Chapter 5 of 32 from Judd Apatow

Developing Life Into Story

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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.

Topics include: Excavate Your Own Neuroses • Examine the Meaningful Moments From Your Life • The Most Personal Moment in Freaks and Geeks • Take Note of Cinematic Moments in Your Life

Judd Apatow

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) [MUMBLES]. 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 class, the Emmy Award winner teaches you how to create hilarious storylines, write great stand-up, and direct comedies that leave audiences laughing.

Learn Judd’s creative process through case studies, scene deconstructions, and practical insight in 32 on-demand video lessons.

A downloadable workbook accompanies the class with lesson recaps, assignments, and supplemental material.

Upload videos to get feedback from the class. Judd will also answer select student questions.

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Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow Teaches Comedy