Judah Friedlander’s standup was hilariously entertaining at his Limelight & Accents-sponsored performance on Saturday Oct. 26 in Kuhl Gym, but he lacked the style and relevance of many other modern comedians. Friedlander is most famous for playing Frank Rossitano on the TV show “30 Rock,” a similar role to his stand-up persona. His acting work spans back to the late ‘90s and includes roles in films ranging from Zoolander to Wet Hot American Summer. His talent is obvious and seems to work best in a cast among other funny people.
Friedlander’s appearance distinctly reminds one of the cult classic film Clerks, as his uniform is a disheveled “World Champion” T-shirt and jeans with a “World Champion” hat. Think a hipster but middle-aged and doughier. His jokes mirror his physical appearance.
The show’s content varied, but the approach was consistent. Friedlander used non-sequitur humor as the driving point. The problem with this device is that it does not make for an incredibly funny joke let alone entertainment for an entire show. Friedlander does pull it off well, all things considered.
The show was an appropriate choice for Parents Weekend compared to Adam Trent’s comic/magic show in August, which was funny as well but a bit too saucy for parents looking at where and what their money is going toward.
Friedlander never breaks his persona, similar to Will Ferrell’s approach to comedy; there is a persistent fourth wall of sorts between Friedlander and his audience, even though he directly addresses them.
His jokes ranged from situational to modern pop culture and politics. He played off the audience well and stayed relatively neutral in an American climate that is sensitive to political and religious humor even in the context of jest. Friedlander poked fun at topics usually inappropriate to mention due to his maintained persona.
In reference to other artists, Friedlander does not bring anything new or noteworthy to the field. Louis C.K. dominates this realm of comedy with simplicity and a spontaneous approach that works without a persona; his jokes speak for themselves, as he is just an average-looking, middle-aged white guy.
Friedlander’s style is required for his content. Friedlander doesn’t reach the roaring levels of absurdity that Zach Galifianakis does, for example; rather, he is much more mellow and calm, which is vital to his persona but could be holding him back compared to modern comedians like Steve Carell and Will Ferrell.
Friedlander’s personality would be better suited in a group dynamic as a component rather than the single focus of a performance. That’s why he’s so great in “30 Rock.”
The show was worth seeing, but in a realm of Netflix and digital standup with tons of new comic players developing an individual style in the last few years, it’s difficult to imagine Friedlander’s staying power in this sphere. Friedlander is funny, but the current times call for more than that to garner the full attention of American audiences.