NPR humorist James Judd tells stories of ‘public embarrassments and utter failures’
When National Public Radio’s “Snap Judgment” comes to Royal Oak, the last act in the evening of autobiographical tales will be by one of the show’s favorite closers, humorist James Judd. His specialties, he says, are “spectacular public embarrassments and utter failures.”
We caught up with Judd by phone shortly after he moved into his new apartment in Miami.
Where have you been living?
I had a farm in California — with wild pigs, lots of rabbits and tarantulas. I’ve never lived in a red state before, and I can’t believe it. But I wanted an eastern view of the apocalypse.
What will you perform in Royal Oak?
My story, “The Devil Made Me Do It.” Back in junior high, freaking out and being bullied, I saw “The Exorcist” at 11. I thought if I could get possessed by the devil, I could skip seventh grade. When that didn’t happen, my parents shipped me off to Christian camp. One day hiking in the woods, two kids fell down the hill, and the counselor left to get help. We were supposed to stay together, so I whipped out my soft puppets and did my exorcist show for the kids.
Did it work?
It was a disaster. I mean, the puppet show was fantastic, but 11-year-olds don’t understand art. Little kids take things very literally. They don’t get metaphors.
How’d you get into “The Exorcist” at 11?
There was a $2 Tuesday-afternoon movie theater near where I lived. Everyone working there was 15 and stoned. I saw a lot of great R-rated movies.
How old are you now?
I’m in my extremely late 40s. My 40s are overdue and need to be returned.
Why do “Snap Judgment” tours?
Because they want me. They like me to close because, you know, one story may be about molestation, and another about being attacked by a serial killer. So they trot me out to bring the mood up. That way nobody kills themselves on the way to their car.
Do you ever do serious stories?
I did one once about being the victim of a fake doctor, who killed one of his patients and buried her in cement in his garage before fleeing to Costa Rica. They brought him back, he’s in Attica, and I’m his best friend now. So that was a little more serious.
Have you always been a storyteller?
No. I started trying to write TV in Los Angeles, but ended up in the improv company, The Groundlings. Then I went over to Hollywood Improv, but burned out. So I became a criminal defense attorney, but that wasn’t really me. So I moved back to California, planted a vineyard, and while waiting for the grapes to grow, started doing stories.
And the rest is history?
Yes! And now I’m an NPR superstar. That’s how I like to bill myself — a public radio superstar.
Finally, have you ever been to Michigan before?
Yes — we performed at the Power Center in Ann Arbor a couple years ago. That was my first “Snap” show. The audience was really noisy and raucous. It was great.
7 p.m. Dec. 9
Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth, Royal Oak