Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Nerdist Way

Last week, the 4th quarter issue of College News went to print. This is a huge deal for me for a couple of reasons. It’s the second issue I’ve created from top to bottom since taking on the role of editor earlier this year, which is notable in and of itself. Specifically, though, there is one interview that I’m rather proud of conducting and writing. That interview is the cover story. The interview with The Nerdist himself...Chris Hardwick. Geeks and nerds can probably appreciate the excitement I had when I found out that I’d landed the interview, but the excitement I had stretched far beyond the fact that I was interviewing Chris. It was attaining a goal. It was proving myself and proudly proclaiming my geeky ways. It was a milestone for me.

Let’s jump back a year, shall we? In April 2010, I ventured to Chicago to start a new life. I’d graduated from college in December and knew I needed to leave my hometown. There was simply no way that I’d be able to make a career without leaving. So, having a few articles under my belt, I moved in with my brother into his studio apartment to begin an internship with College News and a part-time job at Macy’s. Macy’s was a miserable experience, but I kept telling myself that it was temporary, and that I would come across a better opportunity doing what I went to college to do. So, for three days a week, for less than $20 a day, I interned at the office, attempting to tune out very, very, very off-color jokes and write news summaries.

The only way I kept my sanity during those several months was by listening to podcasts and music. The two podcasts I most heavily relied on were The Pop My Culture Podcast (featured in the 3rd quarter issue of CN!) and The Nerdist Podcast. I saw the people who were interviewed for the website and the magazine and couldn’t help but think how appropriate and fantastic it would be to have Chris on the cover of the magazine. Of course, being a lowly intern who didn’t even get to pitch stories for the magazine, I dreamt of getting to interview and talk to people like Chris, but assumed I would never get the opportunity...at least not at CN.

I left the internship in September 2010. My situation didn't improve. I made very little at Macy's and was earning nothing for my freelancing, though I was promised otherwise. I hated to do it, but I decided to quit freelancing. One day after I quit freelancing, I was offered a position with CN’s parent company. It didn’t involve writing or editing, except when the editor was on vacation and I was used as back up. Then, my luck changed again. The editor decided to move and the position was open. I took a chance and submitted my name to be considered. They didn’t even interview anyone else. It was a series of events that would’ve astonished even Eve Harrington.

I was determined to make the magazine and the site my won and see it to its fullest potential. My thoughts immediately turned back to Chris, but I wasn’t certain that a relatively small magazine would be able to land him. It took a lot of digging, but I found the contact info for the folks over at G4 and submitted my request. I was astonished to hear that they were interested in getting Chris on the cover.

It took a lot of work on my part, following up with publicists and nailing down a time that I could actually speak with Chris. The phones were against me, as my office line died just when he called, and my body was against me, as I fought a nausea-inducing migraine all day, but it finally happened. On September 1 of this year, I had the chance to interview Chris Hardwick on the phone -- exactly one year after leaving my internship. Talk about a milestone.

Chris was great. He was funny, friendly and seemed genuinely interested in my questions. Somehow I managed to mask my giddiness. I resisted the urge to tell him that I’d dreamt of interviewing him for more than a year, that I was certain that we would be friends...if, you know, I lived in California and was somehow lucky enough to run around in the same circles as he does. I kept my geeky giggles to a minimum and, though I’m biased, I think the end result was great.

For me, the interview with Chris was a major validation. It validated my talent as a writer and interviewer. It validated my pursuit of this career. It proved that I was, in fact, very well-equipped to handle this job, even though many thought otherwise.

Chris, Matt and Jonah will be appearing in Chicago in April for a live version of the podcast. I’ve already bought my ticket, and have made it my mission to meet Chris face-to-face, give him a hug, and get him to sign a copy of the magazine -- the magazine I created with his help. Will he remember me if I mention who I am? Probably not. After all, I’m sure he does phone interviews very often. But it’s very important for me to meet him face-to-face and let him know that that little interview was a very big deal for me.

You can read the online version of the interview here.

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