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Arts & Entertainment

Workshopping Scripts, Part 2

Judd Apatow

Lesson time 8:31 min

Everything in screenwriting is about rewriting. Judd examines the fundamental role that rewrites have played in his projects and how he refines his work until the picture is locked.

Judd Apatow
Teaches Comedy
Judd Apatow teaches you how to write, direct, produce, and perform comedy for film and television.
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Table readings are very helpful. A lot of it is about casting. Every once in a while, you cast the wrong person. And it can completely change how your script reads. And you might decide you hate your script because you cast the wrong person at your table read. Or a whole section doesn't work 'cause you happen to have miscast something. So there is some danger in it. I remember we once did a-- a table read for Walk Hard. And the dad was supposed to be very loud, and yell at John C. Reilly's Johnny-Cash-like character, and say "The wrong kid died!" About the fact that Dewey Cox's brother died when he was a kid. And we did a table read. And we had a very famous actor read the dad. And every time he was supposed to yell, he would go, (FLATLY) "Wrong kid died." And we were like, what is happening? And he was like, (FLATLY) "Yeah, wrong kid died." And it ruined massive movements of the table read. And-- and the whole table read started collapsing because it didn't have this manic anger that was supposed to drive this character. And-- and so you have to also be careful. Because you know, sometimes somebody um, you know, doesn't actualize-- is that the word? You know, doesn't perform it the way you envisioned it. And-- and then you don't want to toss it all out because it was read wrong. That's the difficult part about it, is sometimes a part only works when you have perfect casting. When we were casting Superbad, we knew early on that we wanted Michael Cera to be one of the two leads. And then we needed to find somebody as good as Michael Cera. Which we found to be almost impossible, and read 100 people. And no one was as funny as Michael Cera. Because no one on earth is basically as funny as Michael Cera. And then one day, we were on the set of Knocked Up, and Jonah was there. And we had always thought Jonah was too old for the part. Because Michael Cera was 18. And maybe Jonah was 22, or 23. And-- and then, we just said, all right, Jonah, go shave really well and videotape yourself doing this part. And then it became so obvious that it should be Jonah. And that's an interesting part of it, is it was the exact same words. And with other people, it was just bombing. But with Jonah, it was riotously funny. So you know, everything has to be handled perfectly, or comedy collapses. It's like if you-- if you asked someone else to be Groucho Marx, in a Marx Brothers movie, you'd be like, what is that? That's awful. Because really, only one guy can do it sometimes. Everything about screenwriting is about the rewrites. So you could bang out a draft. But really, it's going to become amazing through these revisions. And sometimes it doesn't feel like it's working at all. And then you crack something that changes everything. So for many years, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo were writing drafts of Bridesmaids. But for a long time, the drafts weren't where they needed to be. And one of the issues was that K...

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 was a comprehensive class that covered all aspects of comedy - TV, movie, standup, directing, producing, pitching, etc.

Thank you, Judd. Loved hearing your insight and will put your guidance to use.

It supported me in the understanding that I am on the right track with my work and gave me some inside knowledge and script developing hacks that were new to me.

Smart, articulate, hysterical! And let's be serious, a total Mench too.


I have never heard of Sorkin projects . I'm going to have breakfast . Thanks for starting the week and with me

Maureen K.

About rewriting: I always thought one would need to get all jokes right, before shooting, but this lesson taught me that rewriting is 'normal', which I found very helpful. Perhaps as a writer, you could even decide to make some jokes togtether with the actors, instead of writing them for them. Well, just wondering. Very helpful lesson! And also great to learn Bridesmaids wasn't written over night...(my favourite movie)

Heather W.

Rewrites: I know from watching the background material on the Lord of the Rings movies that the actors said they were getting reworked scripts daily from the writers. Makes sense... you see something you're shooting isn't quite working, then try to fix it immediately...

Billy R.

I wonder how often writers begin to write, maybe a little aimlessly, and then have to go back in and find a stronger theme? I think I'm guilty of that as well. But I'm wondering if that's a rarity, or if it happens on like half of all scripts. How does a writer get sharper on immediately knowing the theme?

Kathy M.

Very interesting; he gets coverage for the option of making a scene serious or funny. I love the outtakes from Train wreck where he feeds Lebron James his lines to Amy. Pee your pants funny. He had a lot to work with when it came to editing. Veep is a series you have to watch again to get all the jokes. They come so fast — often just a one liner aside— you miss them the first time. Ten writers behind the camera is a good thing.