If Judah Friedlander looks like a dork and acts like a dork, then he must be a dork, right? The question seems simple. But for the actor/comedian, the answer would most likely be the opposite of what you'd imagine. That's because he considers himself a "World Champion," as duly noted on the hats and T-shirts he wears onstage.
The New York native, best known for his role as Frank Rossitano on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock, started doing stand-up in 1989. For the past seven years, he's been doing gigs mostly in and around New York City, where the show was shot for eight months out of each year. The last episode aired Jan. 31.
The end of 30 Rock is really just a new beginning for Friedlander, who now has more time to pursue movies, stand-up and the travel required for both. One of his upcoming stops includes three days (Oct. 3-5) at the N.C. Music Factory's Comedy Zone.
Friedlander distinguishes himself in his performances by posing crazy solutions to absurd scenarios. He also speaks about his potential presidential campaign for 2016 — we're pretty sure that having co-starred on 30 Rock makes him overqualified for the position.
Prior to 30 Rock, Friedlander appeared in a variety of movies, including Meet the Parents, Zoolander and American Splendor, an indie offering that earned him a nomination for best supporting actor at the 2004 Independent Spirit Awards. Upcoming, he will be hosting a new National Geographic Wild series, The Monster Project, that airs on Oct. 27. Each episode, three in total, will spotlight a different mythological creature, including Champ (aka America's Loch Ness Monster) and more.
"I turned down sitcom stuff for years because I didn't really like any of them. I thought a lot were just kind of cheesy and bad," Friedlander tells Creative Loafing. But when 30 Rock, starring Tina Fey and Alec Baldwin, came along, Friedlander gave in. It was a bonus that the show was filmed in New York, which he prefers over Los Angeles.
On the show, he played Frank, an underachieving writer who wore oversized glasses and trucker hats — just like in real life. The hats showcased different slogans, marking his distinct territory on each episode. "I thought it would be a way to add in extra jokes and just something else to look at on the screen and Tina was cool with it," he says.
Making hats for the show was no new task for Friedlander, who has been making them for years. "As a performer, I feel every aspect of what I do goes into my performance; from the way I walk, the way I talk, what I wear," Friedlander reveals. "And I was like, 'Why am I wearing things that other people made? I should be wearing my own things.' So, everything I wear onstage has a story behind it and has jokes behind it that lead into the act. So that's why I started making all of my own stuff."
Some of his favorites from 30 Rock include "Time Travel Agent," "Trap Do r" (the "o" in door is missing) and "Speling Expirt." But Friedlander reserves one hat for real life only. During comedy gigs, he wears his "World Champion" gear. That's because he considers himself to be undefeatable in the dangers of confrontation. Sort of a master of defensive arts, if you will.
"When I do stand-up, all my hats say World Champion in some way, because I'm the greatest karate hero and athlete on the planet. But that's one hat that was never on 30 Rock, because the character that plays Frank is just not as good of an athlete as me," Friedlander says.
In 2010, he authored a book, How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional & Inspirational Karate Book by the World Champion. "This book teaches you martial arts skills better than any karate school will," says Friedlander. "It will teach you stuff that they don't even know about. It's a dangerous world out there. This book will keep people safe and it's written in a way that criminals cannot understand, so it can only be used for justice. Bullies cannot use this book. If a bully actually read this book, it would give them misinformation and make them a worse fighter, so it's just to help make America better."
$17-$22. Oct. 3, 8 p.m.; Oct. 4, 8 p.m. & 10:15 p.m.; Oct. 5, 7 p.m. & 9:30 p.m. The Comedy Zone Charlotte, 900 N.C. Music Factory Blvd., Suite B3. 980-321-4702. www.cltcomedyzone.com.