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« Why the Long Facebook Sketch Comedy @ Stage 773 Overheard Illustrated: "Skirts" »

Interview Mon Apr 09 2012

Interview: Judah Friedlander

Judah Friedlander, arguably most popular for his role as Frank on 30 Rock is visiting Chicago this week for his one-night only show at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse Ave.

People know you as Frank, but a lot of people don't know that you have this stand-up career that is sort of your home base.

So far you are correct on everything.

How often do you perform standup?

Just about every night. Usually when I'm in New York a couple shows a night.

Do you have regular venues?

I perform at Comedy Cellar the most...

You do a lot of crowd work in your sets, which not all comics do...

Well...a lot are no good at it, so they don't do it.

I feel like it's a hard thing to do, especially for a new standup.

It is and it isn't. I guess it's all how you look at it. I like it a lot. I do a lot of stuff that I make up on the spot, and then I do a lot of stuff that is prepared jokes, as well. It's a mix, and I'm always working on new stuff.

It seems to be working pretty well for you.

When people go to see a live show, there's no point in seeing somebody perform something exactly like they did on a television show. What's the point of that?

I read an interview recently where you said that you like getting the "harder" spots...

There's something to be said for that. You don't become a good comedian just by playing really great venues. You get stronger playing tougher venues. It's important to do shows that may have tough kinds of crowds...a lot of people get soft if they just do easy, cushy perfect crowds...You shouldn't have to have just your fans showing up...you should be able to go into any kind of room, whether it's a senior citizen home, a black room, a white room...you should be able to do your thing and make your material strong enough that pretty much anyone will like it.

Have you played a senior citizen home? I'd like to see that.

I'm sure I have. I can't think of it off hand. I don't think I've done an actual senior citizen home...I've definitely done shows where it's pretty much all old people.

Where does your material come from?

It comes from a variety of places. I have all different types of material. A lot of the jokes I do just kind of come to me. Some come to me on the spot and some at random times during the day. I always carry around a pen and paper. If something comes into my head, I jot it down. Usually I go on stage, and after..working on a joke several times, I try to build it and expand it and add more to it. Something that starts out as a one-liner, after a week or two, might have six extra jokes added to it.

[Let's talk about] World Champion of the World. I like your style. Just commit at being better than everybody at everything.

Any time you're doing any sort of persona or character, you have to commit. Whatever you're doing, you have to commit. You can't go up and do anything with only part of your heart and brain in it. You've got to have everything in it, no matter what it is. Even if you're a bus boy at a restaurant, you've got to commit and be focused. You can't be a bus boy and be on facebook all the time.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but your book was all self-published, right? Self made?

It was all self-made and published through Harper Collins. But I made it all, there are no ghost writers or anything. The guy who helps me with my website helped me with a lot of the graphics and stuff like that. I photographed and/or directed all of the photos in it and did 100% of the writing...I did everything from concept to finish.

The bookstore didn't have any more copies when I called, which seems like a good sign...

Amazon is the best place to buy it, and if you are going to get it do not get the digital version...it probably has 70% less jokes in it than the actual book...they didn't let me design the digital book and it's missing a lot of things.

Do you have any plans for a standup movie?

Yeah...I've been doing standup for over 20 years, and at this point should have probably had five albums out. With the standup stuff I'm very particular with how I want things handled...I've turned down at least two tv offers to do a half hour or hour special because I want to do it my way and be happy with the result. Just like with my book...I had to spend about 8 months fighting for things that I wanted in the book...as well as fixing mistakes that they would make.

So you actually went back and made them change things?

Yeah...but I wasn't allowed to do that with the digital book.

Your book "How To Beat Up Anybody"....I have a very specific question that I need answered. How do you beat up a bigfoot?

There are many different ways, and I teach a lot of different things in the book. The first key is to never fight foot-to-foot with a bigfoot...you have to start at the top of a bigfoots body and work your way down. Also, note that most days out of the year are mating season for the bigfoot, so you really need to be careful. It's one thing to lose in a fight with bigfoot, but they also might try to mate with you. Also, 95% of bigfoots are left handed, and a lot of people don't know that. I teach you not just information on what you need to do to defeat a bigfoot, but actual things you didn't know about the bigfoot.

You're an expert on a lot of things.

Yeah. Important things. Bigfoot attacks are on the rise because of deforestation. As well as economic troubles - it affects the bigfoot communities, also. They're in 48 of the 50 states. Most people think they're just in the northwest or in the suburbs, but they're coming to the suburbs and inner cities.

What is your research process?

Well the book is all actually a documentary. It was all filmed from a camera from the future that traveled back in time and took all of these photos as they were happening.

The hats. All hand-made?

The ones that I wear when I do standup that say "world champion" were given to me at world championships, which I won. They're basically karate death matches for charity. The hats that I wear on 30 Rock I make myself, and I come up with them also.

Can we buy these hats?

Some you can. Some I sell at shows, after shows, and I do sell a few on my website.

I saw on your website that you love bad art.

I call it amazing art. I don't call it bad art. Most people would call it bad art.

If somebody were to come to your show at Mayne Stage, what would be the perfect piece of amazing art that they could bring you?

I don't really have an answer for that. What I like is stuff that I'm not expecting. If that makes sense.

If somebody is contemplating a ticket to your show and they're on the fence, what can they expect to see at your show that they won't see anywhere else?

They will see the funniest show they've ever seen, as well as the most sexually powerful experience they've ever had.

It's like a Prince concert!

It's more than that...he's just a prince. Princes aren't really people that have had to work hard for anything. First of all, they're not even the King. They're just sort of waiting for their time to come. I come from a hard core street background. I've worked for things. I've earned it.

There's a big difference between world champion and Prince.

World championships aren't given to you by blood. They are won through much courage and physical domination and mental toughness. Usually after my shows I give some karate tips and have a party on my spaceship after the show.

Do they valet spaceships at Mayne Stage?

No, the space ship will be outside. That's the after party.

April 11th. 8 o'clock show. Mayne Stage. I'll tell the internet.

Great.

For more information or to get tickets for Wednesdays show, click here. For more on Judah, click here.


 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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