Judd Apatow is probably the writer, director, or producer of your favorite comedy movie/show. The comedy icon has been obsessed with the art form from a young age and hasn’t stopped working at light speed to release his work. Here are 15 facts about the original comedy nerd.
Judd Apatow is one of the most successful comedy producers/directors in the history of the industry. For an idea of his background, he produced The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), Knocked Up (2007), Funny People (2009), This Is 40 (2012), Trainwreck (2015), The King of Staten Island (2020), The Bubble (2022), Freaks and Geeks (1999–2000), Undeclared (2001–2002), Funny or Die Presents (2010–2011), Girls (2012–2017), Love (2016–2018), and Crashing (2017–2019), The Cable Guy (1996), Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Superbad (2007), Pineapple Express (2008), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), Get Him to the Greek (2010), Bridesmaids (2011), Begin Again (2013), Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (2013), and The Big Sick (2017).
He Interviewed Famous Comedians As A Kid
Judd Apatow was infatuated with comedy as a kid and found it to be the only thing he was an expert on that no one else knew anything about. Apatow eventually started a radio show called Club Comedy on his high school radio station WKWZ. Apatow was able to get interviews with comedians like Steve Allen, Howard Stern, Harold Ramis, John Candy, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright, and Garry Shandling. Apatow told NPR “I started calling up the publicists of comedians and I think back then no one wanted to talk to comedians. There was no Internet, there was no podcasting, so getting any call about an interview probably made a publicist think, "Hey, I look like I'm doing a good job. I got Seinfeld an interview on WKWZ radio.”
His Interview With Jerry Seinfeld Changed His Life
When Judd was just 15 years old he interviewed Jerry Seinfeld for the first time and recounts the interview as completely changing the course of his career. As Apatow describes it Jerry was the first person who walked him through how he writes a joke, which Judd had never heard described in detail before. Apatow said, “Jerry Seinfeld grew up two towns over from me and when I met him I thought, "I'm kind of like him, I'm just a Long Island guy." It made me feel like a life in comedy was possible because this guy who felt similar to me was this amazing comedian.”
Judd Was Not Credited For Being A Writer On The Cable Guy
When Apatow and Ben Stiller acquired the script for The Cable Guy it was originally very different and Apatow essentially did an entire rewrite of the script to change it from a “buddy” movie to a thriller film. Unfortunately, Judd was not credited as a writer because according to him, the Writers Guild has a rule that “if you are also the producer, the bar that you have to reach to get credit if you do a revision is ridiculously high. It’s a much lower bar if you’re not the producer.”
Judd Writes His Comedies As Dramas
When writing a comedy, Judd says it’s important to remember that the story should still work as a drama, which explains a lot considering the heart hidden within all of Apatow’s films. Judd says “They should be stories that would work just as well without any jokes. If you have a great story and great characters it’s easy to find a way to make it funny. The problem with a lot of comedies is they are serving a comedic premise primarily and they don’t really have a reason to exist.”
Judd Apatow's Failed Commercial Ambitions
When Judd was just starting out he thought the only way for people to get famous was by appearing in commercials, so that's exactly what he tried to do. Judd got headshots, then immediately after shoved poison ivy up his nose to make his friends laugh. Then soon after he got chicken pox, while tending to his poison ivy burns, which did not react well to his poison ivy medication, resulting in “Godzilla-sized chicken pox and scars all over face” that ended his commercial ambitions.
Apatow Sent His Unfit Comedians To The Hospital
The only downside to casting real-life geeks into your movies about geeks is that they may not be used to intense physical exertion. Jonah Hill danced so hard in the “Aquarius” scene from The 40-Year Old Virgin that he was hospitalized due to heat stroke. Rogen and Segal needed oxygen after a fight scene in Knocked Up as well.
Jim Henson Convinced Him To Stop Stand Up
According to Apatow, after auditioning for a Jim Henson project, he was given the feedback, “He'd like to buy your ideas, but he doesn't want you to appear in the show. He thinks you lack warmth.” Judd added, “Jim Henson thinks I lack warmth? That's like Mr. Rogers telling you you don't deserve love! He taught me to read!" Apatow was already a self-described bad comedian, and said to himself, “Oh yes, the instinct you have to not perform has now been confirmed by Kermit the Frog."
Rogen And Apatow Stalked Harold Ramis
While Apatow did get the chance to interview Harold Ramis for Culb Comedy he saw the actor again at the Deauville Film Festival in 2005 with Seth Rogen. Apatow considers Ramis a hero from his youth, so the two stalked Ramis and became fast friends once they got the chance to speak with him, resulting in Ramis agreeing to be in Apatow’s next movie, Knocked Up.
Judd Was Not A Great Stand-Up Comic
Judd told NPR “My earliest material was all about how terrible I was. I used to do my act, I wouldn't get laughs, and at the end I would say, ‘You know, ladies and gentlemen, the great Jerry Lewis said you only learn by being not funny, you learn nothing by being funny, so thank you for giving me a college education tonight.’ That was my closer and that would get a big laugh because I bombed for the last five minutes.”
Judd Told Off His Hero Steve Martin
When Apatow was a kid vacationing in L.A. he asked his grandparents to drive him by his hero, Steve Martin’s house. Apatow spotted Martin washing his car and ran up asking for an autograph, to which Martin refused, saying he doesn't give autographs at his home. Apatow wrote Martin an angry letter saying it was his patronage of his films that lead him to live the high life. Martin sent Apatow a copy of his book a few weeks later with an apology saying “I didn’t realize I was talking to THE Judd Apatow.”
He Casts His Family In Everything
Judd Apatow has a history of including his family in his projects. Leslie Mann (Judd’s now-wife) played Matthew Broderick’s girlfriend in The Cable Guy shortly before she and Judd started dating. Now she appears in nearly all of her husband's films. Completing the family affair, Apatow cast his daughters, Iris and Maude, as Katherine Heigl’s nieces in Knocked Up. In This Is 40 his real wife and kids played Paul Rudd’s wife and kids. In Funny People, his wife and kids are with Eric Bana. Maude plays a spoiled TV child star in Netflix’s Love, also produced by Apatow.
Adam Sandler Used To Be Judd’s Roommate
Before either of the two were famous, Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow performed at the Hollywood Improv and shortly after moved into a small apartment together in the Valley. According to Apatow, living with Sandler was like living with the “comfortable naked guy at the gym.” Sandler was often naked and annoyed that Apatow was too afraid to show his penis.
Apatow's Love For Rogen
Apatow discovered Rogen in 1998 when a 16-year-old Seth attended an open casting call for Freaks and Geeks. The role was originally much smaller in the show, but Apatow loved Rogen’s quick comedy chops and honesty, so he eventually wrote an entire episode around his character. When the show ended, Apatow hired his young ward to appear in Undeclared and hired him to write scripts for the show too.
How Judd Found McLovin
When Rogen and his partner Evan Goldberg were watching audition tapes for Superbad they were laughing and cracking jokes the whole time. Apatow interrupted to say “Look, you guys have to be hard, you have to be brutal with this. You have to do open auditions in Vancouver and Chicago, see a thousand guys and look for the weird kid and see which one you can teach to act. They have to be the characters. We’re not looking for the kids who can do Froot Loops commercials. This is not how we found Seth.” Christopher Mintz-Plasse who would eventually play Mclovin was found through a Myspace casting call encouraging kids to send in their own videos.
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