Q&A: John Hodgman, a comedian with an eye on healthcare

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Jeanine Marie.

Comedian John Hodgman is a pretty recognizable face. He’s a “Daily Show” correspondent and was the nerdy, uncool PC in the “Get a Mac” advertising campaign.

He’ll hit the Lisner Auditorium stage Wednesday for the MirmanHodgmanSchaal Sandwich-To-Go Comedy Tour, which will go to six cities this fall.

The Hatchet talked to Hodgman about serving the comedy sausage, shirtwaists, rock n’ roll and Obamacare. 

Photo Courtesy of John Hodgman
Photo Courtesy of John Hodgman

Hatchet: You’ve worked in a lot of forms of media – TV, music, radio, newspapers and magazines, books. Which was the most challenging?
Hodgman: But I only do one day of work for each. Maybe 2 days. But that keeps things vibrant…interesting…enjoyable. Most challenging? I was on a season four episode of “Battlestar Galactica.” I’m a big fan of the show, but I couldn’t geek out, because it turns out it was not my personal nerd fantasy camp, but a job. And I had to cease looking around and just staring. I did get Katee Sackhoff to tell me to “frack off” in character. Now someone on Twitter will finish the fourth season and then get mad. I did my best as an actor, but to them the “PC guy” is Dr. Gerard.

Hatchet: How did the Sandwich To-Go Tour – with Eugene Mirman and Kristen Schaal – finally happen?
Hodgman: Myself, Kristen and – who’s that other guy? – Eugene, are two [of my] very good friends. I’ve known Eugene for 10 years, and I met Kristen filming “Flight of the Concords.” We got to know each other on “The Daily Show.” I don’t know how they feel about me, but I adore them both. We always wanted to travel the country together. Originally, we thought this would be a crime solving tour, but we’re not certified detectives. But as soon as their schedules freed up, I was deployed from hibernation.

Hatchet: How do you, Kristen Schaal and Eugene Mirman decide what topics you’re going to cover on tour?
Hodgman: Honestly, we haven’t decided, and we probably won’t decide until we’re driving into the city. We’re all presenting new material, so the show will be our individual first, and then the three of us will do our world famous – because it is, you know, world famous – repertoire .

Hatchet: So do you change the material based on the city you’re going to? Will you change it for D.C. being that it’s such a political place and it’s shut down?
Hodgman: Well, we probably won’t go to the Smithsonian, so definitely not that material. Even though Kristen and I are correspondents on “The Daily Show,” Eugene is more engaged with topical subjects. I might dress up as Ayn Rand. Our plan is to engage in exciting banter, Carol Burnett style. It’s a lot of improvisation. Maybe I’m telling you too much about how the comedy sausage is served.

Hatchet: A lot of people who watch “The Daily Show” consider it a legitimate, and sometimes their only news source. But Jon Stewart maintains that he’s a satirist, and the show is comedic. How do you set up your bits as a news source and/or a comedian?
Hodgman: As you know, Jon sets the tone [of the show]. The mission of the show is to provide hilarity. There is a measure of responsibility as far as covering real events; everything is factual. And there are factual things, people, especially media coverage, that requires being made fun of.

The job is to be funny, and engaged with current events and politics. So it is reasonable for people under certain terms [to consider it a news source]. Nothing goes on the show without being checked. They, we, strive to get the facts right. We deal with complex issues. Like last time I was on, we talked about employers reducing hours to avoid mandatory insurance under The Affordable Care Act. I was the deranged owner of a triangle shirtwaist factory.

Hatchet: On October 1st (when The Affordable Care Act) went into effect, you encouraged young people to sign up over Twitter. You also retweeted a lot of stories from followers about the issue. How’d that happen?
Hodgman: Well Twitter is an interesting format and not only for comedians. It’s a big crowd all talking and you don’t know what will happen. Young people do presume they’re immortal – I did. Without advocating a piece of policy, I really believe they should be taking advantage [of The Affordable Care Act]. On Oct. 1st, I ended up curating a conversation, it was all unplanned. It turned into an oral history of young people whose not having insurance left them bankrupt.

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