On Monday, October 21, Chris Hardwick's new Comedy Central show @Midnight debuted after The Colbert Report. The show, which airs in the greater Spokane area on Comcast channel 60, uses a game show format to showcase humor about social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter and some of the weirder content that people post on them each day.
In an interview that appeared at Splitsider on Monday, October 21, Hardwick explained how the show is intended to work.
According to Hardwick, "Essentially, the show is an excuse to get a bunch of comics together to make fun of social media. But rather than just have a roundtable show, we decided to sort of build it into a game show format, just so that the structure of the show would kind of drive content. Then, it’s not just comics sitting around sort of commenting on things.
"So it looks like a game show, but the contestants are comedians, and the source material is all the stuff we pulled off of social media that day. So, you know, tweets, Instagram, Vine, Yelp reviews, Yahoo! Answers, YouTube comment threads, Reddit, really just anywhere we can find stuff that seems funny to us."
The show seems kind of like a cross between the classic game show Jeopardy! and Comedy Central's The Jeselnik Offensive. In each episode, Hardwick asks three comedians to answer trivia questions or improvise comedy bits based on videos, selfies and other fun content he and his writing staff found online. The contestants earn points for their responses, but the scoring system obviously doesn't really matter. Earning points has more to do with whether or not Hardwick and the studio audience thought their answers were funny than anything else.
The first episode featured segments such as "OkCupid or Serial Killer", where the contestants had to determine whether quotes came from somebody's profile on the popular dating site OkCupid or from interviews with notorious criminals such as Jeffrey Dahmer, and a game called "Tag It." In that segment, the contestants were asked to come up with funny hashtags to help explain tweets posted by celebrities.
The show seems to be aimed primarily at millennials who spend a lot of time on sites such as Twitter or Reddit. Younger people in the Spokane area may appreciate at least some of the humor while they learn more about things other people in their age groups are doing online. Older folks from the Lilac City who stick mostly to Facebook won't get some of the references and they probably won't enjoy most of the comedy.
For example, one segment asked the contestants to write Yelp reviews for a strange orgy-like scenario in a music video. Some older people might find that kind of offensive for moral or possibly even religious reasons. In addition, they may not know or care what Yelp is, so the whole point might be sort of lost on them. Younger Spokanites would be much more likely to appreciate what they were trying to do.
Hardwick's comedian guests may also be turnoffs for people over about 35. The first episode featured Doug Benson, Natasha Leggero, and Kumail Nanijani. Some viewers may have been wondering why they were supposed to care about a guy who had been on Red Eye a few times, the gal who played Whitney Cummings' transgendered sister in an episode of Whitney and the weird guy from Franklin and Bash.
All three comedians are popular on Twitter and involved with podcasts and other things that hip, young people might like. Benson is also known for smoking copious amounts of marijuana, which might make some younger people like him more. Older viewers who have a reaction more along the lines of "What is a podcast?" probably would not enjoy their styles of comedy.
The show's website lists some future guests, and they all seem to be people who would appeal more to younger viewers who spend too much time on the Internet than any other demographic. Andy Daly, Kyle Kinane and Tom Lennon are all talented performers, but they seem to appeal more to college-age people than anybody else. At least in Lennon's case, he has fans who would remember him from movies he has been in or Reno 911. Some viewers may have never heard of Kinane before unless they listened to one of his comedy albums on Spotify or something.
The show's guests make perfect sense based on Hardwick's interest in social media. He is, after all, well known for his Nerdist podcast and YouTube videos. But it seems like they might limit the show's appeal to people who would already be predisposed to like the types of jokes that appear in the show's Twitter feed. There is nothing wrong with those casting decisions or the overall tone of the show, but @Midnight might be more fun if it appealed a little more to a wider audience.
A lot of the show's gags that would only be funny to someone with a black belt level of social media savvy like Hardwick. Everyone else might have reactions more along the lines of, "Are we supposed to care about Etsy now? What other stuff don't I know enough about to keep up with young people?"
That is fine for what it is, but it isn't necessarily fun to watch for half an hour. Considering that the show doesn't have much else to offer other than a few sex jokes, it doesn't seem like something that would be appointment viewing for most people in Spokane. Somebody who still refuses to use Twitter, just for example, won't enjoy listening to Nanijani milk a running gag about hashtags. Somebody who knows about hashtags, but thinks they're stupid, won't see the appeal either.
Hardwick clearly means well, and hopefully his new series will be a success. But it is the sort of thing that could easily disappear after a brief run because the audience of people who care about social media enough to find the show interesting and find the show's guests funny might be kind of small. Speaking as someone who is currently active on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn, I didn't have a good enough time to convince myself to watch the show again. Most of the people from Spokane I know would probably hate the show on general principle.