Comedian Judah Friedlander defends his title | Comedy Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Comedian Judah Friedlander defends his title 

The "World Champion" has acted in a number of small, out-there film roles, but his stand-up—complemented by trucker hats and denim—has stayed the course.

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Judah Friedlander

Judah Friedlander

Courtesy the artist

For a comedian who essentially exists in character, Judah Friedlander has had a decently varied film career—we're already quite aware of his TV role as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock. He was a coal-mining brother of a male model in Zoolander. For a brief, wonderful moment he appeared as Molly Shannon's sport-coat-wearing jerk ex-husband Ronald von Kleinenstein in Wet Hot American Summer. And, in his first real star turn, he played genuine nerd and gourmet jelly-bean lover Toby Radloff opposite Paul Giamatti's Harvey Pekar in American Splendor.

Most recently Friedlander loaned actual comedic legitimacy to SyFy schlockfest Sharknado 2: The Second One as Bryan, a Mets fan with an oversize baseball bat and a heart of gold. Everyone in the movie—which Friedlander has called the "most important film ever made about climate change"—was in on the joke, but in a movie filled with B actors and whatever Sugar Ray's Mark McGrath is, Friedlander was among the few who could convince us they were in on the joke.

But when he's standing up, Friedlander is still the "World Champion," the ultimate one-upper who dons embroidered trucker hats and denim jackets to echo his delusions of grandeur. He's stuck with the same shtick for years—since well before I last saw him live in the mid-aughts—in which he blends rehearsed material with improvised interactions with the audience. The routine stays fresh because it is always fresh, allowing the World Champion's reign to continue in perpetuity. Mike Lebovitz opens.

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