Unlike his character on 30 Rock, Frank Rossitano, Judah Friedlander is not a writer for television, but he was out on the lines. Did you also know he makes all the hats he wears on-screen, will appear in this Summer's Meet Dave with Eddie Murphy and knows at least four kinds of martial arts? I caught up with him right before he heads out on a national tour, kicking off with a sweet headline gig at Caroline's this Thursday-Sunday, May 15-18. Learn how to be his Myspace friend at judahfriedlander.com.
Alexandra Richmond: Hello, World Champion. How are things?
Judah Friedlander: Pretty incredible. Just being a winner in America.
AR: Congrats at weathering the writers strike.
JF: It was pretty intense and really busy, even though we weren't working. It was non-stop monitoring on the web, and talking to friends about what the new developments were. The best part, if there can be a good part beside that it's over now, was meeting people on the picket lines. One guy I already knew, a screenwriter, Brian Koppelman. He wrote Rounders, Oceans 13, Runaway Jury. It was fun running into him. I met Michael Moore; I never met him before. It was just fun. A bunch of other people. I met some of the writers at Conan O'Brien. Seth Meyers was always there every day. It was cool. I mean, a bad situation, but it was good to be out and lend support. I went out as a SAG supporter. Besides writing my standup comedy, I write a blog for 30 Rock. That's all written by me. I take the photos. They give me total freedom on that. I'm not actually a writer on the show.
AR: Salieri, Mozart's "brother," was mentioned in a recent
plot-line on 30 Rock.
Tracy Morgan accused you of being Salieri when you told him his porno
video game couldn't be made. Have you ever been accused of being
professionally jealous of a peer before? Does this happen a lot in the
JF: That was one of my favorite plot-lines. So fun. But professional jealousy, hmmm. I don't think I've ever been accused of being jealous before. I don't think so. I don't get in into tiffs with people; I'm usually pretty mellow.
AR: Not even a, "You're stealing my bit," beef?
JF: That has happened before, but I never stole anyone's bit.
I've had some people come up to me and say, "That's so and so's," but I
would always talk to that so and so in question, and they'd say, "No,
that isn't mine at all."
I got a Myspace message from someone that said
I had stolen a bit from fifteen, seventeen years ago, and he said I
was stealing his bit. They were in fact similar, but mine adds more to
it. I said I would stop doing it anyway. I'd rather not do
anything similar to anyone else. One time a guy emailed me and said I
had stolen a joke from Seinfeld. I ran it by some Seinfeld writers - I
had worked with them on the movie Live Free or Die - and wrote back to
the guy, and he said, "Wow, I was just fucking around." He didn't
even think I'd respond.
AR: How did you prepare for your role as Toby Radloff?
JF: That was a lot of work, a lot of preparation. I went online, read about Toby, got the copies of American Splendor. I collect rare movies and found two of Toby Radloff's early films, Killer Nerd, and Bride of Killer Nerd. They were hard to get then, now Troma has re-released them on a double DVD. Back then they were very hard to find. So I studied Toby on those, went in for my first audition. It went very well. After I got the part, the directors Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini gave me some footage of Toby, his cable access show, footage of him hanging out at comic conventions. I got all of his mannerisms and physicalities. I met him the night before we started filming. He told me his whole life story. That really helped with getting the psychology of Toby. He was on set sometimes. He wasn't there every day. And, the way I look on 30 Rock is how I looked when I got cast in American Splendor. I had a hair person who cut and styled my hair to look like his. Movies usually have that, a hair stylist.
AR: So tell me about your new movie with Eddie Murphy, Meet Dave. It looks pretty CGI-y and intense.
JF: Yeah, I'm looking forward to seeing the final cut. I'm
a pretty big special-effects geek. I play a guy who's one inch tall, he's
the engineer of the spaceship. A lot of my scenes were green-screen. A
lot of them are just me talking to the camera, talking to Dave. I'm
like Scotty on Star Trek. It's a little bit of that dynamic.
AR: Are you located in his head?
JF: I would imagine I'm somewhere in his stomach. I think I'm all business. I'm every unemotional person, just work work work, toiling away down there.
AR: Is Caroline's a second home to you? How many second homes do you have, all total?
JF: Caroline's is great, I play there the 15th to the 18th. I only headline that twice a year. I'm a NY based comic and have been for about 19 years. Most of the clubs are showcase clubs. Carolines, I pop in there twice a week. Headlining is a lot of fun. Comedy Village is closing, that was one of my favorite clubs. Comedy Cellar is my favorite late night place to go. There's the Comic Strip, all the main clubs I go to a lot. I'm probably leaving out a couple and they're gonna be at pissed me. Comics! That's the new one.
AR: How many hats do you sell annually?
JF: Oh, I don't know. I don't sell that
much. I'm not real pushy. It's there as people want it.
AR: So then how many do you make?
JF: For 30 Rock I average three hats per episode. Sometimes it's five. That's something I brought to the show. I make all the hats. Some are in-jokes, and some are just flat out jokes. One, the hat said K FAYFB. it's a wrestling slogan; it means stay in character. Like, Hulk Hogan and the Sheik. You'd never see them out after a bout having a beer. That wouldn't happen.
AR: Are the hats rare collector's items?
JF: It all depends on you. Maybe they are. The ones I wear in standup is how I'm the world champion, I bang a lot of chicks and am a role model to a lot of children around the world. The hats I sell doing standup say "World Champion," "Campion del Mundo," "World Runner-Up." One says "Regional Semi-Finalist," because you can't always start at the top.
AR: Final question: Why are you so awesome?
JF: Well, I'm an American. my parents raised me right. I don't do drugs or alcohol, and - this is from my act - I drink water concentrate. I eat Wheaties for dinner. I'm a winner.