John Hodgman: Ragnarok

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John Hodgman: Ragnarok
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John Hodgman: Ragnarok
Comedy
Netflix
June 20th, 2013
Release length: 1:07:00
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If you’re a fan of The Daily Show on Comedy Central, or perhaps remember the old Mac Vs. PC commercials, then you know who comedian John Hodgman is and are familiar with his eccentric billionaire character. To celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar, he held a special stand up performance in New York, which was recorded to stream as an exclusive on Netflix in June of 2013 titled Ragnarok. Upon realizing I had missed out on one of my favorite correspondents, what to watch next was obvious. But, even if you have a streaming account, is this really the party of the year, or will it make you wish the end of the world would just hurry up and put an end to the pain?

While the billionaire character translates well on television thanks to having others to play off of, the execution does not at all work as a solo attempt. Most of the show is him simply talking to the audience by making a random nerd-related reference here and there, or trying to throw a twist to a joke that might make you chuckle, but is rarely all the memorable outside that towards the end he talks about sperm whales and mayonnaise, the latter of which he throws around at the audience towards the end. But the funniest bit of the performance is at the very start when Scott Adsit explains how John Hodgman saved him, and then went over the various rules of the show itself that were never played on during the show itself. The time is spent to set up this introduction, and it is never addressed again, not even stopping here and there to say “don’t look at me” or something, though someone in the crowd is picked on for laughing at John when he talks about his loss of popularity.

There are some additional characters that appear aside Adsit. There’s also a fourteen year old English boy by the name of Joel that gets called onto the stage more than once. The first time, he is sent outside to wait for signs of the end times just so John can switch topics to sports. This is really where the references switch to jokes, such as his appreciation for the American version of football, and why exactly he likes it despite being vocal about how much he hates sports in general. His jokes about hockey and the elements can be a bit far fetched, and the concept of soccer performed by the Mayan’s using their hips fit the theme, but really served no purpose whatsoever. There also was a musical performance later on from Cynthia Hopkins, which was really hard to sit through. Picture singing similar to South Park‘s satyrical version of Barbara Streisand and you’ll get the point. The sad thing is she sounds great in the brief moments she isn’t screwing around so the audience can howl like wolves when she can’t hit the higher pitches during the chorus.

Other than the sports discussions, the best is the unscripted reactions. Joel at one point loses his accent briefly and John cuts him off, laughing and pointing out the missing dialect. Then there’s when he asks if the audience knows what ambergris is used for and gets the right answer. The reaction seems more like genuine surprise than something scripted. It will make you chuckle, but it loses its bite when you remember he appears on The Daily Show, which is on the same channel that has played the hell out of Futurama since acquiring it for syndication, and one episode involves this tidbit of information as read by Roseanne which is used as the premise for the last half.

John Hodgman: Ragnarok

What Ragnarok boils down to is a comedian performing an incredibly dull one man show based around using pop culture references, unfunny twists, or asking questions to keep the audience and viewer awake. The quality is more what you might expect at a local community theatre than as a professional recorded production, and only really shows John Hodgman‘s gimmick doesn’t work without someone to feed into it. More often you’ll find yourself checking the stream, feeling like it’s been an eternity and surely almost over. Instead you’ll come to realize it’s only been two or three minutes since the last time you checked, just like the last of the countless times before it. Ragnarok is a, infuriatingly boring sixty-seven minutes of your life you’ll spend waiting for a grand finale that will make sitting through the sixty minute performance worth it. Instead it’s bad joke, pun and referance after another until it all ends with a short sing along that will have you as pissed off as most of the people in the audience who probably paid top dollar to sit through the train wreck you technically just suffered through for free.

Overall Score: 1.5/10
Digital review copy of this release provided by personal funds.