Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy
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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE A.V. CLUB • Includes new interviews!
From the writer and director of Knocked Up and the producer of Freaks and Geeks comes a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past thirty years—including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham.
Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. At fifteen, he took a job washing dishes in a local comedy club—just so he could watch endless stand-up for free. At sixteen, he was hosting a show for his local high school radio station in Syosset, Long Island—a show that consisted of Q&As with his comedy heroes, from Garry Shandling to Jerry Seinfeld. They talked about their careers, the science of a good joke, and their dreams of future glory (turns out, Shandling was interested in having his own TV show one day and Steve Allen had already invented everything).
Thirty years later, Apatow is still that same comedy nerd—and he’s still interviewing funny people about why they do what they do.
Sick in the Head gathers Apatow’s most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging, and incredibly candid collection that spans not only his career but his entire adult life. Here are the comedy legends who inspired and shaped him, from Mel Brooks to Steve Martin. Here are the contemporaries he grew up with in Hollywood, from Spike Jonze to Sarah Silverman. And here, finally, are the brightest stars in comedy today, many of whom Apatow has been fortunate to work with, from Seth Rogen to Amy Schumer. And along the way, something kind of magical happens: What started as a lifetime’s worth of conversations about comedy becomes something else entirely. It becomes an exploration of creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, spirituality, and the joy that comes from making people laugh.
Loaded with the kind of back-of-the-club stories that comics tell one another when no one else is watching, this fascinating, personal (and borderline-obsessive) book is Judd Apatow’s gift to comedy nerds everywhere.
Praise for Sick in the Head
“I can’t stop reading it. . . . I don’t want this book to end.”—Jimmy Fallon
“An essential for any comedy geek.”—Entertainment Weekly
“Fascinating . . . a collection of interviews with many of the great figures of comedy in the latter half of the twentieth century.”—The Washington Post
“Open this book anywhere, and you’re bound to find some interesting nugget from someone who has had you in stitches many, many times.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
“An amazing read, full of insights and connections both creative and interpersonal.”—The New Yorker
“Fascinating and revelatory.”—Chicago Tribune
“These are wonderful, expansive interviews—at times brutal, at times breathtaking—with artists whose wit, intelligence, gaze, and insights are all sharp enough to draw blood.”—Michael Chabon
“Anyone even remotely interested in comedy or humanity should own this book. It is hilarious and informative and it contains insightful interviews with the greatest comics, comedians, and comediennes of our time. My representatives assure me I will appear in a future edition.”—Will Ferrell
wink-wink way. Judd: Like when we had Donald Glover on the show and you revealed to him that, on some level, you liked dating him because he was black. Lena: It was thrilling and it added to her image of herself as a liberal woman who came to the city to have certain kinds of experiences. Judd: I don’t know if I ever quite landed on what my official position was about making the show more multicultural. Some people say, Well, New York is multicultural but there are plenty of people who go to
them a rough cut, and that’s when they were like, Oh shit. We have to put this in front of an audience right away. I could tell there were things that they were worried about. If somebody’s going to give me money to make a movie, I’m going to be very collaborative with them and listen to their concerns, but it’s also my job to protect the idea of the film because, without that, we’re all lost. Judd: When you were making it, did you think, like, Oh, if I do this correctly it will connect in some
discuss a project he was kicking around. At the meeting, I was urged to tell that story, and so I did. When it was over, someone said to Steve, “Is that how you remember it?” And Steve responded, “Actually, I believe I was the one who knocked on Judd’s door.” Judd Apatow: It takes a lot to get up onstage and perform. What drove you to try it? Steve Martin: I didn’t even know what stand-up was in the beginning. I started off in magic so I liked the idea of performing onstage and stand-up—I kind
bother to watch until the day after I hired him. Thank God it turned out to be good. (Casting begins.) Judd: In Paul’s pilot, he really understood the geeks, but you could tell he didn’t hang out with the freaks because it wasn’t as specific. So I said we should just try to cast unique characters and rewrite the pilot to their personalities. Allison Jones (casting director and winner of the show’s one Emmy): I had never had any experience like that before—inventing while casting. It had always
and alone. Dave connected me with my editor, Andy Ward, who encouraged me to do some new interviews and bring the book up to date. I wasn’t sure how many I had the energy to do, since I was in the middle of production on a movie and I was a little worried this project would turn into a giant pain in the ass. When I sold the book, I promised to give my proceeds to Eggers’s 826 nonprofit. (Unfortunately it sold for more money than I thought it would and it was too late to change the deal to “5