Unreliable Narrator Unreliable Narrator
Issue 002

Unreliable Narrator

by Ken Lee, Ramona Rosales

December 10, 2006

John Hodgman doesn't want you to believe everything you read.

Interviewing humorist and ersatz know-it-all John Hodgman can be intimidating. After all, he's the "resident expert" on The Daily Show and author of the faux almanac The Areas of My Expertise. Not to worry, he politely assures: "I'm not going to humiliate you with my incredibly large brain."Like daintily placing the most erroneous Wikipedia entries into china teacups, Hodgman's absurdist TV punditry has gained a following since he made his debut last January. According to Hodgman, global warming may unleash mobs of thawed-out cavemen, Alan Greenspan freebased with Ayn Rand, and email will soon be replaced by messages sent through a series of underground pneumatic tubes. It will be called "pneumail." With his impeccable grammar, Oxford tweediness, and martini-dry delivery, he sounds damn near convincing.But satire, paradoxically, is serious business: Hodgman insists there's nothing lighthearted behind the show. "The issues of today tend to make me seethe or weep," he explains. "The Daily Show has been a relief in some ways, as often the humor there derives from simply telling the un-lacquered truth, which, sadly, is far more taboo than even the dirtiest joke. There is nothing lighthearted in the show-if anything, it's one of the most serious and sometimes heaviest hearted shows I've encountered....Jon Stewart isn't a comedian-he's a straight man. America is the clown."
Quote:
Telling the un-lacquered truth…is far more taboo than even the dirtiest joke.
Hodgman, 35, is widely known for his role in Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" commercials which began airing last May; he plays the staid, bumbling PC next to the hipster Mac. Asked if he secretly wants to kick the Mac's ass: "My character is the embodiment of a computer," he intones. "It does not have legs with which to kick."A native of Brookline, Massachusetts, Hodgman carried a briefcase to high school and grew up idolizing David Letterman, actor Chris Elliot, and literary bon vivant George Plimpton. "My dream was to be the weird, marginally crazy guy invited to be on Letterman from time to time," he says.After graduating from Yale and working as a literary agent in New York, he cut his comedic teeth on a McSweeney's column called "Ask a Former Professional Literary Agent." Since 2001, Hodgman has also earned cult status with his "Little Gray Book" lecture series in Brooklyn, which has featured the smashing of guitars, a giant Ouija board, and a man dressed as a seagull.A stint as Jon Stewart's "resident expert" certainly looks good on a resume, but dispensing falsehoods for a living can have its drawbacks: "It's like the boy who cried wolf," Hodgman says. "Right now, as we speak, I'm being attacked by a wolf, but I doubt you're going to believe me."HOBOES In The Areas of My Expertise, Hodgman lists 700 hobo names including Chisolm Chesthair and Todd Four-Flush.  See them all at ehobo.comLEARN MORE areasofmyexpertise.com

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Unreliable Narrator