With tons of flamboyance and dramatic mood lighting in tow, resident raconteur, James Judd returns to the Capital Fringe stage with a new trio of stories sure to entertain and inspire. Though perhaps a detail here, an anecdote there are likely exaggerated for comedic effect, Judd’s tales of childhood triumph, unrequited love, and burgeoning friendship will both tug at your heartstrings and make you laugh out loud. In Funny Stories 2, Judd, an NPR favorite, commands the stage for an hour with little more than a chair, minimalist design, and amusingly animated delivery.
The first story is perhaps his most relatable. In “Book Report,” Judd recalls his harrowing journey through puberty as he strives for popularity and acceptance as an awkward, gawky fifth grader. At odds with class hottie, Mary Applebom, Judd’s tale is at first reminiscent of an episode of Freaks and Geeks or My So Called Life. That is, he’s the ultimate nerd sparring with the quintessential hot girl. But add in a few unexpected wacky twists and turns and Judd earns a few more laughs not to mention bonus points for originality and a melodramatic ending.
His high energy is contagious and his stories live up to the show’s confident, smile-inducing title.
In his second monologue which I’ll unofficially name “Skinovations Clinic” about a doctor turned psychopath, Judd recalls an almost “too outrageous to be true” encounter with a hunky albeit kooky cosmetic surgeon. Were he to omit the occasional detour from the main storyline, his overall delivery would appear less choppy and more of the monologist’s signature snarky one-liners would land. But by Judd’s own admission, “Skinovations” is a newish piece, so it’s safe to assume he’s working out the kinks. Still, the narrator’s self-absorption and warped POV are what make it hysterical and engaging from beginning to end.
James Judd ends strong with a story I suspect he’s told at more than a few dinner parties and in more than few black box theatres. “How I Made My First Friend in New England” is the show’s most cheeky and ostentatious piece. In it, all Judd wants to do is make a new friend while on a shark diving trip. There’s danger and adventure and yes, lots and lots of sharks. Judd morphs from vodka-chugging musical theatre lover to swash-buckling protagonist with ease. He is the most physical and well… silly in this particular story. Imitating fellow crew members and recalling his life or death triumphs, Judd literally growls and stomps around the stage to the delight and amusement of the audience. He seamlessly brings the story full circle, tying up the loose ends without missing a single beat. By his big finish, I can’t say I was dying to go shark diving, but I did want to personally meet everyone aboard that quirky, hair-brained vessel.
Overall, James Judd manages to tell three stories that not only manage to make you laugh, but conjure some universal truths. In Funny Stories 2, Judd reiterates with great sensitivity and humor, that people need to be loved, accepted and liked… maybe Judd more than most. But that’s a good thing, because if he didn’t care so much, he wouldn’t try so hard and well… we’d be underwhelmed to tears. Thankfully, Judd is living out loud. His high energy is contagious and his stories live up to the show’s confident, smile-inducing title.
Running Time: 60 Minutes.
Advisory: Contains adult language.
Funny Stories 2 plays at Caos on F, 923 F Street, NW, Washington, DC through july 20. For tickets, click here.