An Evening With Author and Famous Minor Television Personality John Hodgman


John Hodgman is probably best known as PC in the Apple commercials or as a correspondent for “The Daily Show With John Stewart.” You may not know that he’s also a former literary agent and author of several books. His latest book, More Information Than You Require, is a follow-up to The Areas of My Expertise. They’re filled with humorous fake facts and trivia and he calls them “two compendia of complete world knowledge.” He was at the Borders Books & Music in Ann Arbor, Michigan, on November 11, 2009 to discuss and sign More Information Than You Require. He ended up speaking for an hour and a half and he had the crowd laughing the entire time. During the event, he also gave a live interview to Len Peralta, host of the Jawbone Radio Show podcast. Audio of his interview is available on their website.

Hodgman began by describing More Information Than You Require:

It is once again more fascinating historical oddities and amazing true stories made up by me on such subjects as: the past (as there is always more of it) and the future (as there is still some left), the mole-men and their capital city of Molemansylvania, gambling – the sport of the asthmatic man, how to cook an owl, how to buy a computer from a street vendor, how to write books of complete world knowledge, how to become a famous minor television personality, and most other subjects except for sports because who cares?

More Information Than You Require has a list of 700 mole-man names, which is a riff on the 700 hobo nicknames from The Areas of My Expertise. Here’s Hodgman’s explanation:

When I published my first book… I gave a brief history of the hobos of the Great Depression. And I also decided to give a little bit of information about hobo nicknames. All hobos had nicknames – they reflected where they were from like Tennessee Slim or Philadelphia Roderick, or whatever. Their particular skills – like Frypan Jack… I guess fried things a lot. Or Giant Leathery Wings Roland – who had giant batwings, naturally. And I thought I would give a number of hobo nicknames in my book… and that number was 700. That was all intended to be a kind of literary sight gag. You were not intended to read it. You were supposed to simply say ‘Oh, 700 hobo nicknames. That is a joke of superfluity.’

He joked that some “unbalanced” people did read them all and began drawing pictures of each hobo. When asked if he will do another list of 700 names in a future book, he says only if he thinks of such a good idea that he just has to do it. If possible, he will try to avoid it.

So after talking about hobos in the first book, people have been sending him hobo themed items. One actual product that he has discovered is Dick Van Patten’s Hobo Chili For Dogs. Besides the hobo chili, there are other ethnic varieties such as “Irish Stew” and “Chinese Take-Out.” The label on each can of dog food features Van Patten and a dog called “Chef Woofgang” in ethnically appropriate outfits. He says:

Now normally I would cheer such a sublimely unlikely product except for the fact that this was all true. Absolutely none of this was made up. And since you and I are friends, and you know what I do for a living, which is make up crazy fake trivia like – ‘What if Dick Van Patten is making dog food suddenly? And what if he went insane and started making ethnically and vagrantly themed dog food? And what if this was his new life? Wouldn’t that be an amusing joke? Yes it would be an amusing joke, UNLESS IT WERE TRUE! In which case, it’s an affront to my very living. It is as though Dick Van Patten is literally stealing food from my children’s mouths… and feeding it to ethnic dogs.

He also took questions from the audience and someone asked him about the time he accidentally twittered his personal cell phone number. One of his followers was kind enough to immediately text message him to tell him of his error so that he could delete the tweet, but his number is still out there. In fact, he still has the same phone number. To demonstrate this, he pulled out his phone (an iPhone, if you’re curious) and asked the audience if anyone had the number. Sure enough, his phone started ringing.

Another member of the audience asked if in real life he’s a Mac or a PC. He’s a Mac user (duh) and says that he has been since the 1980s. I think he’s so good at playing PC that people just get confused and forget he works for Apple.

If you can’t tell, I enjoyed this book signing immensely. It was truly one of the best bookstore events I’ve ever attended. I still can’t believe he spent an hour and a half talking with us. John was really generous with his time and he seems like a genuinely nice guy. And the best part? It was free! Seriously, check out Border’s website for events in your area. Where else can you spend an evening being entertained for free? It doesn’t get better than that.

(Photo: Courtesy of Kodamakitty on Flickr)

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