INSIDE WITH: JUDAH FRIEDLANDER

The bio says: “My name is Judah Friedlander. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I am a comedian. I am also the World Champion.” That’s pretty much all the average person needs to know. However, we’re above average people here, we wanted to find out what else is going on with the stand-up veteran, Hollywood actor, and star of 30 Rock on NBC. Judah graciously took a few minutes out of his busy shooting schedule to answer a few questions and grant us all access to the contents within his famed trucker hat.

Assuming there’s a difference between your stage persona and the “real” Judah Friedlander, how did your stage persona come about?
I’ve been doing stand-up since ’89. The World Champion thing started years ago and it has changed a lot and keeps changing. I do a lot of crowd work in my act and it developed gradually through that over several years. I’ve been making my own hats for over 10 years and one day I thought it would be funny to make a hat that says WORLD CHAMPION, but nothing else. So out of wearing the hat and doing crowd work , it just kind of grew more.

Are you ever out of character?

Yes. Like this interview. I’m tired and have some downtime on the set of 30 Rock, so I’m just giving it to you straight. Also, for acting in movies–I often play roles totally different from me or my stand-up act, such as American Splendor, Duane Hopwood, Southern Belles, Live Free or Die, Chapter 27, or Full Grown Men.

Do you feel you take more risks as a performer when you wear a persona?

Not necessarily. I take risks regardless. I think it’s important to take risks in all areas of performing. You gotta always be trying new things.

We think we’ve seen you walking around town and you had your hat on.

I’ve always been a hat guy. My glasses are real too. Some people think they’re fake. I pretty much wear the same stuff on stage and off. But on stage, it’s all world champion stuff–not off stage–unless I’m walking around in between sets.

It’s interesting that on 30 Rock you have been cast to play what is essentially your character. Was Frank written for you in mind?

Frank was not written for me in mind. I auditioned for it. Frank looks like me, but I don’t think we act alike. In real life and in my stand-up act, I wouldn’t say any of the stuff he says. But that makes it challenging to pull it off–to make it feel natural. One of the things I like about the show is that they let me dress pretty much how I normally do. So when I got the show, I didn’t to have to cut my hair, wear contacts, shave, or move to L.A. If I had to do all that, I probably would have decided not to do the show. Working for Tina Fey is great. Besides being great at what she does, she’s open to hearing ideas for the show. Wearing the hats on the show was my idea and Tina lets me do whatever I want with them. I come up with all the sayings on the hats I wear and I make all the hats myself.

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