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Arts & Entertainment

Developing Life Into Story

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 13:20 min

Many of Judd's most hilarious and heartfelt stories are based on his own experiences—but real life is just one ingredient. Judd offers guidance on how to examine your life, identify humorous moments, and use them as jumping off points for comedic stories.

Judd Apatow
Teaches Comedy
Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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When I was young, I didn't think much about using personal stories in my work. I didn't even know that that existed. I didn't think about any of that. I think the first time I became consciously aware of people doing that was when I worked for Garry Shandling at "The Larry Sanders Show" because so many of the stories came from his life. So for instance, once Dana Carvey did an impression of him on "Saturday Night Live." And it was kind of rough. It was a hilarious impression, but a little mean. And Gary talked to him on the phone. I guess he was apologizing for it. I think he blamed it on the writer, Robert Speigel-- as most things should be blamed on him. And Gary said, don't worry about it. We'll just do an episode about it. And then they wrote an episode where Dana Carvey was guest hosting. And when he guest hosted, he did a mean impression of Larry Sanders. And Larry was trying to act like he was OK with it, but he was really not OK with it. And he turned it into a story. DANA CARVEY: --my god, look at my hair! Does my ass look OK in these pants or what? I mean, look at my ass! I'm touching my ass-- - Um, I'm gonna go get your, um, food. - OK. - Hey. - So I guess you're going to do it, huh? - Well, yeah. - Good, good, good. - Well-- well, now that you've kind of seen it. Does it-- does it bother you, honestly? - Same disguise I think Michael Jackson wears when he goes to Disneyland, isn't it? - Uh, it's a little over the top, yes. But that's how I do these things. I mean, you know, my hope is that it's so abstract, so cartoony, that it wouldn't be offensive to you, you know. I mean, like, well, George Bush is just like (GEORGE BUSH IMPRESSION) not gonna do it, one bit. You know, I mean, and if you'd seen me do Jay Leno, it'd become (JAY LENO IMPRESSION) yeah, that's why I can't even. And-- and you are just-- (LARRY SANDERS IMPRESSION) . So that's my hope. I mean, so you're all right? Is it all right? It bothers you. - So that had a big impression on me. That Gary, who had hosted "The Tonight Show," created this character that was dealing with the stresses of basically hosting a show like "The Tonight Show." And he was excavating all of his neuroses through this character. Gary always said that he felt like he wasn't that similar to the character because he said Larry Sanders would not know how to make "The Larry Sanders Show." That he would not be self-aware enough to make fun of himself, and satirize himself, and write stories about himself. But Gary certainly understood that he was a man with the neuroses, that had ego, that was someone who was pursuing success. And that that ego was preventing him from making certain human connections. I guess, on some level, when we started kicking around stories for "Freaks and Geeks" I was aware that we all would have to share what happened to us in our childhoods, and that would become the stories for the show. So Paul had a zilli...

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.

Judd is incredibly candid and subtly hilarious, making the class breeze by while also gaining a great deal of insights.

This masterclass is so inspiring and easy to follow. I am excited to apply what I've learned to my own projects!

Judd inspired me to be courageous and to get writing!

He is the best today's comedy filmmaker. And he cares about the condition of men. Voila!



Are there still copies of the question sheet from the F&G writers' room? Has anyone ever heard of this approach being used in other writers' rooms?

A fellow student

Dear Judd. These were great lessons on how to work your ass off to be broke. P.S. I wanna know how you got the name Judd thanks. I’m drunk

Herbert T.

That scene from Freaks and Geeks broke me in a good way, I'm starting to remember why I love comedy so much, it allows you to look at your pain with nostalgia not sadness. We all suffered in some way and talking about it makes you realize you're not alone and thats one of the beautifull things about comedy. Thanks Judd for that escene.

Krishna L.

Pretty interesting to see how personal things are overlooked, as they can be used for comedy. It creates a bit of awareness to my every day life and memories! Can't wait to write these ideas down.

Todd C.

Judd, I'll teach you how to juggle! That was my big thing in high school and college and was the first way I got paid to perform.

Amadeus M.

Cinematic moments are all around! When you're able to apply a lucid memory to your work, it's beyond magical.


One of my frustrations with some of these courses, (all of which I have enjoyed), is the lack of clips to demonstration what is being discussed. Thanks for the clips. It is easier to grasp what you are talking about.

James M.

Great class and yeah I reckon there's enough drama in all of our lives to make a pretty decent film.

J.C. S.

This happened to my wife last month. I guy walks into a sperm bank she was working at wearing a sky mask intent on robbing the place. Since he had mistakingly left his satchel in the getaway car he picks up an empty Dunkin Donuts box off my wife's desk and walks up to the receptionist saying - "This is a hold-up. Give me ten males and two females and no funny business. I'm carrying a gun." The receptionist asks, "You want caucasian, Asian, African American or Latino?" He hands her the donut box and says - "Surprise me!"

Amy J.

Majority of my life, making fun of my own weight developed early. I have a sister that is roughly 5'8, long legs, thin physique. . I've always been compared to her and her body. I stand a barely five foot two and look like a potato stud. Stubby and round. I entered middle school {public} with a very strong sense of self. I was curvy with a set of DOUBLE D's. I was well liked, I talked to everyone. In public schools, I could handle rough inner city black girls wanting to fight, I fought back. Didn't give a fuck, you pull my hair, I'm gonna whip your ass. Survival in The Dotte was necessary. She called me a white bitch, yanked my burette from my Madonna ponytail from the top to the bottom. I swear she did that shit in slow mo. My Adams apple got all lumpy and manly. My tear ducts wanted to burst. And in one second, I turned into a straight hood rat. I turned around, I hit that bitch in the face, her cheeks jiggled, her eyes went numb. I stood there talking to myself like.... whaaa thaaa "Amy, did you just hit this bitch ?" The following school year, my dad sent me to a Catholic school. My eighth grade year was absolutely ridiculous. I was pissed as fuck at my dad. The minute I stepped inside that stupid institution, I was the FAT girl. I never knew I was fat until I went to school with a bunch of fucking white girls. Black girls didn't fight me because I had Double D titties, they did too, they fought me for my homework. And how dumb considering I'm not academically there. My nun was an acholic mess, She wore jeans to the bowling alley, always had a cigarette and a full beer. Her jeans were so tight her camel toe said hello to everyone. My priest was fucking the married choir chic and I all of sudden was a fatty. I hated it. The ring leader started so much shit with me I had to make fun of myself or the whole class would. I had to make Buddha belly jokes so I got the laugh. It became a goal. How can I save myself? The following year, I told my dad I was fuckin done with that private school bullshit and because it was the first time in my life I screamed the word FUCK, he knew not to fuck with me. Four years later, the night of my senior prom, I told him I was no longer getting up for church on Sunday's not because I want to lose my virginity prom night but because I'm sick of this GOD shit. And because it was the first time I screamed FUCK CHURCH, he knew not to fuck with me.