If you’re unfamiliar with Judge John Hodgman, you might just want to take a few moments to go click subscribe on whatever podcast software you use. The show, which is now 6 years old and quickly approaching 300 episodes, is a dash of cerebral, piercing, laugh-out-loud humor that’s guaranteed to brighten up all of your cloudy days.
The conceit is that John Hodgman, “famous minor television personality,” acts as judge and arbiter over any and all disputes that pass through his courtroom. And now he’s taking the show on the road.
Live podcasts are a relatively new trend, and many of the best are jumping on that bandwagon. Shows like Thrilling Adventure Hour were always done in front of a live audience, and the live performance was part of their DNA. However, even though most shows are not done live, some are dipping their toes in the pool to see how the format translates. And with the case of Judge John Hodgman, the jump from studio to stage is brilliant.
I attended a recent performance at Washington, DC’s historic Howard Theater, and the results were side-achingly hilarious. Hodgman’s format makes the jump quite easily, thanks in no small part to his skill as a comedian and performer.
I’ll be honest, though; I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The Howard Theater has cabaret seating (with everyone seated at tables and drinking or eating throughout the show), which–though awkward at first–actually turned out to be perfectly apropos. It really shouldn’t have been a mystery what the show would be like. Hodgman essentially performed the podcast on stage and threw in a few musical numbers for good measure.
Being DC, the show had a bit of local flavor… in the form of National Public Radio. Linda Holmes introduced the show, Glen Weldon made an appearance toward the end, and Ray Suarez absolutely stole the first half of the show. I mean, where else would you have the opportunity to hear these words spoken (about a raccoon) by a radio journalism legend: “He festooned my basement with mammalian feces” and “They have tiny humanoid hands. It’s like Donald Trump wearing patent-leather gloves.”
The cases tried at the show dealt with a young couple who disagreed over whether they should get a raccoon for a pet (see those golden quotes above), a couple who couldn’t agree on the definition of chicken pot pie, friends who sparred over the right not to vote this year, and young sisters who fought over how much Hamilton was too much. (Answer: There is no such thing as too much Hamilton.)
What made the evening special, though, was the genuine surprise of the show: the musical act. The Dom Flemons Trio might just be the best musical discovery I’ve made this year. The band pulls from the traditions of old-time folk music and makes something completely new and exciting. The music was phenomenal, and I highly recommend you go listen to their stuff immediately. They played several songs during the show, including one that was a duet between Flemons on harmonica and Hodgman on ukelele.
It was so satisfyingly sweet and fulfilling that there couldn’t have been a more perfectly scripted finale to the show.
Sadly, the DC show was the last show in the States on the current tour. Hodgman is currently doing live shows in London through next week, and we can only hope that more live shows get added to the schedule soon. In the meantime, subscribe to the podcast, keep an eye out for future dates, and… all rise for Judge John Hodgman!
(Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to this performance. All opinions remain my own.)