Category Archives: Comedian

John Hodgman

Author and Comedian John Hodgman

John Hodgman is a comedian and writer whose most recent book is That is All (2011). Odds are you have probably seen him on The Daily Show or may recall the fact that he played the “Windows PC” on those “I’m a Mac; and I’m a PC” commercials. If those are the only mediums you know him from, I would encourage you to check out his contributions to NPR’s This American Life, which are actually pretty good.

Recently Mr. Hodgman (wiki; Twitter) did a show in Morris, MN, and even though I was unable to make the first two hours (I had to speak at a banquet) I was able to cut the drive back a bit short and make the last 45 minutes or so. Unfortunately, after the show when I was approaching him for a giraffe, my colleague Lucas Felts beat me to the punch – and what was I supposed to do? Ask for a second giraffe?

Please.

Let’s not flood the Hodgman giraffe market, now.

He's trying to look grumpy. I just have chronic grump-face.

So I simply sunk away, thinking that I would never get a chance to share a few words with one of my favorite comedians (I was actually invited to have lunch with him before the show but couldn’t make it as I was at the aforementioned banquet). After hanging around long enough chatting with friends, I ran into someone I knew who was Mr. Hodgman’s guide around campus and he was willing to let me into Mr. Hodgman’s green room  to get an autograph.

This is the conversation as I recall it; I assure you it is neither interesting nor funny. If anything, it provides insight into how awful of a conversationalist I am (hence this website’s ability for me to BS small talk).

Closing the door behind me, I leaned in to shake his hand: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, John.” As the words slip from my lips, my inner Southern Gentleman regrets being so informal. Who am I to refer to him by his first name? It’s not like we’re friends. I’m just some dude. Now I feel like I have to overcompensate: “Uh, well … I was hoping you could sign my copy of … The Chomsky-Foucault Debate (2006).”

He looks at it for a moment, silent.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t actually own a copy of your book,” I say. It was either Chomsky-Foucault, which is actually a pretty good read, or Augustine’s Confessions.

Studying the cover, “Of course. In fact, I shall sign it in this orange crayon that happens to be lying right here.”

Yeah, we’re clearly a public school.

"Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault ... And John Hodgman"

Unable to think of an exciting question, I remembered that he had referenced in his set the fact that he went to Yale. “When you studied at your own accredited four-year institution, what was it you studied?”

“I studied literary studies, so this isn’t exactly too far removed of what I did. I don’t remember this debate specifically, but it was this kind of stuff that came up a lot.”

“Yeah, well I would like to thank you for taking the time to sign my book. Also, I just wanted to say that I really enjoyed your show … even though I didn’t feel as though there were enough Foucault references.”

Hell, there aren’t enough Foucault references in general.

“Oh ….”

“… So it goes, I guess.”

“Well, next time I’m around I’ll be sure to throw some in just for you.”

“I’d really appreciate that. It was a pleasure meeting you, sir, and I’ll be sure to get out of your hair because I know you have to fly out in the morning.”

We snap a photograph. He makes an effort to appear grumpy. I have chronic grump-face and can’t help it.

“It was nice meeting you, sir.”

“It was a pleasure meeting you as well.”

And that’s the time I told John Hodgman he didn’t reference Michel Foucault enough.

Also, it was when I realized that tea cup pigs are freaking adorable.

Writer and Comedian Paul Provenzas Pretty Awful Giraffe 4 22 11

Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

Paul Provenza is a comedian, filmmaker and writer perhaps best known for his long list of acting roles and 2005 documentary The Aristocrats, which is about the infamous joke of the same name. For those who may be not familiar with it,

Comedian and Filmmaker Paul Provenza

“The Aristocrats” is a longstanding transgressive joke amongst comedians, in which the setup and punchline are almost always the same (or similar). It is the joke’s midsection – which may be as long as the one telling it prefers and is often completely improvised – that makes or breaks a particular rendition [Wikipedia].

For those in the audience comfortable with vulgarity in its many films, it’s something that I would recommend; for the queasy, you should probably refrain. Here’s the trailer [SFW]:

So following my traumatic experience with Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Gary Snyder, I have actually become a little nervous when soliciting giraffes (and yes, I am not blind to the irony of this). Thus I have been working to develop new approaches that will (hopefully) make me feel like less of a tool in my quest to Catch ‘Em All. Obviously it’s a work in progress, but my experience with Provenza may have led me on to the slyest approach yet ….

One of the guests at the 2011 America Atheists Convention, Provenza did a brief reading from his book ¡Satiristas! (2010). Catching him as he was leaving the room, I pulled him aside to ask a few questions about his work (his documentary was a Holy Grail of Naughty in my neighborhood). Slowly edging himself away to make a book signing, I seized the opportunity and asked him if I could have his autograph. Happy to do so, he wrote a nice note (“Fight the Imaginary Power!”) punctuated with what I can only assume to be his name. While he still had the pen in hand, I decided to strike:

“… And draw me a giraffe?”

He looked up from the paper, “what?”

“A giraffe. It’s for the internet.”

He just looked at me. What else was there to say?

I’ve never tried to do the Aristocrats joke myself, but I’m sure it would go something like this: “A family of giraffes walk into a talent agency hoping to be a part of the best agency in the country, capable of scheduling a meeting without much delay (they’re fucking giraffes i.e. hard to miss) one agent asks to see their act … [UPON REFLECTION - DELETED] … And that’s why this giraffe’s neck hurts.”