“I’m a lot different than Frank Rossitano, but we look identical,” Judah Friedlander insists of his role on NBC’s 30 Rock. True, they look the same, especially given the trucker hat on which Friedlander posts sayings in each episode. But other than that (and the big glasses), the Gaithersburg, Maryland, native says he doesn’t resemble the laid-back, almost inadvertently funny dude-writer. How does the stand-up himself come across? Well, laid-back, almost inadvertently funny…
We called Friedlander at his home in Queens, a day after our numerous calls for the scheduled interview went straight to voice mail.
Time Out Chicago: What happened to you yesterday?
Judah Friedlander: I spilled Gatorade accidentally on my computer and cell phone and knocked out both of them. I got new shit.
TOC: So, the hats—where do they all go after they’ve been on 30 Rock?
Judah Friedlander: I’m looking at my apartment now. There’s ten on my couch, a couple on the floor, one’s in a box, couple on a table. One says RECORD BREAKER. One says CAMPION DEL MUNDO. One says WORLD CHAMPION.
TOC: Your favorite?
Judah Friedlander: FORMER CYCLOPS. I made one that said INCOMPLETE, but it was missing one of the letter e’s, so in itself it was actually incomplete.
TOC: Do you have to get Tina Fey’s approval on the hat quips?
Judah Friedlander: Yeah, it’s usually like, “What do you think, Tina?” She’s like, “Great.” One time I wrote a hat, and it said BALLS. They were like, “Maybe we should run that by the censors.” Carrie Fisher was guest starring, and I’m like, “It could be basketballs, baseballs.” Carrie Fisher goes, “I thought you were a guy that just likes going to balls. You were just a distinguished gentleman.”
TOC: One of the shticks with the character is that he’s surprisingly agile with the ladies. How does that work for you in real life?
Judah Friedlander: Even more, man. Even more. I think that’s one they based on reality. It’s just nonstop. I mean, right now I got five chicks just surrounding me.
TOC: Wearing your hats and nothing else?
Judah Friedlander: You’re a mind reader, man.
TOC: Um, but seriously, are you dating?
Judah Friedlander: Here and there, man. I don’t have a girlfriend. I want one. I need to get a wife. But it’s hard, you know, it’s hard to find a girl you can trust. Some of these girls, they want to go out with you so they can blog about you.
TOC: You’ve had that happen?
Judah Friedlander: I had one girl send me an e-mail saying she wants to go out with me, but it’s like a two-pronged deal because she wants to blog the date. And I’m like, “No!” I don’t want to be on a reality show. So maybe they want to go out with me, maybe they don’t, but they definitely want to use me so that they can be, like, “My date with Judah Friedlander” and then get more viewers on their blog. That’s just really annoying.
TOC: Since you dress on the show as you do in your day-to-day life, you must get a lot of, “Hey, Frank.”
Judah Friedlander: Yeah. You know, it seems like the culture now, it seems like 90 percent of the people, all they want to do is be famous. I never wanted to be famous. I’ve been doing stand-up comedy pretty much every night for 20 years. I was always an introverted kid, still am. I never got into things to be famous. Sometimes it’s fun, sometimes it’s annoying.
TOC: Besides stand-up, what’re you doing with your time?
Judah Friedlander: I’m trying to get my shit together, man. I spent the whole day getting my cell phone and computer back, uh, you know, I’m talking to you right now, you know, it’s just kind of all over the place.
TOC: I hear you’re pretty good at Ping-Pong.
Judah Friedlander: That’s my game. I haven’t even played in a week, which is really bad. I’ve been too busy. It’s actually the fastest sport in the world, the quickest as far as reflexes, ’cause the ball travels faster than any other ball. I hadn’t played in years and years, and I started playing again in September for fun and for exercise.
TOC: You get a good workout from that?
Judah Friedlander: Oh, yeah, you’ll break a sweat definitely if you’re playing it right.
TOC: Of all the guest stars on 30 Rock, does any one stand out?
Judah Friedlander: Steve Buscemi was the director of the episode where I hooked up with Jenna and several other ladies. I thought he might be frenetic, which is kind of the characters he often plays—frenetic, crazy, high-strung characters—but as a director, very mellow, very smooth.
TOC: And he understood your rapport with the ladies?
Judah Friedlander: Yes. Definitely.
30 Rock’s season finale airs Thursday 14 at 8:30pm.