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John Hodgman has described himself as a former weird 13 year old, who has made a career appealing to the weird 13 year old in all of us. For many of us, he remains the belligerent personification of the failings of Microsoft products. For others he is the cool voice of absurd reason in our ear-buds every week. The through-line in all of this has been his sardonic, laconic wit, put on display in four previous books and this October he will add a fifth as he achieves Medallion Status.

 

Hodgman has said that he never expected to become famous. He was the last person to every expect to be famous. No one expects a bespectacled, bookish, nerdy type to become a national icon. Such people were not prepared for the nerd revolution that gripped the early millennium, of which Hodgman became a patron saint. A native of Massachusetts, he grew up an only child imbued with, as he tells it, all the selfishness that that situation permits. He has described his parents more as old roommates, who happily shared their favourite movies and books with this increasingly weird kid who happened to be in their home. 

 

His career started as a literary agent, where he represented horror movie icon Bruce Campbell among others. Through this job he began writing columns and small humorous essays for McSweeney's. This inspired in him to write a book that had been long simmering in his brain, a book inspired by the weird 13 year old he had curled up inside him, a book of lies masquerading as facts delivered with the straight face and earnestness of a bookish New Englander. This was An Almanac of Complete World Knowledge Compiled with Instructive Annotation and Arranged in Useful Order by myself, John Hodgman, a Professional Writer, in The Areas of My Expertise, which Include: Matters Historical, Matters Literary, Matters Cryptozoological, Hobo Matters, Food, Drink & Cheese (a Kind of Food), Squirrels & Lobsters & Eels, Haircuts, Utopia, What Will Happen in the Future, and Most Other Subjects. As the title might suggest, absurdity ran amok.

 

Here things might have ended for this whimsical nerd, were it not for an opportune interview on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart called his chapter on 700 hobo names, which lists the 700 most common hobo names, a "kind of genius," and Hodgman conducted the appearance in "character" as John Hodgman, Expert, for whom certainty is absolute. The segment was a hit, and Hodgman was invited to join The Daily Show as it's Resident Expert, appearing from time to time to lampoon whatever craziness was happening in the news as though it were normal and natural, and above all, Known To Be True.

 

Hodgman's international recognition came from his role as PC in the incredibly popular Apple "Get A Mac" ads, alongside Justin Long's Mac, where PC would flounder at simple tasks while Mac looked on with pity. These ads brought fame and fortune to Hodgman, and an unexpected, mid life career as a Famous Minor Television Celebrity, the character through which he wrote his second book and direct follow up to Expertise (the page numbers continue from the original, as though it were a single tome, For Your Consideration, The Firms of Dutton & Riverhead Books Present in the English Language: A Further Compendium of Complete World Knowledge in "The Areas Of My Expertise," Assembled and Illumined by Me, John Hodgman, A Famous Minor Television Personality, Offering More Information Than You Require On Subjects as Diverse as: The Past (as There Is Always More of It), The Future (as There Is Still Some Left), All of the Presidents of the United States, The Secrets of Hollywood, Gambling, The Sport of the Asthmatic Man (Including: Hermit-Crab Racing), Strange Encounters with Aliens, How to Buy a Computer, How to Cook an Owl, and Most Other Subjects

 

In these waning days of the aught decade, social media became prevalent and Hodgman used his Minor Fame to develop a large following on Twitter (@Hodgman) and later Instagram. As the Mac ads came to end, he began acting in earnest, appearing in small rolls in niche series like Flight of the Concords, Battlestar Galactica, and Bored to Death. During this period he took on a new character, a Deranged Millionaire, and in this guise wrote the final book of complete world knowledge, That Is All, which while still featuring the absurdest humour of the others is also a meditative and somber examination of sudden and unexpected fame. He released a Netflix comedy special to promoted the book, Ragnarok, which has since been removed to avoid confusion with the most recent Thor movie. As Jon Stewart left the Daily Show, so too did Hodgman. And then he did as many white dudes in the 10s were want to do: he started a podcast.

 

Judge John Hodgman is a comedy justice podcast, set up like court TV shows like Judge Judy. Real people submit petty and hilarious disputes on which Hodgman listens to their arguments, cracks jokes, and issues rulings. For nearly a decade, he has dispensed swift justice weekly from his chambers in Brooklyn on the Maximum Fun network. And through his Fake Internet Court he has built up a large backlog of Settled Law: hotdogs are not sandwiches, about which he debated Stephen Colbert; weird dads are the font of all embarrassment to children in the world; and husbands always come up with systems to make things easier which in practice never make things easier and are nearly always the wrong way of doing anything. 

 

In the last decade, Hodgman has continued to be a part time actor, most recently appearing in the second season of Amazon's The Tick, but he has largely dropped the characters of his past and is now just Hodgman, a weird 13 year old turned Weird Dad. He wrote of these experiences in 2017's Vacationland, which began as a one man show and series of essays on his teenage children, the summers that his family spend in Maine (a world of Painful Beaches), and losing his parents at different times in his life. The book is his personal crisis of discovering the "awful truth of my life, which is that I am a strange, white, male monster with bad facial hair staring down what... I hope is the beginning of the second half of my life and not the brief, final tenth."

 

This month he releases a companion volume, Medallion Status in which he details his new career as a professional Delta Airlines passenger while crossing North America on book tours, taking acting jobs, and dispensing Live Justice for performances of the his podcast. Where Vacationland looked as this personal life as an aging man, Medallion Status will examine the second act of a career he never expected to have and still is uncertain if he earned, as objectified by his Delta medallion status and access to the privileged and secretive Delta Sky Club (which, I highly recommend his appearance on the Dough Boys podcast in which they review the buffet of the Sky Lounge).

 

Those near to the GTA have the opportunity to see some Live Justice this November, as Judge John Hodgman and his bailiff Max Fun founder Jesse Thorn come to the Danforth Music Hall for a night of good clean rulings and musical accompaniment. I have seen Hodgman live three times, and his wit is no less weird, his delivery no less straight, but his empathy so much more on display. 

 

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Yours, Fictionally

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