"The proposal to the publisher for the second book was 'More of the same, but twice as long,'" John Hodgman says about More Information Than You Require, the appropriately hilarious sequel to 2005's hilarious compendium of fake trivia, The Areas of My Expertise.
"And really, I did start out by doing just more of the same. But after writing perhaps the first third of the book, I was trying to figure out why it was hard to tell the same kind of jokes that I told in the first book. And it's because I am telling them from a different place," he says. "I could not tell jokes about having to rent my own pants out of poverty when the reality is that now, I not only own my own pants, but I buy new pants every day."
Hodgman's life has indeed changed, and not only with regard to pants. When Expertise came out, he was merely an expert on fake trivia. Now, he's also The Daily Show's "resident expert," the guy who plays the PC in Apple ads, and the doctor who said, "I just don't like your uterus" in that one Tina Fey movie about how funny it is to make Amy Poehler carry your baby to term for you.
Despite these changes, More Information Than You Require inundates the reader with fake trivia—such as the fact that in 1929, contempt was first bred in a Petri dish "from a culture of simple agar and purified familiarity"; that Barbie "was originally modeled on Gertrude Stein"; and that Edgar Allan Poe wrote himself a theme song ("Eye of the Tiger"). Hodgman's indispensable book also includes a shocking revelation about Jonathan Swift's essay "A Modest Proposal" ("HE WASN'T JOKING"), culinary advice ("Do you like to eat living creatures that taste like snot that's been rubbed on rocks and old silverware? Then oysters are for you"), and the names of 700 mole-men.
At Wordstock, Hodgman will be appearing, as he frequently does, with musician Jonathan Coulton. ("In a way, we both need each other to live—but yet, we both want each other to die," Hodgman says of their relationship.) There will likely be more fake trivia, insights into what it's like to play a computer on television, and perhaps some hints as to what will be included in Hodgman's third volume of complete world knowledge. ("I will probably include a section on character actors that you have now probably forgotten about," Hodgman tells me. "And I will probably be on the list by that time.")
"I think if you're in the job of writing fake trivia and creating a sort of surreal world in the pages of your books, when your life becomes more surreal than what you are able to create, it makes one nervous," Hodgman says of his current position. "When you write a list in one book of the cameos and appearances you have made on film and television as a joke because you would never do such a thing, and then it is happening in your life, you feel the ground disappearing beneath you, and you feel like the Coyote, moving your feet in the air, trying to stay aloft.
"Coyotes can fly," Hodgman quickly adds. "That was the big mistake that Chuck Jones made in those Road Runner cartoons: He didn't realize that coyotes have the power of flight."
For the full Q&A with Hodgman, go here.