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Judah Friedlander for president: “This is just me fighting for human rights”

Throwing his hat in the ring, some time in the future.

Throwing his hat in the ring, some time in the future. Judah Friedlander

Judah Friedlander is a world champion at just about everything.

While many know the comedian/actor for his role as Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock, he has been developing his onstage persona for years as a way of mocking egotism in society. 

“For years, my act was making fun of narcissism, for lack of a better term, by talking about me being the ‘world champion’ and the greatest at everything,” he explains. “Then I started really focusing on narcissism, not just on an individual level but on a national level.”

That led to a special called America is the Greatest Country in the United States

“In the past 10 years or so I’ve been doing jokes, one-liners, crowd work, and satire on the United States, the world, and American exceptionalism,” he says. “I’m discussing all the big human rights issues and how as a nation we deal with that and how our government deals with that and/or causes that. Are they helping? Are they not helping? But it’s all done in a non-preachy way.”
 
The latest incarnation of this approach is his new live standup show, Future President. The premise is simple: “I talk about me and how I might have to be president someday,” he says. “And I discuss my presidential platform.”

We elected a narcissist as president, but Friedlander doesn’t name names. Instead, he concentrates on the system and society as a whole. “I think he’s quite a bad president,” he says. “I don’t think it’s that surprising that he became president. The comedy I do is not like the stuff you see on late-night TV where it’s just superficial Trump jokes. I don’t think I even mention his name once. My stuff really satirizes the whole system, so hopefully it sheds some light on why we are where we are. I think it is important to examine that.”

Similar in tone to his recent special, Future President is run more like a mock town hall. “The act I have now deals with a lot of the same subject matter: healthcare, immigration, gun control, war; all these things,” he notes. “Instead of just doing a monologue, I invite a little chaos into the room. After I tell the audience I may have to be president someday, I invite them to ask me any questions about my presidential platform.”
 
There’s an underlying theme and philosophy to the presentation that also calls into question confidence that borders on bravado. “I think it’s good to be confident, but to be overconfident is not good,” he says. “I think as a nation this country, throughout history, has been overconfident.” 

Lots of people and groups have piled on to this notion, Friedlander observes.

“We’re taught as little kids that this is the greatest country. Not just currently, but in the history of civilization,” he says. “That’s probably going to blind you to any problems the country might have and it also might make you point the finger. If you start realizing, ‘Hey, we’re the greatest, but this one thing here isn’t good. Since we’re the greatest, it must be some kind of evil force, because we’re the best.’”

Future President is political satire at its sharpest, yet it’s not an indictment of any one person or group of people. “I just consider human rights,” Friedlander says, “and the fight for human rights does end up getting political. But I don’t think of myself as a political comedian. This is just me fighting for human rights.”


Judah Friedlander
Cedar Cultural Center
416 Cedar Ave. S., Minneapolis
8 p.m. Friday, December 6
$20 in advance/$22 at the door
thecedar.org