Son of Apatow Bash

This is an old routine but here we go. On 8.25 Christian Lorentzen, essayist for nplusonemag, ripped Judd Apatow a new one for his usual failings. But after reading it I had an impulse to write Apatow and ask if he wanted to respond, and lo and behold he did. So stay tuned.

Apatow’s films, Lorentzen said, “have come to be perceived as the deluxe version of the current Hollywood comedy — the sort it’s acceptable for smart people to like. They come with self-consciousness, a running time of more than two hours, and the implication of an Important Social Message.

“Thus they have earned the adulation of critics who have variously claimed that Apatow has reinvented comedy, rendering obsolete everything from Lubitsch to the Farrelly Brothers; that his films are actually deep meditations on aging; that he has made movies in line with Stanley Cavell‘s ideas about the American comedy of remarriage that thrived in the ’30s and ’40s; and, perhaps most perniciously, that they constitute an antidote to a pervasive culture of quirk in American cinema, which had for too long been under the siege of hipsters like Wes Anderson.

“It is hard to read encomiums to Apatow without the sense that his champions are desperate to bear witness to a comic filmmaker who is both popular and worthy of their attention during an age of dreck. They strain to wring relevance out of Apatow’s pro-family message. (Who in America is against families and children?) They strain to argue for his place in a tradition. They use him as a cudgel against flawed filmmakers who are both smarter and more ambitious than he is.

“All the while they miss the simple moving force behind the gratuitous cameos, the accumulating in-jokes, the repeated casting of the director’s wife, children, and friends, and the constant carping about aging in Apatow’s films; they miss all the vanity. He is allowed this vanity because he delivers a message Americans crave to hear. As long as you behave yourself, take on a modicum of responsibility, and wear the yoke of commitment, it is entirely acceptable — even preferable and profitable — to be stupid.”

Apatow’s retort: “Maybe I’m just dense, but I can’t tell if he likes the movies or not. Maybe because when I was reading his article I was watching The Real Housewives of New Jersey. Go Danielle!

“There certainly are a lot of dick jokes in Funny People but there is no way to portray comedians without having them tell a lot of those types of jokes. If I was a hundred percent accurate I would have doubled the dick joke count. The only thing more troubling than making jokes about the male penis would be to be serious and honor the male penis.

“I am sure I do have all sorts of problems and shortcomings he can read into the work, but that is the fun in making it. I don’t know what it all adds up to. I just express myself. Maybe one day I will be able to judge it myself but I am too in the middle of it to do it now.

“Now can I get back to my show? Danielle is very mad at Theresa and I don’t want to miss any of it.”

  • LexG

    Oh, Jesus Christ….

    Christian Lorentzen sounds like he’s about as much fun as a fucking cold sore. Another do-nothing gasbag trying to make a name for himself taking down an actual talent whose shoes he isn’t fit to shine. And via years-old arguments, to boot.

    Apatow’s one and only response should have been to film himself banging his hot wife on a pile of cash, Adrian Lyne style, then setting fire to the stach like the Joker while flipping off this douche standing in front of a giant American flag.

  • DiscoNap

    jesus christ why didn’t he do that

  • coxcable

    In the age of the geek man child Judd Apatow is relevant. But his sex humor is a little harsh for my taste. There’s little sense of charm or innuendo. As vulgar as Mel Brooks and The Farrelly Brothers could be, they knew the power of vulnerability… that your lead character can’t be a full blown creep.

    If Apatow had directed The Hangover, I’ll bet he would have had Galifianakis say “cock” instead of “weenis” in that funny scene with the baby.

  • Gordn27

    “”I am sure I do have all sorts of problems and shortcomings he can read into the work, but that is the fun in making it. I don’t know what it all adds up to. I just express myself.”

    Well said, Mr. Apatow. This is much better than reading the petty critic bashing too many other people would’ve gone for.

    Though I was hoping for something as brilliant as “I’ll just wait until you get cancer and then steal it from you.”

  • Gordn27

    cox – are you really citing Todd Phillips as an example of somebody whose sex humor is more charming than vulgar?

    At any rate, I’m pretty sure Galifanakis made the decision not to curse, not the writers or director or producers.

    I can’t argue Apatow doesn’t curse a lot, I just think it’s because he spent a decade or so working in TV. It got pent up.

  • googs

    The only reason why Apatow is seen as a “deluxe version” is because he tells original, personal stories. Just that in itself sets him above everyone else doing mainstream comedies.

  • Mr. F.

    As Gordn eluded to: this email exchange is a pale imitation of the infamous Apatow/Brazill debate many years ago. Still Apatow’s best work…

  • Gordn27

    Wow, that article is terrible. Pretty much every premise described in the first paragraph is only true of ‘Knocked Up’ (if that). Then he goes and misinterprets two key scenes of ‘Knocked Up’. Then he makes up a fact about ‘Funny People’ to prove a point. More misinterpretations and deliberate cherry-picking [talking about how all the characters in Apatow's movies are obsessed with libido by focusing on a negative character (Randy) and ignoring a positive lead character (Steve Carrell)]. And culminate it with a poorly fact-checked paragraph (no, Christian, Jay Roach has no affiliation with Apatow and never has) and the most poorly-worded bizarre claim I’ve ever read (apologies if I misunderstand, the mixed metaphors make it difficult to follow the point, but I highly doubt that the most pernicious claim that critics have made in praising Apatow’s movies is that they aren’t Wes Anderson movies).

    What a waste, Jeff. Admit it, you only posted that article because you got Apatow to respond, right?

  • Neil Jung

    Just for this, I’m going to go to the next Apatow movie and sit in the back and laugh like Deniro in CAPE FEAR, kicking the seat of the pasty, sunken-chested blogger in front of me. Excuse me, ‘essayist’.

    And who’s the critic who said Apatow renders Lubitsch obsolete? Jeff Craig? ‘The only way I can get through to you just how good this guy is, is by tearing down some old guy.’ Bad criticism is not something to build a premise on, Christian!

    Admittedly, casting your wife in your movies is something that might normally bother me, except Leslie Mann is pretty damn funny and nobody else would be as good.

  • Gaydos

    Maybe Glenn Beck is right about divine intervention bringing us all together. I mean, I’m solidly on the same page with LexG tonight!

    As for Apatow, he’s a transformative talent who needs to learn that doesn’t a movie overstaying its welcome.

    He should watch “Role Models” to see both how much he’s influenced American comedy for the good and how much better his own films could be if he had a counter-balancing creative partner he trusted with a pair of gardening shears.

  • citizenmilton

    @Krillian – Apatow is actually >understating

  • Terry McCarty

    Would love to see a mashup of “Mork Calling Orson” scenes from MORK AND MINDY with the “here’s the message” scenes from various Apatow films (most recent example: the tut-tut awkward threesome setpiece from GET ME TO THE GREEK).

  • citizenmilton

    APOLOGIES for goof double-post. HTML error.

    @Krillian – Apatow is actually understating the dick joke ratio. Over the past 10 years standup comedy has declined so much it’s depressing. Most open mic nights are endless drones of incoherent mumbled anecdotes, ill-prepared material, and if they ever do get around to jokes, they’re all dick and vag jokes. The standup Doug Stanhope pretty much nailed it when he called standup a “dead sport”…

    @ LexG – that was well said. I hope Apatow sees your suggestion and does exactly that :)

    The piece on Apatow is terribly unfair. Many of the funnier jokes in Superbad, Knocked Up, Funny People, and Freaks and Geeks require some intelligence and cultural literacy to even get the jokes.

  • Terry McCarty

    Re citizenmilton’s post:

    SUPERBAD might be the masterpiece of the Apatow litter–mainly because Greg Mottola directed.

    And I’ll say that FUNNY PEOPLE might have fared a bit better if it had been sweated down to no more than 105 minutes.

  • LexG

    Sorry, as a (very) failed former open-mic standup, Funny People, Rogen’s character, and the world it depicted were incredibly relatable, so I didn’t feel the strain of the length one bit in that movie. It hit so many notes right, the petty in-fighting, the low-rent gigs, the pecking order, the absolute worship of your idols and finding out they’re not so nice (doubly relatable here since I’ve worshipped Sandler since Cosby Show, and FP starts with actual footage of old-school Sandler doing the old voices, plus the bad movie posters and old shtick straight out of GOING OVERBOARD….

    And the domestic stuff; Some bit where Sandler should be spending a domesticated night with the family but can’t stop checking his BlackBerry even thought it just crushes his wife… Actually think FP is a lot better and sadder and fully formed than KNOCKED UP, might’ve even made my secondary list of best movies last year. Not a popular opinion or movie, and maybe letting my own (fleeting) familiarity with that world convince me it’s more profound than it is, but as a work of self-examination — which is what movies SHOULD aspire to be — it might be his masterpiece.

  • LexG

    OPEN MIC POWER:

    Ugh, I’m sure NO ONE CARES, but I started doing standup in the DEAD ZONE of 1995, as the “hack” brick wall era had just dried up a few years prior, but some of those dudes still haunted the open mics (and still do), all wanting to be the Diceman… sort of like how HAIR METAL guitarists still flock to Sunset and Gardner seemingly unaware that that scene died in 1991.

    Would drive to far-flung locales like Simi Valley on the promise of “10 minutes of stage time!”, only I had NO IDEA what the fuck I was doing; Comics will tell you it takes two, three, FIVE years before you’re even remotely funny; No new comic wants to hear this, but it’s kind of true; Just remember BOMBING like a sizzling black ball with a cartoon wick in front of stoned sorority chicks, me running out bits at the two minute mark and shuffling in my DOCKERS like a TOTAL DOUCHE, singling out some redneck in the crowd like I had ANY business RIFFING with so little experience, and the crowd just eating me alive; Other comics would unplug my mike and heckle from the sidelines while I stood there like a cheese-faced dork talking about celebrities and movie cliches, no one laughing WHATSOEVER…

    Quit for a couple years, then in the early 00s rejoined in the COFFEE HOUSE days… Again, too late for the ALTERNATIVE explosion that happened when I was tanking alongside Shecky in Simi Valley, but everyone all still doing COFFEE HOUSES and emboldened by David Cross, Janeane Garofolo, Zach G, and of course Patton Oswalt (you might guess I’m bitter about this crew)… But, yeah, 2002-2007 is my era of OPEN MIC HELL, all these wannabe-Oswalt hacks going up in ironic glasses and skin tight shirts and VON DUTCH hats, dragging their NOTEBOOK on stage, doing these ENDLESS riffs about their roommates, smoking pot, jerking off, their failed auditions… The goal is DEFINITELY to graduate out of this phase with the quickness, but schmoozing with other comics is HELL ON EARTH (something FUNNY PEOPLE absolutely FUCKING NAILS), everyone all snipey and bitter and hateful, NO ONE helping out unless you know some secret handshake…

    I never once had a paid gig or a pro show… always just doing it almost as a hobby on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, at best a grudging “head nod of recognition” with some higher-caste comics… You could literally do OPEN MIC COMEDY in L.A for 10 years, 20 years, now till the end of time, and have nothing come of it, never be seen, never graduate to sitcoms or an agent… There’s dudes who’ve been at it since 1985 and never hit big… It is the very definition of DEPRESSING.

  • Bukowski20

    It’s times like this that I love the shit out of LexG.

  • LexG

    Scenes From Life I Wish I Had On Video:

    Me circa summer 2004, at some hell open mic gig at a LAUNDROMAT in Silver Lake (the scene is so depressing some comics actually claim this is a COOL gig)… doing jokes about Eric Roberts and John Savage in front of a roomful of confused Mexicans buying extra Bounce out of the vending machines, the air sucked out of the room like a shot to the gut, the mic stand actively blocking the door to the ladies’ room, so that every time a new middle-aged Latina needed to get in there, I’d have to step aside, totally throwing off the momentum of my killer tag about Bobby Deerfield and Pacino’s hair.

    And as much as I fucking hated it, hated the other comics, loathed having to have empty, air-dangling conversations with the people in the world so narcissistic they’re still trying to ply the most antiquated trade in the Western Hemisphere this side of fucking JUGGLING and STREET MAGIC for their three minutes of validation….

    I still think about going up again every other Tuesday, just because I fucking hate that I got licked so bad by this thing.

  • citizenmilton

    Yeah, last time I went was six months ago. There was ONE great joke the whole night.

    Ten years ago, I’d go 2-3 times a month, and at least once a month I’d be experiencing knee-punching, foot-stomping, howling levels of laughter.

    Six months ago I got one laugh and a couple near-chuckles.

    Sigh.

    At first I thought it was just a local thing but then I moved and saw the same thing. I’d like to blame the Eloi and the decline of literacy but I think the causes are even deeper.

  • Movie Watcher

    Funny people should have been 90 minutes long. A lot of posts about open mic nights, interesting. I’m sure Apatow took the criticism with a big grain of salt, he should be used to it by now. Overall I enjoy seeing his movies, I know what I’m going to get. I think the Hangover would have been raunchier and funnier if he had directed it. Who the hell watches The Real Housewives…of any place? If you did watch it, you wouldn’t admit it.

  • Josh Massey

    Oh my, Christian Lorentzen is one horrible writer. He reminds me of those twats in my college courses who equated art with the number of syllables used. They honestly thought their vocabulary – no doubt supported by the tireless efforts of thesaurus.com – would drop panties.

    Jesus, I just noticed that first paragraph is a single fucking sentence.

  • pantingkitty

    I don’t understand why my comment was deleted. It wasn’t a swipe at Wells or LexG. It was barely a swipe at Apatow. Well I’ll write it again and we’ll see if it stays posted.

    I thought it was a well written essay and that Apatow’s response was kind of lame.

    Is that really the kind of comment that gets deleted around here?

  • York “Budd” Durden

    I don’t enjoy Apatow’s movies, if for no other reason than they are long, too long for the form. 90-100 mins for a comedy, no more.

    However, he gets a lifetime pass from me for one reason: at the end of the series he had the chick in Freaks and Geeks leave her stultifying suburban life to go on Dead tour.

  • Ray DeRousse

    Apatow is like a conglomeration of the worst tendencies of Spielberg: his movies are too long, they’re formulaic, the endings drag and are pat answers to the preceding information.

    If Apatow has one genius, it is his ability to create and cast characters that we like and with whom we sympathize. He doesn’t seem to know what to do with them often enough, unfortunately.

  • Glenn Kenny

    Yeah, the thing about Lorentzen’s schtick is that, in order to truly pull it off, you have to be George-Steiner-brilliant. Which he isn’t. And even brilliant, George Steiner is pretty much insufferable. So whichever way he goes, Lorentzen loses.

    We seem to have some friends in common, I see. This fills me more with dread than empathy.

  • messiahcomplexio

    did the LA open mike scene in late 90’s-early 2000’s. Based on this video, not much has changed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecuf3fBhq2Q

  • Glenn Kenny

    Yeah, I forgot while I was being all dyspeptic about Lorentzen to mention that Lex is very much on his game with this thread. Good stuff.

  • Thunderballs

    First of all, people who go to comedy clubs are sub human trash, just the lowest common denominator of society.

    Second of all, Judd Apatow is the worst! Some of his shit is funny, but then it gets bogged down in AWFUL MELODRAMA, and self serious bullshit, you know, to show he has “heart.” Fuck him and his awful movies.

  • Bukowski20

    Nah, he’s been involved as a producer/writer/director with some pretty damn good movies, TB’s.

    “First of all, people who go to comedy clubs are sub human trash, just the lowest common denominator of society.”

    No, not even close.

  • Krillian

    I don’t get why my comment was deleted. Maybe becuz it was #1 and wasn’t supporting Apatow’s assertion about weenis jokes.

  • corey3rd

    he doesn’t suck as hard as Shawn Levy.

  • Snoop Marlo

    Sadly, Apatow has shown to be, like M. Night, a bit of a one trick pony.

    Virgin and Knocked Up were unique and funny. Funny People was utter crap.

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    I don’t enjoy Apatow’s movies, if for no other reason than they are long, too long for the form. 90-100 mins for a comedy, no more.

    However, he gets a lifetime pass from me for one reason: at the end of the series he had the chick in Freaks and Geeks leave her stultifying suburban life to go on Dead tour.

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    Certainly a spirited conversation I’ve come across here. Who knew that there was so much drama going on behind the scenes. This is why you gotta go to this website. If all you get access to is the gossip rags at the grocery store, you’re just plain up out of the loop on stuff like this pretty much all the time.

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    The piece on Apatow is terribly unfair. Many of the funnier jokes in Superbad, Knocked Up, Funny People, and Freaks and Geeks require some intelligence and cultural literacy to even get the jokes.

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    Sorry, as a (very) failed former open-mic standup, Funny People, Rogen’s character, and the world it depicted were incredibly relatable, so I didn’t feel the strain of the length one bit in that movie. It hit so many notes right, the petty in-fighting, the low-rent gigs, the pecking order, the absolute worship of your idols and finding out they’re not so nice (doubly relatable here since I’ve worshipped Sandler since Cosby Show, and FP starts with actual footage of old-school Sandler doing the old voices, plus the bad movie posters and old shtick straight out of GOING OVERBOARD….

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