Exclusive: Cheap Laughs with 30 Rock's Judah Friedlander


As you might remember, we love us some Judah Friedlander. The self-professed “World Champion” comic makes us snort our milk out our nose every week as Frank, the writer for TGS with Tracy Jordan on NBC’s 30 Rock. This week, holding true to our recession theme, we asked Judah this: How exactly do we keep laughing while our wallets are full of nothing but wallet?

Flavorwire: What’s funny about poverty?

Judah Friedlander: Seeing a former rich chick have to take the subway is hilarious. I once saw a homeless woman who had had a nose job at some point in her life. I wondered, is that how she went homeless? Did she blow all her money on the nose job or was it something else?

FW: Any advice to the guy that just lost his job and is moving into his parents’ basement?

JF: A lot of parents’ basements are pretty awesome. Many have ping pong tables. You can play ping pong all day. That’s what I would do. And, you have the laundry right there. And you can throw parties, ’cause it’s in the basement. The parents won’t hear you. And you don’t have to worry about that annoying neighbor that lives below you, ’cause there isn’t one.

FW: OK you’re a big TV star now, but how did you get your kicks when you were just a poor comic?

JF: I still make $25 a set during the week in New York City. I shop at Kmart. I still play video games on a coin-operated arcade machine that only charges a quarter. There’s still a few of those around. “The Dancing Chicken” in Chinatown still has some ’80s games for a quarter. We used to call it “The Dancing Chicken” because they had this machine, which was basically a cage, and inside the cage was a live chicken. And when you put in a quarter, it would start dancing. We always wondered how the chicken would know to start dancing. Years later we found out that when you put the quarter in, it would heat the floor that the chicken was standing on. And that would cause the chicken to start moving his legs quickly, which looked like dancing. I still call it “The Dancing Chicken”, but today they have a plastic chicken instead of a live one. I don’t think it does anything.

FW: What are your favorite ways to get a cheap laugh?

JF: I always laugh at dogs. Something about their eyebrow gestures cracks me up. Some of the NYC comedy clubs are cheap. Comedy Cellar, where I play a lot late at night Sunday through Thursday, I believe charges no cover if you reserve on their Web site. If you live in the Philly area you can see me at the TLA Theatre at a recession special discount rate of only $10, Saturday April 4th. I’m personally doing a lot of free ticket giveaways on my site.

FW: I hate the asshole middle manager who fired me. Any advice on a good prank that will make his life miserable and get me some shallow satisfaction?

JF: Hire me to publicly humiliate him. Or do this, on the next Halloween, dress up as your former boss and then fuck his wife. It has worked for me before. And your boss will hate Halloween forever and slowly learn to hate himself. His wife might learn to love Halloween. That’s all assuming your boss is a straight man. If not, this project becomes a little different.

FW: My girlfriend says she loves my sense of humor but less now that I’m poor. Are there any surefire ways to get a girl to laugh and forget she just paid for dinner for the 6th time straight?

JF: Hey, maybe this chick doesn’t like you as much as you think. Maybe it’s time for a new chick. Personally I prefer chicks from the outerboroughs. Sometimes, I refer to Manhattan women as “taxi chicks”. When anything’s going wrong, they just hail a taxi and they’re off to “safety-happy-it’s all about me”-land. But you get a chick that lives in a two-fare zone (that’s someone who doesn’t live near the subway; they have to take the bus then transfer to the train). These chicks are tougher and more real. But Staten Island chicks might be the best. They have to take a bus to a boat to a subway to meet you in Manhattan. That shows commitment. Any chick that is willing to cross a body of water to date you, is worth hanging out with.

FW: Do comics take a hit in the recession or is it a good time for the funny man?

JF: People do have less money to afford going to shows, but I think they need to laugh more.

FW: If your character Frank on 30 Rock lost his job, what would be his next career choice?

JF: Being the lighting director at a strip club. On the side he’d be managing a pro-wrestlers on the independent circuit. Or, he’d be the guy who gives out quarters at “The Dancing Chicken” even though it doesn’t have a dancing chicken any more.

FW: Can you lend me $20?

JF: Well, not really, but I will play you doubles in Galaga. And I’ll pay for it. And just for the record, I pronounced it correctly — that’s “GA-lu-guh”, not “gu-LA-guh”.

FW: They say laughter is the best medicine — since most of us now have no health care can you can you heal us with humor?

JF: Yes. Yes I can.

You can catch up to Judah at www.worldchampionoftheworld.com or at the The TLA Theater Philadelphia, Saturday April 4. Tomrrow from 5 to 6 p.m., Judah can be heard on Sirius/XM radio on the Rawdog Comedy channel.

Photo credit: Dan Hallman