John Hogdman knows how to host a book reading, he turns them into a variety show, complete with special guests. At Town Hall the other night the guests were all musicians,neo-nerd rock cult hero Jonathan Coulton, Sean Nelson (from Harvey Danger) and John Roderick (from The Long Winters). Also a heckler in the audience turned out to be John Flansburgh, shocking! He later he walked awkwardly on stage to sing a song I did not recognize, it could be in Hodgman’s new book, That is All, he had it in his hand and opened it at the podium. I only just started it.
John Hodgman has had a bit of a conversion since I last saw him in Portland at Wordstock. Then, he was riding high as a “minor television celebrity”. He was in the Apple ads and on both the Daily Show and Battlestar Galactica. Since then his television presence has waned a bit and he has taken on the persona of a “deranged million” with burgeoning obsessive thoughts about Ragnorok. Hodgman should have a monthly television show, he is and entertainer and born host. He understands how to work a crowd, blending stories about the post apocalypse with one liners and the occasional back and forth with someone in the audience. We felt at home. The musicians would occasionally come out for comic banter and to sing tunes. I was never a Harvey Danger or The Long Winters fan, I only know Sean Nelson and John Roderick as local music guys, that alway pop up around town and in the local newspapers. I didn’t know any of what they played, I still liked what they added to the night. I have seen Jonathan Coulton every time I’ve seen Hodgman, he is a demigod to literary rock nerds, an heir apparent to They Might Be Giants. I think he is fine, very likable, his performance of “Nemesis” with Roderick was one of the best moments of the night. Hodgman, Nelson, Roderick, and Coulton performing “Tonight You Belong to Me” is what did it for me. That song has become a personal favorite since I heard Patience and Prudence kill it. The evening was so entertaining, it wasn’t until a bit later I realized there was actually very little talk about the book directly. Once I finish the book, I’ll probably connect the dots, he can be a sly one.