Comedy review: Judah Friedlander (with Kelsey McClure and Sean O’Brien) delivers champion set at the Firebird, Friday, February 8
Judah Friedlander — donning a custom, Aurebesh-script “World Champion” hat — brought both his laid-back brand of stand-up and an old-school Imo’s pizza party to the Firebird for a rare winter performance.
Kelsey McClure — a part-time KDHX employee — in self-described “denim, more denim and feminist boots,” opened the show. Crossing sex, religion and motherly blame, McClure quickly showed how a night of comedy often means no pulled punches. Her advice on being picky with what goes in one’s mouth hit rather hilariously though, as her quick set came to a close. On another note, her interview with Judah Friedlander in the Riverfront Times offers an enjoyable read on comedy and the stand-up process.
Sean O’Brien, host of the excellent local podcast “Tackling Tough Issues,” came on next. He quickly endeared himself with the eloquent and efficient self-deprecating opener, “I need to stop being such a little bitch.” Obviously used to the stage — Sean emcees the St. Louis Funny Bone regularly — the consistent enthusiasm buoyed the set while Sean recounted that every stereotype about car salesmen is accurate.
Then the World Champ arrived onstage.
While most know him from the recently defunct “30 Rock,” his IMDB affords a nostalgic trip through the past 13 years in film. Hitting a memorable cameo in most, Judah has worked tirelessly — he started standup in ’89 — to carve out a niche for himself. Keeping the list short, Judah appeared in “Wet Hot American Summer,” “Zoolander,” “Meet the Parents,” “American Splendor,” “The Wrestler “and even the animated film “Rio.” Bonus points for those who have thrown a ticket in a volunteer cop’s face a la Friedlander in “How High.”
Regardless, having worked with Mickey Rourke, Eddie Murphy, Paul Giamatti and Ben Stiller, it was only Alec Baldwin who wasn’t spared in Friedlander’s routine. “He’s only 3’6″,” Judah deadpanned halfway through the killer performance. One-upping Sean’s approach, Judah actually opened by complementing the applause received during his stroll to the stage. Having put the audience in his back pocket in approximately 30 seconds, he spent the majority of the night trumping the crowd’s comments and his own jokes with aplomb.
Requesting comments and questions from everyone in attendance, Friedlander shows a prodigious ability to riff rather than a structure a set. Focusing on his recent decision to run for President of the United States — apparently an eventual move — the comic filled the fans in on his Presidential platform. On gun control: “The answer is karate, dude, fists don’t run out of fingers.”
However, his paradigm-shifting approach to foreign policy elicited the most raucous laughs of the night. First, by Friedlander’s own genius — “I will unblur all Japanese porn” — and a second time by the question posed, in all-seriousness, from the bar side of the Firebird: “How would you deal with Stalin?”
Friedlander came across as a thoroughly down-to-Earth guy, only kicking out the frontrow couple after the rest of the Firebird set unanimously voted them out, as well as nodding to the venue itself for having a Galaga rig. Before taking off from the stage, Judah invited the entire crowd to the 5 Imo’s pizzas he bought. In as much a co-sign as refutation of Jimmy Kimmel’s national proclamation, Judah declared it “the greatest and shittiest pizza.”
Furthering the invite, he welcomed the faithful to kick it with him over the pizza before an eponymous sex party. One last time, making sure everyone left satisfied, he asked, “Anymore questions about the presidential platform, karate or my dick?”