Last night, I attended a book promotion with friends for Vacationland, the latest work by the always-hilarious John Hodgman. He was interviewed by Matt Fraction, an award-winning comic book writer who’s done both original work (like ODY-C, a gender-swapped retelling of The Odyssey.…in space) and penned books for large companies like Marvel and Image (his Hawkeye run is fantastic).
Hodgman was, of course, the PC in the Apple commercials that ran from 2006-2009. A former literary agent, he’s had several small acting roles, a recurring spot on The Daily Show (during Jon Stewart’s tenure) as a “resident expert, ” and has made his living as an author / all-around creative person for the past decade or so. His current career was sparked from his book of fake trivia, The Areas of my Expertise**, and its two sequels.
**The full title of the book is: “An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects.”
I’ve had the good fortune to see both Fraction and Hodgman several times due to their participation in the Jonathan Coulton Cruise, the annual nerdboat I attend that’s been the highlight of the year for me since 2012. They’re both kind, engaging, extremely interesting humans***, and they riff very well off one another. Simply listening to them conduct a conversation is entertaining.
***Hodgman played a villain for years on the JoCo Cruise, believing that every narrative needs such a character. That role has since been adopted by John Roderick.
After about 25-30 minutes of back-and-forth with Fraction, Hodgman took questions from the audience, and then folks lined up to have their books signed. Reflecting on it now, I struggle to describe exactly what it is that Hodgman does in front of a crowd. He’s a comedian, but doesn’t perform stand-up. He’s not a improv artist. He doesn’t necessarily tell jokes. He doesn’t do insult comedy.
“Humorist,” sure, but what does that MEAN?
At this point in my life, I don’t have too many friends who are unfamiliar with his work, since most of them are amazing people I originally met through the JoCo Cruise. When friends DO say they don’t recognize the name, I usually send them this, which I believe to be a good representation of his style.
I’m not entirely sure what the man does.
But I love it.