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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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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