‘Ham’ explores performer’s many careers

‘Ham’ explores performer’s many careers

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So exactly how does one go from composing music for film and television to traveling with Broadway productions like “Cabaret” and “42nd Street” to starring in gay porn before moving on to house flipping?

No need to ask, as Tom Judson answers all of those questions in his new one-man show, “Canned Ham,” which lands in New Hope on Dec. 5 at Harlans Cabaret.

In his show, Judson recalls working with show-business greats and reveals what it’s really like on the set of a porn movie, all while being accompanied by an accordion.

Yes, we asked too. Accordion?

“I’ve always loved the accordion,” he said. “It’s a guaranteed laugh-getter. You just mention the accordion and people just laugh. If you’ve ever heard an accordion played by a master, which I am not, it’s a remarkable instrument. Even more so than a piano, it’s an orchestra in this little self-contained box. The self-contained part and the portable part also have a lot to do with it. I bought an accordion at the Salvation Army in New York in the mid-1980s and that enabled me to start accompanying friends at different venues around town where there might not necessarily be a piano. They’re so evocative. You can play a polka and it has this fun, campy sound. But you can play a little French music and it’s so beautiful and tender.”

The openly gay Judson, 49, took “Canned Ham” on the road this year and documented the results on a blog for The Advocate. He was pleasantly surprised that the small venues he was booked at had to turn away people because they were sold out.

Judson said he is sure they weren’t there because of his skill on the accordion.

“I’m going to have to credit it to Gus Mattox,” he said of his award-winning porn alter ego. “Why would you come to see Tom Judson play the accordion? Who knows who that is? The idea of this porn star playing the accordion, what’s that about? In fact, this is first time ever I’ve agreed to use the name Gus Mattox on a mainstream project that I was working on. I’ve turned down a couple of jobs because the producers, understandably so, wanted me to appear in them as Gus Mattox. I’ve never wanted the two worlds to intersect because they were two different things. I’ve always acknowledged them both in both worlds where I was working. For me, they were two different personas. But here it’s the first time they logically intersect. It’s pertinent in this case.”

Judson said that people should expect his show to be the standard ex-porn-star, one-man show that other performers have done.

“Even close friends of mine said they weren’t sure what to expect,” he said. “I honestly don’t think people know what it’s going to be about. The music throws people off. There have been a couple of former porn stars that have done shows. I haven’t seen much of them, but from what I hear, they really just get up and talk about making movies, whereas this covers so much more ground than that. I’d say the show is rollicking. It hits many different notes and many different moods, from pretty darn funny to pretty touching in some spots.”

Judson said that while he immensely enjoys traveling the country doing his solo show, part of him misses being part of a huge touring Broadway production.

“I suppose, just in terms of satisfaction that I get from it, it would be doing a solo piece,” he said of his preference. “But I’ve been in a few big musicals and they are really fun to do. One thing I’m missing from a solo show is a sense of camaraderie and the company because it’s just me. Be when you’re in a big show like ‘42nd Street’ or ‘Cabaret,’ you really do feel like a cog in the machine. And you are because that’s how they work. What I’m doing with ‘Canned Ham,’ the entire weight of the thing is on my shoulders, which is both scary and exhilarating at the same time. But being in a big show has its pluses as well.”

Tom Judson performs at 9 p.m. Dec. 5 at Harlans at The Nevermore, 6426 Lower York Road, New Hope. For more information, call (215) 862-5225.

Larry Nichols can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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