I love facing a painful truth and feeling stronger for it.

 

Chris: I love the smell of a new Apple product right after it’s unboxed, which I’m positive must be what a robot’s vagina smells like.

 

Paul: Uh, I will add that I love the smell of a, of a new guitar.

 

Chris: Yes! The wood and the, just the—

 

Paul: The finish. And the frets are nice and high and haven’t been worn down yet.

 

Chris: Oh, I got a, a got a guitar from Gibson, a J200 and it just, like, it had just come out of the factory, and that lacquer smell …

 

Paul: And the smell of the case.

 

Chris: The smell of the case. Oh, so good.

 

Paul: And the action is set perfectly on it. The intonation’s right.

 

Chris: Well then you have to tune the strings every hour.

 

Paul: Right. Uh, I’m out of loves. Do you have any more?

 

Chris: No, we perfectly matched.

 

Paul: Seriously!

 

Chris: And I love that!

 

Paul: I love that. Thank you, Chris Hardwick. I appreciate it.

 

Many thanks to, uh, Chris Hardwick for a great interview. And, uh, I did call him and get an update, uh, since we recorded that episode, about, uh, I guess about two months ago. Um, I waited until the last minute t-to get an update so he wasn’t—we weren’t able to connect via Skype, but he sent me an email and said, “Vacation was fun. Hard to unwind, but still fun.” So, uh, I’m glad that he, uh, didn’t short himself on, uh, on relaxing.

 

Um, before I take it out with, uh, an email and a survey response, I want to, um, remind you guys that there are, uh, a couple of different ways to support this show. Oh! First, before that, a ton of people to thank: everybody that makes this show possible. Stee Grieve (sp?) runs the website. Uh, Matt and Jennifer head up the audio collecting and the transcribing. Pretty soon we’re gonna have transcriptions available of past shows so you can read ‘em if you want to. Um, the guys that help keep the spammers out of the forum. I know I’m forgetting other people, bear with me. Uh, I’m gonna have a better list of people to thank next week.

 

Oh! A couple of different ways to support the show: you can support it financially by going to the website mentalpod.com. You can make a PayPal donation there – a one time donation. You can sign up and become a monthly donor which makes me very happy. Monthly donations start as little as $5 and go up to, I think $25 is the most expensive one you can, uh, do. Uh, it really, really pleases me when people sign up to do the monthly donor thing. You can also support the show by buying a t-shirt there. You can support the show non-financially by going to iTunes and giving us a good rating. That means a lot to me. Um, that boosts our raking and brings more people to the show. And you can also support it by spreading the word on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, all those other places. I notice that since I mentioned that last week, uh, I did notice a little bump in the number, the amount of traffic that the show gets so please continue to do that. Um, I really want to grow the show and have this be my fulltime job. It’s my dream!

 

Ok. I am going to read a survey that was filled out by (papers shuffling)—pardon all the noise—a woman who calls herself Katie. Oh yeah, likely name. She is, uh, straight but interested in trying with another female, uh, but never have and probably never will. She’s in her thirties, raised in a stable and safe environment. “Ever been the victim of sexual abuse?” She writes, “Some stuff happened, but I don’t know if it counts as sexual abuse.” Man, so many people fill that out and then list something that is so obviously an abuse. She writes, uh, “A cousin told my mom that when he molested a little girl he imagined it was me because that is who he really wanted to be with.” Oh, and then another instance: “Was made to prove my love to a boyfriend by having sex or he would leave.” And then another instance: “Was used by several guys at a party when I was drunk in college.”

 

“Deepest darkest thoughts?” She writes, “How amazing it would be to have sex with a woman.”

 

Uh, “What sexual fantasies are most powerful to you?” She writes, “To be taken control of by another woman and made to do anything she wants. Her making me do anything and everything to her. Having a man being subservient to me. To make him watch me enjoy myself with a woman that can make me feel better than he ever could.” There ought to be a name for that. I think you would call it—would you call that, uh, bi- schadenfreude. I think that’s what that would be classified as. Or, bi- schadenfreude-curious.

 

“Would you ever consider telling a partner or close friend your fantasies?” She writes, “I have told one person. He is the person I tell everything. We share pics and vids of ourselves.”

 

Uh, “Deepest darkest secrets?” She writes, “That I share pics and videos of myself and it turns me on to know that he jacks off while watching me pleasure myself.”

 

Um, “Do these secrets and thoughts generate any particular feelings towards yourself?” She writes, “Sex is all I’m good for.”

 

And I wanna end it with an email that I got from a woman who calls herself, um, Shannon. And we were talking about a variety of subjects and she was—she had been really touched by the, uh, by the Michaela Watkins episode as a lot of people were. And, um she happened to mention, uh, that uh, she writes, “My doctor prescribed Lexapro for me a while back. It helped calm me down and even me out but I ended up stopping it because I was with a judgmental douche who threw it in my face that I needed to take medicine to be normal. After all the stress of the breakup, I’ve lost over twenty pounds and it’s pretty much the only thing I’m happy about in my life. Whenever I try to go back on the Lexapro, I chill out so much that the anxiety-sparked lack of appetite goes away and I start to gain weight. I’ve tried Wellbutrin as well but it actually makes me more snippy. Sigh. I don’t know which way is up anymore.”

 

So, I wrote her back and said, “Fuck your ex. That pisses me off. Don’t ever let anybody make you feel bad about taking meds. They’re fucking ignorant. I would be dead if I listened to those people. Meds are a definite trade-off though. I’m constantly adjusting the amounts and talking to my shrink about it. Well, about every six months to a year. And when I was off meds, I was skinnier but I also had anxiety, a sense of doom, no zest for life, and a host of other shitty side effects. So look at those side effects of not being on meds. I would rather be chubby and happy than skinny and miserable.”

 

And then she wrote back, “I’m split 50-50 about how I feel about taking them because I hate relying on something every single day. But I do miss feeling better and being able to get out of the house on the weekend. I never actually told my therapist when I came off because I feel like he would have given up on me. I still have a full bottle in my drawer and started the lowest dose this morning because I realized you’re right. I don’t want to live life as just a shell of myself anymore. I also have an addictive personality and when I stopped taking the meds, I started self-medicating with other things. So weird how I won’t take what I’m supposed to but am fine with taking things that could potentially hurt me. It definitely helps to feel that I’m not crazy and to hear other people’s points of view on feelings to help my self-reflection.” Thank you, Shannon.

 

And anybody else that is out there and is struggling, just know that, uh, you’re not alone. There is hope. Things can get better if we, if we work towards the solution. And, uh, I’m, I’m one of those fucking miracles because I, by all accounts, should be dead. And here I am, making fun of Berliners. Such a, such a beautiful email she wrote, um, about what it means to be an atheist, and, uh, I’m really glad—I’m really glad she, she sent that to me. And, um, to think that she wrote in that tiny little car from the U2 video is astounding. And to think that I think it’s ok to make a 22-year-old comedy reference should let anybody out there know they are not the only ones that are mentally ill and lead a sad life. So if you’re out there and you’re struggling, know that you are not alone. There is help. It can get better. And, uh, thanks for listening.

 

[SHOW OUTRO]