Friday, October 20

Hardwick rejoins the dating scene with “˜Shipmates’


UCLA alumnus and former host of MTV's "˜Singled Out' joins ranks of reality shows

A&E


  FerenComm Chris Hardwick is the host of
the new reality dating show "Shipmates."

By Christopher Cobb

Daily Bruin Contributor


Chris Hardwick has always wanted to do “The Conan
O’Brien Show.”

But the reality-based dating show host of
“Shipmates,” most famous for his work on MTV’s
“Singled Out,” never got the chance. Jenny McCarthy got
all the press.

He finally met the man, after he heard his name mentioned by
Conan on the show.

“I met Conan … and told him, and he said, “˜Wow,
you gotta come back on the show sometime!’ and I go
“˜I’ve … never been on the show.’ and Conan
stops for a minute and says, “˜Wanna make
out?’”

Celebrity love-making aside, things haven’t always been
peaches and cream for the UCLA alum. Hardwick went from changing
majors, to hosting an MTV failure, to hosting an MTV success, to
finally entering the reality TV pantheon. But Hardwick is proud of
what he has with “Shipmates,” and is eager to show
he’s not just another Roger Lodge.

“They started approaching me … and I turned the show
down like six times. I kept thinking, ugh, reality … I
don’t want to do another “˜Blind Date.’”

At the same time, Hardwick was vying for the coveted second
banana spot on Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s
Money.”

“I did a run-through with Ben and it was great, and it was
a lot of fun … but I finally talked to the studio who was
producing “˜Shipmates’ and I said, “˜Look, I want
to do it the way I want to. I want to write, I want to do my own
stuff. I think we should kind of make fun of the show because
it’s silly,’ and they said “˜Great. Do
it,’” Hardwick said.

Being stuck on a Carnival cruise ship for three days and two
nights with someone who may have the personality of a brick, while
a camera crew captures every waking moment does seem silly, but
silly has always been Hardwick’s forte.

“I actually won (UCLA’s) Spring Sing in ’95.
My best friend and I put together this medley of ’80s songs,
and we ended up winning … I’ve worked a lot in the last
seven years, but I’d have to say winning Spring Sing was one
of the coolest things I’ve ever done.”

Being a UCLA student, Hardwick had to deal with the trial and
error of considering a major that would help his future career.

“I thought philosophy would be good for comedy. And it
was.”

But Hardwick didn’t always think that way.

“I started in the math department, and then I felt that
math was over-structured. Because it’s so cumulative that …
if you’ve missed a couple of classes, you can’t catch
up. So I thought, “˜Okay, I still want to be able to skip my
classes here and there … I like math but I need some
room.’”

Art was his next choice.

“And that was completely under-structured … it was like,
“˜Paint this,’ and it was also filled with a bunch of
kids that bugged the shit out of me. A lot of people would paint
something and then try to find some deep meaning that doesn’t
exist, “˜I really like this painting, you know, it’s
really nebulous.’ Yeah, shut up.”

Philosophy seemed to be a happy medium between the two.

“So perfectly balanced, in fact, that it’s midway on
campus, between North and South campus,” Hardwick said.

Opportunity began knocking for Hardwick before he knew it.

“I had gone to UCLA for four years and a couple of
quarters away from graduating, and then somehow hooked up with
somebody and auditioned for an MTV show called
“˜Trashed.’ We had a writer who’s now a producer
for “SNL,” comics like Janeane Garofalo, David Cross
and Dana Gould … a really good team of creative people. But when
I first got the job, I left school and thought, “˜I’m
working for MTV now, everything rocks!’ And then of course no
one watched the show and it was cancelled a couple of months
later.”

Such a crush to the ego left Hardwick pretty jaded about the
entire TV experience, so that even at the helm of a gig like
“Singled Out,” he was less than enthusiastic.

“My impression for the first few months was, “˜Yeah
this is great, but it’s not gonna last.’ I had turned
into this 75-year-old guy in the retirement home that pisses on
everything … just the person that was hurt, so he’s an
asshole forever.”

Viewers of the show might recall Hardwick’s
less-than-enthusiastic on-screen persona hosting the dating
behemoth, but after awhile it essentially became his cynically
trademark Gen-X approach. People dug it. Of course, that’s
not all that people dug about the show. Chris found in Jenny
McCarthy a perfect mix of attraction and wit.

“They (MTV studio executives) were 90 percent set on this
other girl. And then Jenny came in and she was pretty much fresh
off the Playmate express … she was all tits and hair, and I
thought, “˜Oh, great!’”

Eventually Hardwick changed his mind about the nubile
beauty.

“But then I talked to her and she turned out to be really
funny, and really nice, and the run-through went really well. So I
said, “˜You should hire Jenny … she was a Playmate of the
Year, and people know who she is, and she’s funny, and
we’d probably get some extra press for the
show.’”

Talk about understatement of the century. “Singled
Out” made McCarthy’s a common household name, and
vice-versa.

“I didn’t realize that “˜extra press’
meant she was going to get all the media for the entire
entertainment industry,” he said.

Still, Hardwick is less than enthusiastic to draw the parallel
between the success of “Singled Out” and reality dating
shows like “Shipmates.”

“I don’t know if what’s going on now is
necessarily part of the same trend … I think what’s going
on now is more from the “˜reality’ branch than it is
from “˜Singled Out,’ because we really didn’t
follow those people afterwards. I can tell you that most of them
did not go out,” Hardwick said.

Hosting “Shipmates” is an entirely different
experience for Hardwick.

“They come to me with an edited episode. Sometimes people
ask me, “˜What’s the craziest thing that you’ve
ever seen that didn’t make it on?’ and I say
“˜Well, I really don’t see much … because by the time
I get it, it’s already a cut show,’” he said.

Most of the work is actually done by the camera crews that
follow the daters and the editors that cut the episodes.

“Those poor bastards. I don’t think they get to
sleep,” Hardwick said.

Tedious camera work aside, the real grind comes with putting
together a 30-minute action packed episode from what happens over
the cruise.

“The producers and editors get together and create story
lines … things that didn’t necessarily happen the way that
you see it,” Hardwick said. “But that’s all
reality television though. That’s what reality television
does; they shoot hundreds of hours of footage and then they have
to, you know, no one wants to watch real real life, it’s
boring.”

“I went to the “˜Real World’ house in Miami.
… Someone answered the phone, that was the most eventful thing we
saw the whole time. “˜Oh, he’s not here, I’ll take
a message.’ That was it.”

Unfortunately, “Shipmates” has kept Hardwick in New
York, and away from his apartment in Westwood, and usual haunts
like Madison’s on Broxton Avenue.

Until then he’ll have to be content with the
oh-so-horrible work schedule. “My work schedule on
“˜Shipmates’ is so easy that literally a gorilla could
do it … you could just put the gorilla in some skates and a top
hat, it would literally be great. He could just beat his chest or
pick his asshole, whatever. Wouldn’t you watch a show where,
when they cut to the host, it was just a gorilla picking his
asshole?” Hardwick said. “Or if you cut to a gorilla,
who was behind the set of a cooking show, with all this food set
up, like he’s going to make something. And then he just
starts mauling everything and breaking shit.”

Absolutely.

TELEVISION: “Shipmates” airs on CBS
at 3 and 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Click here for a full
transcript of the interview with Chris Hardwick.

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