Surrounded by 50 screaming women, a Playboy bunny and a former “Baywatch” babe, any man would feel like he just won the lottery. But not Chris Hardwick.
The former co-host of MTV’s dating show “Singled Out” said working with knockouts Jenny McCarthy and Carmen Electra wasn’t the “college frat guy fantasy of nonstop fantasy and sex” most people think it was. It was just part of his everyday routine from 1995 to 1997.
“I had a girlfriend during most of the show,” said the 30-year-old, who currently hosts another reality dating show, the syndicated “Shipmates.”
“Shipmates” follows a couple for three straight days aboard the Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Fun Ship,” from the potential lovebirds’ initial meeting on the dock to their good-byes. Participants don’t pay a cent for their fun; they travel to exotic locales such as the Bahamas and Mexico on only one condition – “Shipmates” can tape almost anything it wants during the 72 hours, including sexual escapades, drunken stunts and emotional breakdowns.
Hardwick doesn’t accompany daters on the high seas. He watches tapes from a studio in Los Angeles, using his natural sarcasm to add commentary.
The Hatchet caught up with Chris, who gave us his thoughts on the future of reality TV, how dating has evolved over the years and why MTV is only a “stepping stone” to bigger and better things.
Hatchet: Why would people want to go on “Shipmates?” What’s the appeal?
Chris Hardwick: To get a free cruise. Another attraction is to get to be on television. People, if anything, are looking for a good time, more likely than not someone to have a lot of sex with for a couple of days.
H: What’s with Americans’ fascination with reality TV?
CH: There’s voyeurism, escapism. These shows don’t require a lot of thought to watch. If you’ve had a busy day it’s sort of like sorbet for the brain. People love to watch people screw up and fall on their asses.
H: Do you think the trend of reality shows will go out of style?
CH: The trend right now is reality television. Reality shows are trying to shock people, like “Fear Factor”-type shows. Those type of shows might fizzle out a little. Once people are shocked at a certain level, you can only top that so far until you’re literally having sex with dead people.
H: How is “Shipmates” a shocking show?
CH: I don’t think we’re like eating earthworms on the show. We’re shocking just in the sense of how people will behave in some situation, where you can’t believe they’ll do something in front of cameras. In their own minds they don’t think “I’m gonna look like a jackass. I’m gonna look awesome.”
H: Why do you or don’t you consider reality TV real?
CH: Number one, people act differently when there are cameras around. They have this idea of how they want to be perceived, but you don’t have the perspective on yourself enough on how you’re gonna be perceived. There’s one episode in particular where a guy was a complete jackass and he actually thought he was gonna come off like “I’m really cool.” He ended up coming off like a big jerk.
H: After working on dating shows, would you go on one?
CH: I wouldn’t have gone on one before, and definitely not now. If someone were to follow you around with a camera for days, there would be some things you would do out of context that would make you look like an idiot.
H: I know “Shipmates” has a new Internet dating Web site. What is your opinion of Internet dating?
CH: I would’ve said a couple of years ago that it’s really scary and don’t do it, but now, as long as both parties are being honest, it’s OK. You could always just pretend you’re at a bar. You can have hot wings with one hand and type with the other.
H: How does working on “Shipmates” differ from working on “Singled Out?”
CH: “Singled Out” was basically working with an audience. There were 100 people on the set, all the screaming college people. And this is basically just me alone.
H: What did you think of working on MTV?
CH: MTV is a lot more frugal with their money. I mean, MTV is a great place to work if you’re just starting out – it gives people a chance to work, but it doesn’t really pay much. MTV should only be a stepping stone, not an ultimate goal.