Judd Apatow 30-year career timeline: from stand-up comedy to his “Knocked Up” spin-off

Judd Apatow 30-year career timeline: from stand-up comedy to his “Knocked Up” spin-off (photo)

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Judd Apatow was defined by the comedy of his generation and he’s turned around and used that to define the comedy of the next generation. This is not just a list of things Judd has done in the past, but it’s also a chronicling of his rise to power. Here is the life of a comedy nerd made good – made very, very good.

Born in Flushing, New York, to real estate developer Maury Apatow and Tami Shad, who divorced when he was 12. He also has an older brother Robert and a younger sister Mia. He lived with his dad most of the time and grew up watching shows like Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin, The Tonight Show, Late Night with David Letterman, etc. “I was watching TV until about 3-3:30 to 1:30 in the morning for years.” He spent a lot of time alone in his room, but lest you think that’s sad, he says he was “laughing his ass off watching Jay Leno in 1979 on The Mike Douglas Show.” His favorites also included Steve Martin, David Brenner, Jeff Altman and even Michael Keaton’s early stand-up work. He was even transcribing episodes of “Saturday Night Live” at age 10. This is a comedy nerd writ large.

In 9th grade, his mother gets a job seating people at a comedy club, and he would go there all the time to watch comics – Paul Provenza was the first young comedian he ever saw. He later realized his mom’s job was likely the worst ever, but says “I like to think she did it because she knew I would like it. Like a gift to me.” He later got a job as a busboy at Rick Messina’s East Side Comedy Club so he could watch sets from people like Eddie Murphy and a rookie Rosie O’Donnell

Worked at the Syosset High School 10-watt radio station WKWZ and hosted the “Club Comedy” program, which allowed a 16-year-old kid to wrangle interviews with guys like Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Garry Shandling, John Candy, Harold Ramis, Howard Stern and even Steve Allen. Some of these interviews can be heard on Apatow’s 2-part episode of Marc Maron’s WTF podcast (where the quotes for this piece are coming from), and they really helped him learn exactly how the comedy business works.

Started stand-up comedy during his senior year of high school. Moved to Los Angeles to join the screenwriting program at USC, where he started organizing comedy nights on campus, volunteering at Comedy Relief and working at the Improv introducing other comics. Soon figures out he’s a better writer than a comic, thinking he didn’t have a strong enough point of view, so he starts writing for other comedians, too, leading to him becoming co-producers on some of their specials – such as Roseanne Barr.

Meets Ben Stiller outside of an Elvis Costello show, a man he’ll eventually name as the beginning of modern comedy. Also during this time, Apatow is sharing an apartment with Adam Sandler.

Appears on HBO’s 15th Annual Young Comedians Special, also becomes producer of the critically acclaimed “The Ben Stiller Show” on Fox, which nonetheless gets cancelled the next year. “I didn’t know what the hell I was doing,” he said. “I just was the guy trying to hopefully figure out how to not have Ben realize I didn’t know how to do anything but write stand-up jokes. I was just keeping my mouth shut and listening to Ben. I was just faking it.”

Hired as a writer and producer for “The Larry Sanders Show,” starring Shandling, who he credits as his mentor for steering him towards character-driven comedy.

Becomes a staff writer and consulting producer on the Jon Lovitz animated series “The Critic.”

Wrote and produced the comedy “Heavyweights” where Ben Stiller plays a fitness guru who takes over a fat camp for kids. Well-received but barely heard of.

Jim Carrey’s “The Cable Guy” is released, a movie he was hired to re-write, on the set of which he met Leslie Mann, his future wife (one year later, even) and star of several of his movies. He also guest-starred on Adam Sandler’s album “What The Hell Happened To Me?” and wrote and produced “Celtic Pride,” a basketball comedy with Damon Wayans and Dan Aykroyd.

“Freaks and Geeks” premieres on NBC, the most personal project he’d done to that point as a director, writer and producer, co-creating with Paul Feig. Set in the early 1980s and starring Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, James Franco, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, Samm Levine, Busy Philips and John Francis Daley, it followed the lives of a trio of nerds, a group of outcasts and a girl transitioning between them, and also featured a geek using “The Jerk” as a barometer of whether or not he should continue dating the cheerleader he’d miraculously landed. It’s also notable for the most noble depiction of a Dungeons and Dragons game ever. It had a devoted fan following, but not enough to keep it from being cancelled after only 12 of its 18 episodes had aired.

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Pox Kegger

This Is How the Benders Throw a Chickenpox Party

It's a Pox Kegger on tonight's all-new Benders.

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On this week’s Benders, Paul and Karen take their relationship to the next level when they both get the chickenpox. What do you bring to a chickenpox party? Chicken wings? A bucket of pox?

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For us, a sick day is best spent on the day on the couch, watching episodes of Portlandia on Netflix (guessing!) eating bowls of chicken soup, and sipping weak tea. But Karen didn’t count on the team spirit that binds Paul’s amateur hockey team together. So when the Chubbys find out that one of their teammates is in need, they have no choice but to be there for him–whether his wife likes it or not. Find out what happens when Benders airs tonight at 10P on IFC.

Jon Benjamin

Jon's Erotic Tales

Jon Benjamin Developing ‘Erotic’ Anthology Series for IFC

Jon Benjamin is getting racy for IFC.

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Photo Credit: Derek Storm/Everett Collection

Get ready to get hot and heavy with Jon Benjamin.

IFC has teamed up with Benjamin and Leo Allen (Jon Benjamin Has a Van, Review) to develop Jon Benjamin’s 100 Erotic Nights, a show filled with personal, passionate tales perfect for awkwardly watching with your family. “I always wanted to make a show that my kid could watch and I’m thrilled that IFC has given me this opportunity,” said Jon Benjamin.

The scripted comedy anthology series (currently in the pilot presentation stage) finds the man behind Sterling Archer and Bob Belcher starring in and narrating a series of lurid tales of secret passion, burning desire and ruthless betrayal sure to raise a few eyebrows. As the tales unfold, Benjamin’s narrator is overcome with confessions of love, lust, romance and sex, from the local waitress to a church nun, to a lover who’s revealed to be a robot.

“IFC is excited to dive into deadpan erotic humor, a new and untapped genre of scripted comedy for us,” said Christine Lubrano, IFC’s SVP of original programming. “As a send up of Red Shoe Diaries, these steamy and seductive tales represent a hilarious departure from familiar erotica. As our narrator and guide, Jon Benjamin’s irreverent and revealing journey will leave viewers gasping for more.”

Be sure to check back here for more updates about Jon Benjamin’s sure to be salacious series.

Documentary Now Dronez

Fred Roasts Vice

Fred Armisen Roasted Vice CEO as His ‘Dronez’ Character From Documentary Now!

Documentary Now! returns in 2016.

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Normally, receiving a prestigious award and praise from your peers would be a validating affair, but it’s a decidedly different experience when every facet of your personal and professional life is ruthlessly mocked by a dais of roasters. Such was the case for Vice CEO and gonzo journalist Shane Smith who got both barrels from comics and associates in honor of his Frank Stanton Award win for Excellence in Communication.

Along with Johnny Knoxville, HBO CEO Richard Plepler (who referenced Smith’s recent collaboration with President Obama by joking, “The President called Shane to thank him for the interview and the delightful contact high…”), and other media elites, Fred Armisen took Smith to the mat while dressed as Jeremiah, one of the many gonzo journalists who can be seen getting in over their heads in the Documentary Now! episode “Dronez: The Hunt for El Chingon.”

Fred Armisen Dronez

And in case you missed Fred and Bill Hader as the Vice-like reporters of “Dronez,” you can stream the entire episode of Documentary Now! for free right now.

Source Code Michelle Monaghan

Michelle Visits CB!B!

5 Michelle Monaghan Roles We Love

Michelle Monaghan stops by Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P ET/PT on IFC.

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Photo: Summit Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Here’s an interesting tidbit you might not know about Michelle Monaghan: when she was growing up, her parents also took in foster kids to their Winthrop, Iowa home. They raised a solid dozen of them over as many years, and we can’t help but think that being exposed to different people from so many circumstances helped Michelle build the empathy and eye for character that has made her one of our favorite actresses.

To get you ready for Michelle Monaghan’s appearance on this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we put together an extremely biased list of her five best roles. Sorry, Pixels doesn’t make the cut.

5. Harmony Lane, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

Shane Black’s demented Hollywood noir is on our short list for most underrated flick of all time. Not only did it bring Robert Downey Jr. back to the big screen as petty criminal turned unwitting detective Harry Lockhart, but it features possibly the best post-Iceman Val Kilmer performance of all time. The third player in the film’s triangle is Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Laine, Harry’s childhood friend all grown up. Harmony is the motor that drives the twisted story of lust and revenge, and she does a bang-up (pun intended) job walking the tightrope between small-town innocence and Los Angeles sleaze.

4. Diane Ford, Trucker


Plum Pictures

The 2008 indie Trucker might have flown beneath your radar, but you should check it out on Netflix because it’s one of Michelle Monaghan’s finest performances. She plays Diane Ford, a long-haul driver who finds her screwed-up life of getting blitzed and having one-night stands upended when her 10-year-old son comes back into her life. It’s a story that could easily get obvious and cliche, but first-time director James Mottern dodges dramatic pitfalls with the aid of his incredible lead, instead producing a deft character study that is very worth watching.

3. Maggie Hart, True Detective

Season one of the acclaimed HBO crime drama was aided by an incredible cast of actors, including Michelle Monaghan’s Maggie Hart. As one of the key female figures in a very male-dominated show, Maggie has to carry a lot of weight. When we found out halfway through that she’d cheated on her husband (Woody Harrelson) with Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle, it served as a new lens to examine their twisted relationship. It’s a challenging role that Monaghan rises to with aplomb.

2. Christina Warren, Source Code

Source code

The premise for the 2011 thriller Source Code is pretty ridiculous — a top secret military project gives Jake Gyllenhaal the ability to travel back in time and re-live the last eight minutes of somebody’s life over and over like the world’s worst Groundhog Day — but the end result is a damn fine film. Michelle Monaghan provides an important emotional anchor as Christina Warren, who Gyllenhaal’s character builds a deeper and deeper connection with every time he loops back. Without her, the whole premise would collapse, and the actress rises to the occasion ably.

1. Julia Meade, Mission: Impossible III


Paramount Pictures

Playing the romantic lead in a Tom Cruise-led spy actioner is a pretty thankless job, but director J. J. Abrams gave Monaghan plenty to chew on as Ethan Hunt’s fiancee Julia Meade in the third Mission: Impossible flick. Initially Julia starts out as a clueless damsel in distress, captured by arms dealer Owen Davian to compel Hunt to steal some Macguffin or other. But by the end of the film she’s up to speed with her fiance’s covert career, saves his life with an electric shock and even pops a cap in the ass of IMF traitor John Musgrave.

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