John Hodgman, the author, humorist, and podcaster, recently published Vacationland, a memoir about his life in middle ages. Hodgman is known as a regular contributor on The Daily Show when Jon Stewart was the star, appearing as “Judge John Hodgman” on multiple podcasts, and as the man representing “PC” in the classic Apple ad campaign starring Justin Long as a Mac.

“I had written three books of invented trivia and fake facts, and I’ve been on The Daily Show in the same persona of this deranged professor spouting nonsense. Around the time that I turned 40, I just didn’t feel like making up phony jokes about zeppelin versus submarine wars, and I was not into making fun of the gentleman who would eventually become the president of the United States right now, because there was no comedy that I could do as the Deranged Millionaire on The Daily Show that would compete with the long-form improv that Donald Trump has been doing his whole life,” Hodgman told uInterview in an exclusive video. “So I started telling true stories on stage about my own life as a weird only child growing up to be a husband and father, and white male monster staring down the second half of his life, and that became the book called Vacationland.”

The book is told in stories about three places or points in his life, which Hodgman called his wildernesses. “It follows my awkward travels through three different wildernesses – the wilderness of rural western Mass. where I spent a lot of my youth, and the painful beaches of coastal Maine where my wife has instructed me I will accept my death, and the haunted forest of middle age that connects those things,” he said. “That period of time where we all eventually realize that the story of our lives has reached a midpoint and is eventually going to come to an end. It’s a hard thing to adjust to, especially if you are just a straight, white dude like I am, and have been told by culture that you are the hero of the story for generations… then to realize oh, I’m a minor character at best.”

Hodgman is known recently for his wacky facial hair, and sat down to our interview with a disconnected mustache and beard combo. His beard, at parts, is dark brown but also light gray. According to Hodgman, growing facial hair is a compulsion that most men hit once they hit middle age. “I grew a mustache when I turned 40, and then I followed it with this terrible beard, and many people have asked me, ‘Why did you do this to your face?’ And a lot of those people are my wife,” he joked. “And I really don’t have an answer, I just have apologies. It was a compulsion. And over time I’ve come to appreciate that weird dads in their forties grow facial hair in an unconscious way.”

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He continued: “Partly it’s an evolutionary signal that says, ‘Alright, I’m all done.’ I’ve had children, my DNA is out there in the world, my evolutionary purpose is fulfilled. Attention mating population, this says no thank you. I no longer deserve physical closeness, time to refocus on my weird dad hobbies like puns and doing research into World Wars and bridges, and writing that memoir that I always wanted to write – and I did it. And then there’s another compulsion too, I think. That was the mustache and the beard came along… I think dudes who grow beards want to see what happens, what comes out of their face when they stop taking care of themselves. And to see who the secret bearded man who lives inside of them is, and I discovered that I’m basically the IT guy for the Duck Dynasty.”

Full interview transcript below:

John Hodgman On New Book ‘Vacationland,’ Facing Middle Age & Facial Hair
December 12, 2017 – Video Transcribed

Q: What inspired you to write your book?

A:[John Hodgman]: “It’s a, “Vacationland” is my book of true stories you know I had written three books of invented trivia and fake facts and I’d been on the daily show and the same persona as sort of this deranged professor spouting nonsense and around the time that I turned 40 I just didn’t feel like making up phony jokes about zeppelin versus submarine wars and uh certainly was not really into making fun of uh uh the gentlemen who eventually become the President of the United States right now because there was no comedy I could do was the deranged millionaire on the daily show that would compete with the long form improv that Donald Trump has been doing his whole life. So uh I started telling true stories on stage about my uh own life as a weird only child growing up to be a husband and father and white male monster, staring down the second half of his life and uh that became the book called “Vacationland.” And uh it travels, it follows my awkward travels through three different wildernesses; the- the wilderness of Western Massachusetts where I spent a lot of my youth and the painful beaches of coastal Maine where my wife has instructed me I will accept my death and the haunted forest of middle age that connects those things that period of time when uh we all um uh uh eventually realize that uh the story of our lives have reached a mid-point and is eventually going to come uh to an end, and uh it’s a hard thing to adjust to. Especially if you are a cis-straight white dude like I am and have been told by culture that you are the hero of the story for generations to realize ‘oh I’m a minor character at best and uh I will go.’”

Q: Why did you grow facial hair?

A: [John Hodgman]: “Yeah you I start- I grew a mustache when I turned 40 and I followed it with this terrible beard and many people have asked me ‘why did you do this to your face?’ and a lot of those people are my wife. And I don’t, it’s funny how I don’t really have an answer uh I just have apologies. It was a compulsion and over time I’ve come to appreciate that weird dads in their 40s grow facial hair in a, in an unconscious way and partly it’s an evolutionary signal that. says ‘eh I’m all done you know I’ve had children, my DNA is out there in the world, my evolutionary purpose is fulfilled- attention mating population: this says no thank you, I no longer deserve physical closeness. Time for me to focus on my weird dad hobbies like puns and doing research into world wars and bridges and writing that memoir I’ve always wanted to write.’ Uh and then there’s another compulsion too I think that was the mustache, beard came along I think people you know dudes who grow beards wanna see what happens, what comes out of their face when they stop taking care of themselves they wanna see who the secret bearded man who lives inside of them is. I discovered that I’m basically the IT guy for the Duck Dynasty.”