John Hodgman on Portland
The Daily Show’s "resident expert" shared his unique perspective on Portland at a Bagdad Theatre book signing. by Virginia Jones
“The increasingly deranged…John Hodgman!” crowed musician John Roderick, making way for the author and humorist to take the Bagdad stage carrying a ukulele in a case, and a tote bag of what turned out to be single-serving mayonnaise packets and 5 Hour Energy bottles. He then sat down to remove his shoes and socks, remarking, “I am John Hodgman, and I am a deranged millionaire. I took my shoes off. That is all I am taking off. This is the one show in Portland that is not a burlesque show. I’m sorry for that.”
The nerdy sausage party that had amassed to see him read his new book That Is All nodded knowingly as he ran through his bio. “You may know me from the Daily Show, where I appear as the Resident Expert, or more likely you know me as the personal computer in a series of commercials for a computer company.” (The crowd cheered.) “You’re the two people in Portland who own a television and are willing to admit it.” He went on to recount being picked up at the airport in a familiar-looking Subaru, and asking the driver if it was the “communal Subaru of Portland, like the communal white bicycles of Amsterdam, or the communal white tigers of Amsterdam. Feed them raw meat and leave them at any hashish house or murder hostel.”
When Hodgman got around to the book, an audience member claimed to have purchased it on Kindle. “You didn’t buy it on Kindle, sir," he was quick to contradict, "and if you did, I’ll need to have a talk with you later…it is only available on paper, for two reasons: I wanted to make Portlanders clap—(applause) I want to please sanctimonious Luddites…and it is the only format that will survive Ragnarok.”
He explained how his last book of “all world knowledge” was in fact inspired by Portland, as his last tour guide had told him that one of the great things about Portland was its “extremely pure and secure source of Glacier water. She said, when the excrement comes down, this will be a very good place to live. And then we went downtown to Pioneer Square, and then I saw something I guess you see in Portland all the time: I saw a member of the Church of Satan buying flowers. It was Valentine’s day.” He name-checked Portland’s Rex Church. “ I realized Portland was a special place: The end of the world and the Church of Satan, which is what makes the book such a great Christmas gift for children.” He asked us, “Please don’t applaud yourselves….I expect that in San Francisco.”
Hodgman continued his Portland-centric rant by reading a passage from his book, the Ragnarok calendar entry for October 18, 2012: “The well-built old buildings of a carefully preserved historic downtown withstand the MEGA-QUAKES, a public commitment to alternative energy (biofuel, solar, geothermal, cold fusion, powered by hemp, and humans pushing a giant wheel around) saves the city from the devastation of the OMEGA PULSE. The city’s spirit of cooperation, forged from a long history of mutual poverty and deadbeatism, inoculates the populace from panic and food riots. The Great Dike, built sustainably from recovered lumber in a modern updating of the Arts and Crafts style, keeps the city free from blood, and the well-made artisanal cocktails at the Heathman hotel dull the psychic trauma of a world gone mad, leaving PORTLAND, OREGON as the only functioning city in the United States after the BLOOD WAVE. Naturally, the Portlanders are extremely smug about it. Their paradise lasts seven weeks before they are all murdered by refugees from Seattle.”
And then he left, promising us all Segways that Dean Kamen had given him at the most recent TED conference. “And you’ve got a Segway, and you’ve got a Segway, and you’ve got a Segway!…” Like most of Hodgman’s declarations, the promise proved to be good-natured hogwash.