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Tuesdays with James and his Stories

September 6, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 25
Photo: Alberto Vasar

Photo: Alberto Vasar

by Steve Desroches

James Judd is in his hotel room in Columbus, Ohio. The stand-out storyteller on NPR’s hit show Snap Judgment has a show at the Davidson Theatre with the nearly 1,000-seat venue sold out. After all, between live broadcasts and podcasts Snap Judgment has about 5 million listeners, not to mention that storytelling has once again become a popular form of media as it enjoys a renaissance. And Judd is considered to be one of the reigning master humorists on the circuit as he is the closer of each Snap Judgment Live! show as they tour the country.

The weekly radio show hosted by Glynn Washington, which features storytellers of all kinds, gave Judd a boost in his career like he could never have imagined. Originally from San Francisco and now living in Miami, Judd has had a life full of the kind of experiences that would be a crime for him not to share with the thousands who see him live or listen to him on the radio. From accidentally ending up in a whorehouse in China to scuba diving with Great White sharks off of our very own coast to finding out his dermatologist was a fraud and then becoming pen pals with him when he went to Attica, Judd has many stories to tell and he tells them in a way that keeps audiences coming back for more. An alumnus of the Los Angeles based improve comedy troupe The Groundlings and the New Faces at the Hollywood Improv, Judd left the world of stand-up comedy, first for a career as a criminal defense attorney, and then for storytelling, finding it a much better fit than the previous two vocations.

“Storytelling is about telling a story that happened to you,” says Judd. “Stand-up comedy is about killing or dying on stage. Storytelling isn’t. It’s about sharing a personal story with an audience.”

Judd’s exuberance for the art of the story as well as his mercurial whimsy make him a stand out in a crowded field. But once he achieved the dream of playing to huge, packed houses he missed the connection he felt when playing small club dates. Standing on stage at the 4,000-plus-seat Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles is a thrill, but the blinding lights and cavernous performance space can feel isolating. One day, not long after that performance, Judd was surfing the Internet to find a place to do some smaller dates, which is when his mind drifted to thoughts of Provincetown.

Judd has visited Provincetown many times over the years, and in fact one of his most famous stories, “Shark Attack or How I Made My First Friend…In New England,” takes place, in part, here, as he traveled with a LGBT scuba club. He says the town is still sweeping up the glitter from that visit. Judd is hilarious even when he isn’t trying to be, but his voice deepens and softens when he speaks of his love for Provincetown. And he is most serious when he says he and his husband have long hoped to move here, to be a part of the artistic community and the town’s eccentric ways. When he learned about the newly renovated Fishermen Hall and saw photos of the beautifully subtle space, he knew that was the venue for him instantly. He booked it for six Tuesdays in September and October. Tuesdays? In the fall? Yes. His love for storytelling, as well as previously booked weekend gigs, as well as his popularity on NPR with its huge following on the Cape fills him with confidence. And what a treat to have such a comedic master to enjoy for those of us who know that autumn is the golden time of year on Cape Cod, making these Tuesday engagements just perfect.

“And I say why not Tuesdays,” says Judd. “I mean what is everyone doing on Tuesdays at 7? Whether its 5 or 200 people I’m going to enjoy that show. For years I was performing in these terrible urine-stinking venues. I performed in a swimming pool in Montreal with 25 seats spread around the side edges. Now that I play big theaters I’m happy to be back in these venues where I can see everyone’s faces. I can’t wait to get to Provincetown.”

James Judd’s Funny Stories plays at Fishermen Hall, 12 Winslow St. Tuesdays September 12 – October 24 (no performance October 10) at 7 p.m. Tickets ($25) are available at the door and online at jamesbjudd.com.