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Funny Stories

nytheatre.com q&a preview by James Judd
June 18, 2013

What is your job on this show?
playwright, performer.

What is your show about?
A one hour collection of true, funny stories from the life of author and National Public Radio storyteller James Judd.

What do you do when you’re not working on a play?
I own a vineyard and winery in California. It's a crazy disconnect to one night be telling a story in front an audience and the next day be on a remote mountain vineyard trying desperately not to step on any rattlesnakes.

Are audiences in New York City different from audiences in other cities/countries where you’ve performed? If so, how?
The first time I performed in NYC was at 59E59's East to Edinburgh Festival on my way to the Edinburgh Fringe. Although I'd been doing that particular show for several years in places as disparate as a swimming pool turned theater in Montreal and a gay cruise to Egypt I was concerned that somehow NYC audiences would stare blankly back at me as though I were speaking in tongues. Instead, they were as warm and generous as a ship full of drunks or pack of doe-eyed French Canadians sitting around the the rim of a pool. It was the Scottish people who turned on me but that's another story.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
There's nothing more startling than having someone suddenly come up to me and repeat a line from my show. The whole thing flies out of my head almost the moment I walk off stage, so the idea that someone who'd seen it years ago can recite punchlines from it verbatim always throws me. Sometimes people will call me by the names of the some of the characters in the play and I will stare at them blankly until they start to wonder if I'm the right person. Eventually I figure out what's happening but only after a sustained period social awkwardness and rapid blinking.

Which character from a Shakespeare play would like your show the best: King Lear, Puck, Rosalind, or Lady Macbeth -- and why?
My stories include tales of Patty Hearst and the SLA, a tiny but extremely violent teenage girl I ineptly defended in court while I was still a law student, a coven of my Mormon aunts from Utah, and a shark attack. Sounds right up Lady McB's alley, no?

Why are theater festivals so very important?
Theater festivals are like those giant singles mixers where you move from table to table hoping to meet your heart's desire. Rapid fire, no strings sampling is a ridiculous way to try and meet the ideal mate. But you take your number and your stiff drink and you keep diving back in because the risk also raises the odds of success that sooner rather than later you're going to meet the perfect person and fall madly in love.