Judge John Hodgman Episode 163: Backseat Jiver


Zaki always controls the stereo on long car rides, and Michelle wants to get in on the action. Who gets to choose the audio playlist on a road trip, the driver or the passenger?

If you want to join our conversation about this episode, please click on the Forum link below.

Thanks to Sarah Bourassa for suggesting this week's case name! To suggest a title for a future episode, like us on Facebook at Judge John Hodgman. We regularly put a call for submissions.



Zaki's Playlist (right click to download PDF)

Michelle's Playlist (right click to download PDF)

Embeddable Audio Player Code (Copy and Paste)



I had been wanting to listen to this episode for months, but hadn't been able to find the time. I was preparing to go on a bike ride and thought, "I know, I'll listen to 'Backseat Jiver'!" So I went to download the episode, but because I am old and have trouble reading the tiny white letters on my iPhone, I clicked on the icon with the big blue P (P for podcast, don't you know) and nearly dropped my phone when Pandora started blaring! I quickly pushed the home button to stop it, which didn't work of course, and by the time I'd recovered my composure enough to re-open the app and pause it, I was kind of into the song. I thought, "I'll have to come back to Pandora and listen to this after I listen to the episode." So I closed Pandora and found the podcast app and downloaded the episode, then cracked up as I listened to it. The song that I had paused on Pandora? "Take on Me" by a-ha!

The Best Thing to Listen to on a Road Trip

The judge missed out on the opportunity to point out that the single best thing to listen to on a road trip is the JJH podcast! My wife and I have fairly different musical taste and all our troubles went away when we discovered the JJH podcast and now that's all we listen to on car trips.

wait....Space Jazz, by L. Ron Hubbard?!?!?

Thanks for that nugget of trivia.

Amazing voice!

Michelle has an incredible voice! It was such a pleasure to hear her sing. Thank you, Your Honor, for forcing her to sing.

On Peter Venkman's Backstory

May it please the court: Here I am being an OCD film critic again, but I can explain how Peter Venkman became a scientist.

As Judge Hodgman observed, Peter Venkman is a natural scientist; he may not take his job especially seriously, but he's always open to new ideas and repeatedly puts himself forward to interact with the unknown. And his casual relationship with the Dean makes it pretty clear that he's coasted through most of his career; there's even a moment later in the film when Venkman is stumped on a point of ghost logic, to which Ray shakes his head gently and says -- with genuine affecton -- "You never studied."

Ray and Peter went to school together. Ray did most of Peter's work for him or with him -- Ray is clearly the brains behind all of their research -- but Peter was smart enough to wing it when he had to. That line, and Dan Aykroyd's marvelous delivery of it, says so much about their relationship; it's amazing how densely written GHOSTBUSTERS is. And the really amazing part is that most of relationship stuff was written after the fact by Harold Ramis, since Aykroyd was mostly interested in the mythology behind Zuul and the various other paranormal entities. (Seriously, the evolution of that project is remarkable.)

And speaking of densely written: The real button on Venkman's first scene is not that he continues shocking the poor kid, but the exchange that follows.

What are you trying to prove here anyway?

I'm studying the effect of negative reinforcement on ESP ability.

The effect? I'll tell the effect! It's pissing me off!

Well, then maybe my theory is correct!

You can keep the five bucks, I've had it!

So: The purpose of Venkman's experiment is to shock people into having psychic powers, AND IT WORKS. It took me several viewings to realize how complex that joke is -- and how Reitman is content to simply tuck it away in the laughter after the "pissing me off" line. People will find it eventually.

With respect,
Norm Wilner

My favorite part of this

My favorite part of this episode was when Jesse came thisclose to thanking the guests for being on Bullseye.