Judah Friedlander is a man who wears many hats, both literally and professionally. While many people know him from his years as trucker hat aficionado Frank Rossitano on “30 Rock” (which he assures us he makes himself), he’s also a regular stand up performer, and will next be seen in the revived “Wet Hot American Summer” series, out tomorrow. We caught up with the self-dubbed World Champion to discuss his recent endeavors, from the Netflix revamp of the cult movie to his second book: "If the Raindrops United."
What can we expect from your stand-up?
Recently I’ve been talking about a lot of heavy issues but in a funny and non-divisive way. I’ve been doing bits about human rights issues: gay marriage, racial issues and climate change. I do it in a way that is so ridiculous, that no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, I think you’re gonna laugh and get a kick out of it.
Where did the whole "World Champion" thing come from?
The World Champion thing started fifteen or so years ago. It’s changed over the years. I always made my own hats and t-shirts, that kind of thing. I thought it was dumb to buy a hat with someone else’s things on it so I thought, alright I’ll buy my own hats and put my own things on it. I thought it would be funny to make a hat that said “World Champion” but not of what. I like playing with the crowd and coming up with material on the spot, so that would also draw the crowd in. “Okay ,you’re World Champion, of what?” That would lead people to almost ask questions.
What can you tell us about your new book?
It’s called "If the Raindrops United." It’s a book of drawings and cartoons. Art’s something I’ve done since I was a little kid. A couple of years ago, I really started drawing a lot again. After I had about sixty drawings, I thought, “I might have a book here.” It’s mostly comedy, but 40 percent are a mix of serious and comedy, dealing with racism to denial of racism, to gentrification, all kinds of issues.
"Wet Hot American Summer" has been a cult hit for a while — how did the prequel come together now, and why not a sequel?
I think they always thought it would be funnier to do a prequel as opposed to a sequel because it’s fifteen years later and everyone’s playing themselves younger than they were in the original. The original movie is so ridiculous and now it’s even more ridiculous. They had been wanting to do this for a long time and there were a lot of logistics. Eventually they were able to get a deal with Netflix and work up a schedule. And if it does well, which hopefully it does, it’s going to be a thing that we’re going to do again, because it’s a series now. It’s not a movie.
Are you a fan of the eight episode format?
I think for this project it’s a great fit because it’s an ever evolving thing. It’s basically like a giant super movie. It’s eight episodes and I think each is roughly a half hour, so it’s basically a four hour movie prequel, which is pretty damn cool.
And what can we expect from Ron in the prequel?
I can’t give away too much, but Ron loves Gail. Even though he must've obviously been bad to her at some point for her to leave him for a little boy.
So it’s a lot about their relationship?
Yeah, Ron must have had some shortcomings. You’ll definitely learn a lot more about Ron and not just his relationship with Gail but his professional background as well.
You worked with Tina Fey on "30 Rock." Can we expect you to appear on "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt"?
That’d be great. I have no idea if that’ll happen. I haven’t heard anything but that’d be great.