The first time I name-dropped Judah Friedlander, the barfly I was trying to impress was confused and combative. She asked if I was German and got pissy. I understood her anguish though, because before I knew Judah by name, it was merely the legend of his face (and custom trucker hats) with which I was familiar. That’s kind of how it goes when you’re an unspoken hero with iconic comic delivery, not to mention a promising amateur ping-pong competitor with major television cred under your belt. In any case, with a show approaching at the Brattle Theatre on October 26, we asked Friedlander about his new book, what inspires him, and what he’s working on next.
Tell me about your new book, If The Raindrops United.
Drawing was something I did as a little kind and I stopped for years but I came back to … and comedy lends itself better to drawings. But touring and all the travel, that adds to the stress, so to ease the anxiety, I draw. After a few months of that, I had a new book. The things I used to do … battling anxiety … it helps … and now taking on political and human rights issues, feels good. And I laid the book out in a way that you can see how my mind works. My standup act is all comedy even if I’m talking about serious issues… and I did it for the love of drawing.
If the raindrops really united, would we be fucked?
Yeah, they could wipe out a whole city. The message here is that with unity there is power. If people would just get together, they would be more powerful than they think.
Where did you grow up and how did it influence who you are today?
I was born in Maryland and then moved to San Diego and then back to Maryland, all before I was 10. I never felt like i was in a group or click … and I still don’t feel that way.
Considering that your mom inspired your artistic sensibility and your dad made you question authority, is it safe to say that they’re to blame for your career?
That’s hilarious. I don’t know how to answer that question! I was sincere when I wrote that though because it was true. Ever since I was a kid, we were always doing art stuff and we didn’t have a lot of toys. We were doing homework or playing outside. Kids today … their play is organized … there’s hardly of any of that [freedom] anymore. I remember … my dad would have this brown paper on a roll and tear off a sheet and say, “OK, start drawing” … so we were always playing or making stuff. There was only one TV in my house. We were raised to go out and create stuff.
Tell me about these drawings you sent over to us (see: inset)
Kite’s Revenge: I had this idea that flying a kite was so much fun and so cool … but then I looked at it like, “We’re torturing the kite!” You always want it to be further and further away. I have a lot of paranoia, so maybe it comes from some of that. The kite turns the tables though. It’s like the lion going after the lion tamer.
Circle with Arthritis: It’s a dark one … but a funny one. Over the past 10 years, it seems like I’ve had more and more physical type of ailments. Not huge serious things … but just limping along in life. Thats where that comes from.
Six-Year-Old Bobby: That’s actually based on real life. I did that as a kid. I saw one of those [wheelchair] basketball games and to me, as a kid … I thought is was awesome! I had no idea they were handicapped or whatever. They played in rolling chairs. I just didn’t know. At one point, I showed them to my friend and this kid said the same thing. It’s funny … but it’s also when a kid loses their innocence. Things change. There’s actually a lot of suffering in the world.
What’s next for you? Talk about “Wet Hot American Summer”? Your new comedy album and stand-up documentary film? “Bordertown” with Seth Macfarlane?
My next new project will be standup and then a comedy tour, and then acting. I’ve always been a standup comic and that’s my favorite thing to do and that’s why this book came out. This is largely a drawing joke book. I like doing comedy in different mediums. Hollywood is always trying to put you in “their stuff” and their stuff is crap. It’s a focus group. I’m just trying to do the best that I can and work on my projects and put the comedy and art first.
Tell me something people don’t know about you?
I can’t speak for others … but … I’m lonely. Besides being lonely though I’m alone, and I’m not happy and feeling lonely and being alone. The drawings have helped with that a lot. You have to keep yourself from going completely crazy and you have to be comfortable with just being yourself.
Catch Judah reading from If The Raindrops United at the Brattle Theatre on Monday, October 26 at 6pm.