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Judah Friedlander Keeps Truckin’

Judah Friedlander Keeps Truckin’ (photo)

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Comedian-turned-actor Judah Friedlander (“Zoolander,” “American Splendor”) wears a lot of hats, and that’s not to say he’s bogged down with multiple titles. No, if you’re familiar with his stand-up, VH1 appearances — or most likely, his role as sketch comedy writer Frank Rossitano on NBC’s “30 Rock”– you’ve seen his endless array of trucker hats with pithy messages on them (“World Champion” being his most recognizable proclamation). Add an oversized pair of thick-rimmed glasses and five o’ clock shadow, and you’ve got the Friedlander look, which has its own methodology, as the Spirit Award nominee (for “Duane Hopwood”) would soon school me.

Adding to Friedlander’s eclectic résumé is the new indie rom-com “I Hate Valentine’s Day,” an encore reunion for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” leads Nia Vardalos and John Corbett. Vardalos makes her directorial debut and stars as a Brooklyn florist with a strict five-date philosophy on romance, and Friedlander plays her quirky neighborhood pal Dan. While the funnyman was off the clock during an unusual gig in Las Vegas, we discussed the new movie, what he learned about Mickey Rourke when they worked together on “The Wrestler” and why Manhattan comedy club promoters are always asking passersby if they like comedy.

Is it true that you’re at a table tennis tournament in Vegas?

That is correct, sir. There’s a special ping-pong tournament called Hardbat. Hardbat basically uses amateur-type paddles, the type used in the 1950s and earlier. It’s not the modern game. The professional paddles are very fast. These are slow and not very spinny, so it’s a different game. Anyway,, Fremantle and the Mark Gordon Company got together with Bud Light and ESPN to put on a three-day Hardbat event [that will] air on ESPN in September. I play competitive ping-pong, so I came to them and said, “I want to be a part of this because I want to help promote ping-pong.” I was a TV host, sideline and fan interviewer all weekend.

I saw your skills in action in a Sports Illustrated video. What’s your history with the game?

Straight up, I played as a kid in the basement and rec centers. I remember one of our childhood friends, all of a sudden, had all these new serves and shots. We found out he was learning them from a Chinese guy who lived down the street, and then we found out from the Chinese guy down the street that there are official tournaments. My brother started playing some events, he went to ping-pong camp. This was when I was around 14 or 15. I only did one tournament, but I mostly learned from my brother. Then we stopped playing for about 25 years, and this past September, I started playing again. I play several times a week. Ping-pong’s an awesome sport. I’m the World Champion, you know. I never lose, so it’s pretty satisfying.

What is the “World Champion of the World” competition like, and have you accomplished any new feats to keep your title?

Well, I just did another World Championship event, and I won it again, so I’m still the World Champion. It’s straight-up death matches. That’s pretty hardcore, dude.

I’ve never seen that televised. How do I know you haven’t been making it up?

Just ask around, dude. Do some research. See if anyone will deny it. I got the windbreaker to prove it. [Anyone] could make a “World Champion” hat or t-shirt. I have the windbreaker that says “World Champion” with my name on it. I think that’s proof enough.

07012009_friedlander44.jpgI’m convinced. Perhaps now is a good time to talk about your role in Nia Vardalos’ new feature.

She’s a sweetheart. She’s such a nice lady with great energy. Very warm. She’s certainly an actor’s director, and great to work with. It was a crazy shoot, 15 or 18 days. We did [my scenes] in the Windsor Terrace and Park Slope areas in Brooklyn. I don’t know how much I’m going to be in the movie — I’m guessing not very much. I’m one of a group of friends that [Vardalos] hangs out with sometimes, that group being played by Zoe Kazan, Rachel Dratch, Mike Starr and Jason Mantzoukas.

How do you feel about Valentine’s Day? Sweet and romantic, or a greeting-card holiday for lemmings?

As the World Champion, every day is pretty much like Valentine’s Day for me — as far as hooking up with the ladies. But Valentine’s Day is definitely one of those days where it’s either awesome or it’s a downer.


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.