Judge John Hodgman Ep. 16: The Potluck Problem

Judge John Hodgman

Two best friends disagree on the morality of the potluck. One says it's a great opportunity for everyone to pitch in. One says it's a sign of a host who's abdicated responsibility for the party. Only one man can decide who's right.

To view the evidence for this case, CLICK HERE.


Exhibits A1-2: His friend Jenny bartending at one of the many fully-catered and hosted parties they threw together as students at Oberlin College.


Exhibits B1-2: More recent evidence of parties thrown by Jenny, assisted by Ben. Ben submits this as "an illustration of the sacrifices that must be made when throwing a party."




Exhibit A: A photo of Jenny's potluck birthday party, held last year.

Exhibit B: A "a link to a website designed to assist in efficient potluck administration, for the Type A personalities among us".

Exhibit C: Photos of a potluck thrown by staffers at Martha Stewart Living Radio.
The Martha Stewart Potluck


The Public Health Hazard Pot Luck

In many of my work environments, I've attended and (forcibly) participated in potlucks. They are terrible because the food that is served unsanitary. Basic food serving sanitation.... Hot food is served hot and cold food served cold. How many of us have sat at a potluck and eaten a warm salad and a mild buffalo wing. Let me tell you, when the food is warm bacteria starts to grow. If this were a restaurant and they were serving food at room temperature, the health department would step in and shut that operation down. Pot lucks are equally a public health hazard, a nuisance to society and should be stopped.

Potlucks are Tacky

I was just talking about this the other day. I think it is appropriate for someone to bring a hostess gift. I never attend a party empty handed. But I refuse to attend a potluck party. If you cannot afford to throw a party, do not throw a party.


If you can't afford to throw a party, don't? Wow, that sounds needlessly harsh and a bit snobbish. Any other rules? I suppose caviar must be served, and no Ritz crackers allowed (on penalty of blacklisting said host/hostess from ever hosting again). I don't like parties in general, but that doesn't mean I think everyone should be banned from throwing one.

What if it weren't called a Potluck, but rather just a dinner party--and then the host asked different people to bring different items?

the cupcake bit

That cupcake nonsense was a genius rant.

I did a spit-take when he

I did a spit-take when he mentioned the Muslim Brotherhood and their entenmann's cookies(if a spit-take can also involve water running out of my uncontrollable grin). I can deffinately imagine and indeed hope for John Hodgman as a future dictatorial minister of some extremely high rank in pre or post-apocalyptic American society.

Beverage, Sauce or Broth

Apparently way too many people have this ridiculous question that it must be addressed on consecutive weeks on two podcasts... (start about 3 minutes in)



I'm with Ben, but you just can't get around the damn potluck.

Much as I hate to go, "hey, watch me whore out my blog," I wrote a long-ass response to this over there. I really hate the whole cooking-when-you-hate cooking thing, and especially the minefield that is other people's dietary issues. Ugggggggggggh. But you can't get around the cheapness issue, at least.


Factual dispute with the Judge.

"You have not proved that that's the everyman, you're not you haven't even proved that that's the some-man, but you were willing to stand up for the one man and I appreciate that."

Technically "some" is the same as "not none" so Ben did prove that he's the some-man.

Language is not math

If I promise to give you "some" M&Ms or "some" of my hoard of gold doubloons or "some" back issues of Tiger Beat from the 1980s, and I in fact give you only "one" M&M or gold doubloon or back issue of Tiger Beat, you will--and rightly SHOULD--feel righteous indignation.

Language is not math.


When I go to potlucks I always bring 2 items. Sour Grapes and a Knuckle Sandwich.


Did it seem to anyone else as it did to me, that in this episode, until the judgment (which was as balanced and insightful and in my opinion, correct, as ever), the Honorable Judge was unusually antagonistic to Ben, and unusually nice to Jenny to the point of flirting with her?

No Post Judgement Comments

Anyone find it strange that the defendants did not talk after JJH returned from his chambers to give his ruling?