The '30 Rock' actor plays a gig Saturday in Philly. He talks to PW about sports, eating, pooping and, yes, hats.
JF: Stand-up is my favorite thing to do, man. I've been doing stand-up comedy since 1989 -- that's right, I started in the '80s. It's definitely what I'm best at, it's the most fun thing to do.
PW: Was your hair more of a mullet then in 1989?
JF: I've definitely gone through mullet phases. I can't remember if it was a mullet back then. And for the record, I want all the young kids that in the '80s nobody called the mullet hairdo a mullet. It was just called: "Awesome hairdo, man."
PW: You're known both on the show and in real life for your hats. How'd that get started and how much time do you spend on hat creation?
JF: I make all my own hats and I make up all the sayings. Once in awhile on 30 Rock -- I'd say once or twice a season -- they will actually write a hat into the storyline. I still make the hats, but they will actually write a comment about my hat that one of the characters will say, or they'll come up with a plot line that uses the hat.
Here's how it happened: As a comedian or an artist, you create things. I used to do painting. Or a joke, you think of a joke and put it out there. I was like: Why do we always have to buy clothes that are advertising somebody else's stuff? That's one of the amazing marketing things that the clothing industry has done, where it's become cool to wear clothes that actually have the name of the clothes on it. So all you are is a billboard for a giant corporation that is already making tons of money.
Sometimes -- I remember when I was a little kid, I'd go into a novelty store and they have these bumper stickers or maybe funny T-shirts and I was like, "I should make my own funny stuff." So about 15 years ago, I started making my own hats. At first I'd find or buy old patches from like the early '80s. So I made my own Pac Man hat, my own Twisted Sister hat. This was before the VH1 "Behind The Music" stuff. Twisted Sister was just forgotten. Then I was like, "Let's start making my own hats." I did lots of research and found places where you could buy some blank hats, and then I used to buy hats that had stuff on it and I'd rip the stuff off and put my own stuff on it.
PW: Do you order these by the gross then?
JF: I sell some on my website, too, so I have to order a lot of hats.
PW: How much time does it to create a hat?
JF: It depends: Some of the ones I have are fancy and take hours or days. And some of them are real simple and they take minutes. Usually the ones I wear on 30 Rock are pretty quick to make. Some of them are jokes I come up with and I make quite awhile before, some I think up on the spot, and some I decide after I read the script and I think, "What's a hat that's going to go well in this scene?" It could be an inside joke commenting on the scene or something totally the opposite. I like the hats to add to the scene, not detract from the scene. I usually come to the set with a few hats, two or three hats, test them out and ask the crew. It's like testing a joke. Then I'll run it by Tina and say, "What do you think?" and she'll pick which one she likes more. And sometimes, I know what I want to wear and I'll wear that one in. You know, Tina's always been cool with it.
Judah Friedlander performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Theatre of the Living Arts, 334 South Street. Tickets are 29.50 at the door. Or purchase online and get for $10 using a special code word, to be found here. www.livenation.com
In Memoriam: David Brenner