John Wilson loves trios. He noted during an interview this month from his home in Queens, “There are only three seasons of ‘Ass.'”
Mr. Wilson, 36, wore a white T-shirt like the one he usually wears while filming “How To With John Wilson,” the HBO documentary series that begins its third and final season on July 28.
The show is a picture of New York shot at a funny angle; A meandering exploration of the flexibility and illusion it takes to be a New Yorker. It started as a Vimeo serial that was a side hustle for Mr. Wilson, who worked on commercials and as a production assistant for a reality TV show.
The series retained its interest in quirky characters when it was picked up by HBO. In the third season, Mr. Wilson introduces viewers to a woman who hangs inspirational posters in a public restroom in Brighton Beach (“Please Don’t Drink and Drive”, “Pray”). Mr. Wilson himself appears in glimpses between interviews, reflected in the mirror of the party bus, camera in hand.
The personal moments on the show were sometimes uncomfortable for the director and the people in his life. In the edited interview below, he discusses the decision to end the show and other preoccupations that he will now have more time for.
In the first episode of the new season, “How to Find a Public Toilet,” you barricade yourself in a self-cleaning bathroom and film the act of rinsing. How did you know how to do that?
It’s something I’ve done before. I did it in Boston in 2010. I just discovered it because I was hanging out there. The floor is a button, so you have to sit on the sink – that way, you think there’s no one there.
did you get wet
You said it was a miracle your show did. Why do you think it was hacked?
one thing [executive producer and comedian] When I first watch John’s stuff, I’m starting to see the world that way,” Nathan Fielder said when we were on The Meeting with HBO at the beginning. The perspective of the show was something that took a lifetime to develop, through watching movies, watching people, and being bored. I think boredom is one of my great ways to inspire myself.
When did you decide that this was going to be the final season of the show?
When we were doing the Season 2 premiere and I started writing Season 3, I started to envision this being the final season. I really wanted to end on a strong note, and there were a lot of mentally and emotionally stressful things that happened in season two and also in season three.
Are you nervous about being confronted by viewers?
I’m not nervous about encountering an anonymous viewer of any of it. It’s more than just the people close to me. So many people on the show expose themselves to me and give me such honest interviews that I feel like I need to at least match them, if not move on sometimes. I think the demands of the show are starting to trump what I’ve felt comfortable revealing in my life. I wanted to make sure I’m doing everything for the right reasons, to use the phrase “BS”.
“The Bachelor” appears several times this season. Do you watch the show regularly?
Unfortunately yes. I used to watch it with friends as a social event. But I recently found myself watching it on my own, and it makes me feel not quite right. It really is like sitting in traffic and listening to a lot of these conversations. My favorite part is the last two minutes during the credits, when you see what’s really going on.
If they put you in charge of setting up the season of “The Bachelorette,” would you do it?
certainly. I feel like it would be a very weird version of him exposing all the things they’re trying to hide.
Many viewers became fans of the former landlord, Mama, during the first season. Do you keep in touch?
Yes. She’s in Vegas. I still get a lot of her mail. I have to send her: It’s a metro card for seniors with her face on it. Now I am using it as a bookmark.
Last season, I documented the building purchase. How did it feel to become a landlord yourself?
It was great. I don’t really think of myself as much as the owner because my best friends live in the units below me. My basement was constantly overflowing during these big deluge storms. It didn’t happen before I bought the place.
Did the show make you more optimistic or pessimistic about New York?
more optimistic. In each episode, I try to focus on this specific problem that seems really hard to solve in the city. In the end, there is always a weird, roundabout way to solve a problem, even if it doesn’t come from the city bureaucracy.
What will you do next?
It’s not that I won’t make personal things in the future. I just think the business is going to change in some way as it moves forward. I want to keep making more things that I want to see in the world that don’t exist yet. I created one book about stuff I found on Craigslist, and I’m currently making Volume 2.
What’s the cutest thing you’ve seen on Craigslist lately?
Listing for 2 sets of cabinet doors. The seller claims they are from a Bay of Kips apartment that the famous Heidi Klum rented.