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Interview: Judd Apatow

By LANCE GOULD  |  July 29, 2009

Do you have a lot of NC-17 moments in your day?
I don't. I'm not that exciting. I'm kind of a bore, but I'm still R-rated.

There are so many actually funny people inFunny People, whether in cameos or paid homage in posters, and photos, and T-shirts — it seems at times that it's a survey of the past 80 years in comedy history. Were there tough choices to make as to who to leave out and who to put in?
Yeah, anytime you have the opportunity to invite anyone to be in your movie, it's a pretty tortured process, because there's certainly another 50 people that we could've asked to do some of those cameos. But we tried to think of people that we have some emotional connection to. Andy Dick was on The Ben Stiller Show, which I created around the time I lived with Adam almost 20 years ago. Sarah Silverman and Adam grew up in the same city — in Manchester, New Hampshire. I was on the Young Comedians Special with Ray Romano in 1992. So I just wanted to make this as personal as possible.

But in addition to the cameos, you name-checked your comedic heroes, from photos of W.C. Fields and Rodney Dangerfield to T-shirts of Upright Citizens Brigade andMad magazine to movie posters forFast Times at Ridgemont High.
Well, I thought it was funny that a young actor who had too much money had all these beautiful framed photos of his comedic heroes on the wall, which is kind of cheesy but what you do when you actually don't know how to decorate your apartment — basically upgrade from beer posters to something just slightly better. But it was a way for us to tell the audience who our heroes are. Rodney Dangerfield gave a lot of us our first break. There's a big picture of Chris Rock on the wall — when I showed him the movie, Chris Rock said, "Why am I on the wall? I'm not dead!"

You could play a "Paul Is Dead"–type game looking for all the references in the film.
Yes.

One notable absence is Steve Martin, one of your early heroes. Has he forgiven you for stalking him?
I don't know. I talk about Steve Martin so much, it would have been too on the nose to have a gigantic Steve Martin poster hanging.

The movie seems to have biographical elements, not just ofyour life but of Sandler's, and your wife's [Apatow is married to Leslie Mann], and others' lives. I assume a lot of those clips we see are from her actual reel, and from his reel, early in their careers?
Yeah, you see Adam doing stand-up — if you look carefully — it's Adam on a TV show called "Two Drink Minimum," where you see him wearing a suit — you'll never see Adam in a suit again. You can see visuals of Adam on Remote Control and on Conan, and there's some interesting video footage of him at 16 years old performing some strange sketch in his basement in his house where he grew up. And, oddly, we found this clip of Adam walking down the street with a friend — and they just happened to be playing around with a video recorder — Adam was recognized for the second time ever for being on the show Remote Control on MTV, and Adam was so excited that someone recognized him — we were hoping we would discover some great old moments like that. And I had saved for 20 years all these prank phone calls that Adam used to make when we lived together in North Hollywood. I was happy to see that it hadn't disintegrated to the point where I couldn't show it.

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