James Judd wears many hats: humorist, storyteller, NPR radio personality, all-around upstanding human being. Judd, the “closer” on NPR’s popular syndicated “Snap Judgement” radio show and podcasts will weave together his comedic tales and hilarious characters live at Old School Square in Delray Beach on Saturday, June 2.
Judd, who is gay, is most often compared to David Sedaris, but that doesn’t bother him—or Sedaris—Judd quipped in a phone interview.
“My stories are all true, stories about me, and hopefully so far, they’re all funny,” he promised.
But audiences can expect more than his signature witticisms, because Judd travels with a two-piece band, the James Judd Six. Just don’t expect him to sing, much. He’s known to break out into a full Gypsy Rose Lee number, think “Let Me Entertain You,” especially when he performs in old vaudeville theaters. There’s no telling what the former schoolhouse-turned-arts center in Delray Beach might inspire.
He fights the urge for two important reasons. First, he describes himself as “completely tone deaf” and second, he has the tendency to be the one person on stage to go rogue and depart from the script.
“It’s important to have a special relationship with the band (because) they have to roll with the punches,” Judd explained, “and because of my focus, I just block them out completely. When I get off stage, I have almost no memory of what the band did.”
Judd connects with audiences as he shares stories classified as "spectacular public embarrassments and utter failures."
While working as a banned journalist, he singlehandedly ruined more than a half dozen good jobs (and counting) in industries ranging from journalism to law; he is a former patient—and current pen pal—of a sham Manhattan dermatologist turned Attica prisoner; and he even accidentally ended up in a whorehouse in China—or at least that’s all he’ll admit.
Judd’s account of a battle with a great white shark in open water remains one of the most popular “Snap Judgement” stories, continuing to rack up YouTube views and other important social media analytics.
A part-time resident of Miami, Judd may also draw upon his observations of life in South Florida. He still boasts of “a sunnier view of the apocalypse” following the 2016 elections. That was an experience as traumatic as a trip to the local market or a short drive around the city.
“It’s not that life is zany, everybody has these stories. The best stories aren’t necessarily the ones that take you to crazy, it’s the sense of intimacy and communication that you create,” Judd said.
When the stress—and humidity—of South Florida get too high, he’s always happy to escape to his California farm and winery.
Unlike alcoholism, Judd’s work is “a passion and a calling. It’s not an addiction, that’s negative. It took me a long time to face up to the fact this is what I wanted to do,” he said. “People who know me from the farm can’t imagine me on stage and people on stage can’t picture me moving cattle.”
For Judd, that’s another story for another time, maybe next weekend in Delray Beach.
Humorist James Judd appears at the Crest Theater at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave. in Delray Beach, on Saturday, June 2 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $45 at OldSchoolSquare.org.