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September 10, 2021
With Friends Like These
The Power Struggle Behind Who Does The Dishes with John Hodgman

In This Episode

For the past 10 years, actor, author and humorist John Hodgman has hosted the podcast “Judge John Hodgman” where he helps friends, roommates and romantic couples negotiate their long-standing quibbles: Things like: “Which one of us is loading the dishwasher right?” Throughout the years, John’s discovered some deeper through-lines about gender roles and power dynamics. He also talks about his animated show on FXX called “Dicktown” which is a surprising window into male sensitivity and forgiveness. 

 

 

Transcript

 

 [ads]

 

Ana Marie Cox: Hi, I’m Ana Marie Cox. Welcome to with Friends Like These. This week, I am talking to a dear old friend, the great John Hodgman. We met, believe it or not, before the Mac versus PC ads that made him famous, at least famous in my generation. He was on a book tour for his first book, the still very hilarious Areas of My Expertise. He reached out when he got to D.C. because he was a fan of mine. And of course, I immediately became a fan of his. John is an actor and author and humorist. He was a long time contributor to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. He also hosts a fun and illuminating podcast called Judge John Hodgman, which is also the basis for a kind of micro-column in the New York Times magazine. He has a fairly new animated show on FXX called Dicktown, which is about male sensitivity, but not like you might think. As the judge on Judge John Hodgman, John helps friends, roommates, and romantic couples settle the score on questions like who walks the dog, and who should unload the dishwasher? And while these might seem like small things, John’s discovered some deeper through lines after doing the show for 10 years. He’ll share all of that wisdom and some insights into the psyche of the woke white male coming right up.

 

Ana Marie Cox: John Hodgman, old friend, welcome to the show

 

John Hodgman: Ana, old friend, thank you for welcoming me. I feel very welcome. Thank you.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I don’t feel like I’ve talked to you in a professional capacity in a long, long time.

 

John Hodgman: The last time I saw you was in Minneapolis when serendipity arranged that we run into each other in the streets of Minneapolis.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yep!

 

John Hodgman: It was a real Mary Tyler Moore moment.

 

Ana Marie Cox: It was one of those things that does make you think that the universe, even if it’s not all planned, does occasionally rhyme accidentally.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah. I was in town for some kind of show, I don’t even remember what it was.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah.

 

John Hodgman: I was getting out of the cab and there you were.

 

Ana Marie Cox: There he was. I almost—

 

John Hodgman: And there was nothing suspicious about it.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] I guess you didn’t find out. Never mind.

 

John Hodgman: And I just remember—

 

Ana Marie Cox: —the court order hadn’t gone through yet, so . . .

 

John Hodgman: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah.

 

John Hodgman: Let’s have a conversation, and we sat in the hotel lobby and I believe that there was like a gigantic ceramic Dalmatian dog or something. There is some weird decoration there. It was just like, and we hadn’t spoken for years at that point. And it’s been a few years since then. And it’s just always feels like we’re just picking up the same conversation.

 

Ana Marie Cox: That’s my favorite kind of friendship.

 

John Hodgman: That’s nice. Me too.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Although I have to say all the details of that story does sound like we made it up.

 

John Hodgman: No, I was very specific about the ceramic Dalmatian. That makes it sound very realistic.

 

Ana Marie Cox: OK, let’s talk about some of the developments that have happened for you since we became friends. You are now Judge John Hodgman. That’s how many people know you.

 

John Hodgman: Yes. Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And I am curious, we’ll just start off with, so what qualifications do you bring to the bench?

 

John Hodgman: Zero!

 

Ana Marie Cox: OK, that’s . . . yes.

 

John Hodgman: I am not legal judge. Although I don’t think I would need much more based on some of the appointments of the past four years. Now, I hope we’re going to be getting to some more qualified judgeships. But it seems like for a while there, you didn’t need to really have very much experience at all, maybe even be in an actual courtroom to even be a judge, on a federal level.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I believe technically there isn’t a formal qualification. So . . .

 

John Hodgman: OK. Well, then I guess my qualification is the same as it’s always been: straight white male wisdom. Now 50 years of upper middle class, northeast living, straight white maleness, and book learning.

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know, it’s funny, it’s almost as though this kind of made up formal position just puts a name on the thing that happens 24 hours a day every day for most people0.

 

John Hodgman: Yes. I, I can appreciate it now better than I certainly did when I started Judge John Hodgman, which is a podcast, as well as a New York Times magazine column-net—a little, tiny, teeny, tiny columnella. I only mention it because no one who listens to the podcast knows that I do the magazine thing, and no one who reads me in the magazine knows that there’s a podcast. So there’s two things. But I started Judge John Hodgman now more than 10 years ago. And back then, it was a fairly, it was a fairly easy joke to make in the sense that I had been on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart doing a very purposeful satire on the white male expert who everyone just listens to because he wears a tweedy jacket and looks like an authority. And my friend and co-host Jesse Thorn, who’s the founder of the Maximum Fun podcast network, which is my home, had suggested, do you ever think about doing a judge thing, like Judge Judy or the People’s Court? And I was like, Yeah, that’s great, I love hearing people who are having an argument and deciding who’s right and who’s wrong and telling them. So we did it. And it’s, and the format of the show—if your listeners aren’t familiar with it and why would they be? There are a lot of podcasts, a lot of podcasts—is that we have real live disputants, people who write in with disputes, usually domestic or filial, or sibling-y, or friend-ly or roommate-ly—that kind of thing. Whether or not to an air conditioner, whether or not who deserves to have custody over this wind-up toy giraffe that we both got when we were closer friends and lived together and now we’re splitting apart, that sort of thing. And I listen to both sides and I tell them who’s right and who’s wrong, in a very tongue-in-cheek kind of way. But in the course of the decade that I’ve done it, you know, the limits of my expertise have really been revealed to me. And what has, what has been replaced in that absence is a lot more actual knowledge and learning that I’ve gotten from the people who have called in from all over the country and all over the world of often wildly different experience and points of view—and certainly the people who have written as well to tell me that I’m not correct. So it’s been a real a, like yeah, there, it is, part of the joke that when a white guy sits down at a table, he will certainly believe that everyone needs what he has to say, and there is a kind of sleight of hand in our culture that a lot of other people who don’t look like me might just shut up and start listening to someone who looks like me because culture expects them to, which is wrong.

 

Ana Marie Cox: The thing that interests me the most about what you’ve done with your judgeship is that it’s become, I don’t want to use the word serious, but there are some weighty matters that you weigh in on.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah, I mean—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Like relationships are weighty no matter what you could say.

 

John Hodgman: They, they are, they are. And what’s happening right now Ana, is I’m scrambling to think of an example that is a good one, do you have one?

 

Ana Marie Cox: Well, I’m actually just thinking of all the ones that are about relationships, to be honest. Because whenever I see that, because they often are like: my roommate or my husband or my brother or my sister says this, I say this, we’ve been arguing about it for a long time. And whenever I see that there’s a part of me that’s like, wow, because in my experience in relationships, the fight is never about the fight, really.

 

John Hodgman: Right. No, I mean, so, you know, as an example, like we talk a lot on the podcast about finding the crux of the issue. I am the Crux Finder General. Because beneath every small dispute, every petty dispute, every conflict over whether you should use a top sheet or not—you should, you should use a top sheet, don’t just use the comforter, come on, everybody—there is a lot of deep and personal stuff. So one of the earliest cases we had were wo young women who had been roommates for years who traveled during their college years and soon after were living together and sharing an apartment and somewhere along the line had picked up a literal wind-up toy giraffe that they had an adorable name for that I forget—we’ll say Giraffey. And now one of them was moving across the country for a job and the question was, who gets to keep Giraffey? The obvious answer is shared custody, you can mail Giraffey. But what was it the crux of the dispute was how do you, how do you deal emotionally with the end of, or let’s say a transition to a new kind of, friendship. You know, because those early roommate bonds are are close, are closer than some marriages, closer than a lot of sibling relationships, and when you grow out of a friend, it’s not something that we are trained by culture to think of as a trauma, the way we naturally think of a romantic relationship breaking up, being something to work through. Do you know what I mean? Because friends are just friends, right? But they’re often the most important people to you. And so the podcast in that case became an opportunity for them to sort of think about and talk about and joke about and process that transition to a new stage of friendship where they weren’t going to be living together anymore. And, you know, in the early days, it was listed as a comedy podcast, which never seemed right to me, because for me, it was just, you know, talking to people and, you know, having some fun and making jokes where you could find them. But truly, like the enjoyment is listening to a couple in Germany where one is a German national and the other is an American and she wants to get an air conditioner because that’s what she grew up with and he’s never had one in his life and how do they decide what to do? And then I learned that they 35 minutes away from an indoor water park that exists in a former Zeppelin factory, and they’ve never been. Now, I don’t know what to believe about both of them because where are their priorities in life. And then other relationship stuff as well. I mean, deeper stuff.

 

[ad break]

 

Ana Marie Cox: I guess that was sort of my point about how serious some of the questions seem to me. Is that people putting their relationship on display? Not just because it’s never about the fight, like you said, it’s never about what it seems like it’s about. It’s about the crux, and you’re the crux finder. Do you feel any weight from that, I have to ask?

 

John Hodgman: Yeah. I felt the weight more over the over the years. I think if you were to listen to the early episodes, I’m pretty glib and I’m pretty talk-overy, and I’m in a pretty harsh. That, you know, it is not that I have mellowed with age—though, I am unfortunately, aging rapidly—but I’ve begun to appreciate and in better ways through listening that people, you know, that people are putting their personal lives in our hands and that we needed to treat them respectfully. And that even when one party was kind of being a jerk, you have to treat the jerks kind of, you have to hear the jerks, and then you have to let the jerks hear you and really tell them, you know, you’re not seeing or hearing or valuing the other person in your life the way you should be. And so that’s been quite, you know humbling, I guess. So, now, it’s not really listed as a comedy podcast, it’s not listed as a podcast at all most any place I look. You know, we we started before the huge podcast boom took over and, you know, even when I started, I was already a pretty a pretty minor, pretty former, television personality. Now that, now that all these TV personalities have podcasts, we just have the people, we just have our people listen.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Have the questions changed over time?

 

John Hodgman: Nope, nope. It’s always about the dishes, it’s always about the dishes. I’ve had to write to people and just like: we’re not taking—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Dishes.

 

John Hodgman: Dishes anymore, because I’ve said everything I need to about how people do the dishes, right? Because the thing is that the dishes are the front line of any cohabitation relationship, because there is there’s so much going on in that sink full of dirty dishes. It’s the different ways that people were brought up, different standards of cleanliness and tidiness, then there’s different control issues, then there, obviously, there are—for lack of a better term—gender imbalances. Who is expected to do the dishes, how those dishes are expected to be done? Do you rinse them before you put them in the dishwasher? What is the correct way to load the dishwasher? Everyone who’s ever loaded the dishwasher knows it’s one of the more satisfying jigsaw puzzles you can solve. So when someone is doing it a different way, it feels like an affront against your personhood. And all of those, all of that, and then, so all of that personal background, cultural background, expectation—it all seems to flow into the dishes. Control is such an important part. And important, I think is the wrong word, because I think “corrosive” part of any close relationship, whether it’s romantic or sibling or roommate or whatever, but particularly when it’s romantic—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Or workplace!

 

John Hodgman: Or workplace. When it’s romantic cohabitation, someone writing in to say, my partner does the dishes the wrong way, is attempting to exert some kind of control. And it is almost exclusively, guys, right, in heterosexual relationships, who write in to say, my wife is doing it the wrong way. And because, and then it’s often followed up with because I have figured out a new and more interesting way to put knives into the silverware caddy or whatever it is. And, you know, like this was one of the big eye-openers over the course of the podcast for me as a guy. You know, I always, I always considered myself a feminist. I also had been, that idea beaten into me by white guy-dom that, like, we all deserve to have a little bit of a dispute and all sides can be heard and what’s wrong with a good debate? That’s like, except when you’re constantly fighting over something that simple, makes the other person feel small, and they don’t feel empowered to say: stop it. You know, that’s what’s wrong with a good, with a good and free and open debate. Do you know what I mean? When you’re talking over someone and denying who they are, that’s not a free and open debate. You know, guys, white guys, I think, in my generation were empowered to feel like we’re all just a bunch of Aristotles and Platos out here, equals talking at each other in the garden about hypotheticals when they’re real, real human emotions and human safety on the line. You know what I mean? Like, why is it wrong to use a certain word? It’s like maybe you’re not qualified to talk about that. And this idea that the dishwasher lives in this hypothetical space where a guy can look at it and be like, why are the tines of the fork? Well, I know what should happen, they should be sideways.

 

Ana Marie Cox: That there is a platonic ideal of how it should look.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Such an interesting conundrum that you have, in your existence as a woke white guy, being a judge.

 

John Hodgman: Well, you know, as someone who grew up, kind of a, feeling that I was a feminist and b, at the same time also feeling like all sides are equal and everything is fine, and there’s no, there are no basic power imbalances, even in simple conversation—like 10 years of doing Judge John Hodgman, there’s a lot of data points. And I can say, I’ve looked at the scatter graph over 10 years, in disputes between heterosexual romantic cohabitants, the guys are wrong, 100%, like 99.99% of the time they are guys trying to control their other half. And it’s usually an exertion of control—mental, emotional, physical control.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And you know what?

 

John Hodgman: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: They’re coming to you for a reason. They’re expecting to hear something from you that aligns with their worldview, whether consciously or not this is reason they are writing . . .

 

John Hodgman: Ladies are crazy. You’re right dude, ladies are crazy. Why won’t they let you devise a new way to wash a spoon? I want to, I want to honor the, I think, the genetic malformation of certain men’s brains that they are always looking at things and going like, I should turn that mug upside down, that would be a better way of doing it. You know, anyone, no matter what pronouns they use, who prize inventiveness and curiosity and look at the world that way, I don’t want to misjudge them, but, yeah, they’re coming to me for validation and it’s been, you know, an important part of my learning that they don’t deserve it. They need to hear the other thing. Invalidation.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] For some reason the “why can’t I just hug you” is coming into my mind, so . . .

 

John Hodgman: Oh, because I haven’t given you consent. That was another big one that came up.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yes.

 

John Hodgman: Huggers.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah.

 

John Hodgman: People coming out of the pandemic going is it—my friend, and this was between two people who who both used she/her pronouns—like my friend is telling me that as soon as lockdown is over, she’s going to hug me. And I don’t want to be hugged. And I was like, yeah, that’s something I learned, too. I think kind of maybe those of us who should have learned earlier, learned through the pandemic like, there is a boundary that your body defines. People can’t just hug you. They can’t just hug you because they call themselves huggers. You know? They have to, you know, they have to ask. And the first thing that happened after that podcast aired was I saw an old friend on the street and boy, did she hug me without asking. It’s like: I love your podcast! [Hug] I mean, you know, these are forgivable crimes, but you know.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Often forgivable but it’s one of the things that, you know, the pandemic didn’t change us so much as highlight what needs to be changed.

 

John Hodgman: Oh, yeah. I think that’s really true.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And I think consent around touching is one of them.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah. There’s no silver lining to what happened.

 

Ana Marie Cox: No.

 

John Hodgman: And is happening still. But there are lessons, and things that are revealed like that. As well as huge social and structural inequalities that were in place and ignored, until they couldn’t be by people who look like me. But you were saying something about touching.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Oh, that’s what, that was it. Because for some reason, the dishwasher thing actually made me think about the touching thing.

 

John Hodgman: Why? That’s a cool connection.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [sigh] This space that men take up in the world.

 

John Hodgman: Go on.

 

Ana Marie Cox: This idea—

 

John Hodgman: Not enough? Not enough space? Look, I’m doing my part

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] And this idea that, like, if I know something is right, then I don’t need to check it out with anyone else, unless I’m pretty sure I’m going to be validated.

 

John Hodgman: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And for some reason, I had this flash to kind of the immediate aftermath of MeToo or the first wave of backlash to that, which for me was a lot of men saying: what, I can’t hug you anymore? Like, and expecting to hear back from people: oh, you’re right, that is going too far. Yeah.

 

John Hodgman: Right.

 

Ana Marie Cox: We shouldn’t, yeah—I’m glad you, like they’re expecting people, women included, to say, you know what? Good point. Gosh, we should go ahead and hug me no matter what. And that’s, they didn’t, a lot of people didn’t like that.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Didn’t like not having their power and space affirmed.

 

John Hodgman: And that was something that had been articulated to me—so I’m married to a person. I have very—I mean, we’ve been married for 20 years—but only recently, to my shame, have I realized how uncomfortable I feel and should be feeling about saying ‘my wife.’ Maybe it was the Borat thing that brought that home, because all of a sudden it was a comedic cliché. But even simply to turn to my wife’s like—the whole human being that I share a life with had pointed out to me years ago, that, how frustrated, and frustrating it is that when greeting people, it is always the default that she be hugged, and I not be. And I’m like, yeah, that is terrible and I should have noticed a long time ago. Because I don’t, I feel great, I don’t want to be hugged.

 

Ana Marie Cox: My boundaries are perfect. I don’t know what you’re talking about, boundaries. Why do you have to enforce your boundaries?

 

John Hodgman: Yeah, right. Everything seemed fine. So, yeah, everybody be a little thoughtful before going in for a hug. It’s reasonable. It’s reasonable, it’s reasonable to deny a hug. Doesn’t mean I don’t— I’m, just this is, this I’m saying to Joel Mann  here at the studios of WERU in Orland, Maine, who’s recording us right now. Joel, can you hear me? We can’t hear you, so doesn’t matter. Oh, OK. Joel, you can hear me, right? Just because I don’t hug you doesn’t mean I don’t love you.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Well, speaking of things that seem inevitable, let’s go to some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Ana Marie Cox: And we’re back.

 

John Hodgman: Great ad read by the way.

 

Ana Marie Cox: It was so good. “Use that offer code.”

 

John Hodgman: It’s an art form.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah.

 

John Hodgman: It’s an art form.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So I want to move away from Judgment as much as we can, and to Dicktown.

 

John Hodgman: Sure. Thank you for saying the name of the TV show that I made with David Reese and we chose to give it that name, and I feel very uncomfortable every time it comes up, even though I love the show.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Have to live with your choices, John.

 

John Hodgman: I know. I know because I was just thinking, I was just thinking about that this morning. And it’s, and it’s been it’s been months since it was initially aired on FX. It now—this is my, this is how I work in a little plug—Dicktown is a 10-episode animated series by me and David Reese. It is a PG 13 comedy. It is not about dicks.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Well . . .

 

John Hodgman: It is available now on—it has some small dick energy. I will say that. Some, some very small dick energy.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So it’s about a former high school bully.

 

John Hodgman: Yes, it’s not me.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Bullee e e. The one who was bullied.

 

John Hodgman: Boy, oh, boy. Boy, oh, boy. Can you imagine being in a high school and explaining to your bully, like, no, you’re the bully, I’m the bullee. What a wedgie you would get, and earn perhaps. No, I don’t, I don’t advocate that.

 

Ana Marie Cox: They team up to solve crimes, you know, as one does. What inspired that?

 

John Hodgman: So my friend David Reese, who is the co-host of another podcast called Election Profit Makers with Starlee Kine and John Kimball—all of whom I love very dearly. And David is a cartoonist and a musician and a TV host and just a Renaissance person who’s been a dear friend and an inspiration to me for a long time. We wanted to work on something together. And David’s idea was, let’s do a comedy not necessarily featuring us, but he wanted to do something in the mode of Simon & Simon, the 1980s detective, 80s TV show, where they, I think one of them lives on a houseboat. Maybe they both do? There in San Diego.

 

Ana Marie Cox: There a houseboat involved. I remember that.

 

John Hodgman: Then there’s also, there’s another, Riptide had a robot, with two guys and a—I don’t remember what it was. And I and I at the time, at that time was spending a lot of time revisiting the world of Encyclopedia Brown, reading those books with our son. And Encyclopedia Brown is kind of an increasingly obscure cultural reference, I’m sad to say, but it was a series of young adult novels, particularly in the late ’60s through the ’70s, early ’80s, featuring a character named Encyclopedia Brown, who was a 14 or 15-year old boy detective who solved mysteries for all the other little kids around town. And sometimes for the police because his dad was the chief of police and an incompetent male who had been apparently—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Promoted beyond his abilities.

 

John Hodgman: Promoted beyond his abilities, and therefore had to take his most vexing cases home to his son to solve. So I said, well, why don’t we do—and Encyclopedia Brown had an arch nemesis in town called Bugs Meany, who was the leader of the Tigers, which was the gang of bad kids who are always stealing other kids’, you know, like jar of nickels or whatever it was. So I said, why don’t we do a Simon & Simon type show but the premise is my character is a Encyclopedia Brown, but he’s grown up—not actually Encyclopedia Brown, my character’s name is John Hunchman. Oh, but I’m an Encyclopedia Brown type who has grown up and has failed to thrive and lives on a houseboat that is falling apart and it’s still stuck solving mysteries for teenagers. And your character, David Reese, is my former high school bully and arch nemesis who has also failed to leave town. This town is called Richardville or Dicktown to the locals who don’t like it. And David’s character is now living in his parents’ basement, also has no one else in his life and has now become my driver and sort of my muscle and my only friend. And we go around this town solving crimes for people who are much younger than us and the mysteries tend to be more existential than practical. So we had one episode of a young woman named Meg, who’s played by the incredible Anna Akana, who, if you don’t know Anna Akana, go check out Anna Akana, an incredible creative force and actor—but Meg hires us, she’s I guess 19 and she’s hired us to find out if the guy that she has been having sex with believes that they’re dating. That’s her mystery. So it’s sort of, that’s sort of the gag.

 

Ana Marie Cox: So I know you’re a fellow conflict-avoidant only child.

 

John Hodgman: Yes. What are you going to ask me? Is it going to hurt?

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Well, it’s a little bit about Dicktown, because it’s those, that’s a conflict that got sort of resolved, I guess, like the idea of teaming up with your high school bully.

 

John Hodgman: What’s interesting is we still to this day, and we hope very much to make more episodes, I can’t say anything more than that—but Dicktown still lives in our hearts and minds. We talk about it a lot. And you’ll see in the show we get really deep with these characters and their emotions. That’s why we called it Dicktown. I’ll explain that in one second.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] We just need to say it as much as possible. Like in every answer, in every question. So with Dicktown—?

 

John Hodgman: What’s happened was, yeah, what happened was I knew, I knew because David and I are emotional guys. And David is a recovered high school bully. Oh, and I am on an-ongoing only-child weirdo. We knew this dynamic would work because we lived it, we have this fun, sort of brotherly dynamic. But we also are emotional dudes, and there’s going to be a lot of emotion and heart in this show and we are making it for FX. And I knew that FX was, defined itself as edgy. And I decided that if we called it Dicktown, it will distract FX from noticing that our show is actually a lot about emotions and feeling—

 

Ana Marie Cox: Super emo?

 

John Hodgman: Yeah, it’s pretty emotional, it’s a pretty emo show. And as deep as we go in, I mean, we draw Richardville, Dicktown, is very much drawn on Chapel Hill, which is where David grew up. And it’s very autobiographical, the details of the town and the people and his old piano teacher who play a role in there. And the guy who plays my dad is based on the dad of a good friend of his. And then a lot of my character’s obsessions with houseboats and Battlestar Galactica and other sort of odd things that made me the weirdo that I am show up in my back story. It’s very deep, right? But we have never been able to establish in the long back story of this series, which we we created quite a Bible for, how these guys ended up being friends. There’s still no explanation as to how the former bully and the bullee ended up working together. And like we sit down and talk about it from time to time. Like, how do you think it was that—the show opens with them working together and my character is ostensibly his employer, and we drive around in his Fiero of solving mysteries and stuff. But like the day that my character said to his character, do you want to work together, or he said, can I work with you—is completely unknown. We cannot figure it out. We cannot crack that code. Maybe you have an idea.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Well, t’s sort of a bank shot off of something you said earlier, which is that we’re all struggling. We all suffer.

 

John Hodgman: Well, I got to go work on something now. That’s a good solution. That’s a good solution right there. Yep.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I, just to is work much of myself into this podcast as possible—

 

John Hodgman: Please!

 

Ana Marie Cox: You know, I’m in recovery.

 

John Hodgman: Yes.

 

Ana Marie Cox: And there are friendships that form in the rooms of AA.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Are pretty remarkable.

 

John Hodgman: People who would not normally be friends—

 

Ana Marie Cox: There’s actually a phrase in the AA big book: we normally would not mix.

 

John Hodgman: Interesting, interesting. Have you ever had an experience where you became friends with someone that you couldn’t, that you had conflict with?

 

Ana Marie Cox: I will say to speak from the point of view of AA, this is a little different than an actual friendship, but hopefully this will maybe give you some ideas—there are people that I go to meetings with whose politics and whose personality I find incredibly annoying. I love them. I would answer a call at 2 a.m.. You know?

 

John Hodgman: OK. I think that there’s something there. I think, I think you’ve maybe circled something for me that makes a lot of sense. That’s good, because I may or may not be having to write the scene where they meet, tomorrow. As it happens.

 

Ana Marie Cox: I want some writing credit, but other than that, just fine. Go ahead. Go for it.

 

John Hodgman: Co-creator? Listen, you don’t want any piece of this pie.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Dicktown? I don’t want to a piece of Dicktown?

 

John Hodgman: This is a, this is a, it’s not an empire. It’s not an empire.

 

Ana Marie Cox: It’s Dicktown.

 

John Hodgman: Yeah, that’s right. Forget about it, Jake, it’s Dicktown.

 

Ana Marie Cox: [laughs] Well, this has been lovely.

 

John Hodgman: Hey! I agree with you.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Yeah. We have to do it more often, which I think is the thing that we say every time we see each other.

 

John Hodgman: Any time, any time you want. Oh! I remembered something very profound that we say sometimes on the Judge John Hodgman podcast that was one of the things that I forgot and it’s really important and my memory is really going. But, vis a vis, if you are in a, if you are in a relationship of any kind, right, and you are—and this goes to dishwashing, right, or anything—if you are in a mind to help, don’t come up with a new way to help. You don’t have to devise a new way to load the dishwasher. What you can do is you can say: how would you like me to load the dishwasher? Extend that metaphorically to everything. Something that I learned from talking to people. And truly, I have to give the audience so much credit because they write letters, they respond to judgments, they pull me apart, they critique me, they get mad, sometimes they validate, sometimes they invalidate—but the thing that we all sort of agreed on together—aside from people like what they like—is helping the way you want to help, is not help. Help in the way you are asked to help. That is help. That is real help. Helping the way you feel like helping is probably just an annoyance. So there. That was the thing I wanted to say. I just remembered it.

 

Ana Marie Cox: Thank you so much for coming on the show.

 

John Hodgman: Thank you. Thanks for doing the show. I look forward to hearing every episode that I am not in, and re-listening to the ones that I have already listened to.

 

Ana Marie Cox: What a pleasure to talk to John Hodgman. So educational and entertaining. You can check out Judge John Hodgman on your favorite podcast app, and go to Hulu to stream episodes of Dicktown. I had to say just one more time. Take care of yourselves.

 

With Friends Like These