Interview: Judah Friedlander at New York’s Bad Art Auction


Photo via Amrit/Stereogum

The Voice‘s Vivekananda Nemana cornered 30 Rock‘s Judah Friedlander backstage after Friedlander’s Wednesday tour de force hosting New York‘s Bad Art Auction. Topics discussed: drunken crowds, ceramic panther heads, Friedlander’s own bad art collection, and sandwiches. You can pretty much still hear the adrenaline.

Good job hosting the Bad Art Auction.

Thanks, I was nervous about this event man. I’ve done stand up a bunch of times, but I haven’t done anything like this before. I didn’t really know the venue, plus I was selling my own collection, which is something that is very private to me, so it was like I was exposing myself. They definitely bid well though.

Did it help that people were drunk?

You know, I really prefer a non-drunk crew. Audiences are better when they’re not drunk. Some comedians will really encourage that kind of stuff, but that’s when you’ve spotted a bad comedian, really.

So how did you end up collecting all this bad art?

I’ve been a thrift store junkie for years, so I’ll usually pick up anything I like. I actually used to paint a lot as a kid, so I was really exposed to art. Now it’s been a while, so my skills have worsened a bit. But I think my mind has definitely improved, and I can definitely find more funny things now. I basically like to do comedy of all kinds, and bad art is one way. It’s hard to figure out exactly what got me interested.

My grandma used to keep around an amazing amount of tchotckes. She had this one ceramic panther head that had a bulb in it. We used to keep it behind the TV, so when you’re watching television there was like a silhouette of a panther head staring straight at you. And when I was in high school, I took this art class where we had to make masks. And there was this one senior who took the class because it was art and he really didn’t give a fuck. So while everyone else literally spent weeks meticulously working on these masks, this guy just painted the face one solid color and poked holes for the eyes and mouth. I remember that being so hilarious when it finally went on display. My mom and I still laugh about it when we think of it.

So was that how the bad art thing started?

Well there’s no one way it all started, but yeah, I would definitely consider that a landmark moment. And I don’t like to call it bad art. If I keep it, there’s something special about it that I like. Accidentally funny art is great, sometimes better than intentionally funny stuff. [Gets up to get a sandwich]

What kind of a sandwich is that?

It’s a naanini with chicken tikka saag.

Nice. So what’s the greatest thing about bad art?

With art like this, you never really know what you’re getting into. There’s a whole surprise element involved, you know? You just look at something and go, Holy shit! It’s always fun when you run into something like that.

Do you think those people who bought art are just really charitable, or are they insane?

I think it’s a little bit of both. I think it’s definitely easy to get caught up in the heat of the moment, and end up paying way more than you expected. I definitely saw some faces looking a little glum after they won the bid. They must’ve realized they paid way more than they wanted to. But it’s charity, you know. They’re having fun.