The question all artists seem to hate the most (after "Hey, can you whip out a logo for my band real quick?") is "Where do you get your ideas?" They'll tell you that inspiration is a hard thing to explain, like it's some strange magical dimension us talentless mortals could never grasp -- but the truth is, they just hate admitting that sometimes the greatest movies, songs, or books were made for the most hilariously shitty reasons. For instance, I'm pretty sure Michelangelo had a buddy named David who once ate the last slice of goat pie, so he made a sculpture for the specific purpose of linking that guy's name to tiny dicks for all eternity.
Don't believe me? Check out the petty-as-hell reasons for some great pop culture milestones you probably enjoy (or, like, are aware of large amounts of people enjoying. Don't be a dick, dude.)
#5. Judd Apatow's Entire Film Career Is Revenge Against NBC
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From the perspective of us living in this motherfucking Jetsons year of 2014, the career progression of comedy mogul Judd Apatow seems perfectly logical: First he and Paul Feig made the beloved cult show Freaks and Geeks on NBC, starring young unknowns with names like James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel, and then everyone immediately loved those guys and said, "Hey, let's put them in movies," so now Apatow and his kids rule Hollywood.
However, "beloved cult show" is almost always synonymous with "good shit no one watched," and that was exactly the case with Freaks and Geeks -- in great part because NBC aired it on Saturdays at 8 p.m., a time when us socially active people are usually out ... um, ahh ... something with parties? Parties-ing with other socially active people.
Typical party, like the ones I've attended many times.
When Freaks and Geeks was canceled, Apatow did not take it well. His wife says he acted like he "just lost a family member." And what do you do when someone murders your family? You spend the next decade carefully executing your revenge, yes. As soon as Apatow hit it big with The 40-Year-Old Virgin, he started working on turning the talent of his old show into movie stars, just to spite NBC. Not only has every movie he's directed featured at least one Freaks and Geeks cast member, he also used his producing powers to help make films like Rogen's Superbad and Pineapple Express (both starring Franco), Segel's Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and Feig's Bridesmaids. All of those movies made over $100 million, but more importantly they also made an NBC executive cry.
In Apatow's resentful mind, he pretended the show was still on and his movies were "the continuous adventures of those characters" -- for him, Knocked Up is "just an episode of Seth's character getting a girl pregnant." Which, since Freaks and Geeks was set in 1980, would make the guy Rogen played there a very youthful 45-year-old.
Via Rebloggy, Jamie McCarthy/NBC/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty
Then again, I'm pretty sure that if you cut off Seth Rogen's head, lightning bolts come out.
At the same time, you can definitely tell there was a change in the focus of Apatow's work: When he was doing Freaks and Geeks the executives accused him of making the show too depressing, but suddenly he started doing hilarious movies where the slob gets the girl in the end and there's a baffling musical sequence. And, apparently, he did them just to shove the resulting millions in NBC's face. Now that Segel, Rogen, Franco, and Feig have all gone on to make their own $200 million films, Apatow doesn't feel such a need to make money, and he's gone back to doing the depressing, meandering comedies he probably wanted to do all along.
#4. David Bowie Becomes a Megastar to Piss Off His Old Manager
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Everyone who was cool in the '70s ended up selling out in the '80s, but no one did it better than David Bowie -- dude went all the way. Within a few years, Bowie went from an unsettling and mysterious figure making bizarre experimental music in Berlin, to a pop superstar filling stadiums all over the world. It's like if one day Nine Inch Nails turned into Beyonce. Most people assume Bowie sold out because he wanted money, but there's another unconfirmed, yet irresistibly logical explanation: He wanted money, probably, but also to piss off the cigar-chomping bastard here:
Also pictured: David Bowie and his wife, in some order.
That's Tony Defries, Bowie's old manager and by most accounts as big a sleazebag as he looks in that picture. In 1975 Bowie realized that perhaps using up all his own money on touring and promotion while only his manager made a profit wasn't the best arrangement, so he split with Defries ... only to find out that, because of his contract, he still had to give Defries' company 50 percent of the royalties for everything he made until September 1982. Bowie reportedly spent a week locked in his attic, screaming. And, perhaps, plotting.
You see, it just so happens that between 1976 and 1980 Bowie would make the most intentionally uncommercial records of his career: Low and "Heroes" were half instrumental tracks (and not the kind you can play in an elevator), while Lodger was just brain-meltingly weird. When Defries heard Low, presumably expecting the next Space Oddity or Ziggy Stardust-type hit, he angrily called it a "piece of crap" and voluntarily excluded it from the contract. Between 1981 and 1982 Bowie just sat quietly and released no songs, except "Under Pressure" with Queen, but he happily gave up the royalties to the band so that Defries didn't get squat.
And then, as soon as the contract with Defries was over and Bowie didn't have to give up half his money anymore, he went back to the studio and did the pop-est album imaginable, Let's Dance. It sold 10 million copies and made him a multimillionaire. I like to imagine that as soon as the clock struck midnight on Sept. 30, 1982, Bowie washed the lipstick from his face, took off his dress to reveal a perfectly ironed suit and tie underneath, and said, "Gentlemen, let's business."
He was alone.
To be clear, I'm not saying Bowie pulled his late '70s albums out of his ass: Critics agree that they are among his best (and I would drop the "among"). But, you know, this does explain all the instrumentals.
#3. Paul Reubens Creates The Pee-wee Herman Show Because SNL Turned Him Down
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Paul Reubens is the guy behind Pee-wee Herman, the man-child with severe modulation problems who starred in a number of things with the words "Pee-wee" on them in the '80s. Say what you will about Reubens, but his show Pee-wee's Playhouse is still great to watch, in large part because this children's program from 1986 has better jokes than many sitcoms today (and better special effects than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.). Also, Laurence Fishburne is fucking suave as Cowboy Curtis.
So, what inspired Reubens to create this thing that has brought so much joy to so many people? Anger, bitterness, and revenge. According to Pee-wee himself: "The Pee-wee Herman Show was 100 percent created out of spite for not getting Saturday Night Live."
Keep in mind that in the '70s Reubens hadn't yet fully descended into his Pee-wee persona -- that was just a character he did sometimes during his improv routines. After years of obscurity, in 1980 it seemed like Reubens was finally going to get his big break when he was selected as one of the finalists for the new season of Saturday Night Live ... but then they turned him down. The worst part wasn't that he got rejected -- it's that he got rejected in favor of Gilbert Gottfried.
Via Newcity Stage
"Sorry, if we have both of you on the same show our sound guy will kill himself."
What pissed off Reubens the most was that he felt Gottfried got selected only because he was friends with the producer. I have to question the veracity of any statement implying anyone could tolerate Gottfried enough to call him a friend, but in any case, Reubens was "so bitter and angry" that he spent the whole plane ride back from New York thinking about what he was going to do to make them sorry. Finally, he decided to borrow $5,000 from his parents to start his own damn show. It's pretty clear that the experience warped him -- presumably a red bow tie crashed through the plane window at that point, and Reubens said, "Yes, father. I shall become a Pee-wee." (And then everyone in the plane died.)
The same year, Reubens and some improv pals put together The Pee-wee Herman Show as a stage attraction, which led to an HBO special, which led to a movie, which led to a hit TV show. Pee-wee's Playhouse won 15 Emmys in its five seasons -- that's 12 more than SNL won in the same period. Oh, and to this day the seasons with Gottfried are considered the shittiest in the history of the show.
Wait, I forgot to do some "Paul Reubens wanked in a porno theater" jokes. Have ... have you noticed how "Pee-wee" could refer to both his character and his penis? Yeah. (Aced it.)