Judah Friedlander: The World Champion Speaks

By | November 7, 2005 at 7:32 am | No comments | Features

Judah Friedlander: The World Champion Speaks
This scraggly comic knows a thing or two about acting. He’s got all sorts of awards and nominations to prove it. Seriously.

By Tasha A. Harris

It’s a bitterly cold Sunday night. The Laugh Factory in Times Square is packed to near capacity. And Judah Friedlander is killing onstage. He effectively works the crowd with his laugh-out-loud-worthy retorts. He’s definitely the World Champion; it says so on his ironic mesh trucker cap, one of the things (along with his giant, black-rimmed glasses) that makes Judah instantly recognizable.

After his set, he’s greeted by an attractive brunette and agrees to take a photo with her after the rest of the show. He retrieves his backpack and heads into the lounge where he finds a complimentary buffet. “I rested today,” he says, having just endured traveling from Las Vegas to New York during a record-breaking snowstorm. “All I had was a bowl of cereal.” He loads his plate with tortilla chips, guacamole and Mexican rice. Dressed in a canary yellow T-shirt and blue jeans, Judah sits down, happy to chat.

In between taking swigs of Poland Spring, the Gaithersburg, MD native recalls the first time he told jokes onstage. He was 19 and still attending New York University. “The first couple of years, I didn’t know you were supposed to go on every night. I would go up twice a year,” he says. “I’d see comics on Letterman or Carson and I’d be like, ‘they’ve probably been up onstage like 10 or 12 times.’ When I finished school that’s when I realized, ‘Oh, you’re supposed to go up every night.’”

THE WAY OF THE FRIEDLANDER

Now, Friedlander – a 15-year veteran of stand-up – performs up to 20 shows a week in New York City and headlines across the nation. Whether he was performing in dark clubs at night or appearing on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Last Call with Carson Daly or the Late Late Show with Craig Kilborn (RIP), Judah says his comedic style has remained consistent. “My stuff has always been joke-driven. I never did personal stories or talked about my life,” he says. “My act has always been pure entertainment, fantasy, bizarre and it’s always joke-filled.

But where did the World Champion shtick come from? “That started from working the crowds in certain rooms in New York where there were lots of tourists. I was just ripping on them,” Judah explains. “It sort of turned into me being better than them.”

And the glasses— does he really need those things? “The glasses are real,” he says. “They’re prescription. It was 10 or 15 years ago and all these pretentious hipsters were wearing these tiny glasses. I just got sick of that. Every time you go into a glasses shop, they go, ‘These are really good because they’re really thin and you can barely see them’ and I’m like, ‘Fuck it! Let’s celebrate that I’m wearing glasses. Let’s wear some big fuckin’ glasses.’”

No doubt, Friedlander is a skilled stand-up, but his look definitely helped the man get noticed. The formula has led Judah to the big screen many times and with much fanfare. For his role in 2003’s Oscar-nominated film, American Splendor, Judah earned an Independent Spirit Award nod for best supporting actor. The New York Times even chose him as one of the best actors of 2004. And last year, Judah won a best supporting actor award at the Bend Film Festival for his role in Duane Hopwood, playing opposite David Schwimmer and Janeane Garofalo. Most recently, he was seen in Date Movie, which debuted in mid February as the number one comedy in America.

If Judah still doesn’t ring a bell, think back to 2001, when Dave Matthews Band premiered their “Everyday” video, which prominently featured some dude hugging everyone in site: that’s Judah.

Despite his impressive acting resume and accolades, Judah says stand-up is his first love because of the freedom it offers. “You get to do your own thing,” he says. “There’s no boss. You can say whatever you want.”

Judah realizes that the night’s host Bill Dawes has concluded the show and the crowd has begun to disperse. In mid sentence, he politely excuses himself to make good on a promise. He returns to the showroom to take pictures and hand out stickers plugging his website. “People know his name,” says Daniel Tamayo, who serves double duty as cook and street team promoter at The Laugh Factory. “People buy tickets to see the show because they recognize his name.”

Obviously, people just need to be near the World Champion.

Judah FriedlanderFor more information, visit judahfriedlander.com

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