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Arts & Entertainment

Character, Part 2

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 11:19 min

Learn how to milk the most humor out of your characters through carefully designed dynamics and strong presence.

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 we're creating characters, a lot of it is just about taking the time to flesh out who they are. So when Pete Holmes created Crashing, his wife cheats on him with another teacher at school-- the art teacher. And the character Leif was meant to be a bit of a New Agey kind of guy. But it wasn't that fleshed out. We weren't sure exactly what to do with him. But we did like the idea that he would be amazing at sex, because he's super tantric. And he also wouldn't get that mad when Pete yells at him for sleeping with his wife. He would just be all about love in a way that was somewhat absurd. But then we had to keep the character alive in other episodes. And we sat down and said, but who is this guy? It's a funny guy in the pilot for a scene, but who is he? And we knew he was an art teacher. And as we tried to create other stories we said, well, is he married? What's his situation? And who's he married to? And everyone kicked it around and decided that he's married to a wealthy person. And slowly we came up with that his wife's family has some really successful plumbing company, and maybe they feel almost like the mafia. That they're a little scary. And who knows what's going on? And he's a little bit of a kept man, probably because he's great at sex. And has this hard Italian wife. And then, you know, we could deal with, well, what are his issues? And is he in love with Pete's wife, with Jess? How does he feel about it? Is he lonely? Is he happy in his career? Where does he live? How much money does he have? What does he want? And that's what you usually get down to. You know, what does somebody want? How smart are they? Are they good or bad at sex? How do they relate to women. You write people's backgrounds. And the more details you have, the more stories for a TV show that you can come up with, or the funnier and the more fleshed out you can be when that's a character in your film. It really is about taking the time. And most people don't take the time. And you could watch a movie or a TV show, and always notice, oh, they didn't really think through that character. He doesn't have much going on. - How do you even know that this vagrant doesn't have AIDS? He looks like he has AIDS. - He doesn't have AIDS. - Brother, looks are deceiving. I do not have AIDS. I can assure you of that. I was tested right before my wedding. - He's married? - I know, it's bad. - You're married? - I'm married, man, and that's something that I have to deal with. - Good. I'm sorry it's hard on you. Sorry to fuck up your day. Who is this guy? How did you even meet this guy? - We work together. He's the art teacher. You've met him before. - He's not even a comedian. - Not everything is about being funny. He's a really talented artist. - Oh, I'm sure he's great. They give all the master artists third grade. What's your fucking medium, hand turkeys? Paste noodles? - Just give us a second. - G...

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 a comedic powerhouse that clearly has decades of experience...just look at the color of his beard.

Who knows? My book may become a movie. I now have knowledge, oh so valuable, that has educated me on more options.

Probably the best class in filmmaking so far. Lots of useful advices !

Loved the depth and detailed Judd Apatow takes you through to explain the material. He's great at explaining ins, outs, hows and whats about the world of comedy (stand up and directing).


Janet P.

Seeing the movie clips is really helpful. As they say 'a picture tells a thousand words.' I teach acting classes and always emphasis observation and specificity. If you do incorporate those two things into your character. They will be multidimensional. I noticed Judd pronounces H as Y in huge...He says YUGE. What does that say about him? Where did he grow up? etc.


Complex characters and situations are hard to create. David Mamet, Shonda Rhimes, Martin Scorsese all have the same advice; figure it out. Sit here until you figure it out. Put in the work by letting the characters go at each other.


That’s a great movie, Funny People! Incredibly funny. It really does bring home the lesson, too. Was watching for how each character is introduced. That’s so interesting how that works there. Lots of great cameos. What a blessing. It must have been carefully timed how Rogen’s character grew as a comedian. Like Sandler’s music too.

Daniel B.

I think this lesson should have happened earlier. If we should be writing 5 pages after every class this section is making me re-think my characters development. It would have been useful in building them before working on the story. But, you can always go back and refine. it was just hard to concentrate on the class when you question what you have already done. Great class still

Janet F.

This is a very good lesson. I wonder if it helps to think of someone that you know with a distinct personality and use that to base a character on. I used to know a songwriter that would envision a particular singer, such as Reba, and write the song in her style.

Meg N.

Jud is really bringing home the importance of collaboration in comedy writing. In the technical translation work I do, what's needed is to can the chatter and get the work done, with feedback for about 5 minutes at the end. This is totally different. The chatter is important, and needs to be driven forward while firmly establishing the reason everyone in the scene is there, and what their motivations/objectives are. Very good lesson.

Jason T.

What I like most about Mr Apatow’s lesson here is the collaboration. In Hollywood there seem to be a lot of ‘Yes Men & Women’ but in his descriptions he speaks about ideas that a consensus is worked out which is not always easy or quick to figure out.

Michael H.

I like here in this lesson and the last, it brings out the fact that you can have a great story, you can have a great plot, you can even have a great beginning middle and an end… But if you don't have great characters you don't have anything that words on the paper... characters give us a reason to enjoy the journey

Carolyn E.

Even minor characters need a strong back story - this is what makes them believable. The other major issue is to make sure actions are consistent with the character. The mousy bookworm can't suddenly be a ninja warrior without some serious' splainin to do.

Patrick S.

Setup: Grace and Gary are college senior twins. Grace has been masquerading as Gary since high school to play on the men’s league Conflict: maintaining this facade as graces (Gary’s) team rises to national recognition. Resolution: opposites attract. Differences don’t matter. Helping each other achieve their goals. Question: is this Syd freid method?