December 6, 1967
Queens, New York, USA
Producer, Screenwriter, Actor, Dishwasher
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Former TV writer-turned-feature comedy guru, Judd Apatow reached the peak of his professional career in the late 2000's after a long and steady climb up the Hollywood ladder. Considered one of the hottest comedy "punch-up" men in the industry, Apatow's services were originally in high demand as a script doctor. As a television producer, however, Apatow's career was practically cursed. Plagued by a cycle of critical praise, cult followings and speedy cancellations, Apatow's work on such quality shows as "The Ben Stiller Show" (Fox, 1992-93), "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000) and "Undeclared" (Fox, 2001-02 ) were a mixed bag of blessings. Still, the quality of his work won Apatow more than a small measure of respect. In 2005, he became a triple-threat by making his film directorial debut, resulting in a homerun with the "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005). The film not only put him on the map, it made a marquee name out of its star, Steve Carell and ushered in a new era of sophomoric R-rated comedies with heart. With a reserve of respect built up after the instant comedy classic that was "Virgin," expectations were high for Apatow's second directorial outing - the comedically fertile 2007 comedy, "Knocked Up." Proving his first foray was no fluke, "Knocked Up" resonated with fans, and again, with impressed critics, who universally hailed it the "comedy of the summer." Suffice to say, every comedic actor in town looked to join the very exclusive Apatow comedy repertory company - an elite, tight-knit group that included Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Carell and Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann.
Born on Dec. 6, 1967, in Syosset, NY, Judd Apatow got his start in showbiz while still in high school. Thanks to the support of one of his teachers, Apatow became involved with the school's student radio station. Though the station's signal just barely reached outside of the school's parking lot, Apatow launched his own radio show. A precocious disciple of comedy, as well as an aspiring comedian himself, Apatow used this forum to interview such then-unknowns as Weird Al Yankovic, Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld and Michael O'Donoghue. Moving out west in 1985, following graduation from high school, this self-confessed "geek" enrolled at USC Film School. After classes, Apatow began hanging out at the local comedy clubs and fell in with the fertile L.A. comedy scene. In fact, his first job was as a dishwasher in a comedy club, which he took so that he could meet stand-up comics.
As it turned out, Apatow discovered his true calling somewhere else other than the stand-up stage. While crashing and burning at the mic each night might have stung his ego at first, Apatow eventually made peace with the fact that he was a far better joke writer than a joke teller. Consequently, Apatow began writing for other comics. Thanks to his consistently brilliant, yet infinitely adaptable sense of wit, Apatow began making decent money writing punchlines for comics as diverse as Jim Carrey, Garry Shandling and Roseanne Barr. In fact, years later, in a 2007 interview with Entertainment Weekly, funnyman Will Ferrell summed it with the following: "[Judd] has his own ideas of what's funny, but one of his great strengths is to be able to see what you do and mold things toward your strengths."
In 1991, Apatow was hired by a then little-known actor named Ben Stiller, who was trying to launch a TV sketch comedy show on MTV. Hired to be his main writer, Apatow suddenly found himself thrust into the lofty position of Executive Producer when "The Ben Stiller Show" was picked up a year later. Amazingly, despite a complete lack of television experience, Apatow successfully managed to wing it through the entire season. Even though its ratings were never fantastic, "The Ben Stiller Show" became a critical darling, earning Apatow an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Writing in a Variety or Music Program. Not long after that show was canceled, Apatow landed a job writing and co-executive-producing for "The Larry Sanders Show," where he would go on to earn six more Emmy nominations for his writing. Apatow's first network project - the fondly remembered "Freaks and Geeks" - proved to be a bittersweet experience. A broad comedy with surprisingly poignant moments, the show borrowed heavily from the feature comedy classic, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" (1980). But as per the usual for Apatow, the show's devoted fan following and critical praise had little impact on its all-important ratings.
Transitioning into movies toward the late 1990s, Apatow's screenwriting career got off to a rocky start with the ponderous basketball-themed comedy, "Celtic Pride" (1996). Luckily for Apatow, his fortunes would quickly improve. That same year, he produced and wrote the screenplay for the dark comedy, "The Cable Guy" (1996). Because of its dark tone, the film received mixed reviews, but went on to make a respectable profit at the box office - due in no small part to star Jim Carrey's cache as funnyman du jour. In addition to making Carrey the first $20 million in Hollywood, "The Cable Guy" would also be credited for introducing Apatow together to his future wife, actress Leslie Mann, whom he met on set. As she walked by, he reportedly remarked to coworkers, "There g s my future wife." He would wed the bubbly blonde actress on June 9, 1997.
Apatow returned to TV series once more with "Undeclared," a quintessential modern college series which centered on a group of college freshmen at the fictitious University of North Eastern California. The short-lived show, which took its name from the status of an undergraduate who has yet to "declare" a specific major of study, gave a humorous and usually accurate look at the highs and lows of college life - from young adult relationships to the dreaded freshman fifteen. In the cast, was Apatow's good friend and future big screen collaborator, Seth Rogen, who would go on to become an integral part of Apatow's comedy frat pack.
After co-producing the two Will Ferrell hits, "Anchorman: the Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004) and the uneven soccer-themed comedy "Kicking & Screaming" (2005), Apatow felt ready to direct a movie himself. Eager to work with Steve Carell - whom he had met on the set of "Anchorman" - Apatow and the actor brainstormed for hours until they came up with the premise for what would eventually become "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." Made for a little over $25 million - due in no small part to its lack of A-list talent - "Virgin" became the surprise comedy hit of the season, earning nearly $110 million domestically and becoming the water cooler topic du jour. What was more, it nearly doubled its money overseas, proving people all over the world could appreciate the uncomfortable reality of losing their virginity at a questionable age. Not unexpectedly, considering his hilarious take on the geek with a heart of gold who just happens to collect action figures, Carell became a star on par with Jim Carrey, virtually overnight. A red-hot commodity, Apatow became a kind of celebrity himself - not unlike the great comic directors of Apatow's formative years - a la Ivan Reitman, John Landis and Harold Ramis - whose name attached to a film virtually guaranteed box office success.
In 2007, Apatow made a long-awaited return to the director's chair for his sophomore feature effort, the hysterically funny pregnancy-themed comedy "Knocked Up." Starring his old buddy Seth Rogen - who had also appeared as one of Steve Carell's obnoxious coworkers in "Virgin" - as the schlub who accidentally impregnates Katherine Heigl's out-of-his-league career girl, "Knocked Up" was declared "more explosively funny than nearly any major studio release in recent memory," by no less a credible source than Variety. The film made back its budget in the first weekend with a box office take of nearly $30 million, earning Apatow even more goodwill from studios anxious to bankroll one of his many film projects via Apatow Productions, as well as smart comedy fans who christened him the "Mayor of Comedy."