With his slogan-bearing trucker hats, his oversized glasses, and a career that has balanced a rigorous stand-up schedule with steady acting work, Judah Friedlander is the hardest-working weirdo in Hollywood. The Ping-Pong-loving author of How to Beat Up Anybody recently wrapped up a seven-year run as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock, which raised the comic’s profile considerably. That concluded, the self-proclaimed “outsider among outsiders” has returned full-force to stand-up, playing dates in Europe before returning to the States for Bumbershoot (as well as Bellevue’s Parlor Live Comedy Club on August 29–31).
Any show-business career is bound to have plenty of ups and downs, but I imagine the conclusion of 30 Rock must have been a big transition for you? I was on 30 Rock for seven years, and that took up a lot of my life. It was a very busy schedule and demanding. Now I have all these projects in mind that I want to do that should have been done years ago multiple times. And by that I mean I should have had at least five albums and comedy specials out at this point in my career. But I have zero out. So now I theoretically have time to do these projects I want to do.
Are you planning to focus on acting as well? Stand-up has always been my main focus and what’s most important to me creatively. On an acting level, I’m in a big transition period. I used to do a lot of movies. I’ve done my share of shitty movies, but I’ve done a lot of very acclaimed movies too, like American Splendor. USA Today named me Best Supporting Actor of the year. I’ve had some movies where I had a little part, like The Wrestler, which is completely different from what I did on 30 Rock. And now I’m at a point where I think many of the people behind the scenes in show business—casting directors, producers, directors—I think a lot of them know me from 30 Rock, but I think they have forgotten that I used to do completely different kinds of things. It’s almost like starting from the beginning again for a film acting career. Instead of them not knowing you, they think they know you.
Do you keep up with music? Are there any acts at Bumbershoot you’re looking forward to seeing? If it’s something hip and cool and involves music, I’ve not heard of it.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Heart—they’re playing. I know Heart, yeah. Death Cab for Cutie I know. The Breeders, I’ve heard of them. Deerhunter, I know the movie, not the band.
What was the last concert you went to as a fan? I can only think of two. One was Tom Jones and the other was Barry Manilow. They were fucking great.
The World Champion Judah Friedlander performs Sunday at 6:15 p.m and Monday at 1 p.m., both at the Playhouse.