'30 Rock' star Judah Friedlander takes comedy on road
Judah Friedlander plays to his strengths, which happen to be his weaknesses.
He has the shaggy hair of a Spinal Tap roadie, a doughy mama's-boy physique and the biggest horn-rimmed glasses this side of Jarvis Cocker.
These physical traits have suited him for roles as acerbic schleps in films such as "American Splendor" and "Meet the Parents" and the NBC TV series "30 Rock," in which he plays Frank, a sarcastic writer who works for the harried Tina Fey.
Just don't short-list him for the next James Bond role.
But audiences at the Pittsburgh Improv, where he plays tonight -Sunday, shouldn't be surprised if he claims to have beaten out Daniel Craig for the next 007 film.
His stage persona is that of a scruffy loser in a trucker's cap who arrogantly and pre-emptively proclaims himself better than you in everything. Just so there's no mistake, he wears a trucker's cap that says "World Champion."
As to world champion of what, it's the answering of that question, usually with the weary patience of an adult telling a dimwitted kid for the 18th time, that comprises his comedy schtick.
Mention a sport, and he's the champ.
"I average a 300 when I bowl," he says. "I get a strike every time. Sometimes, I do better than that. Sometimes, I knock down pins in other lanes.
"While I play a hot dog, I'm actually making fun of people who are so self-centered. I've been making my own hats for 10 years," he says. "One time, I thought it would be funny to make a hat that said 'World Champion' although not of what. It's this idiot that thinks he's so cool basically but there's nothing behind it."
For example, Friedlander accepts responsibility for global warming.
"If I'm hooking up with 40 chicks a day, if I cut it down to 20 maybe that'll stop global warming," he says.
His mother, Shirley, was born in Pittsburgh and lived on Troy Hill. Her husband, Art, went to medical school at the University of Pittsburgh.
They live in Gaithersburg, Md., where Friedlander was born.
"His grandma's a '30 Rock' fan," says Shirley Friedlander, who says she'll be selling her son's merchandise at the shows.
Friedlander also played The "Hug Guy" in the 2003 Dave Matthews video "Everyday." For a while, he was the target of "dude!"-hollering, drunken frat guys who would want to hug the "Hug Guy."
His next film is "Starship Dave," which stars Eddie Murphy as the literal starship that crashes to earth.
"Inside him it's not like a regular human body," he says. "There's hundreds of tiny human people running you like a spaceship. I play an engineer. I'll be a tiny, quarter-inch person."
Judah FriedlanderWhen: 8 p.m. today , 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: Pittsburgh Improv, Waterfront, 166 E. Bridge St., West Homestead