In celebration of one of Hollywood's finest minds turning 45, we've decided to look back at some of the moments that we, the collective mass that laugh at things and then wait for others to judge in order to have the "right" opinion about that thing, considered a big deal. Here are the triumphs, roadblocks and other great moments from the comedy guru's illustrious career:
Photo via Wikipedia
Judd Apatow grew up in the Syosset-Woodbury area of Nassau County Long Island, where he attended Syosset High School. As per any human being who ends up making a great living by mocking and observing the status quo, Apatow wasn't so much a model student as he was a crafty one. Below, from Syosset Patch, is an account of Judd reminiscing on his high school years via twitter:
"When I went to school I slept in class and cheated quite a bit. Shocking how much I slept behind a well placed hand-- pretending to read."
He then joked about how his cheating system failed in science class, saying, "I cheated in AP physics then my scam collapsed and in my second semester I was so far behind because I learned nothing and failed hard."
Steve Martin Letter
Mr. Apatow’s love for his childhood comedic heroes is pretty apparent, the stench of which is duly noticeable in much of his works. In “Freaks and Geeks,” for instance, the major breaking point between protagonist Sam Weir and hottie Cindy Sanders is that Cindy does not find Steve Martin’s “Jerk” to be funny. Of course, Cindy Sanders sort of sucks, and teaches us that just because someone is “popular” doesn’t mean they’re actually cool. I’m not gonna be one of those guys who ambiguously dances around movies he hasn’t seen to make it appear like maybe he has seen it, but based on the events that unfold in “Freaks and Geeks”, “Jerk” is likely a very funny movie. And at the very least, Steve Martin is a guy who cares:
The youngster moved to Los Angeles after high school, where he enrolled in the Screenwriting Program at the University of Southern California. While a Trojan, Apatow kept busy by organizing “Comedy Nights” on campus, which Judd managed to nab some pretty hefty headliners, such as SNL’s Kevin Nealon.
Living with Adam Sandler
Apatow only spent two years at USC, before dropping out to live with some dude named Adam Sandler, whom he had met at Hollywood’s LA Improv. 20 years later, they’d go on to collaborate in “Funny People.”
Appearance on HBO’s Young Comedians Special
Apatow was a headliner for the fifteenth annual young comedians special, one of the premier honors for a burgeoning comic. This particular show also featured the likes of Ray Romano, Janeane Garofalo, and host Dana Carvey, whose act is shown below:
The Ben Stiller Show
Ben Stiller and Judd Apatow met outside an Elvis Costello show in 1990. They apparently didn’t hate each other, because the next year they began collaborating on “The Ben Stiller Show,” a series of half-hour comedy sketches. Apatow served as a producer, and attributes his role on the show his first real big break in Hollywood.
From an interview with Vanity Fair:
“I was doing stand-up comedy and writing jokes for other comedians, and I met Ben, and he and I thought of this idea for a show,” Apatow said. “But I had never even written for a TV show before, and suddenly we were running this network television show. I was very underqualified and just paying a lot of attention to Ben, trying to figure out what he was doing and copy him.”
The show was cancelled after a dozen episodes, but received an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Writing in a Variety Series.”
Stiller and Apatow continued collaborating with their 1995 film Heavyweights, a comedy about a summer weight loss camp. Apatow co-wrote the film, which stars Stiller stars as Tony Perkis, the evil fitness dictator hell-bent on making the kids as miserable as possible.
Clearly this is a role that heavily influenced one of Stiller's career-defining roles almost a decade later, the Globo Gym emperor White Goodman.
“The Cable Guy” Writing Controversy
Apatow worked with longtime friend Jim Carrey on “The Cable Guy.” Carrey was coming off mad hits with the Ace Ventura movies and “Dumb and Dumber,” so the thinking was that this was going to be a major hit. The movie ended up bombing however, only to gain the always sought after “cult following” well after its release.
Apatow made substantial revisions to the original script, but was ultimately denied writing credit by the WGA. He was not exactly thrilled, as per evidence by this 2011 interview with Vulture:
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. That’s because they want to protect writers from producers trying to grab their credit. But what it does is it doesn’t give people a credit they deserve because the bar is higher in this one situation where you’re providing another service at the same time.
At the time, being denied a writer credit was a very frustrating experience because I was so proud of the work that I did. People would laugh at me later because the movie wasn’t a big hit and it took a beating at the time. They were always saying, 'Why are you trying so hard to get your name on it?' But I always thought it was a great, weird movie that would have a long life as a cult type of film — and that is what seems to have happened.
If you’re gonna lose a writing credit, the least you could do is rebound by meeting the love of your life. Such was the aftermath of “The Cable Guy,” as Apatow and actress Leslie Mann were married in 1997. They’ve gone onto have two kids, Iris and Maude, who have appeared as Mann’s kids in Apatow’s “Knocked Up,” “Funny People,” and the upcoming “This is 40.”
Apatow Productions was formed in 1999, and has spawned an alarming amount of highly influential film and television projects. Wikipedia claims that it’s responsible in part for launching the careers of half of Hollywood. Half of Hollywood, being Seth Rogen, Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Steve Carell, Justin Long, Jay Baruchel, James Franco, Aziz Ansari, John C. Reilly, Chris Parnell, David Koechner, Samm Levine, Gary Cole, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Leslie Mann, Jane Lynch, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jason Segel, Martin Starr, Russell Brand, Danny R. McBride, and Bill Hader.
“Freaks and Geeks”
Following both the “Freaks” and “Geeks” of a Michigan High School, Apatow and Paul Feig’s creation been widely considered one of the best high school dramas to ever air on television. Well ahead of its time, the show followed a complex web of storylines between high schoolers and parents alike, grappling with realistic issues and themes pertaining to zany adolescent times. Ten years after airing, The Atlantic called it the Last Great High School TV Show. It also appeared on Time’s 100 Greatest Television Shows of All-Time back in 2007.
The show was notoriously cancelled after only one season on the air, but relieves through shit like this article saying how dope it was, thus making the show a must-watch for those who wish to be culturally in-tune and make the right types of pop-culture references. It’s now on Netflix instant, so there’s really no excuse anymore.
Following "Freaks and Geeks," Apatow took the next logical step and moved to the college arena. The show focused on a group of Freshman at the fictional University of Northeastern California, and received similar critical praise to "Freaks and Geeks."
Yet again, low-ratings pushed the show to the brink, causing another unfortunate cancellation.
Undeclared Cancellation Fiasco
A nice “industry” moment for those filthy TMZ-heads out there. Upended by the same executive who put the haltin’ on “Freaks and Geeks,” Apatow put a piece of his mind on paper, writing in a very angry letter asking how “you can fuck me in the ass when your penis is still in me from last time"
In a 2006 LA Times interview, Apatow further lamented Undeclared’s inability fulfill the needs of the network machine, discussing the difficulty that lies in making college shows in general:
“One reason for the death of college shows is that it's difficult to be honest about campus life on network or basic cable. It's hard to portray truthfully. The truth is, kids are high, drunk and having sex. No matter what you do, you're fudging it."
Little known fact: Apatow wanted Jason Segel as the lead for “Undeclared,” but FOX passed up on Segel for Jay Baruchel. Apatow then brought North Hollywood to ABC, a vehicle that was to star Segel, Amy Poehler, and Kevin Hart as struggling young actors. While it certainly sounds particularly dope, the project was never made--had it been picked up though, Apatow’s obligations to “Undeclared” would have prevented him from leading the North Hollywood ship.