The Lake Champlain Monster, Jersey Devil, Chupacabra: They are elusive creatures of folklore and celebrities of the cryptozoology world - and they are about to meet the World Champion. Enter Judah Friedlander, best known as the comedian with a sasquatchian beard, long hair and penchant for trucker hats emblazoned with giant-sized statements proclaiming him the champ of all things. For nearly seven years, he was best known for the role writer Frank Rossitano on 30 Rock, but he is also a crypto enthusiast and the host of The Monster Project on the Nat Geo Wild network.
Premiering Oct. 26 at 8 p.m. ET, "Champ" says hello to the Champ. The paranormal field is a natural for an expert of all things such as Friedlander who wrote the book How to Beat Up Anybody: An Instructional and Inspirational Karate Book, which featured a chapter on fighting Bigfoots (and ninjas, T-rexes and three-armed men). And over the course of three episodes, all airing this Saturday, he performs the task of host and commentator, weighing in with his take on pre-recorded footage of various paranormal groups on an investigation.
But instead of beating up the paranormal groups - as a master of karate like Friedlander might be persuaded to do - he makes fun without being mean. He doesn't discredit, but also doesn't automatically believe, what is presented to him as evidence. The Monster Project serves as an introductory course in cryptids for newbies, while remaining entertaining for established fans of the paranormal pop culture genre. And Friedlander is kind of like a kinder, gentler Tosh.O of the paranormal (with karate skills).
Friedlander joined me for a discussion at the National Geographic offices in New York City to talk about The Monster Project. He was not forced to beat me up, but he did answer questions.
Did you have an interest in cryptozoology before this show came about?
"I've been obsessed with Bigfoot since I was a kid. I have always been a fan of the paranormal - cryptozoology - and I have Bigfoot jokes in my act, mermaid bits, UFO bits, all kinds of stuff. This show is basically a combination educating people about this stuff as well as having fun with it. I tried really hard not to make fun of anyone. My goal is to say, 'Hey, let's look at this stuff but have a sense of humor about it too.'"