A rundown of some of his recent appearances:
Adan Carolla Show: Judd Apatow
Judd Apatow's podcast appearances on Earwolf
Fresh Air Weekend: Judd Apatow
Fitzdog Radio: Judd Apatow
Nerdist: Judd Apatow
Making jokes work
He also called this Chicago Tribune piece "a very good article that shows how Leslie and I work together." It's interesting because it feels like he brings lessons learned from honing a standup set to editing a movie.
They had test-screened cuts of the movie the previous evening at a San Fernando Valley multiplex, running two different versions in separate theaters and recording the audiences' reactions throughout. Now White was cueing up versions A and B of a scene in which Annie Mumolo, who co-wrote the Apatow-produced “Bridesmaids” and here plays the best friend of Leslie Mann's lead character, Debbie, describes the after-effects of losing all feeling in a certain lower region of her body.
In one version Mumolo cites two examples of her numbness before a punch line that involves a shower head. In the other version, she offers more and more examples before reaching the payoff. As the editor played back the scenes synced up to the test-screening laugh tracks, it was clear that the audience responded more enthusiastically to version B, the one that took more time to set up the gag.
“We can actually look at the joke when we showed it this week and when we showed it two weeks ago (at an earlier screening) and see if we've either made it work better or actually hurt the joke by surrounding it with different variations of lines and stuff like that,” White said.
Sounds like a familiar process. “I know where to give a pause and let the audience’s laughter die down and not bury the next line,” he once said. Once a standup, always a standup.
There's no sound for drama
That doesn't mean it's all just about getting the funny stuff though. The drama matters more. But it's also trickier for a basic reason: Good drama doesn't make an audience erupt aloud the way comedy does. He explains in this interview:
“We feel the movie's working when it's getting laughs, but that's actually not true,” said Apatow, who turned 45 Thursday. “The audience is actually following the drama, and sometimes we have to think hard and go: ‘It's OK that they're not laughing here because this is a heartfelt moment or a devastating moment.' It's still not my strongest suit understanding all of that. I always say I wish there was a noise people made that let me know that drama was working.”
Don't obsess over likability
He also explained that the audience doesn't need to like a character.
With Mann and Apatow both using the word “crazy” to describe Pete and Debbie's behavior at times, the movie is willing to make its leads unsympathetic in the quest for some greater truth, if not humor.
“I like when people don't try so hard to obsess over likability,” Apatow said. “I wanted it to be balanced. I wanted Pete and Debbie to have an equal amount of good qualities and bad qualities. But it was helpful working with Lena Dunham on ‘Girls' (the HBO series that Apatow executive-produces) while I was working on this, because she doesn't care at all if you like her character. It just doesn't even occur to her that that's part of what you factor in. And so just talking about the script with her — and she's such a great cheerleader of this film — put me in a good frame of mind to not polish things up.”
Talked about something similar here recently, but from a standup perspective: Trying too hard to please the audience. I don't think it's just a "greater truth" that results from this approach. Sometimes when someone doesn't care if they're sympathetic/likable, that just makes them that much more appealing. At least you know you're not being pandered to.
The gods of comedy
As for the neuroses that comes with making funny stuff, he feels the good and bad come together.
There’s a fine line between what’s healthy about being a comedian and what’s really sick and demented about it. And usually both of those things are happening at exactly the same time. When I’m doing good work, there’s a part of me that feels like it’s a positive contribution to society. I’m making people laugh and helping them think about their lives in a positive and life-affirming way. But at the same time, there’s a sick, wounded part of me that’s looking for acceptance, and just wants to know that there’s somebody out there who likes me. I serve both gods simultaneously.
But wait, there's more! There's a good rundown of his history at Brobible's 45 Unforgettable Moments from Judd Apatow’s Career. And he guest edited Vanity Fair's comedy issue (he did something similar with the book I Found This Funny a while back). And I've written about him previously in these Sandpaper Suit posts:
Judd Apatow on adding stakes
Judd Apatow's "most personal moment" on Freaks and Geeks
The three funniest "in theater" movies Judd Apatow's seen