Arts & Entertainment

Character, Part 1

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 13:06 min

Amazing characters are at the heart of any great comedy. Judd reveals a secret weapon that he uses when he's looking for character inspiration. Plus, he teaches you how to craft compelling, authentic, and funny characters through psychology, ego, and emotion.

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

Topics include: Use Psychology as a Starting Point • Think in Terms of Egos, Not Morals • Create Realism With Complex Characters • Identify Your Characters' Emotional Core


I've Always read a ton of self-help books both for myself and to understand characters. And self-help books are great because they always have examples of people's problems. So in any book, regardless what the theory is, they're like, Mary was unhappy in her life. Her husband didn't treat her great. She didn't know how to stand up. And-- and so you're hearing the advice but you're also hearing all the basic ways people have conflicts with each other. And so for years I used to read everything. And I realize, oh, there's-- there's not that many personality types. There are people that are insecure and that makes them very loud and arrogant to cover how insecure they are. And there are people who are insecure and they get super quiet and they don't talk to anybody. And you know, the way people, you know, try to control other people or try to keep their lives safe. You know, that's-- what is "The 40-year-old Virgin" but trying to stay safe? Like, I don't want to risk pain. Or in "Funny People," Adam Sandler's character doesn't want to, you know, risk caring about something other than his ego. He doesn't-- he's scared to be selfless. He doesn't know if he's going to get anything out of it. He doesn't want to get hurt. And you could say that about any of the characters that's been in any of the projects that I've-- I've worked on. There's always a very specific psychological underpinning. When we worked on "Trainwreck," the beginning of the idea was just a conversation that Amy Schumer and I had about relationships. And I just said, why do you think you're not in a great relationship right now? And we talked on the phone, you know, for an hour. And she said, this is what I think I do in a relationship. Here's-- here's how I might sabotage it if it's going well. And that conversation led to her screenplay for "Trainwreck," because the basic idea became, you know, what would she do if she met the perfect guy? And she said, I probably would screw it up on purpose in some way. And that's the structure of the movie. She screws it up. And then she has to win him back. [VIDEO PLAYBACK] - What are we doing? What do you want? Why are you with me? - I love you. Why do you keep saying that? - Because I mean it! I love you! I'm crazy about you! What do you-- what do you want me to say? We're just having a fight. You insulted me. And that's-- and I just-- we'll talk about it and we'll work through it! - What's wrong with you that you want to be with me? I-- I'm-- I'm a drinker. - I don't care. - I've been with a lot of guys. - I don't care. How many? - I don't know. How many girls have you slept with? - I've slept with three women. - Me, too. I've slept with three women, too. - How many guys? - What, like this year? - This year? - Fuck that. I'm not talking about that. - Amy, Amy, Amy, come on, don't say fuck this. - Don't follow me. [END PLAYBACK] - And that's usually how I start with peop...

About the Instructor

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.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Judd Apatow

Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.

Explore the Class
Sign Up