If you consume media in any way, chances are you’ve heard of and are a fan of John Hodgman. Though the actor, author, and humorist has written a number of books, you might recognize him as a beloved The Daily Show guest and correspondent, “The Deranged Millionaire” from They Might Be Giant’s Venue Songs, or the PC foil to Justin Long’s Mac in Apple’s “Get a Mac” mid-2000s campaign. Hodgman has also made appearances in shows and films like Battlestar Galactica, Flight of the Conchords, Bored to Death, The Venture Bros, Adventure Time, The Thrilling Adventure Hour, Married, Parks and Recreation, Coraline, and Pitch Perfect 2. He’s performed stand-up as a plethora of brilliant characters, contributed to McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, The New York Times, and This American Life. And if all that isn’t enough to show just how clever Hodgman is, he also hosts a weekly court show podcast where he, as the honorable Judge John Hodgman, settles disputes between call-in guests.
And now, John Hodgman is traveling around the country on his new tour, Vacationland. It’s a very personal show, and the first one where he is just John, not a Resident Expert or Deranged Millionaire type. In Hodgman’s own words, “It is about Maine and Massachusetts and river witches and garbage dumps and white privilege and death, and at the end I sing “Roadrunner” by Jonathan Richman.” We were thrilled to hear Hodgman was bringing a new personal twist to his comedy (get tickets and location info here!), and so we sent him some silly questions to answer in honor of the new tour. We were not disappointed.
Nerdist: A few weeks ago, you stopped by Jon Stewart’s final Daily Show episode to send him off in style. What was that night like, getting the entire correspondent gang back together?
John Hodgman: It was like a strange dream: all of those people shoved into the crew lounge. Here was Colbert and Ed Helms singing together. There’s them Corddry Bros, and the Jones-Bees, and Wyatt and Oliver and Jordan Klepper, my colleagues and friends. But over there by the bathroom taking a selfie are Steve Carell and Nancy Walls and Mo Rocca and Vance DeGeneres, the correspondents that defined TDS back when I watched it as just a fan of comedy television. And here I am plowing into the pastrami tray with Lewis Black while Kristen Schall looks on in horror. It was surreal. I kept trying to figure out what all these incredibly talented people were doing in the same place. Was there one thing, one person who could possibly connect them all?
Try as I might, I never did figure it out because all of a sudden we were all told we had to run into the next room to dance in front of Bruce Springsteen. That was the most ordinary part of the night.
N: Are you a big Bruce Springsteen fan? I felt like we were kindred spirits when I watched you geeking out and taking video of The Boss’ performance at the end of the episode.
JH: It is strange. I always resonated more, say, with the Tom Waits Jersey Girl than the Springsteen version. I appreciate how important he is as an artist, and he seems like the nicest guy. But for me, “Born To Run” wasn’t so much a Springsteen song so much as it was the song Jon would always, always play before the show began. I would hear it every time I was on the show, hiding in the wing, waiting to go on. So when I heard them play it at sound check, I couldn’t help but cry. I knew what it meant to Jon, and I knew what Jon meant to me. And when he asked us to come out for the performance, I couldn’t help but dance like crazy, even though I was sloshing around literally 7 pounds of pastrami in my gut.
N: It’s been kind of a month of bittersweet endings… The Thrilling Adventure Hour also just aired its final episode ever. What are some of your favorite moments from your appearances on the show?
JH: That’s another family of amazing performers I’m just grateful I got to be around. As much as the fans got from everyone on stage, the truth is, they only saw half the show. The other half was the backstage hang, the weird riffs, the decency, the incredible Paul F Tompkins outfits, the hum of people doing something just for fun. It was the closest thing to a real-life Muppet Show that I will ever experience.
I never got to do my Edgar Oliver voice. I should have deployed it on the April Fool’s episode when I had to play Croach. I regret it very much. Google Edgar Oliver to know what I am talking about and to enjoy some good stories.
N: My boyfriend is always trying to come up with epic arguments for us to get into so we can be guests on your podcast. Do you often have folks come up to you on the street hoping to catch a glimpse of the honorable Judge John Hodgman?
JH: I’m grateful that people do occasionally approach me regarding the podcast. One time it happened in ENGLAND, which is a foreign country.
It is nice, because Jesse and Julia and I put a lot of work into it. But in truth, we get a lot out of it, too, because we get to talk to interesting people all over the world (ENGLAND!) and learn about their weird and interesting ways.
It’s more gratifying, I think, because Judge John Hodgman was the first thing I did that was just me. No fake fact expert; no deranged millionaire. Just an actual human named John Hodgman with thoughts and feelings and strong opinions that happen to be correct all the time. (eg: a hot dog is NOT a sandwich)
That’s the John Hodgman who is hitting the road this fall on my Vacationland tour (johnhodgman.com/tour). It’s more straightforward and personal and frankly truer in every sense than everything I’ve done.
If I may, I’m very proud of this John Hodgman performance. And honestly, I’m the best John Hodgman there is. Those other John Hodgman impersonators are terrible.
N: I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the world still hasn’t ended. As an expert on the apocalypse, do you have any insight as to why that might be?
JH: It is true that I predicted the end of the world in my Netflix special based on the ancient Mayan long count calendar and my own visions I had when I bathed in absinthe. But it did not happen. I blame the ancient Mayans. Those guys weren’t so smart, it turns out. They didn’t even know how to make smooth pyramids.
N: When are we getting the Pitch Perfect spinoff starring your character and The Tonehangers, and what would your mic-drop a cappella song be?
JH: I’m going to start shooting the Tonehangers movie this winter. I don’t think I need to get permission. I’m pretty sure everyone will be cool with it. And as for my mic-drop a cap jam? “No Children” by Mountain Goats.
John Hodgman’s new tour Vacationland is currently touring these United States. For dates, locations, and tickets, head over to John’s official site. And if you have an argument to settle, call the honorable judge — he knows his stuff.
Rachel Heine is the Editor in Chief of Nerdist. Follow her on Twitter @RachelHeine.
IMAGES: John Hodgman