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‘How To With John Wilson’ Is Ending. What Will He Do Now?

John Wilson likes trilogies. “There are only three seasons of ‘Jackass,’” he pointed out during an interview this month from his home in Queens.

Mr. Wilson, 36, wore a white T-shirt like the one he usually wears while filming “How To With John Wilson,” his HBO documentary series whose third and final season begins on July 28.

The show is a portrait of New York taken at a funny angle; a meandering exploration of the resilience and delusion required to be a New Yorker. It began as a Vimeo series that was a side hustle for Mr. Wilson, who worked on infomercials and as a production assistant for a reality TV show.

The series retained its eye for curious characters when it was picked up by HBO. In Season 3, Mr. Wilson introduces viewers to a woman who hangs up inspirational posters in a Brighton Beach public restroom (“Please Don’t Drink and Drive,” “Pray”). Mr. Wilson himself appears in glimpses between interviews, reflected in the mirror of a party bus with his camera in hand.

The show’s personal moments have sometimes been uncomfortable for the filmmaker and the people in his life. In the edited interview below, he discusses the decision to end the show and the other preoccupations for which he’ll now have more time.


In the first episode of the new season, “How To Find a Public Restroom,” you trap yourself in a self-cleaning bathroom and film the rinsing process. How did you know how to do that?

It’s something I had done before. I did it in Boston in 2010. I just discovered it because I was hanging out in there. The floor is a button, so you have to sit on the sink — that way, it thinks there’s no one in there.

Did you get wet?

Really wet.

You’ve said it was a miracle your show got made. Why do you think it broke through?

One thing that [executive producer and comedian] Nathan Fielder said when we were in the meeting with HBO initially was like, when I watch John’s stuff, I start to see the world in that way. The perspective of the show was something I took a lifetime to develop, through watching films and watching people and being bored. I think boredom is one of my great ways of inspiring myself.

The show’s personal moments have sometimes been uncomfortable for the filmmaker and the people in his life.Credit…Adam Powell for The New York Times

When did you decide that this would be the show’s final season?

As we were premiering Season 2 and I started to write Season 3, I started to conceive of this as the last season. I really wanted to end on a strong note, and there was a lot of psychologically and emotionally stressful stuff that happened in Season 2 and also in Season 3.

Is there any of it that you’re nervous for viewers to encounter?

I’m not nervous about any anonymous viewer encountering any of it. It’s more 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 go a step further sometimes. I think the demands of the show started to outpace what I felt comfortable revealing about my life. I wanted to make sure I was doing everything for the right reasons, to use a “Bachelor” phrase.

“The Bachelor” comes up a couple times this season. Do you watch the show regularly?

Sadly, yeah. I used to watch it with friends as a social event. But I’ve recently found myself just watching it alone, which makes me feel not as good. It’s really like sitting in traffic, listening to a lot of these conversations. My favorite part is the last two minutes during the credits, when you actually see what’s happening.

If they put you in charge of making a season of “The Bachelor,” would you do it?

Sure. I feel like it would be a very strange version of it that exposed all of the stuff that they’re trying to hide.

“I think the demands of the show started to outpace what I felt comfortable revealing about my life,” Mr. Wilson said.Credit…Adam Powell for The New York Times

A lot of viewers became fans of your former landlord, Mama, during Season 1. Do you stay in touch?

Yeah. She’s in Vegas. I still get a lot of her mail. I’ve got to send this to her: It’s a senior citizens’ MetroCard with her face on it. Right now I’m using it as a bookmark.

Last season, you documented the process of buying the building. How has it felt to become a landlord yourself?

It’s been cool. I don’t really think of myself as much as a landlord because my good friends live in the units beneath me. My basement has been flooding constantly during these big deluge storms. It did not happen before I bought the place.

Has making the show made you more optimistic or more pessimistic about New York?

More optimistic. In each episode I try to focus on this specific problem that the city has that seems really difficult to solve. By the end, there is always some weird, twisted way to solve the problem, even if it doesn’t come from the bureaucracy of the city.

“I want to keep making more stuff that I want to see in the world that doesn’t exist yet,” the filmmaker said.Credit…Adam Powell for The New York Times

What will you do next?

It’s not that I won’t make personal things in the future. I just think the work is going to mutate in a way as it moves forward. I want to keep making more stuff that I want to see in the world that doesn’t exist yet. I made one book of things I found on Craigslist, and I’m now making a Volume 2.

What’s the best thing you’ve seen on Craigslist lately?

A listing for two sets of closet doors. The seller claims they’re from a Kips Bay apartment once rented by a pre-fame Heidi Klum.

How much?

Free.

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