MICHAEL FRIEDMAN IS THE SUPER MAN
By John Maholm
In a sun-drenched town full of people walking, check that, driving around with multi-hyphenate business cards on their person, it's refreshing to come across someone who's not only worthy of each occupational designation and capable of delivering on these purported talents, but who also manages to skillfully do so with both humility and purpose. Such was the case after sitting down with Michael Friedman, writer-actor-producer-stand up comedian and creator of the smartly crafted and engagingly funny web series, The Super Man.
Based on his real-life job as an apartment building superintendent here in Los Angeles, the show follows Mikey, an aspiring boxer, as he works to solve his tenants various problems, all the while struggling to fix his own life. Friedman is wonderful as Mikey, the put-upon super who sometimes has difficulty establishing boundaries when resolving tenant issues.
An excellent ensemble cast complements Friedman and brings wondrous life to each of their respective roles. Joey (Gregory Konow), Mikey's friend and trainer, is a joy to watch as he repeatedly throws Mikey under the bus in an effort to remain desirable in the eyes of his on-again, off-again girlfriend and fellow tenant, Lola (Vanessa Liguori). It's Gary (Brendan Connor), the unpredictable, neurotic neighbor with effeminate tendencies, that may be my favorite to watch though. Rounding out the cast are some familiar faces which include an ungrateful curmudgeon Bart (Larry Hankin) and the smarmy apartment building owner and Mikey's boss, Floyd (Jon Polito).
By no means am I an aficionado when it comes to webisodes and the content that currently exists, but based on its production value, exceptional cast and endless supply of entertaining storylines, The Super Man is the kind of polished show that deserves a chance to reach a much broader audience than merely those watching online.
Q: Before we talk specifically about the show, do you remember the first time you performed and what that experience was like?
A: I was in the eighth grade and Revenge of the Nerds was big at the time so I wrote this themed Christmas Sketch. I played Elmer and I'll never forget because it was so traumatizing. I performed and then when I came back, I guess somebody had spilled some juice and the kids blamed it on me. So the teacher grabbed me by the collar and put my nose in the juice. Imagine going from having this great performance then all the sudden you get wrapped up by this barrel-chested woman, who wasn't a nun, but close enough.
Q: When did you get involved in stand-up comedy, a skill which has helped in creating this series?
The first time I ever did stand up I was a junior in high school. I was always getting my ass kicked as a kid. The only time the tough kids in school didn't pick on me is when I was making them laugh which I loved doing. I was in a tough neighborhood in Philly and I was a small kid, actually what it was, and I used to talk about this in my routine, I had a humongous head and I was tiny, like four foot two and I didn't like to fight. Even though you see me now and think, 'Oh, that guy must be a tough guy.' I am the furthest thing from it. Plus I had three sisters. I basically went home and watched soap operas and played Barbie or did what they wanted to do. So that's a big part of it too. I grew up pretty sensitive about what goes on around me. I think that's what makes you an artist and makes you thrive to make people laugh and gain attention in some way... other than getting your ass kicked.
Q: As a graduate of both Fordham University and the NY Neighborhood Playhouse and a guy who taught classical Latin to high schoolers for a few years while performing at The Actor's Studio, you don't strike me as a prototypical boxing enthusiast. What motivated you to write a story centered around the life a boxer?
A: I've always been infatuated with the underdog. In every show I ever watched - all my favorite TV shows always involved underdogs that you could really get behind. My favorite shows growing up were Taxi, All in the Family, Cheers. All those guys had real characters, maybe flawed characters, but you really cared about them. That's the kind of TV I've always appreciated. Just because the times have changed doesn't mean what we care about has. Audiences always care about a guy who's trying to get ahead, but can't seem to dig through.
Q: You went to high school with Gregory Konow (Joey). That must be pretty cool acting with him in a show you both created. Had you always talked about writing something together?
A: It's a long story, but the short of it is that it was around 2007 and I had just lost my representation. When I had representation and he didn't, I always told him, 'Man, you should be shootin' stuff'. So when I lost my representation, I said, 'Screw it, we're gonna shoot something.' You know how you sit up with your buddies and drink beers and get to talking and telling stories about what you're gonna do and then the next day everything just dissipates. Well, around this time, we had been talking and he was a building super in New York. So we had a world that both of us knew. We knew we wanted to shoot it in LA, but every single fear had to be overcome first. Everything was just completely fear-based. How are we gonna get all these people? How are we gonna get the location? How am I gonna get permission? But if you don't start to tackle those ideas then you never find out, you never get anything done. That for me was the biggest accomplishment. The show, yeah, that's the product, but being able to overcome the fear of actually doing it - actually saying I'm gonna do it and then actually doing it. Not only did I go to high school with Greg, but he's my best friend. We haven't even started using his stories yet. We had a couple in the pilot, but all the stories for the second season have to do with my building. So we have 50, 60, 70 stories.
Q: Who would win in "The Bout Between Two Sitcom Supers" - The Super Man's Mikey or One Day at a Time's Schneider?
A: I don't know, man. Schneider had a tool belt that was just stocked full. I think Schneider cause that guy was making bombs in his basement. He had so many tricks up his sleeve and I think ultimately he wasn't scared to take a cheap shot.
Q: With two seasons in the can and an Audience Award from the 2010 Los Angeles iT.V. Festival, what's next for The Super Man?
A: Right now we're partnered with two show runners and Oasis. Oasis is a media group that likes the show a lot; so they're sort of backing the show and helping us to pitch it. Jim and Steve Armogida are two brothers that I met back in November. They saw the show and really liked it. They have a show now called Thunderballs. They shot the pilot for Spike TV and are waiting to hear if it gets picked up. I think it will, it's fantastic. I read the script and it's really well-written. These two guys are the nicest guys and we just did a re-edit on our trailer and we're gonna start pitching it in the coming weeks.
Q: Do you have any other projects in the works?
A: Yeah, we're in pre-production for another show. It was written by two of my buddies from Philadelphia and I'm going to be directing and producing on this one. And we're just starting to move on to other projects even though The Super Man will always be my baby because that's the first project we took on and we spent a lot of time on it. Plus it means a lot to me and I live it.
Q: What's your dream job or what would you be doing if you weren't in the entertainment industry?
A: If I wasn't an actor and I wasn't a writer, I would be be living in Oregon. I would own a tackle shop and I would fish every day of my life. I used to fish all the time, but I don't fish as much now. I'm lucky if I get out four to five times a year. But I fished a lot when I was a kid and I've always loved it. It's a place where I can go and meditate and think about catching fish that I never caught, cause I barely ever caught fish when I was a kid. That's what great about out here, I catch fish.
Q: How do your friends and family feel regarding your career?
A: You know, it's funny. I talked to somebody about that recently. Friends and family they've seen the sort of work I've done. I think that definitely for me The Super Man is an accomplishment, where if I stopped right now I could say I followed through on something that is really, really special to me and I think my family would feel the same way. My family got excited the first time I did a commercial. For them that was gratification them seeing me in a spot and saying, 'Oh, I see my son' or seeing me in guest spots on TV. I think just knowing I was ambitious and worked hard and followed through on what I believed in.
To watch full episodes visit thesuperman.tv
Friedman is currently represented by MacDonald-Murray Management.