Many of you know Judah Friedlander as Frank Rossitano on "30 Rock," but he's most proud of his World Champion title. What is he the world champion of? Everything. There's literally nothing he can't do. Need proof? While Friedlander will be filming the final season of "30 Rock" this fall, his World Champion persona will take over the political world.
Many of you know Judah Friedlander as Frank Rossitano on ď30 Rock,Ē but heís most proud of his World Champion title. What is he the world champion of? Everything. Thereís literally nothing he canít do. Need proof? While Friedlander will be filming the final season of ď30 RockĒ this fall, his World Champion persona will take over the political world.
Seriously though, Friedlander is a thoughtful comedian who takes a lot of time to craft his act, as well as the World Champion ó a guise he employs during his stand-up with hilarious results. He spoke with me about how the World Champion was born, the Champís (possible) foray into politics, the final season of ď30 RockĒ and his experience on ďAmerican Splendor.Ē
How did you come up with the idea for the Letter C Tour, which stops in Columbus, Canada and Carolineís Comedy Club (in New York)?
Itís the most comprehensive tour ever about the third letter in the alphabet. Itís an underappreciated letter, you know. Every city and country in North America that starts with the letter C submitted, and these were the three that I picked.
How did Columbus make it?
I felt Columbus needed it, and they earned it. And Buster Douglas is from there and heís a champion, so I figured the World Champion should come there too.
Is the World Champion going to run for president in 2012?
If people put me on the ticket, Iím on it. Iím not a very political guy; people are going to have to write me in on the ballots.
What is your platform?
Iím going to fix every issue. You name it, Iíll fix it. And Iíd like to announce that I have some top secret information. The main stream media has not reported it yet, but I have 100 percent proof that Obama and Romney are both going to endorse me.
I have photographic proof that they will endorse me, even if they havenít made it public yet. Iím the first non-Republican or Democrat to be endorsed by the incumbent president as well as his opponent.
How did the World Champion moniker come about?
Well Iíve been doing stand-up since 1989, and my act has always been very joke-heavy. I write a lot of jokes. Itís always been escapism comedy; itís not, ďHey letís bond together and notice how we all thought that one commercial was stupid.Ē I donít do stuff like that. My act was also very much about playing off the audience.
Now, let me digress for a second. By playing off the audience every once in a while thereís some audience members, or some people will blog, who talk about how the comic is playing off the audience because they donít have any material. Thatís not always true. I like to play with the crowd because I like to come up with things on the spot as well. Itís better than just giving someone a word-for-word thing. Thatís like a play.
Since my act is very joke-heavy and audience interactive-heavy, over the years it became much more of a strong personality and persona-heavy. One of the ways the World Champion thing came about was it seemed like every comic was trying to bond with the audience and relate to the audience. I decided to take the opposite approach ó thereís no way I can relate to anybody here because Iím just so incredible.
The act also, not on a completely blatant level but a more subtle level, is making fun of how society and people are so self-promoting and just into themselves and greedy and arrogant. I think people have become much more narcissistic. I think thereís always been a lot of that in this country and thereís more and more, especially with social media now.
Sounds like thereís a lot going on with the World Champion title.
It wasnít just something I thought of overnight; ďHey, Iím going to be this guy.Ē Itís something that is always evolving and changing, too. Itís not a gimmick. Itís not something Iím stuck doing, and not every joke I do is about sports or karate or whatever. All my presidential stuff can be done with a different persona. It doesnít matter which persona or personality Iím taking on. The World Champion is a theme throughout, but itís not limiting.
Tell me about the last season of ď30 Rock.Ē
Yeah, itís like the senior year of high school.
A little bittersweet like high school?
Well, high school wasnít bittersweet for me ó I couldnít wait to get the f--- out of there. I looked at high school like prison, just do your time and get out.
But ď30 RockĒ is a lot of fun. Iíll miss people and stuff like that, but itís also weíre coming in to our seventh season. Weíve been doing it a while and Ö the show is going to go out on a high note. Iím really looking forward to what they come up with.
Any plans for after the showís finished?
My next two projects are getting my album out by October, and then a stand-up concert movie thatís also part documentary.
I start filming ď30 RockĒ in a few weeks, and thatíll keep me busy until just before Christmas. Iíve been told that theyíre making the prequel to ďWet Hot American SummerĒ and that Iím going to be in that. I donít know any firm start dates, but I heard it might be happening in January.
Can you tell me about your experience playing Toby Radloff in ďAmerican SplendorĒ?
That was a great experience, and I want to get back to doing stuff like that, too. Doing ď30 RockĒ for the past many years, Iíve had to normalize my film work by like 95 percent. Itís a bummer, but thereís only so much time in the day.
ďAmerican SplendorĒ was great. I played a very different kind of role. Not only did I have to physically change my appearance, but I to change everything ó my voice, the way I walked. It was really becoming another person.
I like being challenged and doing things that are different, and that movie was very challenging. They did a couple things in that movie that hadnít been done before. It was a biopic and thereís that one scene where the actors are in the same shot as the real people theyíre playing. That was nerve-wracking. I remember Paul Giamatti and I talking about it because we were nervous. Weíre doing something thatís never been done before and it was either going to be a complete disaster and be embarrassing, or itíll be good. It turned out cool.
It was very low budget, and it was challenging. Paul and I shared a trailer because it was a low budget film. I never knew if we were supposed to share the trailer, or if they just didnít have room for me and they were like, ďAll right, you and Paul can share one. Heís cool with it.Ē We had a hell of a lot of fun on that movie.
It was a very rich experience because I got to know the real people we were playing. And I got to know Cleveland really well, too. I feel that Cleveland was big character in that movie. It doesnít just take place in Cleveland; the city is a part of that film.
Did you enjoy filming in Cleveland?
Yeah, I drove there and kept my car there while I lived there for about a month, so I was always checking out the city. I still get back there every couple years, and I always meet up with Toby. We go hit thrift shops and stuff. We actually have some similar hobbies so itís fun hanging out.
He took me to a sale his church was having; itís like a yearly sale to raise money. I wound up buying about five things and two of them were things that Toby donated to the church sale. I think it was a ďBeavis and Butt-HeadĒ VHS tape, and the other was an old audio cassette player ó one from like the public school libraries in the Ď70s. The sound quality was actually really good. It was Tobyís grandmaís. I told him, ďThis is really weird, man.Ē