If most people were asked to list movies which could give someone their calling in life, they’d likely give the usual answers: Rocky for the athletic types, Dead Poets Society for the intellectuals, Braveheart for those who’d like to emancipate Scotland from British rule, The Patriot for those who’d like to emancipate America from British rule, Gandhi for…you get the picture. Few would venture that Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, however, could create a personal revelation, although for one Northfield man it did exactly that. “I first watched Pirates of the Caribbean when it came out on DVD around 2004,” reminisced Josh Godfredson, professional Captain Jack Sparrow impersonator. “Something about Captain Jack’s character just clicked with me, and without even knowing it I immediately adopted his mannerisms and swagger. This annoyed my wife a lot. That still didn’t stop me from dressing up as him for Halloween later that year at my warehouse job. I even decked out my forklift to look like a pirate ship.”
Josh won two contests for best costume that day, one at work and another at the bar afterward. Josh’s reflexive assumption of the vulgar sea dog’s persona helped as much as his fortuitous resemblance to Johnny Depp. “I’ve been chased down at airports before by people thinking they’d spotted him,” noted Josh. “There are a lot worse people to be mistaken for.”
Josh would continue donning his Sparrow costume at subsequent Halloweens, where he both won more contests and received unsolicited job offers to host parties in character. These job offers in particular sparked Josh’s interest — maybe pretending to be a pirate, rather than actually operating a forklift, might be just the way things ought to be.
Josh has now performed as Captain Jack Sparrow full-time since 2013, plundering birthday parties, company events, and any other social occasions that could be improved with a little pirate charm.
“The kids’ reactions are the best part of the job,” Josh explained. “If you didn’t know kids, you’d think they were afraid when they first saw me. That’s not the case, though. Their quiet, wide-eyed reaction to the pirate is just their brains adjusting to a wonderful new reality — that Captain Jack is not only real, but that he’s also right there, and they’re about to meet him. It’s the same reaction I’d have if I saw Cindy Crawford.”
“I once went to a birthday party for a little girl, and met her great grandfather there. He had just gotten the bad news from his doctor a few months earlier, and was making the most of the little time he had left. His family said that seeing me perform was the first time he’d laughed since receiving his diagnosis. I went back for his birthday a little while afterward. That was his last one.”
Josh’s work isn’t limited to celebrations. He also engages his thorough knowledge of nautical history and collection of artifacts to teach kids about pirate things at museums. “Teaching in character is a great way to get the ball rolling,” said Josh. “Once I’ve gotten kids’ attention, I use it to give them a lesson that might not have stuck otherwise. I call it ‘accidental education.’”
“What’s so magnetic about Captain Jack is his humanity,” Josh continued. “Everyone has a preconceived notion of pirates as being brash and evil, but Captain Jack is different. Even though he’s selfish, clumsy, a little debaucherous, and otherwise flawed, he always finds a way to help other people win their own battles. A good character shouldn’t be a perfect hero or villain, but something in between.”
“I love this job because I get to make people feel good about themselves. I’ve been blessed to have done this for so long thanks to the help of my crew, who’ve been right alongside me in so many of my adventures. I’ll never get rich by doing this — I think Johnny Depp rightly monopolized that. But if I could cash in frequent smiler miles, I’d be doing alright.”
I couldn’t resist asking Josh to give us a little life advice in character.
“Always remember, you can lose everything in the world, today. You have to follow the dream.”
Visit mnjacksparrow.com to learn more about how Captain Jack Sparrow can make your party, parade, corporate event, classroom, or museum something to remember. Savvy?
By David Scheller