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They say: “Acclaimed monologuist James Judd, former member of The Groundlings, Hollywood Improv and regular NPR contributor, shares his true encounters with a murderous fake doctor, a renegade camel, a shark and a canoe trip that runs afoul of naked hippies.”
Joseph’s Take: Let us now praise straightforward men. In a festival clogged with shows that compete for longest title or most inscrutable description, one can applaud the See-Spot-Run SEO that James Judd’s Funny Stories brings to the Fringe guide. If you arrive to Funny Stories seeking angst, uplift, or just the faintest aerosol whiff of meaning, you failed to read the instruction manual. If you want stories ripped from the
headlines most bizarre and random and true moments of Judd’s life, he will entertain.
In 55 minutes and six stories, Judd’s improvisational pedigree shines in manic interactions between himself and ski lodge douchebags, judgmental Mormon aunts, and a camel. He whisks us through water and deserts, opera houses and Cheesecake Factories in a rat-a-tat-tat delivery that only occasionally got ahead of his pre-brunch Saturday audience, but brought a woman behind me to tears. In a constant barrage of joke after joke, Judd achieves victory by sheer volume.
And yet, despite the straightforwardness of titling, Funny Stories is more stand-up than storytelling. Transitions between stories are abrupt and smoothed over by charm and crowd work (and one memorable riff on a critic’s observation that Judd would be perfectly cast as “that hostage that never shuts up”). As promised by Judd, the production skirts broader takes on the human condition, but the omissions sometimes leave us hungry. Before a canoe trip runs aground of nudists, Judd introduces us to the unlikely coupling of his parents, an LDS father and Nevada cocktail waitress mother, but swerves to avoid addressing the latter’s concern about her son’s burgeoning comic imagination and sarcastic disposition. A later story featuring that judgmental aunt serves up a nanosecond of introspection about the pressure Judd felt to raise children with his pre-repeal Prop 8 husband, but ends before we see any confrontation with that aunt’s values.
Reviewing Judd’s past monologues, I get the impression that these funny stories, with their exotic locales and larger-than-life situations, might originate from the cutting room floor of his more thematically glued past work. Still, even if they are B-sides, these stories won’t fail to make you laugh, even if they don’t linger in the brain past the hour. Sometimes, that’s enough.
See it if: You want to hear James Judd’s Funny Stories.
Skip it if: You prefer your humor with an agita chaser.