Judd Mann Apatow (born December 6, 1967 in Flushing, New York) is an American comedian turned TV writer turned screenwriter turned producer turned director turned "mayor of comedy."
Prior to his film and television career, Apatow did stand-up comedy and worked as a joke writer for performers including Jeff Dunham, who claims he paid Apatow "a measly $50 apiece" for his work. He was responsible for shows like Undeclared and Freaks and Geeks, as well as a notorious Flame War with former friend and fellow The Ben Stiller Show alumnus Mark Brazill (creator of That '70s Show). His career really exploded, however, after the runaway success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, to the point where it's hard to find a mainstream comedy from the next ten years that isn't in some way associated with him or influenced by his brand of comedy. As John Hughes was to The '80s, Apatow is to the second half of the Turn of the Millennium.
Apatow is inordinately fond of improv (full scenes are often entirely improvised by the cast), profanity, stoner humor, sex jokes, and gratuitous nudity (male nudity, more often than not). His characters are usually average Joes who learn to connect with either women or their male buddies, leading some people to call these films romantic comedies for men — "bromances," if you will. He has occasionally been accused of sexism, towards both women (as shown by Katherine Heigl's complaints regarding the portrayal of her character in Knocked Up) and men. Often for the same film.
Directed and Written:
- The 40-Year-Old Virgin
- Knocked Up
- Funny People
- This Is 40
- The King of Staten Island
- The Bubble (2022)
Directed and produced Only
- The Cable Guy
- Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy
- Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
- Drillbit Taylor
- Forgetting Sarah Marshall
- Step Brothers
- Pineapple Express
- Year One
- Get Him to the Greek
- The Five-Year Engagement
- Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues
- Begin Again
- Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
- Celtic Pride (shares story credit with Colin Quinn)
- Fun with Dick and Jane
- You Don't Mess with the Zohan
- Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
- The Simpsons episode "Bart's New Friend" (an Ascended Fan Fic)
- The Critic (in "LA Jay") as Jay Leno (uncredited)
- Zookeeper as Barry the Elephant
- The Simpsons as himself
- Sandy Wexler as Testimonial
He tends to work with many of the same actors many of whom starred in his earlier shows, a who's who of comedy that includes:
- Jason Segel
- James Franco
- Paul Rudd
- Seth Rogen
- Jonah Hill
- Jane Lynch
- Martin Starr
- Bill Hader
- Steve Carell
- Leslie Mann (his wife)
- Loudon Wainwright III
- Jay Baruchel
- John C. Reilly
- Adam Sandler (wrote some of his most popular Saturday Night Live skits and produced some of his comedy albums)
- Jim Carrey (when both were working in stand-up, Apatow wrote some of his material and served as his opening act for a while. He produced the cable special Jim Carrey's Unnatural Act, revised The Cable Guy, co-wrote Fun with Dick and Jane, AND filmed the audition tape that won Carrey the role of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon)
Tropes Associated With Apatow's Films
- Grey-and-Gray Morality: Nobody in his films is a saint, but none of them is a monster either.
- Growing Up Sucks: His TV shows in particular often feature immature people in more mature situations and how they change him. Most of his movies are basically coming of age stories for immature adults.
- Improv: His bread and butter. All of his movies are either mostly or entirely retroscripted. For some projects, he'll even feed actors lines off the top of his head just before they do a take.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Most of the characters in his movies are selfish and/or immature, but none are ever deliberately cruel and eventually let their more positive qualities show. Girls is a prime example: everyone in that show is a jerk, but are still depicted as ultimately loving and kind.
- Manchild: Virtually all of his male characters.
- Signature Style: Stories about unsympathetic comedy protagonists with boatloads of Vulgar Humor and pop culture references, nearly all of which is improvised, which ultimately show them maturing into wiser, more sympathetic people.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Somewhere in the middle. The characters are usually unsympathetic comedy protagonists and most of the humor comes from how incompetent or even mean they can be, but their kinder side always comes through and stories always have a happy ending.
- Ur-Example: His comedy movies were the first of their kind to rely on eschewing traditional scripts in favor of filming lots and lots of improv, then cutting together all the best takes like a "line-o-rama" reel.