Before attending ‘An Evening With Judd Apatow’ at the WGA this past Tuesday night, I knew very little about him. Well, I knew what you probably know. He’s written and directed some really amazing flicks like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and he’s the genius behind television’s short-lived cult hit Freaks and Geeks. Let’s see, I also knew that he’s married to the actress Leslie Mann (I read way too much Us Weekly) and that he likes to cast the same actors over and over again. I like his stuff but I’m not what you’d call a super-fan or anything. Consequently, I was a little out of place in the audience of Apatow maniacs.
Apatow took the stage right on time to be interviewed by fellow writer and friend, Jay Krogen (Emmy winning writer of Frasier and The Simpsons, among other shows.) I got the impression that the questions were gone over beforehand, perhaps over coffee or beers, and that Mr. Apatow had told these stories over and over again and knew exactly what to expect from Krogan. In other words, the interview wasn’t exactly off the cuff. It seemed, instead, like an interview on David Letterman. You know, a performance; a little too slick and kind of fake. Not that Apatow himself was fake. He was very charming and conversational. I wondered where the actor-like charisma was coming from but Krogan was a step ahead of me when he asked about Apatow’s beginnings in the business. Upon learning that Judd Apatow started out as a stand-up comedian, I understood where all that polish was coming from and I felt somewhat better about it, like he came about it naturally and that it made it less, I don’t know, weird.
The trip down memory lane revealed two things about Apatow as a writer. One, he’s crazy prolific. The guy’s worked on everything from The Critic to The Larry Sanders Show. He’s written for television, film, other comedians, awards shows, you name it. His resume reads like it should belong to someone much older and much less, um, cool. For a guy who writes spot-on slacker humor, this dude is disciplined. His advice to other writers? “As soon as you finish a script, start the next one.” Hey, it worked for Apatow. The second interesting thing about Apatow is that he knows everyone. Intimately. He used to open for Jim Carey and he lived with Adam Sandler in the Valley before they both hit it big. He told a charming Sandler story, where Adam’s first roommate to roommate demand is, “Let me see your penis.” Apatow laughs it off until later, when he’s standing at the toilet and suddently becomes aware of an Adam Sandler over his shoulder, checking out his junk. Nice.
Which reminds me, it’s all about the penis. When asked what his deal is with male full-frontal nudity in his films, Apatow waxed philosophically about why we “never see a man’s penis in a joke.” I guess he’s for equal opportunity nakedness, whether it’s male parts, female parts, comedy or drama. And I can respect that. He also took the bait and told us that Jason Segal’s penis was half-erect in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Apparently it was very important to get it just-right. You know, for comedy’s sake. Limp, it was too small for the gag. But erect, it would get an NC-17 rating and become an entirely different sort of movie. I’m glad I know this about Jason Segal’s package. Now I can continue living.
As far as influences, Apatow listed Bill Cosby, The Marx Brothers, Saturday Night Live, and Steve Martin. He also admitted to listening to relaxation tapes and reading Steven Covey, which was pretty funny to imagine. He said that Seth Rogan has been a big influence on his work, as well as Steve Carell, with whom he wrote The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He was humble and gave lots of credit to pretty much everyone he’d ever worked with, from Ben Stiller to Gary Shandling.
After the Jay Krogen interview, they opened it up to questions from the audience. This is where it got painful and I started squirming in my seat. One woman began telling Apatow how great he is and how she always sees his movies on opening day and blah blah blah. I think if he’d asked her to run down to In & Out and grab him a double-double, she would’ve sprinted out the door. Another lady told him she had two hilarious scripts for him to read and that she’d brought them tonight. Hooray! You could actually hear the collective groan in the room. But, Apatow handled it graciously, telling the woman he was once a stalker too so he understands but admitting he’d never read her scripts even if he took them home. The most-likely stoned guy behind me summed it up when he said, “awesomely brutal, dude.”
- Next up for Apatow is Pineapple Express starring Seth Rogan.
*photo by mirka23 via flickr.