Long before “fake news” came to dominate the headlines, John Hodgman was peddling his own absurdist brand of untruth. Author of several bestselling books of faux trivia, Hodgman parlayed his mock-expertise into a standing gig on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart. An actor, humorist, writer and podcaster, Hodgman is still perhaps best known for his portrayal of the hapless PC in an iconic series of ads for Apple.

These days, Hodgman, 46, plies his talents as a raconteur, telling stories that are, at once, funny, sad and true. His new book, “Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches,” is a midlife lament laced with humor. The book surprises with its poignancy amid well-honed barbs at the Pine Tree State.

“The waters of Maine are made of hate and want to kill you,” Hodgman writes. “If you make the mistake of going into it, every cell in your body will begin shouting the first half of the word ‘hypothermia’ into your brain; the second half will simply be frozen tears.”

Hodgman spoke recently from his home in Brooklyn about mortality, nerdiness and beards. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: You’ve lived much of your life in the Boston area and New York City, as well as western Massachusetts and Maine. At this stage, do you consider yourself a country guy or a city guy?

A: I started going out to rural western Massachusetts with my mom and dad when I was about 10, spending longer and longer periods of time there, even as an adult. In recent years, we’ve been spending time in a completely different wilderness, which is the painful beaches of coastal Maine. That said, I am a weird, non-athletic, asthmatic nerd who grew up watching “Dr. Who,” and still do. There is no question that I am the product of citified civilization. “I am a coastal elite for life” is what the tattoo on my abdomen says – and my abdomen is very soft.

Q: When you go to Maine, how long do you last before you need to get back to the city?

A: We spent the whole summer there. My wife teaches high school here in New York. I am marginally self-employed, or whatever it is I am. Everything I do is very portable, and I barely do it, so I can go to Maine and do my work in the morning, then row a boat around and feel close to the earth and sea in the afternoon. The truth is, we spend as much time in Maine as possible, in part because we’ve gotten accustomed to the regular aches and pains that Maine visits upon you.

Q: Tell me about the “strange and luminous 13-year-olds” that are your demographic.

A: There is always a contingent at my book readings, and at my imitation of stand-up comedy, of 12- to 15-year-old boys and girls who are bookish, and a little bit weird, a little bit shy and a little bit eccentric.

Q: So they’re just like you were as a teenager?

A: Yes, I think there is still that weird, long-haired Whovian adolescent in me that is speaking to them. It’s fun to think about the end of the world when you believe you’re immortal, and that’s true about most 13-year-olds. Now that we’re facing it down – not as much fun. That’s why post-apocalyptic literature and science fiction are so popular among young people.

My previous books, which were all ridiculous, contain a lot of my personality, but they were all framed in fake history and ridiculous non-truths. To some degree, that is the kind of escapism that I really got into when I was 13 or 14. There’s a Monty Python element (I hope) of joyful anarchy that served as an able distraction from the most pressing issue of the day that any 13-year-old feels, which is impending sexuality. I was not interested in thinking about that stuff at all. I was much more interested in reading the plays of Tom Stoppard, and enjoying the absurdity of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, than thinking about hugging and kissing other human beings. That was terrifying.

Q: According to the book, you’re now beyond any form of viability because of your age, so you’ve grown a beard.

A: In my literary oeuvre, I’ve skipped over completely what passed for my sexual prime. If the first three books embodied a pre-sexual fantasia of a 13-year-old, we pick up with “Vacationland” in a post-sexual weird Dad thing, where I’ve been happily married for many years, I have two wonderful children, my genetic material is out there in the world. Biologically speaking, I am no longer necessary, therefore I have grown this facial hair to say to the world, “No, thank you, I no longer deserve physical affection.”

Q: In the book, you describe growing a beard as if it’s a bona fide activity. Isn’t that a bit like watching wallpaper peel?

A: Well, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it! For those of us who are follicularly challenged, it’s a slow and often ugly process. It is a little bit like watching wallpaper peel. But imagine if the wallpaper were coming out of your face! There’s a dark sorcery to what’s happening to your face when you stop taking care of it. Guys need to see what secret man is lurking inside of them, and see how it changes them. It’s just one of those journeys that dudes have to go on.

Q: Beyond matters of sexuality and beards, I think of your book as a skeptic’s love letter to Maine.

A: Well, it’s definitely a love letter to Maine. I would say this: Maine became known as Vacationland during a time when very few people could take vacation. It was a rather exotic concept. Going on vacation was something for very wealthy people, and they did it to get out of the heat. So it was natural that Maine would emerge as a vacation destination for wealthy Bostonians and New Yorkers whose idea was to go north to a cold, dark place during the summer – to drink martinis and not talk to their family, and stare out over a body of water that they would never, ever swim in because it’s incredibly cold and uncomfortable.

But now we live in a time when there are lots of other places to go on vacation where it’s really pleasant and very easy, and yet people still go to Maine, including my wife, who loves Maine more than any other place or person on earth – and now me. The book – the second half, in particular – is really about coming to terms with why you endure not just painful beaches, but painful things in life.

Q: The book deals with the inevitability of loss in ways that may surprise some of your long-time readers.

A: In the same way as 13-year-olds may be terrified about the inevitability of sex in their lives, people in their 40s and 50s and so on are thinking about a different kind of inevitability. You never make peace with it; that’s what I learned from my mom. Ideally, you learn to live with a little bit more forgiveness for the people around you, and with a little more attention to what’s going on right now.

Look, Maine has many natural gifts for those who are morbidly inclined, not least the fact that autumn begins on Aug. 1, more or less. If you’re inclined to think about death and loss, Maine in August is a mournful time. That’s one of the things it offers the vacationer. Even swimming in Maine is an endurance test. It offers the vacationer the pleasure of enduring pain and coming through it.

Joan Silverman writes op-eds, essays and book reviews. Her work has appeared in The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune and Dallas Morning News.