Like a perfectly normal person, John Hodgman prowls the vast data tubes of the internet late at night…in his underwear….stuffing himself with kimchi. He devours factoids ranging from esoteric to culturally pertinent. While the kimchi alone might self-sustain the insomnia, in Mr. Hodgman's case it's his obsession with Ragnarök…or the end of the world, y'know 2012.
You may remember him from such advertisements as PC vs. Mac…where he played square PC to hip Justin Long's Mac, thus guilt-nerding you into worshipping the creations of Steve Jobs and Co. As an actor and public intellectual, he's appeared on The Daily Show, among others. He's bigger than that now. Better. Weirder. More Mustachioed. Effectively deranged. Oh, and he's got a new book out, That is All , which he'll be hawking and signing at the Largo at the Coronet tonight with some special guests, including Mr. Show's Paul F. Tomkins and Mad Men's Rich Sommer.
Mr. Hodgman's book, That is All, the third and final of his compendium of fake complete world knowledge, might as well be a paper Wikipedia (what did we call those again?) written by a paint-huffing lunatic gifted with erudition. The trilogy, published by Dutton, began with The Areas of My Expertise and continued with More Information than You Require; so for the third installment, Hodgman doesn't even bother starting over the page numbering (That is All begins with page 599). In one sense, this is haute factoidism, and in another, this is the greatest page a day calendar ever made. In fact, it is a page a day calendar…just don't rip out the pages yet…you may need them when Ragnarök rolls around. And, according to Hodgman, it's coming.
Mr. Hodgman was kind enough to take time out of his book tour schedule to speak with LA Weekly. Due to the technological limitations on Hodgman's book tour Yankee clipper ship, a proper Q&A devolved into short questions, followed by long-winded Hodgmaniac responses.
Mr. Hodgman. Can you tell me a bit about being a deranged millionaire? Specifically on how to become one. Oh, and I love the mustache, by the way.
Thank you very much. You are a person who believes that. I can only answer that question for myself, and the best way to do that is to go on television. If, like me, you are a freelance writer, write a book of fake trivia, then go on The Daily Show as a guest and in a haze of sheer panic, do a not-terrible job such as they ask you to come back, then accidentally get an audition for a commercial that you would never in a million years expect to get…then get the job…then all of sudden you have, not a million dollars but financial independence for the first time in your life and a significant change in how you live. You go from being someone who loves television and movies to someone who is now inside of those things to the point you become completely deranged.
Financial independence-induced mania sounds awesome. So are you at the point where you're saving your beard clippings, or stashing your urine in jars?
First of all, I wish I could grow a beard. If I could grow a beard, you would not be staring at a weird mustache, believe me. Every whisker you see on my face is every whisker I can grow. In the deranged millionaire department, Howard Hughes has one over on me. In the book I do talk about the importance of hoarding your own urine. For a deranged millionaire, it's not just stylish to do, but also it's useful. As we move forward towards the coming collapse — a lot of tentacles will be coming into your life very soon — your urine will be very useful. High nitrogen and ammonia content aside — you can just put it in a bottle and spray people with it. Oh, and you can use it to test who in your survival bunker may be stealing your asparagus.
That said, even though I have almost fully convinced myself to hoard my own urine…I haven't even started yet. I guess I'm not fully committed to survival. There are times in your life when you see yourself very clearly. Like, when you become obsessed with the internet and you find yourself getting out of bed at two in the morning to read to Legion of the Superheroes trivia on your phone while shoveling kimchi into your mouth…wearing only your underwear…with the drapes open so all of your neighbors can see you….there are times like that when I think I'm acting totally normal…then I realize I am a deranged Howard Hughes like figure.
You shouldn't worry too much about the urine, if you're a deranged millionaire, couldn't you probably commission a stillsuit?
You're right, I had never really thought of that. I have a feeling, that if you thought about — did a little thought experiment — I'll bet there are millionaires out there with stillsuits.
It's a perfectly reasonable assumption.
I made a joke in the book about in the end times scenarios that I've mapped out, you are probably not going to survive the end times unless you have a golden ticket to one of Oprah's secret space arks. I asked my friend Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, if it was ok for me to make that joke — I'm going to say that Oprah is building secret space arks filled with the thousand people with whom she wants to repopulate humanity. To make it democratic, she's going to put ten golden tickets in random copies of Eat, Pray, Love for people that get to go on the space ark.
Liz laughed, but then I thought about it — and I realized: why wouldn't Oprah build a space ark? You know from her show that she's interested in unproven marginal theories — like Jenny McCarthy's ideas that vaccines cause autism, and psychic phenomena on cable television. So, she's probably heard the same stuff I have about the Mayan calendar and 2012 being the end of the world, and she might reasonably be concerned about it. Given her propensity to take woo-woo crazy stuff kind of half-seriously. Even if she doesn't necessarily believe in Ragnarok, she does have unlimited funds. So given those things, why wouldn't she build a space ark?
Again, another perfectly reasonable assumption.
Oh, the other thing about Oprah, is that she's got an amazing staff. Let's say you and I worry about endtimes — well let's say you, because I'm deranged — if you worry about the end of the world and you are sure that it's happening, there are still things you will not do for fear of embarrassment. Society is going to collapse, but you're still going to be too embarrassed to start washing your hair with mayonnaise and dirt. But if you're Oprah and you have a staff that will insulate you from the appearance of ape-poop insanity, why wouldn't you get it started? Why wouldn't she call up her assistant and say, “I dunnno, I've read some things and watched some internet videos…I don't know…it's probably not going to happen, but just in case, why don't you get started on a space ark…because I would feel better.”
Of course you would do that, and so would you! Even if you were only 5 percent sure. It would be rather naïve to imagine that Oprah doesn't have an Earth Evacuation Plan. You know Richard Branson does — his is in plain sight. And I said as much to Elizabeth Gilbert on the phone…so she laughed a bit…then she laughed little bit too long, then she immediately said she had to go. And now I think that she might already have a ticket.
[Where could this interview possibly go from there? Mr. Hodgman did spend a minute explaining the other benefits of being a public figure:]
I'm hanging out with Dick Cavett, I'm on TV, I'm twitter pals with Vernon Reid from Living Colour. I've got my favorite room at Chateau Marmont. They know to pour me the Plymouth Gin when I come by — it's all very fancy. But, it wasn't so long ago that I remember what it's like to be — and I'm not going to say human garbage — but let's say 'normal'…like you. I remember what that's like. And here's the other thing: I may be a deranged millionaire, but I'm not a deranged billionaire. So there's that.
In our hour-long conversation — I asked him a bit about Los Angeles and what he may do while he's here. I suggested the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Hodgman admitted that while an article about the museum inspired his books, he fears that knowing the museum actually exists may cause his world to completely collapse. Also, like a good deranged millionaire, he doesn't really plan to leave the Chateau Marmont while he's here.
I know for sure he'll be leaving it once, for the Largo at the Coronet tonight. During the event, there might even be some music. There will be no golden tickets to Oprah's space ark, however, or so I was told…
Follow @LAWeeklyArts on Twitter.