Comedy Review | Friedlander was hilariously deadpan at Boston Comedy Festival
Comedian won festival’s ‘Comedian of the Year’
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 07:10
Late Saturday night in a fully packed room at the Somerville Theater, Judah Friedlander performed a 50−minute set to a raucous crowd ready to be entertained, insulted and, most importantly, educated in how great Judah Friedlander is.
Friedlander, who calls himself the “World Champion,” was wearing an unhip denim jacket embroidered with the title, as well as his signature trucker hat that also bares the “Champion” moniker. He proclaimed himself “the best athlete in the world, greatest martial artist, the sexual desire of every woman and a role model to children.”
Friedlander’s act may sound fairly similar to the all−too−familiar Chuck Norris jokes or to the “Most Interesting Man in the World” character made famous in Dos Equis commercials. It certainly isn’t the most original concept. However, when JFriedlander announces his excellence on−stage with such spot−on deadpan delivery combined with his adept improvisational skills, it makes absurd comedic bragging feel completely fresh again. Plus, he’s actually funny — unlike Chuck Norris jokes.
This is the entire concept of his act and provides a loose framework in which he can improvise, express ideas and insult members of the audience ad nauseam. This year it earned him the distinction of the 2012 Boston Comedy Festival’s Comedian of the Year. Past winners have included Lewis Black in 2007 and Steven Wright in 2006.
The 10 p.m. show started a little late, with Cambridge local Lenny Clarke (who was awarded the 2012 BCF’s Lifetime Achievement Award) serving as the opener. Clarke warmed up the crowd before bringing out two more comedians, host Tony V and Dan Boulger. Tony V performed a short but effective bit of basic observational comedy, while the baby−faced Boulger (who himself won the BCF Standup Competition in 2006 at the age of 20) performed a stunning set filled with absurdist one liners and obscene routines, with highlights including bits on the racism of Ty Cobb and the pratfalls of wearing a sweatshirt and hat with the same sports team logo.
Later, nearly an hour and a half after the slated start time, Friedlander took to the stage. He started off his routine with a couple of random one−liners before going full speed into his World Champion character. Acknowledging election season, Friedlander also performed an entire segment about running for president. Writing about Friedlander’s political musings — which include invading South Dakota, moving the Midwest to the North Pole and having Canada pay all of America’s taxes — doesn’t really do justice to his campaign or comedic abilities. However, when these same skits are performed with his signature blend of sarcasm and apathy, it’s hard not to just go along with his character as the greatest man/karate master to ever live.
A talented improviser, Friedlander took advantage of all opportunities to embarrass hecklers in front of the relatively small sold−out crowd (admittedly, the Somerville Theater is not the largest theater in Boston.) Additionally, the comedian went out of his way to engage the audience and frequently insulted innocent audience members. A particular highlight was when he insulted a heavily accented Harvard economics professor for not being able to pronounce the word “economics” correctly. Masterfully, Friedlander swung right out of that joke without being too offensive by proclaiming that he too is an educator.
“I’m a part−time economics professor at DeVry University. I also went there on a football scholarship,” he quipped.
The absurd exchanges with audience members truly showcased the finesse of his act; Friedlander’s performances are an extreme display of farcical braggadocio, yet they also function as self−deprecating humor at its finest. The character Friedlander portrays is all−powerful, yet aware of the falseness of his act. His unkempt appearance alone totally betrays the concept of the World Champion — his combination of bright t−shirts, embroidered trucker hats, denim jackets and oversized glasses frames is a sight to see. But even if not everyone left the theater Saturday night convinced that Friedlander is the champion of the world, we all did agree that the man’s deadpan skills are a true force to be reckoned with.