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John Hodgman is big — bigger than Paul Rudd, even

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Consider this: John Hodgman — “Daily Show” resident expert, minor TV personality, Park Sloper — is launching his latest book next week, and actor Paul Rudd will help.

Not in a starring role, mind you. Rudd, the Hollywood actor best known for such comic masterpieces as “Our Idiot Brother,” “I Love You, Man,” “Knocked Up,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,” will be a member of Hodgman’s supporting cast.

And Rudd is not the only supporting player who will perform at the Bell House event on Nov. 1. No, he’ll be one of a cast that includes comics Wyatt Cenac and John Oliver, and rocker Jonathan Coulton.

In other words, WTF?

Clearly, the point of the event is to do more than promote Hodgman’s third volume of absolutely brilliant, but entirely made-up trivia, “That is All,” but to give the author something of a victory lap: The triumph of nerds is complete.

Before Hodgman could fully celebrate his success, there was one more excruciating ritual left: The Brooklyn Paper interview.

We agreed to meet near Hodgman’s Park Slope survival brownstone at a restaurant called Hanoi.

“Wonderful,” I told him. “Who doesn’t love Thai food!”

I detected a faint smile.

Has it always been thus — Kuntzman, the mincing moth forever dancing around the flame of the brilliant, but elusive Hodgman, his neighbor and better?

No, indeed, it was not thus.

Indeed for one brief shining moment, Hodgman was the pursuer and Kuntzman the pursued, when Hodgman was briefly hired by a national men’s magazine to do a 6,000-word profile on Kuntzman, who then was at the pinnacle of success, having just penned a non-fiction book about male pattern baldness.

But, alas, final version of the story ran at just 250 words — and historians will forever remember its publication as the moment when the Hodgman-Kuntzman axis tilted forever to autumnal.

So by the time Kuntzman sat down again with Hodgman in the fall of 2008, Kuntzman was the interviewer and Hodgman was the subject on the journalistic pedestal.

True, Kuntzman won a national newspaper award for the resulting piece about Hodgman’s second book, “More Information Than You Require,” but it was Hodgman who went on to greater riches: fame, another book, TV appearances, friendships with the attractive Rudd and the stately Ted Danson, and the ability to cultivate a hideous mustache without spousal reprisal.

Oh the inhumanity of it all.

Actually, the humanity of it all. Lest we forget, it was not Kuntzman, but Hodgman who has been at the nexus of every pop-cultural trend of the last five years: Nerd-rock star Jonathan Coulton’s rise to national fame? It all started with Hodgman. Jon Stewart’s revived hegemony over Stephen Colbert? Hodgman. The bizarre quasi-romantic embrace of Wayne Newton and GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann? No doubt, the hidden hand of Hodgman.

And on Nov. 1, the nerd ascendency will be complete as Rudd — yes, the international movie star — shows up to simply be a member of the Hodgman’s toadying cast.

But it’s important, given the grave information presented in “That is All,” which reprises Hodgman’s “resident expert” persona, but with the impending doom of the coming End of Days.

“It is important for people to buy this book,” Hodgman said. “If you own a Mayan Long Count Calendar, two things are clear: one, you know that the end of the world is coming at the end of 2012, and, two, you have a very big house, as those calendars are quite large.

“Yes, you could buy other books, but none is going to give you more information, such as how to stock your survival brownstone in Park Slope with livestock such as chickens, goats and sperm whales,” Hodgman continued. “Plus, there is all sorts of information on sports and wine.”

“That is All” picks up where Hodgman’s prior books, “The Areas of My Expertise” and “More Information than You Require” left off — quiet literally on page 597.

True, he was a mere freelance writer when he set out to become the Greatest Fake Fact Writer of His Generation, but he was destined to surpass me.

“That is obviously true,” Hodgman said. “Even in those days, I wrote for all boroughs, unlike you with your one borough. Yet I was then as wretched as you still are, a magazine writer. A beggar. A nobody.”

A quirky McSweeney’s column called, “Ask a Former Professional Literary Agent” solidified Hodgman as the voice of absolute authority, an expert from whom you would take all manner of advice: how to publish a novel, how to write a pitch letter, what sort of beret one should wear to become a serious short story writer.

That column led to “The Areas of my Expertise,” then to a promo spot on “The Daily Show,” then to the Mac and PC ads, and to minor fame unparalleled.

“Yes, like most overnight successes, it took about a decade,” he said.

Our lunch coming to an end, I asked Hodgman whether others could replicate his path to greatness.

“If you mean you, I’m afraid I can’t help ‘you,’ ” he suggested. “You’re holding down the fort. Someone has to put out the” — he paused to pick at a noodle of his pho before half-guffawing the last word — “newspaper.”

Cut to the quick — again — by my tormentor.

Alas, I had one last weapon: I reminded Hodgman that the interview would be condensed and edited, as is the current vogue in magazine writing.

“This has been a … great … interview,” Hodgman said. “And you are … one of … the … best … interview[ers] … ever.”

John Hodgman and friends at the Bell House [149 Seventh St. between Second and Third avenues in Gowanus, (718) 643-6510], Nov. 1, 8 pm. Tickets $30 (includes a copy of “That is All”). For info, visit www.thebellhouseny.com.A popular abbreviated form of “Why, that’s funny.”This is an actual book called “Hair! Mankind’s Historic Quest to End Baldness,” which was published by Random House and sold 499 copies.This, indeed, may be Hodgman’s greatest triumph over Kuntzman.Also known as me

Reach Editor Gersh Kuntzman at newsroom@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4504.
Updated 5:27 pm, July 9, 2018: Story was updated to reflect the proper Latin name of the Hodgman genus.
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Reasonable discourse

Raoul from Park Slope says:
Why does the writer think it necessary to drop his own jokes (Hanoi--groan) before letting Hodgman speak? I'd rather have a straight Q&A.
Oct. 31, 2011, 7:55 pm
Bklyndf from Park slope says:
I believe this may be one of the best interview/profiles ever written. Or at least ever published. Understanding Hodgman's nemesis finally allows us to see, for instance, why Hodgman still has that mustache.
Nov. 2, 2011, 6:13 am

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