Snap Judgment, the storytelling phenomena created by Glynn Washington and launched on NPR stations, is making the leap from your airwaves to the stage, bringing some of their storytellers to town for a live performance Oct. 15.
One of the featured performers is out humorist James Judd, whose hilarious autobiographical stories are usually one of the highlights of the show. Judd said his experience as a standup comic and in sketch-improv comedy greatly influenced his style as a storyteller.
“The thing about standup comedy is it's extremely aggressive,” he said. “When you go on stage, you have to kill or you die on stage. Every single person on that stage, even if you’re friends with them, is in a cutthroat competition. From the perspective of the club owners, the comics are just there as placeholders while they serve drinks. It’s a business that exists solely to serve alcohol. In the storytelling world, which does not exist to serve alcohol, the people who attend are coming for an empathetic experience. People on stage are sharing a piece of themselves for the purpose of sharing with the people who are trying to hear it. The difference between those two things isimportant but the fact that I was trained in standup comedy and improv, I still have that mentality that there’s a got to be a laugh every few seconds. It’s hard to let go of that."
While many of his stories are humorous, Judd said he's had to train himself to not focus on trying to get a laugh.
"It took a lot to get away from that impulse. Everything doesn’t have to be funny. It’s taken a long time to make that arc. I don’t have to worry about losing the audiences because that’s not the purpose of this. It takes a long time to learn this and meld those two different worlds.”
Judd also said that storytelling necessitates being a prolific writer, and the nature of the show and performances require a steady stream of new stories. But he’s up for the task.
“In this tour I’m doing the same stories for a year and I’m going have to come up with new material for another year,” he said. “But I write constantly. So I have lists of possible stories and then I begin my process of developing them, which takes a long time. It’s really hard for me to have any story that didn’t happen at least five years ago. Although this one in Philadelphia is the most contemporary story that I’ve done. Part of it actually took place this year.”
One thing Judd said he doesn’t do, and another element that separates storytelling from standup comedy, is venture deep into politics with his performances.
“When it comes to standup comedy, I’m not interested in what any comedian has to say about the world at large or politics or any of that stuff because most comics are idiots and they’re stupid and I don’t want to hear anything they have to say,” he said. “I could never be somebody who attacks the audience or goes after other people. I always make the comedy about myself because I just wasn’t comfortable [poking fun at others]. At least for that part of it, transitioning into storytelling was easy because I was telling stories about myself. But I do like to find some places where I can make some social commentary and where to put the right Trump bit. I feel the audiences desire for that very strongly. If people are angry and hurting and depressed, they want to hear something that will give them perspective about how everybody else is feeling.”
Snap Judgment comes to Philadelphia 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at Temple University’s Lew Klein Hall, 1837 N. Broad St. For more information or tickets call 215-204-9860 or visit http://templeperformingartscenter.org/events/2017/snap-judgement or http://jamesbjudd.com.