Friday, Oct. 20, 1 p.m. ET

Books: The Areas of My Expertise

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John Hodgman
Author, "Daily Show" Resident Expert
Friday, October 20, 2006; 1:00 PM

Author and "Daily Show" Resident Expert John Hodgman was online Friday, Oct. 20, at 1 p.m. to discuss his book, "The Areas of My Expertise."

Hodgman will appear at the Warehouse Theater Tuesday, Oct. 24., to read from the book, a collection of fascinating, though completely untrue, facts and minutiae.

A transcript follows.

____________________

Ann Arbor, Mich.: What has been the worst hooch you have gotten as a prop for your talks?

John Hodgman: I know that you want me to say the Albanian cognac that we enjoyed in Michigan, but in fact it was probably the Malort, official bitter liqueur of Chicago, which proudly advertises that it might kill you.

_______________________

Columbia, Mo.: You are like a god to me, and I worship you. But the question is, how to do so properly and respectfully. Do I have to build a diorama or something?

John Hodgman: I do not recommend idolatry of any kind, and dioramas -- don't get me started. I still feel the sting of my scale-model replica of colonial Boston that I thought would be a good idea for my Johnny Tremaine project in 1863.

I do not ask for worship. Only that you buy my book, now out in paperback. The paperback is good because if you pulp it, you can use it to make papier mache paste that will hold the hardcover copies in place when you are building your temple.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: What is your favorite word?

John Hodgman: It's a tie between THAT and IS and ALL.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Have you considered developing a trivia game show based on your complete knowledge?

John Hodgman: I would like to develop an edition of Trivial Pursuit based on the book. Do you work for them? Please say yes.

SAY YES.

That is all.

_______________________

Greenville, Canada: Who do you think would win in a fight between a grizzly bear or a puma?

John Hodgman: I'm tired of answering this question. Town after town, bar after bar. For heaven's sake. Unless the bear is blinded by the puma, grizzly takes it every time. It has more weight and more meat.

That is all.

_______________________

Annapolis, Md.: Where did you grow up? What were you like in high school? Super cool?

John Hodgman: Brookline, Mass., is the answer. In high school I got very good grades and was well liked by all students and teachers. I was cool if having long hair and wearing a fedora and in general dressing like Dr. Who is cool.

(Hint: it isn't).

I wish someone had given me that hint. But there it is.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: When Washington D.C. becomes a state, what should it be called? Since it will no longer be classified as a District, that would appear to be out. I think Washington is already taken. And Columbia is a country -- although it is spelled slightly differently. Thanks for any guidance you can provide.

John Hodgman: It will be called Districtylvania.

You people know all about our upcoming visit to Washington D.C., no? Next Tuesday evening at the Warehouse Theater, 1017-21 Seventh St. N.W.

(202) 783-3933

7:00 p.m.

$15 (gets you a copy of the book as well).

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I am really quite curious: do you use a Mac or a PC?

John Hodgman: 1984-1997: Macintosh, in this order

128K

SE

Powerbook 145B

1997-2004 PC

Gateway

then Dell Inspiron

Both of these fellows ended in tears.

2004-Present: return to Macintosh

Powerbook G4

MacBook Pro

both 15 inches.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Hey, John!

A lot of us knew you from the "Daily Show," but I'm curious: do more people know you now from the Mac commercials?

John Hodgman: No scientific research has been done on this. When strangers approach me on the street, I'd say it's about 50/50. Then I run and hide.

_______________________

Brambleton, Va.: Hi John -- more of a comment than a question. I've really enjoyed the "Mac and PC" commercials you've been doing with actor Justin Long...do you two have as much fun doing the commercials as we have watching them?

John Hodgman: Yes. Justin is a very funny, decent, generous guy. I dig him. He is too skinny, though. He needs to eat.

That is all.

_______________________

Bowie, Md.: John, seriously, don't you think that it's time for the Redskins to move to a cover 3 D with the LBs focusing on the 5 hole and the DTs on the 3? That way the offenses, whether i-back or spread wing can't gauge which red dog or maple the D might be throwing at them? And of course, Brunell has go to go, like your book clearly states.

John Hodgman: I regret I cannot help you on the subject of sports. May I direct you to EVERYTHING ELSE IN OUR CULTURE?

(as my book clearly states?)

Nice try though. Good luck with your footballers.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Do you feel that nerds are becoming more hip and relevant in popular culture? From sci-fi shows such as "Lost" and "Heroes" to the incredible success of "World of Warcraft" to writers such as yourself and Chuck Klosterman it seems that nerds are everywhere. One could perhaps say they're getting their revenge.

John Hodgman: I have been pondering this. There's something to what you say. Klosterman is just an amazingly skilled writer with a very fresh take on things (meaning, he's a little fresh-mouthed), so that explains that.

But as for the nerd ascendancy, the answer is to be found, I think, in the fortunes of LOST.

It seems to be continually struggling for its own soul. Will it be a scifi show, or a soap opera?

And this is beyond the question of subject matter. I mean in terms of storytelling: will it hold on to the meticulous, mad consistency and mythology of a scifi show? Or will it be more loose, like a soap opera, ignoring old episodes at will, trashing all character motivation and history as needed to tell that week's story, and basically rebooting after each episode?

It seems to me that the scifi show in LOST is fighting against some mighty pressure to mess around and make it up as they go along. If it loses this fight, then we'll know the jocks are still in charge.

That is all.

_______________________

Newton, Mass.: Dear John,

I keep trying to convince my children to not spend my money on their Halloween costumes and instead go trick-or-treating as the venerated hobo. Of course, they give me that "Oh Dad, visiting hours are almost over. Let's not get the psychiatrist in here again," reply.

Whither the hobo costume, John? Whither the hobo costume?

John Hodgman: I think it's probably gone the way of political correctness, and given the general (erroneous) conflation of hoboes with contemporary homeless people that I've observed since writing the book, that's probably for the best.

It happens with Halloween costumes. My wife used to go out as a child benignly dressed as a "tart." And then I spend a Halloween suffocating in a sleeping bag as the Blob. Of course I could never get away with that today. The Blobs are so quick to take offense.

_______________________

Columbia, Md.: Who is your favorite author (other than your genius self)?

John Hodgman: While everyone is digesting the LOST manifesto, I'd say my default position is: Borges.

_______________________

Washington Navy Yard, D.C.: Do you find it burdensome being so smart?

John Hodgman: Your flattery is appreciated.

That is all.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: John, I've read your book and enjoyed it, but you fail to mention your expertise in getting yourself on my media screens constantly. Can you please explain this phenomenon?

John Hodgman: Yes. The trick is to go on television. It's amazing what happens next. You should try it.

That is all.

_______________________

Halifax, Mass.: John, you've been a wonderful addition to the "Daily Show" over the past year or so that you've been on the show. How are things going with all the news correspondents replacing the Helmses and Corddrys of the world?

John Hodgman: I can only judge by watching the screen, as I really only stop by every couple of weeks or so and am not privy to the office gossip. But I love all the new folks. Aasif is someone I met on the set of one of the yet-to-be-aired Mac ads, and he has tons of presence. John Oliver is great, and I hear good things about Riggle, though I've only seen him once.

I miss Demetri, I have to say. DEMETRI!

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Okay, enough with your book, let's get to what everyone wants to know: is Justin Long as hot in person as on screen? Hotter? Dish, man, dish!

John Hodgman: As noted, he is skinny. But a good looking fellow, yes.

That is all.

_______________________

Andover, Minn.: Have you ever met a real hobo? If so, where and what did you talk about?

John Hodgman: I've met one young man who claimed to have ridden the rails, and I had breakfast very late at night in Chicago with Eddy Joe Cotton, who DID ride the rails for sure and wrote about it in his book "Hobo." He was an inspiration to me, even though Chicago doesn't exist.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Now that they're gone, you can tell us: Whose breath was worse? Ed Helms or Rob Corddry?

John Hodgman: I never got close enough to tell you. They all smelled like talent to me.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: What do you know about computer forensics?

John Hodgman: Not as much as you, apparently.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: I believe dressing like Dr. Who is cool, as long as you have the scarf.

John Hodgman: That is not a question, and yet, you are correct. And yes, there was a long scarf involved.

That is all.

_______________________

Germantown, Md.: I like playing Trivial Pursuit, but none of my friends will play against me because I know too much. They will only play if it's me against all of them. Do you have this same issue?

John Hodgman: I take my chances like everyone else. Sometimes you land on a wedge space, sometimes you don't.

That is all.

_______________________

Pittsburgh: Has becoming an author made you more contemptuous of the lesser-beings in society, i.e. your readers?

John Hodgman: You would have to be an ass to ask such a question.

That is all.

_______________________

Bethesda, Md.: Was their any training required as part of your "Daily Show" employment? What is your most memorable experience with any human resource department?

John Hodgman: Frighteningly, no. There wasn't even an orientation meeting. They even let me dress myself. Frankly, there's less oversight there than the Congressional Page Program, and three times as many 16-year-olds.

HEY!!!! COMEDY!!!!

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: How did you break into writing? Any advice?

John Hodgman: Yes. Write and write and write and write, and share your work with as many people as possible. The Internet helps.

That is all.

_______________________

D.C.: Hiya John -- If all former presidents were alive at the same time and a double-elimination Presidential Invitational Leg Wrestling Tournament were held, who would take gold, silver, and bronze?

John Hodgman: Obviously the presidents who had hooks for hands would have an advantage (due to the hooks).

So I'd say: Roosevelt, Roosevelt, Van Buren.

That Old Kinderhook was a wily man.

That is all.

_______________________

Over here. No, here. Yes, hello.: Are you like a radio DJ who takes requests? When you're in D.C., can you say hello to Danielle, Bekah, and Bessie? All will be attending your show and laughing the loudest.

Who would win in a fight: Ira Glass or Jon Stewart?

John Hodgman: You are referring to the show at the Warehouse Theater next Tuesday in DC at 7 p.m. and costing 15 dollars?

No, I do not take requests. I'm sorry. I learned my lesson after the I AM NOT MATT HAUGHEY incident of Portland (look it up).

But tell Danielle, Bekah and Bessie to say hello and I will happily shake their hands.

That is all.

_______________________

Not Telling: What has been the lowest point of your book tour so far?

John Hodgman: Probably just waking up at 4 a.m. after any one of the awesome events to have to fly to the next one.

I don't like waking up that early, and I also hate moving.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Did you hear about that guy getting attacked by the stingray in Florida this week? This is a month after the Crocodile Hunter. Do you think this is just the opening salvo in a stingray vs. human war?

John Hodgman: I wouldn't rule it out. But it's not exactly shock and awe. The rays have to start synchronizing their watches if they're really going to intimidate us.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington: What can one expect at your Tuesday show here? Fifteen dollars worth of ...?

John Hodgman: Well, you get 14 dollars worth of book with the price of admission, so I can pretty much guarantee you one dollar of entertainment between me, David Rees and Jonathan Coulton.

Also, it's happening this Tuesday, Oct. 24, at the Warehouse Theater in D.C., at 7 p.m..

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: In your research, what do most of us men dig in women? Is it a robust chest? Firm, commanding legs? Heavy grey matter in the cranium? Limpid pools of azure in the eyes? Or simply a pulse and proper hygiene?

John Hodgman: I recommend writing a book of fake trivia. The ladies love it.

What a horrible lie.

That is all.

_______________________

Alexandria, Va.: The George Plimpton homage was one of the funniest ads I've seen in ages. How did that idea come about, because it just seems like a random thing.

John Hodgman: Thank you. I am a great admirer of George Plimpton, and I had the real pleasure of meeting him a couple of times. It was like shaking the hand of a great, waspy, wooden totem pole of awesomeness.

I used to love those ads for Intellivision as a kid, so when I came across one on line, I brought it to the attention of my publisher as a gag. They said, let's do it.

I should have put that in quotation marks.

That is all.

_______________________

Germantown, Md.: If you had to play Beta or VHS in the VCR wars back in the '70s and '80s, which would you choose and why?

John Hodgman: I picked VHS, and I stand by that decision. As you know, I prefer to champion the better product over the more popular one as a rule; but it was clear from the beginning that BETA was going to be swamped out of the market pretty quickly. It didn't even sound finished!

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: I bought my boyfriend a copy of your book for Christmas, as he thinks you're super. He only reads it in the bathroom, though. Does this offend you?

John Hodgman: No. I am a strong supporter of marginal literature, especially that enjoyed in the bathroom.

That is all.

_______________________

Claverack, N.Y.: Please settle a bet. My friend maintains your appearances on the Daily Show are actually made by an animatronic puppet operated and voiced by Henson alumnus and acclaimed director of "Bringing Down the House," Frank Oz. I say he is mistaken, and that you are voiced by former teen heartthrob Willie Aames. Who is right?

John Hodgman: You are both wrong, sadly. It's Frank Oz in a Willie Aames suit.

Honestly, if there were a way for me to say that I wish Frank Oz was puppeteering me that didn't sound gross, I would say it. He is a great man.

That is all.

_______________________

washingtonpost.com: John Hodgman & George Plimpton United in Advertising (Gawker.com)

_______________________

Arlington, Va..: Are you still contributing to "This American Life"?

By the way, your book makes it impossible to read in bed with my husband. He laughs and snorts so much I can't fall asleep.

John Hodgman: I have not done so for a while, but I aim to, and for now there is a new TAL CD out from the Shout! Factory which has my piece about the Slingshot on it, and lots of other amazing stuff, called:

STORIES OF HOPE AND FEAR.

Good luck with your husband.

That is all.

_______________________

D.C. : If Clinton had gotten rid of the stingrays in the first place there wouldn't be a problem now.

John Hodgman: Very true.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Some advertising critics say your role as a PC in the commercials is miscast, in that young people like you because of your various appearances and works of humor, yet young people are not supposed to like the PC in the ad. What do you think about this?

John Hodgman: It's flattering of course, but the fact is that the villain of any story is always more appealing and interesting in some ways. At the end of the day, I gather that the ad is ultimately getting people to buy more Macintosh brand computers from Apple no matter what they think of me, and that would seem to be the point.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Mr. Hodgman,

Is there such a thing as a trivia threshold? That is, like the event horizon of a black hole, a factoid that is so minute and so largely irrelevant that it sucks in valuable information around it?

And is the Defense Department trying to weaponize sub-trivial information?

Thanks!

John Hodgman: Yes: this ultra-dense trivia singularity is real, and it usually takes the form of a celebrity's baby.

Only one question at a time. That is all.

_______________________

Bowie, Md: It's not "footballers." It's (clearly) football guys.

John Hodgman: If you say so, jock.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: What about that whole global warming thing? As a studied man of science, what are your thoughts on how quickly this will affect us in really practical ways, such as not being able to get cable?

John Hodgman: That's a pretty broad question to ask. What about the whole Arlington, Va. thing?

I eagerly await your response.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: When you were in college (being so smart, did you ever need to go to college? Or did they just heap degrees on you every time you left your house?) and had to write a paper due the next day that you just couldn't bring yourself to start, what did you do?

John Hodgman: I usually forced myself away from the online chats with authors of books of fake trivia that I was using to procrastinate and just sat down and did it.

GET TO WORK, FRIEND.

That is all.

_______________________

Pittsburgh: As a great stoic performer, I was wondering who cracks you up or would make you lose you composure on camera?

John Hodgman: Jon Stewart usually has me struggling once or twice an appearance.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Are there any prophecies foreseeing the return of Joey Stinkeye Smiles and the true hobos (not faux-bos, or, as they are commonly known today, hipsters) from the stars? If so, what signs should we look for? Would prayer or offerings of any kind help hasten his return?

John Hodgman: As I say: NO on idolatry.

I can only suggest you keep you eye out for the famous hobo sign, scrawled on boxcars or barnsides, indicating the hobo's return...

\ | /

- H -

/ | \

Watch for it. Google for it.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Have you considered a theatrical adaptation? "Get Your Areas On"? Perhaps with Intellivisions, rather than overhead projectors?

John Hodgman: I promise you I have considered almost every possible form of adaptation and merchandising, yes.

But really, the closest thing you'll see to a theatrical presentation is Coulton's and my interpretation of the material on the road, coming to a town near you (if you are near Washington, D.C.) with David Rees and Adam Mazmanian THIS TUESDAY, Oct. 24

at the Warehouse Theater

at 7 p.m.

for 15 dollars.

Thank you very much everyone. That is all.

_______________________

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