Comedian Chris Hardwick has clear memories of his first"Star Wars" experience back in 1977. He was 5 years old, and his mom was flying to visit relatives. He and his dad dropped her off at the airport and went straight to the theater. The film made a big, lasting impression on the youngster.
"It was just one of those moments — sadly, one of those moments that the older you get, you get less and less of because very few things ever change your world view or surprise you," said Hardwick, now 40.
He will have the opportunity for more intergalactic-based memories as an official host of Star Wars Celebration VI, a four-day fan gathering that begins Thursday at the Orange County Convention Center. Look for him to lead panel discussions, run around in the exhibition area and participate in online activities, he said.
"This is my first Star Wars Celebration," he said. "I haven't met anyone from the Star Wars universe," including actors Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill, who are scheduled to attend the Orlando event.
Hardwick's early fondness for the films — he toted his Star Wars action figures in a carrying case that looked like Darth Vader's head — blossomed into charity work as an adult. He and business partner Peter Levine organized Course for the Force, a lightsaber relay that was a fundraiser for theMake-A-Wish Foundation. He's continued to have pure fun with the Force as well.
"A couple of Halloweens ago, I did a Star Wars mash-up costume of 'Luke Skywalker, Texas Ranger,' he said. "So it was a Luke Skywalker robe with jeans and boots. My sidearm was a lightsaber, and I had a cowboy hat. Stuff like that happens pretty regularly."
Hardwick presents his comedy under the Nerdist Industries banner and over several platforms, including a podcast, a talk show shown on BBC America, a newsletter, YouTube channel and social-media outlets. The Nerdist venues cover a variety of pop-culture favorites — zombies, sharks, robots, Muppets and more — plus tech-generated chatter. "Chris Hardwick: Mandroid," a one-hour comedy special, will air on Comedy Central this fall. He's done voice work for Scooby-Doo and Batman animated series and was the voice of Otis the cow in the"Back at the Barnyard" series.
His first fame came on "Singled Out," the MTV dating show with co-host Jenny McCarthy, in the mid-1990s.
"I got very lucky with that show, so, at first, I associated the entertainment business being very easy," he said. "Then, of course, I found out it wasn't."
Folks should take a "world view" of their careers and make long-term and short-term goals, he said.
"I didn't have any of that, so when the show went away I didn't have much to do. … It's very hard in this business to rely on the current job that you have because very few things last in this business. That's really what I learned — better planning."
Fast-forward to today. His plate is full.
"I made sure of that," he said.
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