While comedian and raconteur John Hodgman is a New Englander through-and-through, the witty, longtime contributor to “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central does say, “Chicago has always been one of my favorite places to perform comedy — and I expect that to continue.
Referring to his upcoming “Vacationland” show at 9 p.m. Thursday at Thalia Hall, Hodgman added in a recent phone chat, “You, the people of Chicago, and I — working together — will triumph.”
This new stand-up act takes Hodgman in a new direction from such previous comedic romps as the “resident expert” and “deranged millionaire” on “The Daily Show” (where he will continue to appear with new host Trevor Noah). For Hodgman it is a scary new chapter in his professional career. “But that’s the whole point. I want to be terrified. That’s what invigorates me now.”
Asked to share some insights into what his Chicago audience can expect when he presents “Vacationland,” Hodgman put it this way: “It is a show about my ambiguous relationship with my home region of the United States. I am a native of Massachusetts, and now a part-time resident of the state of Maine — and one of Maine’s nicknames is ‘Vacationland,’ which I always took to be a great joke.”
As for where he lives, Hodgman also noted that there’s an ironic twist to that as well. “I live part of the time in Brooklyn, New York, and now part of the time in a place that is hilariously, and confusingly, called Brooklin, Maine!”
For Hodgman, the idea of vacationing in Maine is a bit odd. “We have done research in this country, and we have found many wonderful ways to go on vacation. We’ve discovered many beaches that are soft and warm, and not made out of knife-like rocks, like the beaches of Maine. There are many areas of the ocean that are warm and welcoming and buoyant — and not cold and murderous like those in Maine.”
In typical, offbeat, Hodgman fashion, the comedian did admit that after years of not understanding the allure of Maine, he’s finally got it. When he was young and trying to prove himself “interesting, cool and fascinating,” that Northern New England state didn’t make sense to him as a destination.
“But now, that I’ve ended up as a mustachioed, weird dad in middle age, in my 40s, suddenly Maine makes sense. … It’s for people like me, who feels in my heart that I don’t deserve a vacation — then Maine is the place for you!” Hodgman said.
“If you don’t deserve pleasure or happiness, than Maine is the place for you!”
Beyond this intriguing obsession (or lack thereof) with the great state of Maine, Hodgman signed off by saying, “The show is, in the final analysis, an examination of owning up to who you truly are — and embracing it, no matter how terrifying or embarrassing as that may be.”