Interview: John Hodgman

By CLEA SIMON  |  November 21, 2008

The research is amazing.
We have access to something called the Internet. That has always been for me personally and for The Daily Show as well, a great source of dubious scholarship.

What The Daily Show has is a team of producers and interns who are scanning all the cable channels and all the news and all the political websites all the time, and creating that dialy database of whats happening in the world that allows the writers and Jon [Stewart] and the producers to create those incredible montages. I think the tour de force of recent memory was their take down of the sudden Republican concern about sexism in the campaign, and the reversals and rank hypocrisy - as Karl Rove trashed TIm Kane as a potential VP for Obama and then accepted Sarah Palin. There is a lot of hypocrsy out there, and there’s a lot of legitimate hypocrisy and because the cable news is such a voracious beast, I htink there’s a lot of unconscious hypocrisy that gets revealed - people say I have to keep talking and they come around and contradict themselves eventually. I think what The Daily Show does so well is find those moments of real, unabashed, not simply gaffes but open hypocrisy. It’s incredibly refreshing, they’re not showing you anything that you can’t see for yourself. They’re putting it into a context. Every time I hear most kids get teir news from The Daily Show, well, there's a reason. The show is largely a news cast.

Humor comes out of humor is often generated by taboos, that’s why we tell fart jokes. They’re not told in polite company. There’s a relief and a lifting of tension when someone will  candidly talk about something you’re not supposed to talk about. Where I thnk The Daily Show has found its voice and is so welcome, and it’s often kind of a sad commment, is that they’re simply telling it like it is.

The emperor’s new clothes?
What’s that? I never heard about that. I think my metaphor is better.

What do you start with, is there a core of truth there?
The presidential section of my book was really one of the first times that I tried to engage in openly political humor. In my first book, I had quite a bit about the presidents, this strange sort of motely job, American’s half-sultans as I call them. It is a strange position inhabitied by a lot of extremely eccentric, wierd, base, uplifting personalities. In my first book, I dealt with the nine presidents who had hooks for hands, some things you might not have  know about George Washington, but in the new book it was a subject I had to address.

As with any joke that I try to tell, I try to start maybe not with the true story but with the story that we presume to be true, something that we know. Whatever the conventional wisdom is about a thing is sort of a leaping off point. So, for example, I’m trying to think . . . there’s a lot on Jimmy Carter.

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