Get to Know Claire Friedman, COO, Head of "Lip Sync Battle" Franchise
Ever wonder what it's like to walk a day in someone else’s shoes (or spend a day in someone else's job, as the case may be)? Levo's "Women at work" series features interviews with some of the most accomplished women about how they got to where they are in their careers, what advice they'd give their younger selves, and any tips and tricks they've picked up along the way.
Name: Claire Friedman
Job title: COO and Exec-in-Charge of Lip Sync Battle Franchise, Casey Patterson Entertainment
College major: Economics with a secondary degree in Art History
What does your typical work day look like?
It’s hard to explain a “typical day” since my days vary a lot (which I like!). We’re a relatively young company, so a lot of the projects I work on as COO relate to our company’s growth and strategic direction. Hiring, finances, branding, strategy, etc. Other projects I work on are directly related to our shows. For this type of work I might travel to set, review content, attend meetings with partners, and think about a variety of other ancillary opportunities that could develop and expand our franchises. I’m starting to realize that "daily routine" is not really a thing in this business!
How did you get into the entertainment industry in the first place?
This answer goes back over two decades, so bear with me. When I was 9, I was a pretty goofy kid, and, being a younger sister (to someone who ended up becoming a very successful tampon entrepreneur), I was always looking to steal away our parents’ attention. I used to memorize jokes that I’d heard in school or read in an AOL email chain, and recite them to my family over dinner. Once I really upped the ante by memorizing a joke that went on for over ten minutes. The only thing I remember from that joke was the first line: “I like monkeys, and one day I noticed that the pet store was selling them for ten cents apiece.” As you can tell, I wasn’t really writing jokes yet, and I basically stuck to the repertoire of an old Jewish man in the Catskills.
One day my mom saw a flyer for a kids' talent show on the Upper West Side and asked if I wanted to perform. I sure did! There was only one problem: I had no performing talents. I couldn’t sing, dance, act, juggle, eat fire. Nothing. So I decided to tell some of these jokes on stage. I ended up coming in second place in the talent show, and continued to perform stand-up comedy in clubs across NYC for the next nine years. Eventually I stopped stealing jokes from the Internet and started writing my own material.
When I went to college, I sort of gave up performing, and focused on writing comedy. I wrote for the [Harvard] Lampoon. I loved it, but I didn’t think I wanted comedy to be my career. So when I graduated, I took a finance job. I worked in banking for five years, but the lure of the mic was too great. After work, around 10pm, I’d go by myself to open mics around the city and tell jokes. I knew that I needed to transition to a job in entertainment. I went to business school, and got involved in all entertainment related activities on campus. After graduating, I moved to LA for a few years to work in TV, and then I got the call from Casey to come join her as her COO while she launched her new production company. I couldn’t say no!
What advice would you offer to other women looking to make a career change?
This is sort of the standard answer, but it’s really true: if you love something, you have to pursue it. It took me a few years to get there, but I never lost my love for entertainment. Also, networking really helped me find opportunities. Talk to everyone you can in your target career. Sometimes you’ll just learn something interesting about the industry, and sometimes you’ll really hit it off with someone and they might let you know if they hear of openings. Just remember to pay it forward once you make the switch. I get a lot of calls and emails from younger people who are interested in learning about switching to entertainment, and I always do what I can to help them out.
Which women (that you know OR admire from afar) have been role models?
Since I love comedy, I especially love funny women. Not just because they forge paths here for other women (which they do), but because they are so funny I am in awe of them. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler. I love Broad City. Lena Dunham is amazing and I love that she’s unabashedly an introvert (I am too, and I sort of feel like a lot of comedians are since they’re inherently observers). Kristen Wiig. Carrie Brownstein. All these people are doing wonderful things.
As for women I know, definitely admire my mom, who worked for my entire life and taught me that women can have satisfying careers while still raising a family. And my sister and her co-founder, who are killing it as tampon queens. I’m seriously so proud of them.
What’s the best part of your job? Anything surprising that you didn’t know going into entertainment?
I love being involved in making something that entertains millions of people. When people tell me they watch and love LSB, I feel really proud to be a part of the show. I also had an amazing opportunity recently to travel to Vietnam to consult on Lip Sync Battle Vietnam, and it was so fun to help another country create their own version of our show. It’s exciting to see how much happiness the show creates all over the globe!
Have you learned any presenting pro tips from watching LSB guests?
Everyone we work with is such a star – from behind the set, to our amazing host LL Cool J and colorful commentator Chrissy Teigen, to the celebs who agree to take a risk and step outside of their comfort zones to lip sync their hearts out. I guess the one thing that everyone who has succeeded on our show has been great at is being flexible. In TV production, no matter how much you plan or schedule, things can change at the last minute. And the key to making sure the show goes on is to just be creative to solve the issue and move forward.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Well, the beautiful thing about lip syncing versus karaoke is that you don’t actually have to sing, which is great for someone like me who is a terrible singer. When I do karaoke, I usually just glom on to someone else’s choice so I can be part of a duet where I hold the mic very far away from my mouth and let them lead. But, if I HAVE to choose a song, I do the Proclaimers “I’m Gonna Be (500 miles)”. I feel like that’s in my “vocal range,” which means I can sort of just shout the song.
Who would win in a lip sync battle between LL Cool J and Chrissy Teigen?
Oh man, they are both such talented performers, it’s hard to say. The beauty of our battles though is that we let the fans decide, so none of us ever has to guess or vote.
Photo Credit: Trae Patton / Spike TV via Getty Images