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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.


1967:
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.

1982-3:
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

1984:
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.

1985:
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.

1990:
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.

1992:
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.”

1993:
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.

1994:
Becomes a staff writer and consulting producer on the Jon Lovitz animated series “The Critic.”

1995:
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.

1996:
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.

1999:
“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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.