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Arts & Entertainment

Case Studies: Developing Life Into Story

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 11:08 min

After taking a detailed look at two projects that are based on real experiences, Judd shares valuable lessons on how to create stories that are hilarious, relatable, and engaging.

Judd Apatow
Teaches Comedy
Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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How "Crashing" was created was Pete asked me to be in a sketch when he had a talk show. And in the sketch, he was pitching me bad ideas from movies and television. And in the middle of an improv, I said, no, but seriously, what's your story? Be real with me. And he basically pitched me "Crashing" in the middle of a sketch. There's a guy who wants to be a comedian, and he catches his wife cheating on him. And he's been very religious, but now he moves to New York, and he's not a very good comedian. And he questions his faith as he tries to be a part of this comic world. And my response in the sketch was, oh, that won't work. It's too sad. - I thought that you had a lot of ideas. - I do. - Do you have anything else that's not sci-fi, magic, or something we've done already? - Yeah. OK. There's a man. He's 22. He gets married because he's religious. And then six years later, his wife cheats on him with a small Italian man. - Oh! - Mhm. And-- and then I get my heart broken, but I learn life lessons. - Mhm. - That-- that doesn't seem like a comedy at all. That just seems tragic and sad. - That's my-- that-- that was-- that's my life. - That's too sad. See, I think that no one would want to see that because it's just so sad. - But I'm over it. Look at me. - I don't know if you are over it. You have this whole stance of positivity, but you can feel the pain is right there, and it throws me. - But then I, like, redefine my faith and start shtupping a bunch of random broads. - That's even sadder. But after we shot the sketch, at some point, he came back to me and said, I actually think that would be a good idea, what I said as a joke in the sketch. And we started talking about it. So that entails me asking Pete for all the real details of his life. So we sit for a very long time, and he tells me his story. How he became a comedian, what were all the stages, where did he live, how long did it take to get good, how did he finally get some respect, how did he feed himself when he wasn't making money doing stand-up. And then we talk about what is the essence of this. What-- what would the series be about. And on one level, a show like "Crashing" is about the journey of a-- of a man from first starting out and being a crappy comedian to figuring out who he is and becoming a really good comedian and maybe having some success and seeing the ups and downs and a journey towards whatever that career is. Because it could be success and then crazy failure. We don't know yet. The show just shot its second season. But the arc of his career. And then there's the emotional story. So you have a guy who is based on Pete, who's very religious. And he was raised to be a pastor. And at some point, he realized that he preferred stand-up. And now that he is living in New York City and is entering the world of comedians, people are challenging all of his beliefs. So he's trying to hold on...

Get serious about comedy

No joke: at age 15, Judd Apatow took a dishwashing job at a comedy club to watch the acts. Today, he’s the comedic genius behind hits including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Bridesmaids, and Freaks and Geeks. In his first-ever online comedy class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct movies that leave audiences laughing.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It’s amazing and quite comprehensive. We go behind the scenes and discuss some of the greatest, funniest movies 🎥 how they were made and how to!

This was one of the best of the masterclasses that I've watch. Judd give such great incite on how to come out with story, how to explore what is funny about everyday life situations. What a great inspiration this class was.

Judd was AWESOME! His insight, functionality and detail is irreplaceable!!! He touch several industries of comedy that I had not even considered getting involved in, but after taking his class, I see that I would only be doing myself an injustice by not doing so. Now I have SEVERAL plans of action and simple implementations to use. Thank you, Judd!

Amazing Master Class. Mr. Apatow generously shared heartfelt anecdotes from his comedic life-journey and abundant sage wisdom on creating funny.


James M.

I loved this class and also love the comedy of the small detail of life. My angst at my wife spending slightly more than she needs to on soap etc. Thanks Judd I'm loving this masterclass isn't fixing the soap budget problem though. James

Amy J.

This HUB and other links and clicks to this website is about to drive me over the edge. Need a GPS for this shit, send me to the dark side of town.


Fortunately, (? maybe? "unfortunately" might be more accurate) life has presented me with a ton of material. Do you struggle with certain topics? Not that they are too personal, but just that you're too close to the situation to see it clearly? Does it matter? How do you work through it? Curious to hear how my fellow writers deal.

Patrick S.

The comedic “line” of propriety exists. Going over that line is essential. Going right up to it,maybe just touching it with your toe then backing off it works best for me. Example: Jim’s eyesight isn’t what it used to be. I’ve been hunting with Jim. The ducks have nothing to worry about

Patrick S.

I was asked to speak at a friends 60th surprise party. Actually I was offered 20 bucks to sit in the back and keep my mouth shut. I mined our long friendship for the details adding elements to mundane events turning common into comedic. Our involvement with a church youth group turned into a hormone driven quest for hot catholic chicks. His karate classes morphed from exercise for a 40 year old into the guilt of the beat down of his 13 year old girl sparring partner. Material is everywhere,you may need to stretch the truth ,oh hell youre gonna need to LIE. But don’t worry God will forgive you.

Michael H.

Chapter 6: Case studies: developing life in the story actually inspired me to go back and watch knocked up, this is 40, and the 40-year-old Virgin. Through that examination of those films from a different perspective I was able to understand how to create stories that are hilarious, relatable and engaging. My main objective is to create comedy film, that people will relate to, understand, and take the journey with my characters through their lives, and hopefully make them laugh along the way. I was able to re-examine my own life and pick out the good stuff for later use...

Brandon L.

Notes on both lessons (previous video and this one): 1: Show your worst qualities in a comedic way. 2: Only the truly angry juggle. 3: Write from a personal place. 4: One thing I'm going to do that was inspired by something Judd said, is to write down the major turning points in a person's life, from birth to death, and try to remember similar events I've had that I could look at through a comedic lens. 5: He suggests writing smaller, more human and personal stories.

Cyleste C.

Ok, my first stab at this.. I was going to write about how hard it was to operate the fucking HUB and other "communities" but it took me thirty minutes to find this post so I am sticking with putting the 'sub assignment' here. Again, this is the first stab at posting a joke, track- Screenwriting. Unfortunately, I have two friends going through a divorce right now.. and in discussions I have with my friends, mostly tears of elation , but sometimes grief, I realized what being wealthy really means.. .. it is when you divide your kids up by a percentage that ends in .758… what the hell? My -less than expensive- friend, that is what I call things that are cheap, my less than expensive friend got a divorce in less than, like 7 hours, I am not even really sure she is divorced, but whatever, that is what she said the notarized document from the legal section of staples said… “you get nothing” with a raised seal. My other friend on the other hand was debating over her two kids in percentages, numbers that ended with a decimal and other numbers following the decimal.. correct me if I am wrong.. but I am pretty sure in almost every state, you either get custody of a whole person or you don’t.. you can’t get just an arm that weekend or the kid for 3 hours in the middle of a shitty Tuesday… you sign up for 24 hour whole person days… I told her to counter with a negative integer, like, fuck no Tom, I am only signing up for -47.65% for the month of May, you owe me time now!!

Kyle W.

I won't have time to record this immediately but here's my bit. I still don't see any Hub space for our class yet also. So I sing a lot to myself when I walk around. I can’t help it. My footsteps make a beat and I just start singing. Now, I know this makes me look crazy. I know that. So when I walk behind women I try to sing as non-threatening of a song as possible so they don’t worry. Which, 1. Why would I think that helps? And 2. Wouldn’t it be better to just shut the fuck up for 30 seconds? But instead of doing either of those things I am now screaming Lullaby by Shawn Mullins at the top of my lungs. “Everything is gonna be alright. Rockabye!”

Nancy C.

I got stories. Now, when I speak to audiences, I can pin them on somebody else. Narcissist Charm School. Love it!!