Five minutes with "World Champion" Judah Friedlander
Judah Friedlander is the comedian and actor best known as Frank, the trucker hat-wearing slacker-ish comedy writer on 30 Rock. This summer, on break from filming the show, the Queens resident is touring the country doing standup and a slew of quirky projects. On a break from his ESPN correspondent gig at a Las Vegas ping-pong tournament (Friedlander regularly plays at a Korean table tennis club in Flushing), he stopped to chat with W.
What exactly does it mean that you are, as your hats often declaim, “World Champion”?
What it means is that I’m the greatest athlete in the world, that I’m a master of martial arts, that I hook up with lots of chicks and that I’m a role model to children. I’m actually working on an instructional book right now that shows me doing all sorts of amazing martial arts feats. Harper Collins is releasing it in the spring.
Is “World Champion” a lifelong designation, like Supreme Court justice?
That’s a good question. Actually, you constantly have to defend the trophy. And you do that by having death matches with challengers. But usually the guys who try to challenge me are so intimidated that they either forfeit or take their own lives before having to compete. So the title’s pretty easy to defend.
Some people think that you and your character on 30 Rock are essentially the same person. What are the differences, if any, between you and Frank?
I’m a better athlete, for one thing. And I don’t go for the easy jokes. When Jenna (Jane Krakowski’s character) puts on weight, Frank’s doing fat jokes. But I never go for something that obvious. And I have the balls to do standup while Frank just slacks off and plays practical jokes on people. But we do look a lot alike.
We’ve heard your trucker hats are all homemade.
Yeah, I make them all. Except the “WORLD CHAMPION” ones, of course—I have to win those at the World Championships. Some of my favorites that I’ve worn recently on the show were “FORMER CYCLOPS,” “INCOMPL TE,” and “TWO FARE ZONE,” which is an old term that refers to people who live in an area of an outer borough of New York that was not near a subway, forcing them to take a bus to a subway to get into Manhattan. Frank is definitely a two fare zone kind of guy.
Who is more difficult to work with: Tracy Morgan, or his 30 Rock alter ego, Tracy Jordan?
Well I, Judah, don’t find Tracy Morgan difficult at all. I’ve known him for years—we met over ten years ago on the standup circuit. And while all the other characters have a lot of trouble with Tracy Jordan, Frank loves Tracy. They have a lot in common, except Tracy makes about $300 million more a year than Frank. And Frank doesn’t have a posse, but if he had the cash Tracy does, he would. Actually, that’s another difference between me and Frank. I wouldn’t ever have a posse. Posses are for pussies. In standup, we do things alone.