The first track on Erin Judge’s debut album, So Many Choices, is a bit of a litmus test. It lampoons singles night at a Whole Foods, which, amazingly, isn’t the entire joke. Judge explains that Whole Foods is a grocery store for people who are “extremely wealthy and a teensy bit conscientious.” The concept frightens her. “What if some macrobiotic vegan and some fibromyalgic with a gluten allergy come together and make a shitty baby who can’t digest anything? It’s bad for the species.”
Those who have never been to a Whole Foods or are unfamiliar with the concept of a macrobiotic vegan may still find the bit funny, but the laughs will be more rewarding for those who might have seen one in the wild. Or an actual fibromyalgic macrobiotic vegan who met his or her significant other in the organic frozen snacks aisle. Judge is in her element when poking fun at the hoity-toity proclivities of the left-leaning. And she is particularly deft at letting them in on the joke.
Judge knows of what she speaks. She started comedy at Wellesley College (running an improv show), then began her professional career in the alternative scene of Cambridge, a city across the Charles River in Boston that’s earned the nickname “The People’s Republic of Cambridge.” She’s worked at Harvard, and her husband loves Jane Austen, which makes him irresistible to snobby bookstore clerks. Judge’s comic perspective is steeped in those personal experiences.
There is nary a mention of electoral politics on the album, but Judge’s preferred subject matter speaks to the heart of social and cultural issues that tend to divide along party lines. She is light-hearted and affable, but doesn’t sacrifice her point of view to score points. This is clearest on the title track. Judge declares her membership to the LGBT community, wondering aloud about the mystified reaction she sometimes gets to the fact that she is bi-sexual. How does she ever choose a mate given so many choices? She has precisely two choices—dudes or chicks—she explains, her amusement clear in her voice. “Dudes are dumb and chicks are nuts, and those are my choices.” Her grandmother was also confused by Judge’s bi-sexuality, and blamed it on everything from Judge’s time in Massachusetts to too much tofu. “Tofu is the gateway to pussy,” she said, which Judge thought would make an amazing product slogan.
Judge is talented at taking the air out of a subject. Being a Wellesley grad, she knows a lot of people pursuing alternative careers, including a friend currently studying to become a midwife. “We have those again, I guess,” she marvels. “I don’t call myself a jester, but whatever.” Judge also grew up in Plano, Texas, a place she calls a “yuppie suburban hellhole” where the people give their kids names like “Sequoia” and “Hunter” to remind them of “the wilderness they tore down to build it.” Sex education was taught by the football coach, who showed slides of terrible diseases one could get just from making out in the back of a car. She was gay bullied there, but has a story about resolving the situation that is so satisfying, she can’t in good conscience make an “It Gets Better” video.
A lot of comics have made fun of Cosmo Magazine’s infamous sex advice and quizzes, but Judge’s is the definitive joke on the topic and possibly the only one that makes an allusion to Poe. She cites one tip in particular on how to drive your man crazy, which is “Make Time to Have Sex with Your Man.” Judge offers a few alternatives, chiefly not making time to have sex with your man. Also, throwing away one of his socks on a weekly basis and hiding a clicking clock under the floorboards.
In a bit about her self-image, Judge remains confident while acknowledging she might be out of step with current standards. “I used to, like, diet and worry about that stuff, but now… I think I accept what it is I look like, which is a supermodel,” she says, “from 500 years ago.” Full-figured with red hair, she calls herself “your whole circa-1508 hottie package,” which led her to toss her bathroom scale and replace it with a giant shell. [See her album cover image's adapted Botticelli.]
There are traces of Wendy Liebman (“For a long time I subscribed to this magazine called Gourmet because I am a bit of an amateur asshole.”) and Kate Clinton in Judge’s delivery. She’s a sharp writer, although there are a few clever bits on the album that ultimately elicit more smiles than out-loud laughter. On balance, So Many Choices is a smart, funny debut, cementing Judge’s place as one of few comedian on the rise boasting a truly unique perspective.