I spoke to Daily Show contributor (and person you might recognize from standing next to Justin Long on television) John Hodgman on Tuesday, and I started the conversation seeking his expertise as a deranged millionaire on why fellow rich person Mitt Romney seems to be having trouble grabbing the Republican nomination, before moving on to end of humanity, soccer, and the perils of zeppelin ownership.
John Hodgman will perform at the Rialto Theatre with John Roderick (of the excellent band The Long Winters) and live muralist Joe Pagac on Saturday night.
JH: Why are all these citizens intent on keeping this simple deranged billionaire from winning this nomination? As a deranged millionaire, I’m offended.
DG: Are you sympathetic to his plight?
JH: Yes! Of course I am. He has the money to buy this thing. It has been said to you people time and time again, but yet he keeps getting thwarted. Why? Because of your preference? Since when have national elections been about your preference?
DG: Not recently, at least.
JH: I think it says something something very sad about America, when a billionaire has the financial and structural advantage and the friends who own NASCAR teams can’t even get a lousy presidential nomination. What does that say about our country?
DG: That we don’t regard wealth the way we should, I suppose.
JH: It’s just another symptom that something has gone horribly wrong.
DG: Considering your expertise on the end of the world, do you think our forthcoming doom might help to restore the wealthy to their proper place?
JH: What end of the world do you mean? What definition are you using?
DG: I was thinking for the bloodwave and the dogs and such that you discuss in your book. In that case, since the wealthy have a distinct survival advantage, will that help to restore the proper order that what we call Earth?
JH: I see. Well, look, there is a period of tribulation called Ragnarök, which as you say, encompasses the sonic pulse, the bloodwave, and the collapse of human civilization, the wealthy and the athletic will hold certain advantages. The athletic will be to, unlike, thrive and punch and kick and breathe without the assistance of an asthma inhaler, in a world without laws. And, of course, the wealthy will be able to build exoskeletons for themselves. The great equalizer will be the end of the end of the world, which the Mayans predict to be December 21, 2012. The end of human time, which is, to say, the end of our universe. Will this happen precisely on December 21st? When the world will be flooded with fire, leaving only John Cusack alive? I’m willing to hedge my bets. Death will claim all of us, rich and poor, jock and nerd, exoskeletoned and non-exoskeletoned alike. At least until the singularity comes. So it’s really basically a race between the singularity and Ragnarök.
DG: There are probably not going to be many wealthy or athletic people at your show at the Rialto, so should they see this as an amusement to pass the time before their certain doom?
JH: No more an amusement than every amusement we use to get us by before our certain doom. Stories and music and love affairs. Myths and stories and traditions. Cars and sports. All of those things that give us pleasure in this life before it is no more. I want to be clear, however, that my program will not purely dwell on the morbid. I will also be discussing other things that fascinated a forty year old man like myself, like wine, wealth and sports. Everyone will enjoy that. Everyone will enjoy my perspective on basesball (editor’s note: this is how he said the name of the sport, not a typographical error) from my particular non-athletic perspective.
DG: I find the analysis of sports by those who have no ability to play it whatsoever to be superior to those who have the burdens of those who have participated in the activity itself.
JH: Precisely so. We have the ability to look at it from the viewpoint of the Dungeons & Dragons player sitting on the side of the gym. We watch it through the clear eyes of those who cannot climb a rope or leap a hurdle, but we see it for what it is, in its beauty. Athletes are very skilled creatures and we see it for its arbitrary strangeness. For example, soccer is the most simplest of sports and very popular, but take away the ball and it’s essentially the ancient non-sport of standing on a field and running quickly back and forth.
DG: You’re actually competing with soccer on Saturday night for an audience, so perhaps this would be a good opportunity to badmouth the game itself.
JH: What is the name of the Tucsonan soccer team?
DG: We don’t have one of our own, at least professionally, but they’re having spring training here.
JH: So, Tucson is the Kissimmee, Florida of soccer?
DG: Yes, we used to be the Kissimmee, Florida of baseball, but then that was stolen from us.
JH: I’m sorry about that, but are you suggesting that my work is so esoteric, strange and nerdy that it might even be beaten by soccer? In America on a Saturday night?
DG: I’m just saying that you might want to take that into consideration. This could be your chance to convince people to not enjoy soccer, although for some Americans, they have not being enjoying soccer for some time.
JH: No, no, no. I want people to enjoy whatever they want to enjoy. It is not that I dislike sports. I like many sports and I will occasionally enjoy a televised match of basesball. With its sluggish pace and chess-like strategy and the body type and the strange facial hair of the basesball player, it is inherently the preferred sport of the nerd. I will often enjoy a nap to the sound of a basesball game on the radio. I just reject the cultural imperative that I must enjoy sports to be normal, and anyone who would look at me, with my mustache and sunglasses, barefeet and tuxedo will realize that I am perfectly normal.
DG: Well, I think as a millionaire, you do have the privilege of deciding what’s normal.
JH: You’re absolutely right. The eccentricity that I used to cultivate merely as a geek, a nerd, a reader of books, a lover of Borges, and a drinker of strange gins, that all used to make me an object of scorn. Until I just made a little bit of money. Then nothing matter anymore but my own bizarre tastes. It’s true that money can’t buy you happiness, but what money can buy you is the ability to no longer care what other people think. I don’t mean to imply that I have the sort of wealth where I can purchase my own private airplane; in fact, my personal zeppelin, christened the “Hubris”, is in terribly disrepair at the moment. Apparently you cannot have open fires on a zeppelin. Did you know that?
DG: I did not.
JH: If someone had told me about that fact that zeppelins and fire didn’t mix, if there had been even the slightest historical precedent, I would have done things very differently.
DG: Our government clearly has failed us by not informing you of that danger.
JH: You would think something like that would be common knowledge. The reality is that when I accidentally went from being the writer of magazine articles and a moonlighter in fake trivia to a very famous minor television personality I gained a measure of financial independence that I never thought I’d have. It’s distastefully liberating. You don’t want to think that’s what it takes to feel good. You want to think that you can find happiness inside you no matter your circumstances. It’s shameful the level of mental health I enjoyed when I needn’t worry about money.
DG: I can only imagine, since I haven’t experienced that.
JH: And you never will.
DG: I picked the wrong profession.
JH: That and I’ve chosen to destroy you. Just be thankful I haven’t instead selected you for my human chess game.