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Morning Shift

Comedian John Hodgman Gets Real In ‘Vacationland’

Comedian John Hodgman might be mostly known as a regular correspondent on The Daily Show during the Jon Stewart era. He channeled part of his Daily Show personae into a series of books that spouted thousands of facts — all of them fake.

Now, Hodgman has reached the point where he’s comfortable telling real stories in his new memoir, Vacationland. The comedian talked to Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia about why he decided to write about himself.

Here are some interview highlights.

On ‘Vacationland’

John Hodgman: The book follows my real-word, awkward adventures through three different wildernesses where I do not belong. I am a creature of civilization. I am an asthmatic, weird nerd, only child from Boston, Massachusetts. But I spent a lot of my youth in the rural part of the state in western Massachusetts. And then, more recently, I’ve been spending more time in my wife’s part of the world — the painful beaches of coastal Maine, where, she has instructed me, I’ll accept my death.

And between the youth and the death is the third wilderness, which is the haunted forest of middle age that I’m hacking my way through now.

Tony Sarabia: It’s funny that you say “middle age” because you’re only what? 47?

Hodgman: I’m 46, thank you very much.  

Sarabia: [Laughing] Why do you feel like that’s middle age? I thought the new middle age was 67.

Hodgman: Obviously, age is a number. But I think middle age begins whenever you have that cold realization that your youth is really behind you and what waits for you is death. This sounds fun, doesn’t it, this book? I do bill it as the “white-privilege mortality comedy by John Hodgman,” because I believe in truth in advertising.

On his cottage in Massachusetts

Hodgman: As someone who did not grow up in a freestanding home that I ever owned, I inherited one from my mom when she passed away 17 years ago.

Now, I had lived in New York City. And in New York and in Chicago, you can maintain adolescence for a lot longer because there’s public transportation. Especially in New York, you never have to learn how to drive. And if you own your own home, which seems impossible for a lot of people in New York, chances are it’s an apartment anyway. It’s a condo. You never have to clean a gutter or fix up plumbing. You call a super or some other surrogate dad to do it while you wait at the bar or whatever.

Having a freestanding home — especially in the country — presented me with a lot of new and terrifying realities. Nature is cruel and it wants into your house. It is going to send out forays of mice to infest your eaves and wasps to attack your babies and raccoons to poop on your porch. And it’s a battle against these intruders that you know you will lose because nature will eventually win.

On handling mice

Sarabia: You had this drawer that you kept finding little mouse droppings in.

Hodgman: And my solution to that was to walk away. OK, I guess that drawer belongs to you now, mice.

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire interview, which was produced by Jason Marck and adapted to the web by Hunter Clauss.

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