High- and low-brow cultural goings-on in the Second City, brought to you by a roving microtechnoanthropologist

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Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Penguins Are Assholes: John Hodgman and David Rees at Second City E.T.C.

Tonight I had the pleasure of joining about 200 of my closest fellow citizens for an evening filled with snifters filled with Jeppson's Malört.* You may revoke my Swede card now, for I had never heard of Malört before. I have, however, been drinking glögg made with grain alcohol since childhood.

I arrived at Second City E.T.C. at about 5:30, which was later than I'd planned. DO NOT BE ALARMED, my friends, because I had the most rockstar of rockstar parking: A spot not 15 feet from the door of Piper's Alley, meter needing to be fed until 6 PM, 32 minutes remaining on meter at 5:36. Contrary to my expectations, I was not eaten by a bear moments later.

There were probably about 15 people queued up outside the theater, and I sat down at the end of the line to do some reading for class. Someone from Second City came around and handed out tickets, letting us know that they guaranteed us entry, but not any particular seats. A little after six, a SWAT team from The Book Stall swept into action and assembled a retail operation to be reckoned with. Roughly 10 seconds later, I found myself in possession of several copies of More Information Than You Require and a copy of Get Your War On.

There was some instinctive sheep action shortly before 7 PM and this, fortunately, proved to not be too far ahead of them opening the doors. They seated people by party size, and I got an aisle seat next to a table. The slightly hyperactive microgeek on the other side of the table audibly gasped when I piled up my purchases in the course of rearranging my bag so that I could get at my knitting. I got through about two repeats of my pattern (Dragonscales in Shibui sock's mulberry colorway for those of you playing along at home) before the house lights went down and the Hodg-man himself came out in his RNC-provided tuxedo.

A bottle of Malört dangled carelessly from his elegant, Gatsby-esque fingers, and soon that very bottle was circulating through the audience (neither it nor the second bottle ever did make it to my section, though) as John introduced David Rees. David had apparently been promised $500 by the Hodgman if he were to drink an entire bottle of Malört. When he tried to claim a cold, John poured him an Irish coffee mug full (fill it to the rim! With Malört!) and retired to the green room to microwave it. Ravaged by illness, Rees gave way to Hodgman's insistence that he "Enjoy it hot!"

While Hodgman was preparing the toddy of the damned, Rees announced his intention to retire Get Your War on officially as of January 20, 2009. We were treated to an exciting preview of his next venture: Relationshapes. Allow me to say that it was like looking into an expertly shaded, geometric mirror. Having taken a bracing sip of hot buttered Malört ("That tastes like a forest fire"),
he then did GYWO in 9 min, 9 seconds (causal relationship between timing and Malört: indeterminate), and thus conclusively proved that Criswell had exactly JACK on Rees.

Hodgman took the stage again and immediately began flinging monkeys to the middle of the house and abusing lecterns. He then proceeded to borrow a copy of his book from the friend with whom he'd been sitting (and, of course, sharing Malört with) and demonstrated how it can be used as a page-a-day calendar. But most of the presentation was devoted to the trials and tribulations of a famous minor television personality. Without wishing to venture into the territory of what the kids call 5p01lerz, I will simply share the following phrases:

  • "Well done, Peter Berg, I wish I had a copy of Frank Herbert's Dune!"
  • "Pudgy. Portly. Round-faced."
  • "And I would fall asleep with Rachel Hunter's breath on my cheek. In the sky."
  • "It is perilously easy."
  • "Enervating."
  • "Or lamb sandwich."
  • "Thank you, Malört."
  • "Tarmac is from the Celtic for 'you're fucking stuck here'."
  • "I am tempted to talk about that terrible movie."
  • "The answer is cream pie. Over."
  • "Cheese it, it's the cops."
  • "Ira Glass wrote that to make me sound sympathetic."
  • "Though I had, in fact, leaned nothing against a fence."
  • "Shaved men and women roaming the countryside, dripping nutritive slime."
  • "A child. Taking a picture of me. While I sleep."
  • "Thank you, Malört, liqueur of digression."

I got to ask a question over the walkie talkie, and I was relieved that my stage-managing fu did not fail me in using the walkie talkie, unlike SOME audience members I could mention. I was also NOT the audience member attempting to bogart the walkie talkie at the end. The line for book signing extended down to the main floor and I got yet more knitting done. Both gentlemen were gracious and gentlemanly while signing. (If you recall from my encounter with Sarah Vowell, wherein I unsuccessfully attempted to employ a beard, I can't seem to embrace the notion that just because I've bought a stack of books, I have the right to enslave these individuals and monopolize their time.) Hodgman was even kind enough to express relief when I reassured him that I was NOT having him sign a book for a serial killer.

*Please note that this Flickrer is mistaken when sie claims Malört is the most repulsive spirit known to man. That honor goes to Chinese sorghum liquor. No. Srsly.

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