Hodgman to Perform at the Calvin Theater
Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 1, 2012 22:11
John Hodgman, author of The Areas of My Expertise, More Information Than You Require and That is All, correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and that guy who said “And I’m a PC” in those ubiquitous Mac ads, will be coming to the Calvin Theater in Northampton on Nov. 2 at 8 p.m. He will be performing with Jonathan Coulton, one of Hodgman’s self-proclaimed best friends. Hodgman, who lives part time in the Pioneer Valley and wrote most of his three books at the Book Mill in Montague Mass., talked with me on the phone about his latest book, career and the presidential election.
Hodgman’s work, which he describes as “esoteric” and “literary,” was not planned in his early life. He stated instead, “It was clear I was never young. I age chronologically like all other humans, but I was always about 40 years old.” A fan of TV, movies, pop culture and books, Hodgman sought out writing as a means of creativity. His aspirations for authorship and TV stardom were never his main objectives: “that isn’t to say that I did not, at least unconsciously, prepare for it to some degree, because I worked for a time as literary agent. I quit in order to be a writer. Once I was writing, I was writing for magazines and writing for humor.”
Hodgman wrote his first book, The Areas of My Expertise, after an editor urged him to write a trivia book. Unable to see how he could contribute to the traditional trivia book genre, Hodgman decided to write about falsehood. “So I figure that, where other books might have a list of U.S. presidents that were insomniacs, for example, I would have a list of U.S. presidents who would have hooks for hands. No on ever knew that FDR had a hook for a hand because it was shaped like a wheelchair. And so it occurred to me that this was a way that I could tell some jokes, but also I could tell some weird counterfactual stories about history and the world around us in a fun way.”
The publication of his first book led to an appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and a lively discussion about hobo humor. “We had a good time talking about how the hobos of the great depression stormed Washington and actually took over the United States Treasury and actually replaced all currency with shiny shells and beads,” said Hodgman. “But then after that appearance they asked me to come back and do comedy on the show and I thought they were just being polite and they actually meant it because it’s six years later and I’m still doing it.” That, along with his role as the snooty PC in Mac commercials, launched Hodgman as what he calls “a very famous minor television personality.” He continued to write, and as result two more books followed: More Information Than You Require and That is All, both of which continue the series that started with the first trivia book.
When asked what advice he would give young students, Hodgman responded, “Don’t become a literary agent. Which is what I did in order to avoid the thing that I knew I wanted to do, which was to create.” The wisest advice he had to give was that you should do the thing you love rather than the practical thing. “Because the truth is that,” said Hodgman, “as a young person, presumably coming out of college, with varying responsibilities with others in the world, you’re never going to be in a better position to chase after the most ridiculous thing that you think you want to do. And two: in today’s economy, you’re not going to get a job in five or seven years anyway. Since you’re going to be free anyway, you might as well work at the thing you really love; your chances are much higher than if you work at the thing you don’t really love.”
Finally, when asked about the upcoming election, Hodgman had one thing to say: “The only consolation that I may take is that no matter what happens on Nov. 6, as predicted in my book and by the ancient Mayans before me, the world is going to end on Dec. 21 so it isn’t really going to make a difference. Unless of course the world doesn’t end and then I’ll be pretty disappointed and then I guess we’ll all have to figure out what’s next at that point.”
Correction: Hodgman was spelled incorrectly.