Two weeks ago, @midnight host Chris Hardwick announced that the show would be ending its run tonight after airing its 600th episode. Since its inception in 2013, @midnight has won folks over with its style of having of having comedians take each other on in rapid-fire games centered on whatever wacky stories were making the rounds on the internet that day. Elsewhere, the show’s #HashtagWars segment gave fans a chance to participate, while also clogging up many a Twitter feed. With the show on its way out, I talked with @midnight writer, executive producer, and co-creator Alex Blagg about everything the show was able to accomplish in its nearly four years on the air, and why they’re deciding to say goodbye now.
Would you say @midnight is ending at the right time?
Well, @midnight is a show with many partners involved, and it’s a team effort, so I can only speak for myself. In its current incarnation, however, I would say yes. We felt this was an appropriate time to end the show, and that if we ended it now, we’d be able to go out on top. It was gratifying to see the outpouring of support from people online. They had a lot of nice things to say.
Over the show’s run, the “Hashtag Wars” segment became really popular. Were you surprised it kept going as long as it did?
Yeah. In the writers’ room, we have a big wall of every hashtag we’ve ever used. It’s challenging to keep coming up with hashtags that will be fun to use, and we didn’t want to repeat ourselves. Keeping the segment fresh after 600 episodes was definitely a challenge, and we didn’t want to overstay our welcome.
It feels like it became the show’s signature bit – like it was inseparable from the show as a whole.
I would definitely agree with that. It was like Letterman’s Top 10 lists. Even after the initial novelty wore off, you’d still want to see it, and you knew it would be there every night. Not that I’m comparing us to Letterman, but I do think the segment was a draw for a lot of people. Of course, there was also somewhat of a backlash to it. People got annoyed at their Twitter feed overflowing with people playing the hashtag game.
Yeah, I remember seeing a lot of tweets about that when the show first took off. Did the idea of having used so many hashtags play into the decision to end the show?
I would say so. I think over time, it became more ritual than a comedy vehicle, and because of that, it aged twice as quickly. It becomes too ubiquitous. The comedy nerds would be rolling their eyes. But when we launched the show, it was a groundbreaking concept. It was the first late night show that the audience could participate in.
One of my favorite things was when a major celebrity would be on the panel with the comedians. Like when Ice Cube was on, and Chris just declared him the winner because he was Ice Cube.
He was one of my favorite guests. Part of the fun was seeing him play our game. It’s interesting to see people out of their element and how they approach the game. Another good one we had was Michael Shannon. He was so deadpan, and so funny. I love seeing people who you don’t normally think of in a comedic context.
Were there any guests you really wanted on the show but just couldn’t get?
Definitely. Joe Mande and Gabe Liedman come to mind. Those guys are just so busy. For some reason, we were never able to get them. Lena Dunham is another one I think would have been really interesting.
For the people who watched @midnight regularly, I think it felt like one big joke that only they were in on.
Yeah. I think as time went on, the show developed a language of inside jokes. Even though there was a format, you’d have these little running jokes. One that I loved was when Steve Agee would do his Sad Jeff character.
It feels like the show probably could have ran for a few more years. Like, even if the hashtag games were wearing thin, the show as a whole was still solid.
Based on conversations we’ve had with the network, I think there is some chance that @midnight could come back, refreshed or reimagined, and continue on in some form. But no matter whether that happens or not, I just feel very lucky to have been a part of what it was. Almost seven years ago, when I was still working a day job and trying to figure out how to get into television, I wrote “gameshow with comedians competing at hashtag games” in my idea notebook, and to see that idea become a show, and that show actually make it on the air and last as long as it has… it’s been an unbelievable run, and I’ve met so many amazing people. I’ll never forget that.