Judah Friedlander | Gig review from the Soho Theatre

Judah Friedlander

Note: This review is from 2013

Gig review from the Soho Theatre

From his appearances as 30 Rock’s sleazy, scraggly, shambolic writer Frank Rossitano – and indeed from his own unkept appearance – you might peg Judah Friedlander as something of a loser.

But in his on-stage persona he is the uncontested World Champion. Master of all sports, conquerer of all politics, and banger of all chicks. It must be true, he’s got his title emblazoned on his T-shirt and denim jacket to prove it, and needlework don’t lie.

What he’s not, based on tonight’s lacklustre performance, is world champion of comedy, despite boasting – and boasting is most definitely the right verb – a fine arsenal of enviably sharp lines. But rarely have such strong jokes led to such a sluggish show, thanks to Friedlander’s stubborn refusal to read a room.

A London theatre crowd late on a Tuesday night did not want banter, that was obvious from the start with the reluctance to engage in even the most perfunctory of social niceties. Yet that wasn’t going to stop him building his whole show around the unnecessary open-ended question: ‘Any questions?’

It should have been a conversational lubricant. He announces he’s going to be the next President of America (and, as an afterthought, the UK) and fields queries about his policies, opening the door for his prepared material on the limited options that would generate; yet loose enough for him to riff, should he feel inspired.

But it served the opposite purpose. Each time he asked – nay, begged – ‘Any more questions?’ he received an embarrassed silence, which held for a uncomfortably long time, until some kind soul decided to help out. It’s the sort of awkward interaction you might expect after a rookie presentation at a regional sales meeting, not from an experienced comedian. Frequently no one piped up at all, and Friedlander had to provide his own prompt. ‘Immigration? Is that an issue here? This is what I’d do about immigration...’

Why he didn’t pick up on the vibe and simply present his great material is a mystery, for he surely has the experience. Instead he sucked the atmosphere out of the room after every burst of brilliance, leaving us shuffling uncomfortably in our seats again.

For the boastfulness is sublime, as he informs us of his devastating awesomeness in a downplayed, matter-of-fact style. The best lines, about his formidable karate skills in particular, are very similar in tone to the never-old internet meme of describing just how tough Chuck Norris is. The resemblance that didn’t pass unnoticed by the audience, but they didn’t suffer by comparison... they suffered from the stop-start delivery.

It was a real disappointment given how exquisitely crafted his cocky zingers are. I could quote a dozen, and you’d wonder how they could ever fail. They don’t – but they sit in a mush of sluggish apathy which Friedlander fostered.

He boasts that he could kill with his left testicle... the audience would rather he’d kill with his comedy.

Judah Friedlander is at the Soho Theeatre on June 5, 6 and at the Edinburgh Stand on June 7 and 8.

Review date: 5 Jun 2013
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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