Comedian John Hodgman predicted the end of the world in his book of fake trivia, 2012’s “That Is All.” He was clearly wrong about our demise, but the fact that he, as he puts it, “was not saved from middle age by the apocalypse,” led him to develop new material for a stand-up comedy routine, making for the most personal comedy set Hodgman has tackled.
“The show opens with me literally disrobing,” Hodgman says. “I don’t get naked, but I take off a lot of various guises and disguises that I’ve worn over the course of my career, whether that’s an insane author of fake history or the Resident Expert or the Deranged Millionaire from (the Comedy Central TV show) “The Daily Show” or the PC from the Apple ad. I really strip down to what’s left when the world doesn’t end — and that’s just me.”
Hodgman brings his acerbic brand of humor to Atlanta Sept. 6 for a show at Erickson Clock. He talked to us from Maine about developing his act, his close encounter with Robin Williams and waiting for late-night phone calls from NPR’s Ira Glass.
You’ve appeared in Atlanta several times. What’s your impression of the city as a performer?
Georgia has always been a very hospitable place to perform. Atlanta’s a city that I know somewhat well because my wife grew up there. Her father and stepmother live there and we’ve visited.
It’s a very young and smart city, let me put it that way. And a media savvy city, because it has become the Hollywood of the American South with all the filming that’s going on there. It’s a very interesting place to visit and to perform in.
Can you tease your stand-up show? Is it stuff we’ve seen from you before or mostly new material?
I realized as I went into last year that if I write another book, that I don’t know what it would be. But I have been very much enjoying performing on stage more than almost anything else. And traveling through Atlanta with (“The Daily Show” correspondent) Al Madrigal in particular gave me a new taste for and a new experience for doing real stand-up comedy. That is to say, getting up there and performing material that was not designed to be anywhere else, not designed to be in a book or an episode of “The Daily Show” but was designed to be revealed to the audience in that moment live and onstage, and to find material in that room as well, that is perhaps the most energizing kind of writing that I’ve done.
After Robin Williams died, you tweeted, “Every time I hear a siren I still say ‘that’s my ride.’ Thank you Robin Williams. I wish your ride had not arrived.” You also mentioned that you had the opportunity to meet him but didn’t. Can you tell that story?
I had spoken at the TED conference in 2008 and Robin Williams was there. I was in a room, in a reception and I was eating as many pigs-in-blankets as I could out of sheer disbelief that I was in that room. And Robin Williams was over in a corner doing his incredibly accurate Robin Williams impersonation. I mean, he was just being really funny for a bunch of people. He loved any audience just as much as he hated not having an audience, that was what he despaired. And part of the reason I didn’t go over to say hello was that I was shy. Part of it was that I still didn’t understand how I had ended up in that room, on television, involved in a comedy community I had always appreciated merely as a consumer for many years. And then part of it was something I’ve realized since I’ve tweeted that — which is that I thought he would always be there, you know?
You did a funny cameo on “Parks and Recreation” earlier this year where you played August Clementine, host of an NPR-like radio show. Did your NPR buddies weigh in on your performance?
No one mentioned it. I did not get a middle of the night drunken call from (“This American Life” host) Ira Glass cursing me out. (“Radiolab” host) Jad Abrumad did not get mad at me. I do think that I and (actor) Dan Castellaneta had a little bit of a Jad Abumrad-Robert Krulwich Radiolab vibe.
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