Quantcast Judah Friedlander interview

Judah Friedlander!!!

FRIGHT fans, you are in for a treat! Recently, the Icons Of Fright crew got to sit down & talk with comedian JUDAH FRIEDLANDER, most recently seen by genre fans in John Gulager's FEAST. (Now available on DVD) Judah also appeared in 'American Splendor', 'Meet The Parents' & the new show '30 Rock'. We spoke to him about his experiences on FEAST, movies & television in general, and his stand-up career. Hands down, this is one of our favorite interviews that we've ever conducted. We're proud to present our FRIGHT exclusive interview with Judah Friedlander!!! - by Robg., Mikec., & Jsyn 11/06

Robg.: What are your earliest recollections of the horror genre? Do you remember the first films that scared you?

Yeah, yeah, there was this one movie, I think it’s called, “Terror in the Wax Museum.” It was about a wax museum, and they have this Jack the Ripper wax museum figure, and he comes to life and starts killing everyone. And I saw that when I was a real little kid. Me and my brother, we saw an ad for it on TV and thought it was the greatest thing and we went to see it and it scared the shit out of us and we had nightmares for a long time. I think we actually slept in our parents’ bed for two to four weeks straight because we were so scared.

Mikec.: Is that a “House of Wax” movie?

I can’t remember, I’ve never seen it since, but I’ve done some research and I think it’s called, “Terror in the Wax Museum.” It might be a British movie or something.

Mikec.: This is the first I’ve heard that one. Most people say, “House of Wax” is the first movie…

Yeah… I remember there was this one ugly monster type dude – you know the grates in the city? He kind of lived under there…

Robg.: So would you say that from an early age you were officially a horror fan?

You know, I don’t know. I was always kind of fascinated by it. I guess I like the extremes that they often go to. But I don’t know at what point I really became an avid fan, but I always kind of liked it, you know? I always liked the gross special effects and stuff. That was always cool.

Robg.: You’ve been in films now, when was the first time that you got an interest in what went behind making films?

Junior high. I think it was eighth or ninth grade – we had some class I remember we had this in our art class – I always did tons of art when I was a little kid, you know? My mom, whenever me and my brother were bored or we had time to kill, she used to give us a sheet of paper and draw. She did a lot of art. She had a potter’s wheel and we’d mess around with that and clay stuff, so we were always doing a lot of art. And then – I think it was in eighth or ninth grade – we had this one really cool teacher, one of those artist type chicks who’d taken up a teacher’s job and didn’t usually teach, and we had a class where we did animation. First it was just drawing on this clear film or white film, doing simple animation like that, and then we did some other stuff and I was immediately hooked; I loved that. And then I remembered that my parents had an old Super 8 camera, but we couldn’t find it ‘cause they hadn’t used it in years. And then I found it and I started making my own claymation movies. Then I started getting into, a little later or about the same time around ninth grade, I started getting this magazine, “Cinemagic” which was put out by “Starlog,” and it was basically how to make your own low budget special effects. I was really into that. I think that was the first foray into that kind of stuff.

Robg.: Now, you’re also a stand up comedian. What path did you take first? Did you try to get into films or did the stand up thing happen first?

Yeah. I first got interested in stand up, I was a junior in high school and there was this show – this was before comedy central or any of that stuff – there was this show that used to come on late at night called, “Comedy Tonight.” It was a syndicated show, would come on at 2:30 in the morning. I had strict parents, we weren’t allowed to stay up late or anything, but in junior year we got a VCR for the first time, and so then I could program all these shows. So I started watching it, and it was all these comics you’ve never heard of, and they started talking about comedy clubs where they’d perform, so that was the first time I ever knew that there were comedy clubs that you actually do comedy, and I got totally hooked on that. But I didn’t do it. That was around when I was 16 or so. And then when I was 19, was the first time I tried it. So I went to film school, and I was into the film making and stuff, and then when I was 19 I was a sophomore in film school, that’s when first I tried stand up and loved it, and I’ve been doing it since.

But I started getting less into the film stuff because it cost so much money to get the films made and there were so many logistics, you know, and preproduction, trying to get it approved, trying to get locations, and I’m a mess, and I’m just terrible at that stuff and stand up was great because you just show up and there’s a mic; you don’t have to do any lighting or get cast and crew and a sound guy there, you just kind of go. I really liked the immediacy of it.

Robg.: Instant gratification.

Yeah, yeah, and also, like with a movie, you make a movie and then six months later you find out if it’s any good. With stand up, you tell a joke, you find out immediately if it’s good. I like the immediacy of that, so. But I’ve always been interested in film making, then after doing stand up for seven years, I started getting some acting jobs in commercials.

Mikec.: Did they come through your stand up, did they see you?

No, not at all, you’d think, right? No, my comedy friends, or so called friends, doing tons of commercials, they never hooked me up with their agents or anything. I had a day job working at a gym, checking people in, and one of the ladies who was a member, she thought I was funny and she was like, “You should do commercials,” and I was like, “Yeah I’d like to, I know guys that are doing them all the time,” you know? And she was like, “Well,” – and she used to own her own commercial agency and then she sold it. And then the guy she used to work with now heads up this commercial agency, and so she got me a meeting with that guy. It went so-so. He sent me out once, I didn’t get it, and he didn’t call me again for six months, so I figured that just was, you know, a favor, send me out once, so I said to her after six months, “What do I do?” and she said, “Call, call.” So I call him again and he sent me out and I think I booked that next thing and then they started sending me out. So, then I started getting into that. And doing a commercial is kind of like doing a short film. And that got me interested in the film bug and acting and stuff again. And then I started getting little guest spots in sitcoms and little parts in movies and it just started to build from there, basically.

Judah Stand-Up clip - "Soccer"

Robg.: Mike actually reminded me on our way here, you were in that Dave Matthew’s video? Is that you, the hugging guy?

Just walking around hugging people, yeah.

Robg.: How did that come about?

I had an audition for it, they were just auditioning people and I got it.

Robg.: And how... did you really just go in the street and hug people?

Yeah… it was three and a half days, two days in Virginia, it was mostly hidden camera stuff. I’d say in the video 80 percent of it’s real and 20 percent’s staged. They just had me standing on the corner, they had the cameras hidden about a block or two away. I had to stand there all day trying to get people to hug me.

Robg.: So were people freaked out at some points?

Yeah, yeah some were. And I think some realized, cause you know, people walk back and forth more than once and some people kind of knew that there was a thing going on and some wanted to be in it, but it was a real mixed bag, yeah. But yeah that was fun. It was just 10, 12 hours a day, standing on the corner trying to get people to hug me.

Dave Matthews music video for "Everyday"

Robg.: Going back to stand up for a minute, when you first did it, was it a terrifying experience or did it come naturally?

I was nervous as shit, yeah. It actually went pretty well, but I was super nervous, you know. I remember it was an open mic in D.C., and I think you had to get there at five or six to sign up, the show starts at eight. So I get there, sign up, show starts at eight, I don’t go on till probably 11, so basically it’s from six to 11, I’m just going over my act over and over again. I’m supposed to do five minutes and right before I get on, the host, cause the audience is starting to pile out … and the host goes to me, “All right, I’ve got to cut you to three minutes,” and I thought, oh fuck, what am I going to do, you know? I didn’t have much to edit, you know, just drop a bit or talk faster or whatever, but I did it and it went so-so, but I remember I liked how it felt and I loved doing it.

I didn’t do it again until six months later, not that I didn’t want to, I didn’t know you were supposed to do it all the time; I had no idea how the comic business worked. I thought the guys that you saw on the David Letterman show had literally been up on stage 10 times before, and they saw this guy and said, “Hey, he’s kind of funny let’s give him a shot.” I never knew that guys went out every night for years doing it. So yeah, for about the first two years, or year and a half, I would only do it a handful of times a year cause I just had no clue how things worked, and then when I finished school that’s when I realized you’re supposed to be going out every night and that’s what I started doing.

Jsyn: Did you go out on the road?

Yeah, yeah.

Jsyn: Play any comedy clubs that were really big?

No, no. I kind of started right after that boom really faded. I think business, I mean, it’s always got its ups and downs, I think it’s in an up phase again, right now. I would do gigs, go on the road. When you start out, a week at the hosting, a week spot, that’s what they call it – yeah I’d go anywhere, man. I did so many shit gigs, at a Burger King or a Domino’s. Almost all of them were no money, or 20 bucks, tops. I mean if you got 20 bucks that was like, fucking great. Just fun, you know, just liked doing it.

Mikec.: Where did you start getting exposure from and when did it start?

You mean like television or movies?

Mikec.: Yeah, how did you make the transition? Was it from the commercials or was it from the stand up?

I started getting more television exposure through acting stuff and stand up stuff, yeah, because certainly back then, things have changed a bit now, but all the managers and agents, they don’t give a shit about stand up. They just want you to make money for TV so they were trying to get everyone to get a sitcom deal. And I never wanted to do a sitcom, I was never interested in that. I started doing stand up to do stand up, not to do something else. I never looked at it as a spring board. So of course, managers and agents aren’t interested in that, and I’ve been pretty much looking like I do now for years and years and they used to say, “No one’s ever going to cast you, looking like that. You’ve got to cut your hair. You’ll never get on ‘Friends’ looking like that.” All that kind of shit, you know? “You shouldn’t wear a hat, you’ve got to get a cool, hip t-shirt, shirt and collar, what are you doing?” All this shit. That still is a struggle; constant struggle with that.

Then on my own, it was from that lady at the gym, that I got a commercial agent, that I started doing commercials. And then I got a comedy manager, and they’d inform you – they wanted to hire me to write for one of the clients they already had, who was on Saturday Night Live, and he wasn’t getting in any skits, so they hired me to write skits, they wanted to sign me, to manage me so that I could write skits for this guy, but they wouldn’t tell Saturday Night Live that I was the one writing the skits.

Jsyn: If you get a few on, maybe next year…

Yeah if you get some on in the next year you can say you actually wrote some of these skits.

Robg.: Believe it or not that actually happened to me once in the music industry. Somebody asked me to write songs for somebody else and not take the credit, theyd get the rights to pass that song over as their own…. And they gave an example, like, “If Green Day wanted to do your song,” and I was like, “Does Green Day do that?” I had no clue!

They may not even do that, but their people are doing that shit for them and they don’t even know.

Robg.: Can we talk a little bit about “American Splendor”? Beause I loved that movie.

Yeah, sure. That was a good one.

Robg.: You’re playing a real life guy, Toby Radloff. Did you spend a lot of time with Toby before the movie? With his family?

No, I wish I did…

Robg.: ‘Cause you got him down perfect.

Yeah, I’ll tell you the process. My manager told me before, they were looking at tons of people, apparently, for that role. They were kind of just looking at everybody. So I got the script and I knew that it was based on a comic book – I didn’t really know the comic book – so I went online, did some research, found the comic book. And then I went to St. Mark’s Comics in the village, bought an episode, looked as some of the old ones. So I did research there.

Then I looked up the guy who played Toby Radloff and I found that he did some super low-budget straight to video movies: “Killer Nerd” & “Bride of Killer Nerd.” And I collect rare movies and I actually found a copy and watched that so I was able to get his mannerisms and speech down from watching that. So, on the first audition I went in, I think I was the first person they saw. The directors were like, “Wow you really nailed that,” and they’re like, “How’d you do that?” Apparently everyone else who had been coming in didn’t do any research or they were just playing a role; I don’t think they’d seen any footage of Toby. The first thing I do, especially if it’s someone who’s a real person, or if it’s based on a novel, is you get that thing and you take a look at it. See what’s there, you know? And if you’re playing a real guy, do as much research as you can.

So I’d already had that down pretty well, so I think that left a big impression on them. And then there was another call back or two more, I don’t remember, and after the second one they actually called me up and asked me where I’d got those movies that I had because the directors now wanted to see them… and then, I said I think it was two to three more – one or two auditions more later I got offered the role and then they gave me some home movies. Toby was on some local cable access shows in Cleveland that were pretty hilarious that were like… that blank blue wall – it was one of those where you know how it’s framed where here’s the TV screen and their heads only come up to here? With a 10 foot of wall back there?

It was like one of those in the way it was framed. So I watched those and then there was some home movie footage of Toby and Harvey Pekar at some kind of comic book convention, they were both talking. So there I got to see Toby more and that helped because when he’s acting in the movie he actually acted a little different. He was more stiff than he was in real life.

So that’s what I had and then got the movie, drove to Cleveland. I get there the day before I’m supposed to start filming, see the directors and they’re like, “Hey, welcome to Cleveland.” First thing I did when I got to Cleveland was stop at a White Castle because the character, Toby, that I played, he’s obsessed with White Castle so I had a bunch of White Castle stuff.

And then I said, “Is Toby around?” and they’re like, “No, he’s not here,” and they’re like, “Do you want to meet him?” and I’m like, “Yeah! Definitely!” You know, I’m playing the guy, I thought they’d already have that set up. So I met Toby that night and he gave me his whole life story from the time he was like a little kid to present. And that really helped get the whole psychology of him, kind of the emotional side of him, ‘cause I’d gotten, just from video, a lot of the physical aspects.

Yeah, and the next day we started filming. Toby would swing by probably about – it was a month long shoot – he’d probably swing by about once a week or so. It was confusing and helping when he did it because he acts a little differently now than he did back then and I was playing him 15 years earlier. But he’d help sometimes because sometimes I’d ask him how he said a certain word so I’d get it better. That was kind of cool.

But me and Paul Giamatti, we were both very nervous. We shared a trailer so we hung out all the time and we were nervous because I don’t think anything like this had been done before, really, where it’s a biopic and then the real people are also in the movie and then you’re in a scene with them, right next to them. So we were nervous about that because we were like, this is either going to be amazing or a disaster, you know, because the real deal is right next to you and if you’re not brilliant it’s going to be just terrible. But actually it worked out well.

Robg.: And how did Toby feel about your performance of him?

He loved it. He loved everything about it. He loves the attention. Toby’s a real performer. He’s a great guy, very generous, really nice guy. Yeah, he loved it.

Clip from "American Splendor"

Robg.: I saw you had a scene in “Meet the Parents” against Ben Stiller.

Yeah. I had done some indie movie that never came out before so that but was my first movie movie. That was great, I had a great time doing that. I think I was literally on set for about an hour or two hours. I mean I think I was there the whole day.

But it was like, we shot it, I forget where in Long Island but somewhere in Long Island we shot it, it was in Great Neck or Oyster Bay… But it was so cold that day. It was one of the coldest days, windy, and they had me in this dinky little trailer about a mile or so away from the set. And I didn’t go to the set until it was time to do my scene… I think it was the last shot of the day, last scene of the day. And what was funny is that we shot in a real drug store, and they kept the drug store open during the filming. I thought it was like a Hollywood movie, big budget, they’d just rent it out for the whole day – but no, it was open.

So I’d be behind the real cash register and then next to me are the real cash registers and when they’d say action, they’d just kind of squish themselves against the corner. Me and Ben would do the scene, then they’d say cut, they’d come back, ring people up, and then we’d reset and do that again. So we just kept doing that over and over again.

And it was cool because when we did it the scene was literally, I think it had two lines, two quick lines. Ben was like,” I feel like we need a little more of this, do you mind if we just kind of run with it?” The director turned to me and the director was like, “Sure,” and I was like, “Yeah great.” I love when you just get to make stuff up. So then we just kept doing it and it just kept going on and on and it was a lot of fun.

Robg.: So you guys got to improv a lot?

Yeah, yeah, the whole thing. Apparently in the rough cut, I never saw it, but they had an even longer version ‘cause you know he’s buying the champagne and he’s asking all these questions. I’m like, “So… what’s up? Having a party?”

Robg.: I love that line with the gum when you say, “It’s gum… You chew it.”

Yeah, well we broke it up into two because we thought it was funnier. I think it was written like, “Yeah it’s gum. You chew it.” But it would be funnier if it was kind of paused, and act like you’re actually giving advice. Then I was asking him, ‘cause he’s getting the champagne, “You know so, is there a party later, or something. I could come over if you want.” And I was doing all this stuff and then I’d be like, “Yeah I think it’s right over there in aisle six,” and then he goes and looks for it. I’m like, “No, maybe over there,” then I’m like, “No it’s right here, sorry.” So I just kept messing with him and he was great. So yeah that was a lot of fun.

It was one of those where literally they’d give me the set, be like, “Hey Judah this is Ben; Ben this is Judah.” It’s like, “Hey, good to meet you.” Action! It was just the last shot of the day, they’re behind schedule, they just rush through it. But yeah it was a lot of fun. So much fun.

Clip from "Meet The Parents"

Mikec.: So how did you get involved with “Feast”? Is that something you auditioned for?

“Feast,” another good showbiz story. How did I get ‘Feast’, ok. I was never submitted for it by my agents, didn’t even know about it.

I’m in the city… actually, I was in L.A. for two years, I’d just moved back to New York, and this one guy - he was a comic but he also helped book a comedy club on the upper west side, Stand Up New York - he said the owner of the club, who was also a manager, was having a showcase for all the people that he manages for Miramax. Do you want to be on it? I’m like, “Yeah.” He said, “Because, you know, he wanted to close it out and needed more comics.” So I’m like, “Totally.”

So I go on, close the show, it goes great, and then I go to him, “Well is the person there?” and he’s like, “Yeah.” So I feel odd and I say, “Well, can you give me the name and number?”

So I followed the next day, and I said, “You know, if you have any projects coming up I’d like to be considered or audition for them or something,” and then she mentioned, “Ah there’s this one movie, ‘Feast,’ this role of Beer Guy.” When she said it was just “Beer Guy” I assumed it was just a one or two line thing, ‘cause he didn’t have a name really. And then they sent me the script and I looked at it; I thought it was a funny script. I thought the role was funny, and two weeks later they offered it to me.

Mikec.: Did you know at this time that it was going to be part of “Project Greenlight”?

Yeah, they told me that. But yeah, that was another situation where if it wasn’t for someone looking out for me, I never would have known about it, because my agents never submitted me for it. If this one kid wasn’t cool I would never have even known about it. And I was the only New York person in the movie, everyone else was L.A.

Robg.: I never watched “Project Greenlight.”

Mikec.: Did you see the “Project Greenlight” episodes?

I saw most of them, yeah.

Mikec.: Did it do the actual production justice?

You know, I think there’s a lot of words getting twisted around. They did it to me once. I know Gary Tunnicliffe, the effects guy, they twisted his words around once. But they did, I think, catch the general vibe of it. I mean, for me, I loved doing it. It was a tough shoot, you know, most shoots are. The director, John Gulager was definitely a little nervous, a little shy up front. Half the crew, maybe more, were kind of, you know, phoning it in. Kind of like, “Who’s this guy? He’s just some guy who won a contest.” John was even saying that himself, “Hey, look, I’m just a contest winner, you know?” So a lot of the crew just seemed like they weren’t really trying, you know?

And I didn’t like that so I always kind of stuck up for John, and stuff cause I thought he had a lot a good ideas, but sometimes he was a little too shy to express them. And he got better as it went along which they show on the show. But on the show it kind of makes him look like one day, he just turned amazing, you know? But it was more gradual than that.

And there’s one scene in the show where they show me talking behind the director’s back, but I never was, that’s the way they cut it. There’s this one scene where they’re talking about how John Gulager is so unorganized, the production’s getting behind schedule, the actors are having to sit around and wait all day and they’re really getting upset, and then they show me talking to the assistant director, saying, “Why do I have to come in at six in the morning? It doesn’t make any sense.” And then they cut that, talking about Gulager, how he’s so unorganized, but what really happened was, I was never complaining about Gulager, the director. I was complaining about the assistant director, to his face, about the assistant director. I was never talking about John, because the director, if you work on movies, doesn’t make the schedule. It’s the A.D., the assistant director’s department.

So, at the end of the day when you get your crew call, and you see what your schedule is for the next day, I see they’re doing four scenes. I’m not in any of the first three scenes; I’m only in the last scene, yet my call was still like, 5 or 6 a.m. And also when they’d have me come in they would never let me eat breakfast, they were always like, “Get in make up right away.”

And you know, in the movie I’m soaking wet in blood and monster vomit, and it’s like, first of all, it’s dumb to put that stuff on me eight or 10 hours before I need to film, because the stuff is going to get dry, it’s not going to look as good. And plus, you’re going to be soaking wet for eight or 10 hours when you don’t need to be. It’s tiring, it’s not good. So it’s not good from any angle to do that and that’s what they would always do. A lot of times the A.D. department, they don’t care about anything, just making things easier for themselves. They’re like, if everyone could just sleep overnight there and never go home, they’d be like, “Oh great, everyone’s here.” And then you ask them what scene it is that they’re doing and they have no idea. They just want to have people there in their spots.

Jsyn: Did John get to choose any of his crew at all?

Yeah, I think he did.

Jsyn: ‘Cause I know some of what they said –

Well one got fired, I think, the script supervisor, this woman Harriett, I think she gets fired on the show. I think John picked her. And maybe he picked the director of photography, too….

So anyway, I’m talking to the assistant director, that’s what I was talking to him about, I’m like, “OK, look, I see I’m on tomorrow but I’m in the last scene of the day. We’re probably not going to get to that until 5 p.m., why am I coming in at 6 a.m.?” That’s what I was talking about. But on the show the edited it to look like I’m talking behind the director’s back. They implied basically I’m going to him, “Why do I have to come in at 6 a.m. The director’s out of his mind,” but that wasn’t what it was.

Mikec.: What about on the set when you’re working, and you’ve got a crew that’s shooting “Project Greenlight,”– How difficult was that?

I remember, I think it was the second day, or first day even, I think it was the first day, they pulled me aside to do one of those little testimonial interviews. “So how do you think the director’s doing? You’ve done other films, is he doing as well as those guys?” And it’s like, “Dude, I just got here, one. And don’t ask me that, I’m trying to make things work here.” They were trying to get you to backtalk immediately and none of us wanted to do that. One day, I can’t remember if it was on the show or not, Balthazar Getty - he realized that the make up trailer was bugged, and it was wired so that they could pick up what you’re talking about all the time. He got pissed and ripped it out of the ceiling and shit. The producers had to sit him down and talk to him and say, you know, “Not cool. You signed this contract.” He was great.

Robg.: That's pushing it a little.

Exactly, let us know when we’re on and when we’re off. Don’t lie to us…. What was the question, I totally forgot! Oh yeah! The hardest thing – making a movie’s tough.You’ve got to get a lot of shots done in one day, and we all shot in the studio, so things are cramped, but now you have an extra 20 people there of, gee, I think it was a six camera crew, so there’s basically about an extra 10 – 20 people always on the set. So the toughest thing doing the movie with “Project Greenlight” was having all the 10 to 20 extra bodies always on the set. It’s like you’re always bumping into people.

Jsyn: And they were there the whole time?

The whole time. So like, right now, there would be a camera guy over here filming us [points] and right here…

Mikec.: That’s annoying.

You got used to it. I mean, you knew that was part of the deal going in.

Jsyn: Did that ever interfere with the production itself?

I think it did because it just made things more stressful. I think a lot of people were a little on edge.

Mikec.: Well the movie came out great.

Yeah I thought it was great. And I always thought it was going to be great. It’s weird ‘cause when I watch the show, all these things were happening that I never knew happened. Like, in the first episode they were just deciding which script to choose and a lot of them were saying how these scripts sucked, and I always liked it. (I think a lot of it’s funny.) I think a lot of people on that movie and in general in Hollywood, they don’t really understand the horror genre at all. They don’t get it.

Jsyn: That’s obvious.

They don’t get comedy – I don’t know what they get. They get, they understand Hilary Duff and Brad Pitt. I think that’s it.

Jsyn: Just watching that show – it was on the other day, it was like a marathon they showed – we watched 20 minutes of it, and we had to turn it off because I couldn’t deal with watching those people. They were just horrible. You knew, watching the whole thing, when the show came out no one had seen the movie, but then after seeing it and knowing how much of a hard time they gave everybody, they should have just left everybody alone. And then when ‘FEAST’ finally comes out, they take two nights in theatres and it’s on DVD.

Mikec.: How do you think the cast and the crew and John and all you guys were able to put that aside and end up making a great movie? What happened there?

One thing that was cool about this movie was that the writers were there too, all the time. If the writers aren’t directing the movie, they’re usually never there. So this was good because if I had a question about the character or how I think I should be acting, I not only could ask John the director, I could ask the writers who wrote the thing. That really helped. And all those guys are super nice and they’re all horror movie fans and they get it. You what I mean? So having them there was good; that helped a lot.

I think all the actors were just trying to do as good a job as they could, you know? I don’t think all of them really knew the horror genre, but they were all fun to work with. I mean, the dad Clu (Gulager), that guy’s awesome. And Eileen Ryan, who played the old lady, she’s actually Sean Penn’s mom. She’s an amazing actor, that lady, and it’s like, when you see her act and you listen to all her stories, you realize why her kids are so great. Henry Rollins was fun, I hung out with him a lot. I thought Balthazar Getty was really good. I think everyone worked hard.

Jsyn: I know you mentioned it before, but it just seems like you can almost pick out who in the cast and the crew kind of got it right away and who kind of didn’t?

Yeah I think so. And there were some people that really had no idea what they were getting into. They had no idea about this blood stuff, and it’s like, “Have you guys seen a horror movie before? Have you seen a splatter movie before? Do you know what we’re going for, here?” Like, I jumped at the chance because I love splatter movies and stuff. And this one was like a splatter movie, kind of a throw back to the ‘80s style ones, where it’s you know, hardly any CGI; it’s almost all live make up effects. So yeah, I think a lot of people had no clue what they were getting into.

Jsyn: Just even speaking with John a couple of times, you kind of get the feeling like there’s a little “Feast” clique that kind of grew out of the movie. I’m sure it’s like the type where you could probably be working with this guy for the rest of your career.

Yeah I’d love to work with Gulager again; I’d hope to get the chance. I think he’s really good. I always thought he was really good. I could tell… if you watch those little shorts that he made as part of his submission thing, he’s got a real – you know visually he’s really good and he has – so much of directing, I think, is just taste, you know? If you think something’s corny, it’s like, “Yeah, don’t do that shit, it’s corny.” Where as someone who’s not a good director would be like, “Oh that was great. That was so good.” And it’s like, “Dude no, that sucked.” It’s all just taste. He had good taste, like if there was a corny joke or there was something schmaltzy, he could tell and wouldn’t want to do that. Camera wise you can just tell that he’s really cool.

Mikec.: Were there a lot of re-shoots, or anything like that?

You know, I still don’t know what they did. I think he did a day or two just all on his own a year later. I know with Diane, his girlfriend, they’d get a couple of things with her.

Robg.: On the DVD he mentions the explosion, they shot that…

Yeah, cause they didn’t have an explosion.

Robg.: The very beginning, the 8mm footage you see. And I think he re-shot the flashbacks, the video stuff. So it’s all stuff he did on his own that he just kind of added.

They loved it, but apparently I think the execs were really hot on the movie at first, and they had that split – I don’t know all the details but, so this is all guess work – but they had all that stuff with them (The Weinsteins) leaving Disney. I think that was a big delay with the movie also. Because they were going for a huge change. And then the guy who was the head of Dimension left too.

Jsyn: When did you guys actually shoot the film?

We shot it about sometime in October ’04 right up to about Thanksgiving. It was about a month.

Jsyn: And it took two years to put out?

Right. Yeah. And then the Weinstein guy split from Disney and then what films he was taking with him, and all that stuff. And apparently they said, “Oh yeah, we’re going to spend an extra $500,000 dollars and we’re going to do re-shoots.” That never happened and I think Gulager just did some on his own. I know there’s some stuff with one of the monsters…

Robg.: We spent a little bit of time with John in Burbank. He’s such a nice guy. Actually, he came to New York and he showed us something he shot for Sage Stallone called “Vic.”

“Vic,” right, yeah. I still haven’t seen it. They tried to show it last year but the player broke during the panel.

Robg.: We were the only ones that saw it that weekend. At three in the morning we snuck into a room and watched it. So we spent time with him. John’s just a great film maker. How different was the script to the final movie?

I think it was pretty close, actually. They let me make up lines and stuff. I think some of them, I can’t remember, I think some other stuff was made up.

Jsyn: We’ve been quoting you all week!

That’s a movie I really wish I could get a lot of the outtakes on because they really let me go on for some things. Like that one scene where I’m just spazzing out, I probably did like, five, 10 minutes straight on that. I’m like, crying and shit by the end of it. I’d like to see that. And Clu was like making up cuss words you’ve never heard before and it was just so funny. Between him and Balthazar, sometimes we’d just be cracking up at the stuff Clu would come up with, which was just so funny…. Yeah I had so much fun making that movie.

Mikec.: Were you surprised or pleased to see the final result when you finally got to see it?

I thought it was great. I thought it was really good. I always thought it was going to be good and I thought it was great. Some things come out different than you thought, but you know, I thought it was great.

Robg.: Well you know, I think you were the one cast member that probably suffered the most in make up…

Yeah, yeah. That’s one of the things I really like about the movie, is that I liked that fact that most of the grossest stuff happened to me and I loved it. I remember one scene that was funny, cause we had the maggot stuff, and –

Robg.: Were those real maggots, by the way?

Yeah, real maggots. And I had them in my mouth and up my nose, because I figured, you know, the more – the grosser it was, not only would it work for the gross factor, but for the humor of it, it would be better too. What I wanted was, I wanted the guy to be a loser and likable, but kind of annoying too, so that the more he suffers the more we get a kick out of it…

But yeah there was this one scene where we were trying to get a maggot up my nose and I blow it out, and we were trying to get it to hit the camera lens. I think on one of the practice ones I did it but we weren’t rolling and it hits right on the lens, perfect. And I tried to do it again and, you know, it wasn’t hitting. And then there’s this guy, one of the effects guys, Kevin Pike – he didn’t do make up effects he was in another effects department, but – this guy’s so good. He puts a maggot in a straw and just kind of, spit balls it at the lens right off camera.

Like, I’ll be here, and he’ll be here with a straw, and everyone was like, [groans], but we were trying to rush and get this shot done. It was like, “I don’t know if this is going to work.” And he was like, “Guys, c’mon, trust me.” You know, like he’s been doing this for years. And we do it, bam, he nails it, you know, first one. So it was just funny, to me, a guy who’s 45, 50, who says, “Yeah I can put a maggot in a straw and nail it,” without any hesitation and does it, I thought that was really cool, yeah.

Robg.: So would you be interested in jumping into another horror movie?

I love horror movies. I’d love to do it. Yeah, yeah. And that’s another thing. I don’t think the whole, and this is probably one reason why there’s also a lot of bad horror movies made, I don’t think most of the people behind the scenes, like agents, managers, in Hollywood, really don’t get horror movies or understand them and aren’t really big followers of them and therefore – I think most people that get submitted for horror movies aren’t necessarily fans. They don’t really understand what’s going on, you know what I mean? It really is kind of a different genre of stuff.

Robg.: Well it seems like the independent guys are the ones that are more successful because they don’t have those people getting in their way.

I think in general, yeah.

Mikec.: Would you be interested in doing something like, playing against type…?

Sure, I’ve done that. I always like mixing things up. Like “American Splendor” was probably different, you know?

Robg.: Do you find it more difficult, in regards to working on films, now that you’re based on the East Coast?

I was only in L.A. for two years. I’ve almost always been in New York.

Robg.: And what was your experience being there for two years like?

I’ve gone through many phases of absolutely hating L.A. and being hateful and miserable out there. And then after being there for about a year and a half, I actually started to kind of like it and if you’re working and you’re on a gig – like I when I was doing “Feast” out there I was having a great time. That was actually very nice …

They put me up in a hotel, they gave me a car and we filmed, you know, I think it was five days a week I’d be working? You’d be there for 12 hours, you go home and go to sleep, and then you go out again. So, that was fine. Except you’re working on a gig, which is great, but you’re pretty much on a set all day, doesn’t matter where you are. But if you’re not working, yeah it can be really boring and miserable out there.

Jsyn: Did you grow up in Queens?

No, I grew up in Maryland. My dad’s from Brooklyn, I’m from Maryland. I’ve been here since – I started going to school here in ’87. And then for about two years I lived in L.A. Never planned that. Work kind of took me out there and I just kind of stayed. I was like, “What am I doing here?” and moved back.

Mikec.: Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re doing now?

Well, I still do stand up all the time. I consider that my main thing, that’s my base, you know? That’s my favorite thing to do. And then I’m doing this TV show called “30 Rock” which is a half hour comedy about a late night skit show. I play one of the writers on that. It’s not shot like a regular sitcom where you tape in front of a studio audience, it’s not like that.

Mikec.: That has you working with Tina Fey, right?

Yeah, Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin. It was awesome working with him, the guy’s great. You know, great guy, great actor, fun dude. I work one to five days a week; this week I’m working three days. So yeah, it’s kind of weird. I’m getting used to it, I’m not used to it at all. It’s hard to schedule my stand up; I’m trying to keep doing lots of stand up. One thing with a movie, it’s kind of like, you’re on for a month, ok you just totally commit to it, like, “All right I’m barely going to do any stand up this next month, I’m just going to do the movie.” And then the month’s over….

It’s kind of like, I feel like I’m kind of doing both and I’m kind of doing neither. Cause, you know, I don’t have that big a part on the TV show, and yet some weeks it picks up a lot of hours. It’s a 12 hour day… you know you’ve got to get there at 5:30 in the morning and you go to bed at 5:30 and it’s like, just the whole change of lifestyles is the toughest thing about it, I’d say. Cause stand up is like a late night thing, or an early morning thing. When you’re doing a movie you know there’s an endpoint where it finishes and you can go back to your normal thing. And this one is kind of an ongoing thing, it’s crazy.

"30 Rock" clip

Robg.: Where did you develop the World Champion?

The World Champion! That kind of came about from doing a – I do a lot of crowd work when I do shows, you know, goofing with the crowd and stuff, and there was this one room, it was just something that gradually came over the years. There was this one room that was almost all tourists, and they’re all this sort of nervous, happy tourists. Like, just got off the bus and they’re like, “Oh wow, New York.” So I would be just kind of goofing on them, slamming them, so I think that was kind of a thing where some of the arrogance came off, not just talking to people but putting them down and acting like they suck and I’m amazing, you know? And I’ve been making my own act for about 10 years or so and I thought it would be funny to make this one – I was always obsessed with world records when I was a little kid.

Judah Stand-Up clip - "Bowling"

Mikec.: You’re also a record breaker.

That was one of the first hats I made of just words. So I came up with this phrase, “record breaker,” I’ll be the Record Breaker, see how that goes, break a couple of records. When I was a kid I tried to break them, I used to try to break records all the time when I was a kid. So I was obsessed with that. So it came out of that and the audience thing, so I had this Record Breaker thing. So I came up with all these bits about how I was breaking all these world records, this great athlete and stuff and then I thought it would be funny to make a hat that, along the same theme of the Record Breaker—

Jsyn: When you were a kid, which one would you want to break?

Pogo stick was the big one. Yeah, actually I have – I’m going to get them up on my site soon, I think – I have pictures of me when I was eight years old trying to break the pogo stick record. I was going for the longest time without getting off. I think when I was eight I think I did it for an hour straight.

MikeC: I always wanted to break the one where the guy leans up against the wall. It seems really easy. But apparently it’s not.

Jsyn: I wanted to break the single see-saw record.

That’s probably very hard.

Jsyn: I figured nobody else would have the record for that.

I don’t think so…

Jsyn: So even if I did it twice it would be the world record.

Could be. You should do it! You should do it, man. The solo see-saw.

Jsyn: You even have your own custom line of hats?

I have them on my website. I do have World Champion hats and shirts on my website.

Jsyn: [laughing] What about a fragrance? I know a lot of stars…

Yeah, I’m thinking of that. Cause a lot of people do, do that. I don’t have a name for it yet. I think my mom actually suggested that. “Smell like a winner.”

Robg.: I love in your stand up bits when you usually ask somebody what they’re good at and then immediately say, “Well I’m better.”

Well I just tell it like it is, you know? Anyway, I thought it would be funny to make a, as far as the World Champion stuff, to make a hat. I came up with the idea, let’s have a hat that says World Champion, but not say of what. It just says World Champion, just like some total idiot. So I did. And I started wearing it. I was nervous about wearing it at first, and then that kind of stopped and I kept building off of that. It was never like, I woke up one day and I was like, “I’m going to be World Champion, I’ll do this and I’ll do that.” It was really probably about three to five years or so of that gradually happening, you know? And it’s always growing; it’s still changing.

Jsyn: What’s your favorite metal band from the ‘80s?

Metal band from the ‘80s, eh? I pretty much like anything metal from the ‘80s. There are different kinds of favorites, you know? I mean, there’s Guns N’ Roses, cheesy as it sounds I can’t deny Poison. Poison was a total girl group, but if you look back at those guys, I don’t think anyone got laid more than those guys. And they probably have the best, if not one of the best “Behind the Music” specials also.

Jsyn: If you listen to all the Poison records, right, and really listen to CC Deville’sguitar, he created grunge music because he was playing guitar in such a way where nobody else in that time was playing it. He sucked, CC Deville sucked… everyone’s playing really technical and CC’s playing really sloppy and loose and it’s just about chords and stuff, I think he invented grunge music!

I won’t argue with CC Deville.

Robg. I disagree with you completely, Jsyn. (laughs) CC didn’t invent “grunge”.

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