When you think of the average book tour, you probably picture an event with wine and cheese, where an author reads aloud from their work and takes questions from the audience. Comedian Erin Judge, who just released her debut novel, is blowing up that staid model with her stand-up comedy book tour.
Judge, who's appeared on NBC’s Last Comic Standing and Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham, just released Vow of Celibacy, a female coming-of-age story about a woman coming to terms with her body and her sexuality. She also co-hosts her own hit stand-up show Romantic Comedy at the Ripped Bodice, a bookstore in Culver City that only sells romance novels. Promoting her book via a stand-up tour seemed the natural next step.
Ever since she created a book out of cardboard, staples and computer paper in second grade, Judge has dreamed of being a novelist, and her experiences in stand-up came in handy in unexpected ways.
“I think a lot of people with the aspiration to be a writer are a little trapped in their own heads and their own writing experience,” she says. “Being a stand-up comedian leaves you no option except to focus on the audience and what works for them … So I approached the novel writing process from a position of audience orientation as a comedian.”
This mode of thinking carried over into her plans for a book tour. Judge was wary of an author event with an uninspiring emcee, that would result in an evening lacking the spirit of fun and sense of humor inherent to her work.
“Stand-up comedians are all really well-versed in getting the crowd together, getting them comfortable and setting the tone. So, I figured even if I was just going to do a straight reading, I really wanted there to be an experienced emcee and my body of resources for that is stand-up comedians,” she says.
The tour will feature Judge reading from her novel and performing stand-up, as well as feature the comedy of other stand-up artists, TV writers, novelists and more. It will travel from its two kick-off events here in Los Angeles across the country from Oregon to Texas to New York City to Boston and North Carolina.
Her August 18 event at the Ripped Bodice will be a special-edition of her monthly Romantic Comedy show. It will feature comedians Jared Logan and Jamie Lee, and sets from writers Sarah Benincasa and Catie Disabato. Judge was eager to feature more comedians who also moonlight as novelists and writers to showcase her passion for interdisciplinary artists.
“I think that every performer and every type of entertainer and every creative person should feel free to bring in all their elements of creativity together,” she says. In Judge’s case, she says that she hopes writing what she calls a “funny, sexy, fun novel that is a great beach read for smart chicks” will bring more women to her comedy. Her social media demographics suggest a majority of her fans are male, and she wants the book to lead more women to her feminist, female-driven stand-up.
The book, with its bisexual, plus-size heroine, reflects Judge’s own worldview. “I want to bring perspectives to the general conversation that I feel aren’t commonly represented,” she says. “I’m bisexual; I’m a plus-sized woman; and I’m also very confident and very sex positive, and I feel like those things don’t always coalesce in out cultural examples … I really just want people to feel seen and feel excited about who they are.”
Leah Koch, co-owner of the Ripped Bodice, praises this exact aspect of Judge’s work. “It makes you feel recognized,” Koch says. “I was just nodding along the whole time … This is girlhood, this is womanhood. It felt like it could apply to so many women.”
Launching the tour at The Ripped Bodice celebrates this inclusive attitude. Paired with the hyper-femininity of the bookstore, Judge’s monthly Romantic Comedy show is a rare female-driven night of stand-up comedy, and showcasing Vow of Celibacy is a natural extension of that.
“The feminist mission of the creators of the Ripped Bodice is the most salient part of it for me,” says Judge. ”I love that I bring this male art form, which is stand-up comedy, into that space … so, being able to launch my first novel at a place like that, I’m so proud and excited, and I feel like it sets the tone for everything else to come.”