John Hodgman

From JoCopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Kellogg Hodgman (born June 3 [1], 1971) is an American author and humorist who is best known for his personification of a PC in Apple's "Get a Mac" advertising campaign and his correspondent work on Comedy Central's "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart". He has also written for McSweeney's, worked as a literary agent (his clients included actor Bruce Campbell and Supergroup member and author Darin Strauss), and guest-starred as the "deranged millionaire" for They Might Be Giants on the videos for their "Venue Songs" album.

Hodgman and Jonathan Coulton became friends after meeting as freshmen at Yale University. They have worked together on many projects.

Little Gray Book Lectures

For a period of time beginning around 2001 or 2002 and ending in 2005, Hodgman served as master of ceremonies for a series of variety lectures, with Jonathan as "musical director." The notion of the lecture series was based on a series of useful How-To booklets issued in the early 20th Century with charmingly archaic titles. Each Little Gray Book lecture had a theme and featured a selection of guests. These lectures included readings by authors, novelty demonstrations, comedy and music. Most of the Little Gray Book lectures took place at the Galapagos Art Space, in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn NY.

The only nearly-complete recording of a Little Gray Book lecture is the one made of Lecture 29, on the topic of radio. [[1]] The lecture took place in Philadelphia, in order to take advantage of radio-quality sound recording at the Indre Studio. [[2]] However, a total of seven of the lectures were at least partially recorded and released as podcasts. These podcasts were compiled by Jonathan Coulton and John Hodgman and bookmarked with inventive fictional settings and events as described by the two of them. Each podcast reprised readings, songs, or amusing happenings from seven specific past lectures.

Several of Jonathan's songs were written for the lectures or the podcasts, including Skullcrusher Mountain, The Future Soon, Furry Old Lobster, The Presidents, and Brookline, the last of which was prompted by the lecture in Hodgman's hometown of Brookline, Massachusetts.

These lectures included:

  • 1 How to Begin an Important Project
  • 2 Hints on Public Singing
  • 3 How to Spell Several Common Words
  • 4 How Can We Possibly Go On? (post- 9/11)
  • 6 How to Choose (or Make) the Perfect Gift
  • 7 Secrets of Self-Improvement
  • 8 How to Throw a Curveball
  • 10 How and When to Tell a Lie
  • 11 Europe vs. America
  • 12 Great Rivalries in American Spelling
  • 14 How to Speak with Strangers
  • 15 How to ReDistribute Wealth and Joy
  • 16 How to Pour the Perfect Werthmann
  • 17 How to Generate a Winning Character
  • 23 Brookline: the Town that Has Everything Yet at the Same Time Has Nothing
  • 24 Strange Gifts from Far-Off Lands
  • 25 The Animals: Are They Our Enemies?
  • 26 Secrets of the Secret Agents
  • 28 How to Lead a Double Life (or Death)
  • 29 How to Communicate Without the Aid of Wires
  • 30 How to Observe President's Day, Observed
  • 31 How to Commit the Perfect Crime
  • 32 How to Prepare Manuscripts for Publications [[3]]
  • 33 How to Rest Quietly (technically not a lecture, but the title of the Hiatus announcement found currently on the Little Gray Book Lectures website.)

Other titles of lectures (numbers unknown) include:

  • How to Negotiate All Kinds of Deals and Contracts
  • How to Measure Misunderstood Evil Genius
  • What Will Happen in the Future?

The Areas of My Expertise

As his debut as an author, Hodgman wrote the book The Areas of My Expertise, a humorous "almanac" of distorted, misinterpreted, or merely erroneous facts, based in part on material from the Little Gray Book lectures. Jonathan accompanied him on the promotional book tour, typically being called upon to perform "Furry Old Lobster".

A large portion of the book pertains to a mythical history of hoboes, including a list of "700 Hobo Names." A promotional track, released on the book's website, has Hodgman reading the entire list aloud while Jonathan plays an acoustic version of "Big Rock Candy Mountain", as the website has it, "live, for an hour, one take." This track also makes up one entire CD of the "Areas of My Expertise" audiobook, which also features Coulton exchanging banter with Hodgman and performing "Furry Old Lobster".

It has been revealed that Areas is actually the first book in a trilogy planned by Hodgman.[2] On June 23rd, John attended a reading for Darin Strauss' new book and read a sample of his upcoming second book More Information Than You Require, and has since indicated on Twitter [3] that there will be a book tour in October, similar to the Little Gray Book lectures, and that Jonathan will be involved in some parts of the tour. [4]

Attack of the Show

Also as part of the "Areas of My Expertise" promotional tour, in February of 2006, Hodgman and Coulton appeared on "Attack of the Show," a tech-related show which runs daily on G4. During their appearance, Coulton again performed "Furry Old Lobster."

Thing A Week Liner Notes

Hodgman also wrote the liner notes for the four Thing A Week CDs.


  1. "Happy Birthday, John!", on awryone's blog
  2. The Areas of My Expertise (paperback), page 252. Note that this is in the appendix, which is exclusive to the paperback edition.
  3. Twitter post #1
  4. Twitter post #2