Writer, director & standup comedian
Judd Apatow, world-renowned writer and director, says most people on Earth are trying to avoid at all costs what it feels like to be a stand-up comedian. Apatow gives his Brief but Spectacular take on comedy and his mentor, Garry Shandling.
Judy Woodruff: Now another installment of our weekly Brief But Spectacular series, where we ask people about their passions.
Judd Apatow is a world-renowned writer, director, and stand-up comedian. He says he owes much of his success to the late comedian Garry Shandling, who is the focus of Apatow's latest film, "The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling."
Apatow has his own special, "Judd Apatow: The Return," that is now available on Netflix.
Question: Any part of you that wants to try acting?
Judd Apatow: I generally don't act due to, I have a voice in my head that's like, no one wants to look at you. And I have to always overcome that.
I have one scene in the film "The Disaster Artist." I was told that I was playing like a jerk, sleazy, producer. And then when they promoted the film, they said, yes, Judd did a great job playing himself. And that hurt.
I don't think it's possible for most people to understand what it feels like to be a stand-up comedian, because it's what most people on Earth are trying to avoid at all costs, standing in front of people, saying what you believe and hoping to get a positive reaction.
You have to be really bad at it for a long time in order to learn how to do it.
My first memory of Garry Shandling was seeing him on "The Tonight Show" killing, and then he was hosting "The Tonight Show." And I was interviewing comedians for my high school radio station, and I was able to finagle an interview with him over the phone.
And I just remember that he was one of the only people that tried to make me laugh in the interview.
I think that most of modern television in some way was inspired by Garry, because Garry did an incredibly broad, silly, innovative show with "It's Garry Shandling Show," and then he did a really grounded, satirical, emotionally deep show with "The Larry Sanders Show."
He worked so hard on it, and then it was time for it to air. There was no party. I just went to Garry's house. We watched it alone, the two of us. And when it ended, the phone didn't ring. And I thought, well, that is the perfect Larry Sanders moment.
Garry always mentored me. He would read all my scripts. He would go to all the cuts of my movies and give me notes. The hardest part about Garry passing away was, the person I would normally call about someone like Garry passing away was Garry.
When things come up, and I have to make choices, if I'm just like quiet for a moment, I can hear Garry. I know exactly what he would say. I know when he would be like, you know what to do, you know what to do.
What's fun about being young and ambitious in comedy when you're a kid is, you meet all these people, and they're hysterical, but they have no outlet for it. When I was in my early 20s and I lived with Adam Sandler, what was so enjoyable about it, was he was so freakin' funny all day long, but didn't have a job.
So he would just try to be that funny to you. If I went somewhere with Adam before Adam was famous, I always felt the room gravitate towards him. I would get quiet and shy and just disappear into the wallpaper.
I think one of the reasons why I wanted to do my Netflix special was because my only dream was to do stand-up. Everything else wasn't the dream. And I feel like, now that I'm older, I have stories to tell. I have opinions on things, raising kids, living with three women, not knowing where I fit in, in a very female household.
And I do talk about spending most of my life just following them around Sephora. I'm not even allowed to complain. I have to — I have to walk around and be like, hey, this is great. This is a great way to spend our day.
And the weird part is, now it really is. Sometimes, when I'm alone, I'm like, I wish I was at Sephora with the family. So they won.
This is Judd Apatow, and this is my Brief But Spectacular take on comedy and Garry Shandling.
Judy Woodruff: And that is sweet.
You can watch more Brief But Spectacular videos online at PBS.org/NewsHour/Brief.