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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.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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