Former ’30 Rock’ star Judah Friedlander on stand-up, ‘Sharknado 2′ and why he’s not running for president


Comedian Judah Friedlander headlines at the DC Improv this weekend. (Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images)

Though Judah Friedlander is known for his collection of catchphrase-bearing hats, the former “30 Rock” star has been sticking to just one lately. It says “World Champion” and it goes on whenever the 45-year-old Gaithersburg, Md., native transforms into his stand-up persona, The World Champion. So if you watch Friedlander perform at the DC Improv this weekend, know that you’re not seeing the gross, slacker comedy writer you know from “30 Rock,” but a bombastic, assertive karate hero who’s the best at (almost) everything.

It’s been a year since “30 Rock” ended. What have you been up to?
Mostly been touring, pretty much nonstop. Been doing a variety of little acting projects here and there. I just did a little thing in [Syfy’s] “Sharknado 2.”

What can you say about the film?
It’s pretty awesome. Ian Ziering killing sharks in New York.

I won’t ask you to spoil the movie, but I assume your character doesn’t make it out alive.
In my stand-up act, people know me as The World Champion, the greatest karate hero on the planet. In this movie I get to show my acting range. I am not playing the real-life karate hero and shark killer that I am. I’m playing more of a regular hero in this movie.

If you were faced with a real-life sharknado, would you be Ian Ziering in that scenario?
I actually did train him and I did a few of his stunts.

You also did a pingpong movie called “Ping Pong Summer.”
I did do a little pingpong movie, just a little cameo. I play pingpong and I’m an advocate for the sport. Soccer is my other game, and I did some videos for MLS called “MLS Insider.” My two big projects this year are a stand-up album and a stand-up documentary movie.

Do you have a timetable for either of your stand-up projects?
Not really. Loose ones. I’m doing them myself, so they’re going to be self-produced. They’ll both be done and out this year.

Is there anything you’re not the world champion of?
Mathematics, no. Reading comprehension, no.

But you wrote a book, “How to Beat Up Anybody.”
Yeah, I did. Reading and writing are two different things. Dude — they’re complete opposites. If you’re a good writer, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be a good reader.

I guess you didn’t do well on your SATs.
Let’s not talk about it. You know a lot of people have a question you’re not allowed to ask? You’re not allowed to bring up my SAT scores.

Did you watch the Sochi Olympics at all?
Yeah, I did check some of that out. I was not impressed.

Why didn’t you compete?
I’m banned. I also boycotted the Olympics because I just think the Olympic policies that they have [are wrong]. Especially the policy of: The country that wins the most medals gets to invade Ukraine. It’s just so wrong and then all these countries agreed to do it anyway. No wonder Russia wanted that medal count. It’s just wrong — why that’s official Olympic policy, I have no idea.

During your shows, you often share ideas for what you would do if you ran the country. Are you mulling a presidential run in 2016?
I gotta correct you there: I’m not running, I’m standing for president. This country needs people to stop running away from problems and stand up for what’s right.

What would be your first act as president?
I already got a place, so there’s no point in moving into the White House. I would just make that a place for anyone to live and hang out.

What are you looking forward to doing when you come to D.C.?
Maybe I’ll check out the White House. See what kind of renovations I want to do. Maybe I’ll add a water park. No president’s ever given a free water park to the people. Why would they not do that?

It seems obvious when you say it. Maybe no one’s thought of it.
You know, a lot of these presidents, they’re career politicians, they don’t think outside the box. That’s something I can bring to the table.

DC Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW; Thu. & Sun., 8 p.m., $17, Fri & Sat., 8 & 10:30 p.m., $20; 202-296-7008. (Farragut North)

Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
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