You probably know Judah Friedlander (as I do) as Frank Rossitano, the hat-wearing, smart-mouthed writer on the recently ended NBC series “30 Rock” (RIP, “30 Rock.” I loved you).
But, first and foremost, Friedlander considers himself a stand-up comic. He comes to Omaha's Waiting Room Lounge Sunday.
It will be the 43-year-old actor's first appearance here, although he auditioned for a part in Alexander Payne's film “About Schmidt,” which was partially filmed in Omaha. I talked to Friedlander, the self-proclaimed World Champion of pretty much everything, about “30 Rock,” Liz Lemon, Bigfoot and his early days of stand-up.
Q: So “30 Rock” is over. Are you sad about it?
I'm happy. It feels good, you know? It feels like we did something and we finished it. It's an accomplishment.
Q: So was it as fun to film as it looked?
It was a lot of fun to do. (There was) not too much goofing around, and it was pretty hard work — generally 12 to 14 hours a day, six days to film an episode. For me it was the most fun when they would really let me do a bunch of different things. There was one episode where my character decided to quit being a writer on the show and decided to be a corporate lawyer, and there was another episode where I started morphing into Liz Lemon (Tina Fey's character). It was just fun when they'd mix it up with crazy stuff like that.
Q: You got your start in stand-up before becoming an actor. How did you get into that?
I started writing jokes when I was 16 and started going to open mics when I was 19. It was awesome. I loved it from the beginning. It's what I do the best. It's actually become the most relaxing thing I do.
Q: And then you moved on to commercials, right?
After seven years of doing stand-up, I got an agent and I started doing a lot of commercials. I'm thinking of putting some of them out in my website. Most of them were around like '96, '97, '98, '99, for the NFL, Bud Light, Heineken, E-Trade. I did a lot.
Q: Was your commercial career the inspiration for the “30 Rock” episode where Liz Lemon's past as a commercial actress for a phone sex service was revealed?
That was so much fun to film. That (stuff) was hilarious. I actually made (the scene) into a flip book and gave it to Tina (Fey) as a present.
Q: I'm sure you get this a lot, but what's up with the hats?
I've been making my hats every day in real life for years. When it comes to acting professionally, I probably more times than not do not wear a hat. But a hat and glasses is part of my look when I do stand-up, and when I was in the audition process for “30 Rock” I told them, “If I'm going to be doing this eight months out of the year, I need to look like I normally do.”
The stand-up hats always stay “World Champion” in some language. For “30 Rock,” we work in the hats a little differently than we do in stand-up. We really tried to fit them for Frank. They're always jokes, either just flat-out jokes, or jokes that we're adding to a scene. For example, on one episode me and (John) Lutz were going to Times Square, and we were going to pretend we were foreign tourists. For that we made a hat that said “Olé.”
Q: So what's next for you?
I'm really looking forward to doing my own projects. I'm releasing a stand-up album and a stand-up movie and looking at doing a different TV show. I may be hosting a show on National Geographic on Bigfoot and chupacabras.
Q: Are you one of those people who are fascinated by Bigfoot?
Since I was a kid I've been obsessed with Bigfoot.
Q: Why is that?
It's almost like people want to believe in magic, or they want to believe in crazy things, and I find that interesting. And I do, too. I don't know if Bigfoot is real, but if Bigfoot is, how amazing would that be?”
Q: Could you explain your creative process?
I wish I fully knew the answer to that, because then I'd come up with stuff even faster. But I do always carry around a pen and paper. I'm the type of guy where sometimes stuff will just come to me and I'll jot it down. After a couple nights or a couple weeks of doing the joke, I'll expand that one line into several lines. Then I also come up with a lot of stuff onstage, with talking to the crowd. I'm sure I'll have some stuff about Omaha, but I'm not there yet.