Before Ragnarok - or the end of the world according to best-selling author and TV personality John Hodgman - is upon us, locals will have the chance to see him perform live.
Hodgman, known for his book series, a recurring role on "The Daily Show" and past portrayal of a PC in Apple's "Get a Mac" ad campaign, will grant this last wish to fans with his appearance at 8 p.m. Friday at The State Theatre in State College.
Ragnarok, a term that Hodgman borrowed from Norse mythology and doesn't claim to know the exact pronunciation of, is discussed extensively in his latest book "That is All," released November 2011. He said it will also be the theme of Friday night's "physical manifestation," or what he calls his performances.
John Hodgman, a humorist known for his book series and appearances on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” will make an appearance at the State Theatre in State College at 8 p.m. Friday.
"I am preoccupied, as are so many people these days, with this feeling that maybe we're coming to the end of the world," Hodgman said during a recent phone interview. "It's causing the same anxiety that causes people to hoard gold and fantasize about the collapse of the world economy and what will happen when civilization collapses.
"These are things very much in the national anxiety pool right now, and mine as well."
In his quiet and bookishly-serious manner, it is hard to tell whether he's serious about his Dec. 21, 2012 prediction of the world's demise - if this anxiety is real, and something that keeps him awake at night. But this is what one might come to expect from the author of three books of world trivia written in a completely serious manner, but that are completely made up.
If you go
What: John Hodgman
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The State Theatre, 130 W. College Ave., State College
Tickets: $35 for orchestra seating and $25 for balcony seating. Call 272-0606.
Hodgman said he had always wanted to write a book. But in his early days as a literature major at Yale and then a literary agent and magazine writer, he didn't know if it would ever be possible.
"I like to write weird, sort of fantastical short stories, like Jorge Luis Borges-style, and often not even in complete sentences," he said.
It wasn't until Hodgman embraced his unique writing style, along with his love of comedy in the same vein as Peter Cook, Bill Cosby and Richard Pryor, that his serious fiction writing turned into the quirky and witty book series that fans know him for today.
Hodgman said the feeling he gets from writing comedy reminds him of a quote from George Saunders, one of his favorite writers.
"[Saunders] said when he allowed himself to be funny and realized it was OK, it was like he realized he's always been fighting with one hand tied behind his back, and now he had both hands free," Hodgman said. "That's what it felt like when I started writing funny. I really knew who I was and what I was writing about, and that I could write about, you know, 700 hobo nicknames and weird sandwiches and presidents with hooks for hands and tell all the sort of surreal short stories I wanted to tell. But if I allowed them to be funny, people would actually like them."
Hodgman's first satirical almanac, "The Areas of My Expertise," becoming a best-seller was the realization of his literary ambitions that he "never imagined would happen." But "far stranger," Hodgman said, was the fact that his fake scholarship and dead-pan humor would also earn him the title of a minor TV personality.
"Not only was that totally implausible, but it was not even an ambition of mine, really," Hodgman said.
Hodgman's performance career stems from his appearances in New York City stand-up clubs and shows, giving readings of his book and hosting variety shows and charity auctions in a comedic style. Then, after a 2005 appearance on "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart to promote his first book, Hodgman went on to appear numerous more times as a fictional "resident expert" during different interview segments.
Hodgman said his own humor and that which is at the heart of shows like "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," both utilize the same play on the truth to get their laughs.
"It's where the truth is so absurd as to be humorous and the lies are so compelling as to seem possibly true," he said. "Facts are no longer concrete things. They are cast into doubt, and they're debated depending on how we feel about them."
Richard Biever, executive director for The State Theatre, said one thing is for certain - locals should seize this opportunity to see Hodgman perform because he might not be back for many more years.
"We all feel like he's going to hit the big time," Biever said. "You can get him now before he's too big to come back."
Hodgman said the State College audience can expect an opening appearance from his friend, David Reese, who was once a political cartoonist for Rolling Stone, but retired to become an artisanal pencil sharpener. The audience may also hear a song or two, played on Hodgman's ukulele.
"I think it's going to be a lot of unexpected and quirky humor," Biever said. "But that's what's exciting, you don't know exactly what he's going to be doing."
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.