John Hodgman is an unlikely guy to become famous, and he knows it. “Anyone who has looked at my face knows that my destiny was not to be in film. I can only play villains and creeps because I look weird on camera,” he says. This hasn’t stopped him from pursuing the limelight and the status that comes with “minor celebrity,” as he describes it.
The bestselling author, actor, podcaster, one-time literary agent at Writers House, PC guy on Mac ads, and The Daily Show Resident Expert and Deranged Billionaire is back with more reports from the road in Medallion Status: True Stories and Complimentary Upgrades (Viking, Oct.). A sort of follow-up to his award-winning Vacationland, this one explores the strange, surreal world of being a somewhat famous person.
“Fame came unexpectedly to me. I am consistently cast as the psychotic psychiatrist who wants to pull his patients’ teeth out, the slightly pervy best friend, or the terrible FBI investigator. And groomed the right way, I can start looking like Hitler pretty quick. But as I traveled through celebrity a little bit at a time, kind of like a tourist, I thought, this can’t possibly last,” he says.
And it didn’t. His TV show Married was canceled, Jon Stewart left The Daily Show, and suddenly he wasn’t flying back and forth from Los Angeles anymore. He saw his celebrity ebbing away. He no longer received the invitations to the lounges where stars—even the “minorly famous,” he points out—are offered bespoke Italian shoes and designer jeans. “That’s a hard thing to give up,” Hodgman admits.
“Unless you are a natural sociopath who believes the world owes you everything, you don’t believe you deserve fame precisely until the moment that prolonged exposure trains you into being a sociopath and believing it will never end, and that’s when it ends,” he says. That’s when you find yourself trying to replace lost status with bogus airline frequent flyer status, something he discovered during a long dark night at 3 a.m. He realized that he could upgrade from Platinum Medallion level to Diamond Medallion level on Delta if he went on a pointless flight to L.A. just to get the qualifying miles.
But you don’t have to worry about Hodgman. He’s moved on, thank you very much. He hosts a weekly podcast called Judge John Hodgman, is a recurring guest star in season two of Amazon’s The Tick (released last month), voices the character John D. Rockerduck in Disney’s DuckTales, and is wrapping up on a short-form animated show with David Rees for FX. Best of all, Hodgman says, “I have a very dedicated contingent of weird precocious 13-year-olds that follow me. And lately I am Instagramming Silly Putty encroaching on toys in time lapse. This may be my new career, considering the great response.”
Today, 2–3 p.m. John Hodgman will sign ARCs at Table 4.
Today, 3:30–4:05 p.m. Hodgman will be on the “Laugh Out Loud” panel, on the Downtown Stage.