Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET

John Hodgman Discusses 'More Information Than You Require'

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
John Hodgman
Author, "Daily Show" correspondent, PC.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; 1:30 PM

Author and "Daily Show" Resident Expert John Hodgman was online Wednesday, Oct. 29 at 12:30 p.m. ET to discuss his new book, "More Information Than You Require."

A transcript follows.

Hodgman, a self-described "famous minor television personality," is also author of "The Areas of My Expertise," a frequent contributor to Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" and the radio program "This American Life," and is perhaps best known for his portrayal of "PC" in a series of commercials for Apple Computers.

____________________

Columbia, Mo.: I have ordered your book on Amazon but it is taking forever to arrive. I have fought through this painful experience by building a statue of you in my yard, using only deviled ham as a medium. But I can't get your hair exactly right. Why is this?

John Hodgman: I am sorry you are having difficulty both in receiving my book and in reproducing my hair.

As for the former, I can ask only for patience. I have bought a new zeppelin for Amazon for swift delivery of my books, but it too has not yet arrived (don't blame Amazon; blame myefastzeppelins.com)

As for the latter, my hair is far too thin and fine to be made out of ham. I don't know what alternate lunch meat to suggest.

That is all.

_______________________

John Hodgman: Greetings, internet users.

I will now answer your questions.

Consider this your personal FAQ.

Or at least your QTHBAIFNFTALEO

(Questions That Have Been Asked If Not Frequently, Then At Least Exactly Once)

Stand by

_______________________

Montreal, Quebec: It's apparent you know far more than the average mortal man or woman. Other than extensive life experience, and extensive schooling, I must assume that like a "Highlander," you behead people and absorb their knowledge.

This being said, as a Highlander of Knowledge: Where is your favourite place to eat in Montreal?

John Hodgman: I do not behead people, nor am I immortal.

But even so, I do enjoy Montreal. Especially the smoked meat at Schwartz's.

My paperback tour, by the way, will be AN EXCLUSIVELY CANADIAN TOUR (plus some select US cities).

That is all.

_______________________

I love you: That is all.

John Hodgman: This is awkward. I only like like you. But thank you.

That is all.

_______________________

New York: 2.5-parter. Do you agree with the point of view that American culture is being dumbed down? If you agree, does your elitism conflict with your message or with becoming a major TV personality?

John Hodgman: I actually feel we are enjoying a re-smarting in this country.

On-line and off, the geeks have triumphed over their ancient foes, the jocks.

In politics, there will always be an anti-smarty-pants movement. But I think one of the reasons people are responding to Obama is that the economy has reminded us that some systems are complex, and require complex solutions.

He has the air of a calm, smart technician. True or not, people clearly are yearning for it.

That is all.

_______________________

Chicago: At the end of "The Areas of my Expertise" you included exerpts from a future book on child rearing. Is this book still in the works?

John Hodgman: As I note in my new book, MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE, I accidentally forgot to write that book about my daughter, Hodgmina.

I am hoping my young son, Hodgmanillo, will follow in my footsteps and finish it for me.

That is all.

_______________________

Virginia Beach, Va.: My flight to Chicago was canceled today. Is this proof that the whole "Chicago" thing is a lie?

John Hodgman: In my previous book, I claimed that Chicago was mythical.

I said this because people from Chicago talk about how impossibly great Chicago is all the time. And I wanted to annoy them.

But as I type this, I am IN CHICAGO at this very moment.

So either it is real, or the "Chicagoans" have constructed a pretty elaborate con to fool me.

That is all.

_______________________

New York: Where do you find your source for witticisms?

John Hodgman: Quite honestly? Writing for me always requires trickery. Tricking myself into sitting down, letting words tumble out until you find the good ones.

It's sort of a trance. And when a piece is done, I have little memory of how I wrote it, and zero confidence I'd ever be able to do it again.

So I have to force myself into doing it. Usually I do this by doing a live chat where I have to type, and quickly.

Both of my books were written using the live chat format.

That is all.

_______________________

The Hollow Earth: Sir,

I purchased "My Areas of Expertise" in paperback, so I never knew the pain of not having 100 extra hobo names or the various other addenda you added after the publication of the hardcover. I purchased and read "More Information Than You Require" in hardcover, of course, but now I worry that I am missing out on vital information. Now that you're a FAMOUS MINOR TELEVISION PERSONALITY, will you still be adding to the paperback version of "More"?

John Hodgman: I certainly will correct some typographical errors in the paperback that appear in the hardcover now.

(For example, the correct pronunciation of the sandwich called a "gyro" is actually "gyro")

As for other material, it remains to be seen. But may I gently remind you that the hardcover is available right now, and literally* already has MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE in it?

That is all.

*literally

_______________________

Milford, Iowa: If you were to submit a personal ad, what would it say?

John Hodgman: John Hodgman, author of fake facts, is extremely handsome and would like to meet you. He is also wearing a powdered wig.

That is all.

_______________________

Roseland, N.J.: Mr. Hodgman, thank you for taking our questions in the order in which they are answered.

I am troubled by how the nation's economy has become so dependent on the stock market. Especially as the demand for stocks, as a method of punishment, have been in transparent decline for the last four centuries. I mean, sure -- they're great for the odd novelty photo at the odd Colonial Williamsburg theme park, but as an actual method of public humiliation, I just don't see a future -- especially now that MTV reality shows have the ability to humiliate almost twenty people at the same time, and at a very competitive price point.

John Hodgman: "Roseland, N.J.: Mr. Hodgman, thank you for taking our questions in the order in which they are answered. "

Excuse me. I will get to you later.

That is all.

_______________________

Bonnaventure, Alberta, Canada: You are not only watched on television by millions of screaming teenagers and elderly folk, but are currently followed by more than 14,000 users on Internet social site Twitter.

How has this new era of "Social Internetting" affected the solitary art of reading a book?

washingtonpost.com: Twitter/hodgman

John Hodgman: Dear Bonnaventurean

I am sorry to make people scream. It is the price to pay when you are revealing COMPLETE WORLD KNOWLEDGE.

I see twitter and blogging as just different ways to tell jokes, which are just different ways to tell stories.

Since the days of ASK A FORMER PROFESSIONAL LITERARY AGENT, it has always energized me as a writer to be able to interact directly with an engaged audience.

So I enjoy the blogging, and the high wire act of twittering. And I cannot wait for the ultra-micro-blogging that only allows you to type a single word.

But as an obviously longwinded person, I will always enjoy books. Blogs shall never replace them, for you cannot use blogs to prop up wobbly tables.

That is all.

_______________________

New Orleans: What is the force of a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick?

John Hodgman: The force of a single roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris=one American Chuck.

In England, however, they use the old Imperial Chuck, which is the equivalents to 1.34 American Chucks.

That is all.

_______________________

near the White House: How do we know that you, John Hodgman, are also not an elaborate hoax produced by the Chicagoans?

John Hodgman: Dear near the White House

That is the beauty of the Internet. You never know who may be typing. You will never know that I am actually Jonathan Coulton.

PS: What happened to the question I blew off from Rose? The really long one about the stock market? I am ready to answer it now, if she/he will resubmit.

That is all.

_______________________

Evanston, Ill.: You are clearly oozing with contempt for Mr. Stewart. How do you manage to condescend without succumbing to the urge to belittle such a little man?

John Hodgman: Dear Evanstoner

I have nothing but affection for Jon Stewart. He changed my life.

My original drafts are often quite friendly and Stewart-fond. He then asks me to be meaner to him. It amuses him.

That is all.

_______________________

Minneapolis: Mr. Hodgman -- as much as my husband and I loved the print version of "The Areas of My Expertise," we adored the Audiobook.

Is your troubador/valet/personal bodyguard/chef/acquaintance Jonathan Coulton going to contribute to the Audiobook for "More Information Than You Require"?

John Hodgman: Here is a question I am asked often.

Yes, Coulton and I will do an audiobook of More Information Than You Require.

But like last time, we will wait until the book tour is over to have a better handle on how to perform the book.

And also we will probably need to eat and bathe.

So again, I ask for your patience. And I will gently remind you that the book is actually available for sale now. If you buy it and read it aloud to yourself, then you have, in effect, purchased the audio book already.

That is all.

_______________________

San Francisco: Do you agree or disagree that the answer to the life, universe, and everything is, simply, 42? Is it an integer at all?

John Hodgman: You may find the answer on page 42 of my new book, MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE.

However, there is no page 42.

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Mr. Hodgman,

Has your friend Jonathan Coulton written a song for this book?

John Hodgman: Yes.

You can hear his new theme song for the book if you move to Seattle, Portland, SF, or LA next week.

That is all.

_______________________

Columbia, S.C.: I was interested in your knowledge of the Mole Men in Monticello. I was wondering if there are any other subterrainian humanoids under Columbia, or are there some sort of bird like creature? What could explain Columbia? Or is it me?

John Hodgman: Dear Columbia-er

I really have no explanation for Columbia. But as for the bird-like creatures you have seen, the mole-men have many hideous steeds they use to move around underneath the earth: the giant worms, the dirt-pumas, the clydesdales, the pookas.

Perhaps what you have seen is a hairless, albino, burrowing under-ostrich. They are fast runners, and their meat is very lean and heart healthy.

But they are ornery creatures who often flee to the surface and run out into traffic.

Does that explain it?

That is all.

_______________________

Reading, Berkshire, U.K.: You are obviously a connoisseur of fine garments. Does this also extend to gastronomy? What are you favourite meals?

John Hodgman: Dear Readinger

I am not only a person who likes wearing clothes, I also eat food in order to live.

Indeed, for a period of time, I worked as a cheesemonger in London. It was a marvelous time in my life. If you are a 19 year old but you want to look like a fat 45 year old, here's a tip: try working around really amazing English cheese five days a week.

That is all.

_______________________

Annapolis, Md.: How much more information do you, John Hodgman, require than the rest of us?

John Hodgman: Dear Annapoliser--

I need just enough to stay one book ahead of you fine people.

By the way. Do you live on Silopanna Avenue? I wish all American cities had at least one street named for that city, spelled backwards.

That is all.

_______________________

Potomac, Md.: What is your favorite city and why?

John Hodgman: While I lived in Manhattan for a dozen years, I never felt fully at home there.

Now, as I reveal in my book, I live in a utopian commune ruled by children known as Park Slope, Brooklyn. And I have never been happier.

NEVER HAPPIER

NEVER HAPPIER

NEVER HAPPIER

NEVER HAPPIER

NEVER HAPPIER

NEVER HAPPIER

That is all.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: Mr. Hodgman, Is it possible for one human brain to hold too much knowledge? What are the health risks associated with knowing so many things? Thanks for taking questions today!

John Hodgman: There were many many trivia books and almanacs of random, esoteric knowledge published before mine, many of them actually factual.

This history, plus the internet, proves that the human brain has a seemingly boundless thirst for useless information and other knowledge it will never use.

There can be no evolutionary explanation for this inefficiency. The best we can say for it is that it has not killed us yet.

And perhaps knowing, way back in the back of your head, which presidents had no middle name, or had hooks for hands, will actually SAVE your life one day.

It certainly saved mine.

That is all.

_______________________

Arlington, Va.: Were you relieved to see Microsoft answering the Mac ads with the new "I'm a PC" ad campaign? Or is this a slap in the face? In other words, which side of the debate are you REALLY on? (And no using the "Mac is paying my salary" excuses....)

John Hodgman: Dear Arlington-er

I need not make an excuse. Apart from a brief period in the wilderness in the late nineties, I have used Macintosh computers since the first 128K box in 1984.

My first book was written on a Mac long before I ever got the advertising job.

And my second book was also written on a Mac, except this one is made of solid gold, and I am using a desk I have built out of my extra 3G iPhones.

That is all.

_______________________

Anonymous: What is your opinion on the theory of post-modernism, and what sort of era is today's culture shaping into? Or rather, what would you personally name the era after post-modernism?

John Hodgman: Dear Anonymous

What are you hiding from?

The postmodern concept that there is no actual truth--that truth is merely a construct of the texts through which we perceive the world--is something I learned about when I was studying literary theory at Yale.

I did not realize until the Bush administration that it also made me a Republican.

But now things are changing. I think people are enjoying reality again. It can be hard to face. But denying it is much harder.

That is why I call this period, POST-HODGMANIST.

That is all.

_______________________

Freising, Germany: Regarding bringing "Hubris" to ground and restocking the pond of fact with fiction (great expression by the way), we, the gullible readers of the world, have often been fooled by writers who've spiced up their facts with fiction. Can we really rely on you to stick to fiction and not spice up your work with fact?

John Hodgman: The Freisinger refers to my speed Zeppelin called "Hubris," which I won off Emo Philips in a game of Sabacc, and which came to represent my callous disregard for the world of books once I became a Famous Minor Television Personality.

If you read my book, you will learn the true story of why I have returned to you with MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE.

However, I will say that, far more than my previous book, there are more true stories, especially about me, than you might think.

However, I make this promise to you: while I may occasionally rely on a fact or two to embellish and liven up a lie, I will never look you in the face and tell you a bald-faced true story when an equivalent fiction is available.

For fiction is often truer.

I must wrap this up now. I'm sorry that my slow typing and long talking made it impossible for me to answer all your questions.

But I am grateful for them all. I hope to see you on the internet again (www.areasofmyexpertise.com), or through the pages of my new book, MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU REQUIRE.

that is all.

_______________________

Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.


© 2008 The Washington Post Company

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity