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John Hodgman Reminisces On His Former TV Fame In 'Medallion Status'18:50
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John Hodgman, comedian, actor and author of "Medallion Status." (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
John Hodgman, comedian, actor and author of "Medallion Status." (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

When John Hodgman signed off from his role as the "deranged millionaire" on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart in 2015, he joked on the show that he was headed to a faraway land: Mars.

Shortly after, he landed in "Vacationland," which is the title of the book that chronicles his experiences in Massachusetts and Maine, and his adjustment to middle-aged adulthood.

Now, in his new book "Medallion Status," Hodgman details a different adjustment —from TV show stardom to being slightly less famous.

As the book's description reads, it's about his realization that he's no longer platinum status, and has to get comfortable in the middle seat again.

Guest

John Hodgman, comedian, actor and author of "Medallion Status." He tweets @hodgman.

Interview Highlights

Reflecting on his former TV fame

Being on television's great. Everyone's nice to you, you get snacks. ...especially if you did not expect to ever be on television. I got to enjoy it as much as a tourist as anything else, and see into the strange world. But then there are the moments where things — you know, our status — depletes over time. You lose a job — anyone might lose a job — and you feel like, who am I anymore? ...

The gift of fame, especially television fame, is that people will stop you on the street and sometimes they'll be scared, because they're like, "oh, you're a weird ghost from television." But most of the time, and I'm very grateful, people would say, "I like what you do." And that's a very powerful feeling, and a lot of people — to be seen that way. Most people aren't seen or recognized on the street or even in their own families. And that is the sort of thing that is hard to let go of. No one wants to be anonymous — not everyone wants to be famous. And what I've discovered is that all you can do is give yourself fully to the world and the experience of this world to tell your story as nakedly as possible, covering yourself with a privacy garment or two, and throw yourself on the mercy of the world, and interesting things come back.

On what it means to be famous, then and now

I'd been at the San Francisco Sketchfest comedy festival and had been invited to a very exclusive party hosted by Adam Savage, the former "Mythbuster," who's got a private workshop where he replicates all these science fiction and fantasy props. He's got a Han Solo frozen carbonite, he's got an Admiral Ackbar dressed up in Russell Crowe's Napoleonic wars uniform for "Master and Commander." It's a wild scene, especially if you're an asthmatic nerd like me. I was so excited to be there and see all my comedy friends in this exclusive party. And then I saw these two people standing, holding these two corgi dogs, and getting all this attention and it made me mad — I was like, why are those dogs getting more attention [than] me? That's a weird — I don't recognize them from comedy. "Who are they?" I said to my friend. I said, "Who invited the ... guys with the corgis?" He said, "Oh, they weren't invited. The corgis were invited. They're Linus and Chompers, two famous corgis of Instagram."... They're really famous. Chompers has a manager. Chompers has co-sponsorship deals. And this is the tip of the iceberg, I've learned — there's a whole universe of famous corgis and other dogs on the Internet that are far more famous than I will ever be. And that's when I realized, I don't know what entertainment is anymore.

On his podcast, "Judge John Hodgman"

John Hodgman: It started as a joke about nine years ago. My friend said, "do you want to do like a Judge Judy show?" But for a podcast, where people call in with minor disputes about how they load the dishwasher, or whether a hot dog is a sandwich, and friends and spouses and siblings —

Tiziana Dearing: And it is not, by the way.

JH: Thank you. That is very refreshing to hear. I don't want to hijack this whole conversation right now ... this discussion takes up about 30% of my life now, but there are people yelling at the radio right now — you're wrong, everybody.

But, I wanted to do it mostly because I wanted to present myself to the world rather than the sort of exaggerated version of myself that people knew from "The Daily Show" that [was] the deranged millionaire, the resident expert. I wanted to show them who I was, not necessarily to be funny, but to interview people and hear about their lives all over the world and then tell them who's right and who's wrong, because I do have a very strong sense. But I've learned from it. I mean, it's been nine years of hearing disputes between people. And what I've learned is that in a heterosexual, male-female married couple, dude is almost always wrong. I never thought that was true. I always thought it's touch and go. But I have a lot of data points now. Guys have weird systems in marriages for how to load the dishwasher, and they're usually wrong.

This segment aired on October 17, 2019.

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