By Linda Shortman
Comedy has enjoyed the influence of Judd Apatow for the past few decades. TV, film, stand-up: not only does he perform, but he is a writing, directing, and producing powerhouse.
In the summer of 2007, I became aware of Apatow’s work when I saw both Superbad and Knocked Up. I had not laughed so hard in the theater in a long time. Over the next few years, he was the driving force behind many successful major comedies. The films are clever, have great characters, and always have a heart. He is also the author of Sick in the Head, which chronicles his many encounters with comedy greats.
In 2016, I was in NYC for my birthday. Walking through the Olive Tree at The Comedy Cellar, I recognized a man sitting alone at one of the back tables. I may or may not have had a few glasses of wine, and felt emboldened to stop and chat with Mr. Apatow. Often, his fans complain that his comedies are a bit long. His explanation is that he wants you to spend some time getting to know the characters – a reasonable explanation, especially from a writer. I thanked him for the explanation. He exclaimed, “You read my book!” We exchanged a few more pleasantries and I left him alone. I wish I had told him how much I enjoy the end credits of his films.
A year later, he was touring a stand-up show, prepping for a Netflix special. A friend and I went, and in the dark of the small theater I relished another close encounter with this master of comedy. These six comedies are a good representation of this dedicated filmmaker’s work.
The 40-Year-Old Virgin was a wildly popular comedy depicting one man’s friends’ quest to help him lose his virginity. I did not appreciate it as much as others, but appreciated its popularity.
Superbad was the first Apatow production I fell in love with. When a group of high school students work toward an alcohol-fueled party, the laughs abound. Funny, raunchy, sweet and an entry point for many major comedic performers.
Knocked Up depicts the aftermath of a one night stand and the couple trying to make a go of developing a relationship. This solidified Apatow in my mind as a major force in movie comedies.
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy addressed the role, or lack thereof, of women in the broadcast world. It also gave us the superstar character of Ron Burgundy. Brilliant performance.
Trainwreck introduced us to a woman who was a commitment-phoebe until she meets a guy who cares about her. The result is sweet and funny.
The Big Sick was brought to production thanks to Apatow. The true story of a woman who falls into a coma after calling off her engagement focuses on the awkward situation between her ex-fiancé and parents. Great film.