10 Ways Judd Apatow Made Nerds Cool

THE 40 YEAR OLD VIRGIN, director, co-writer and co-producer Judd Apatow on set, 2005, (c) Universal/

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By Leslie Schapira

For years, nerds have gotten a bad rap. From Urkel to Screech, the ultra-awkward, rather homely characters we’ve seen on film and TV have been deemed untouchables in our social caste system. But all that changed when Judd Apatow came into the picture and turned our ideas of so-called losers into heroes. Since Judd is bringing his nerd cred to this week’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought we’d take a look at some of the strides the Trainwreck director has made for nerd kind.

10. He helped introduce the world to Freaks and Geeks


Judd Apatow and Paul Feig’s high school dramedy wasn’t exactly queen bee when it aired in 1999, only surviving 18 episodes. But like many freaks and geeks that we knew — ahem — or were in high school, this low-rated series blossomed into a beautiful cult following and launched its young cast (which included the likes of James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel) to fame.

9. He made a 40-year-old virgin lovable.


Before Apatow’s hit 2005 movie, the idea of a 40-year-old with his “V card” still intact would’ve been an automatic turn off to any girl who didn’t have a priest-fetish. But Apatow’s endearing character, perfectly portrayed by Steve Carell, gave us a soft spot for the guy who thought that breasts felt like sand. See kids? It’s okay to wait.

8. He proved that nerds could be “Superbad.

SUPERBAD, Christoper Mintz-Plasse, Aviva, 2007. ©Columbia Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Columbia Pictures/Everett Collection

Only in Apatow-land do guys like Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Michael Cera get to live out the crazy, borderline criminal night that every video-gamer who lives with his mom fantasizes about. The Apatow-produced Superbad is practically porn for geeks.

7. He helped make TV safe for different viewpoints and body types.



While TV starlets in the ’90s were out to out-starve each other, Apatow chose to go a different direction with Girls, the hit Lena Dunham created series that Apatow coproduces.  For all you trendsetters out there: bulimia is out, imperfection is in.

6. He lets the geek get the hot girl.


Apatow’s Knocked Up might have been the ultimate score for awkward, hairy potheads everywhere. Nothing gives a nerd hope like seeing a jobless pothead like Seth Rogan impregnate a hot babe like Katherine Heigl.

5. He glorifies the inappropriate.

A female-driven wedding comedy should theoretically be a cue for a guy to head for the door. But Bridesmaids, which Apatow produced, was a box office hit with men and women thanks to its laugh-out-loud comedic moments and smart outlook on modern relationships. Come for the vomiting, stay for the heartfelt and hilarious performances.

4. He makes it okay to get old.


Nothing used to say “uncool” like being middle-aged. But This Is 40 makes the thought of being over the hill a bit more acceptable — or at least, a tad less frightening. If Paul Rudd can get old, so can we.

3. He gives nerds cool best friends.

GET HIM TO THE GREEK, from left: Jonah Hill, Russell Brand, 2010. ph: Glen Wilson/©Universal Picture

Glen Wilson/Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

Nothing gives a geek street cred like having an open friendship with a rock star. Get Him to the Greek, another comedy with the Apatow brand, gives cool guys everywhere the thumbs up to buddy up with the Jonah Hills of the world.

2. He made being super annoying, like, totally acceptable.


Who knew that an “Ohmigod”-uttering, Juicy Couture-wearing Jewish American Princess would be accepted amongst Brooklyn’s coolest hipsters. But Shoshanna Shapiro from Girls has proven to be one of TV’s most confident and ballsy characters. Like, seriously. Meanwhile, Superbad‘s McLovin and the geeks from Freaks and Geeks are now beloved comedy icons. A far cry from the days when Urkel annoyed Carl with lines like “Got any cheeeese??”

1. He’s a nerd himself

Universal Pictures Courtesy Everett Collection

Universal Pictures Courtesy Everett Collection

Apatow once described his younger self as under-appreciated, invisible and weird. But this one time underdog is ultimate example of how nerds can rule the world.

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Weird Roles

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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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

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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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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