Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve watched four comedies at home: the 2004 Will Ferrell vehicle Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, a long-time favourite of mine; last year’s surprise hit Bridesmaids, which I liked even more than when I first saw it in theatres; Our Idiot Brother, a modest little flick elevated by the winning lead performance from Paul Rudd; and Bad Teacher starring a thrillingly shameless Cameron Diaz and the current most beloved actor in my household, Jason Segel (who my special lady and I have loved in everything from How I Met Your Mother to The Muppets).
It occurred to me after the fact that, in one way or another, all these movies might not exist if it wasn’t for Judd Apatow. Now, while the writer-director of The 40 Year Old Virgin, Knocked Up and Funny People actually produced Anchorman and Bridesmaids, he didn’t have anything to with the making of the other two…
Then again, Apatow contributed to transforming Paul Rudd from a wholesome romantic lead (e.g., Clueless) to a hilarious comic actor by having him play supporting parts in the aforementioned Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Knocked Up, as well as in Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Year One and Forgetting Sarah Marshall.
Speaking of Forgetting Sarah Marshall, that film was written by and starred Jason Segel, whom Apatow had previously cast in Knocked Up and, way back when, in the short-lived but memorable 1999-2000 high school TV series Freaks and Geeks, alongside fellow future comedy stars James Franco and Seth Rogen. While we’re playing connect the dots, let’s mention that before directing Bad Teacher (and Walk Hard), Jake Kasdan helmed five episodes of Freaks and Geeks, a show that was created by… Bridesmaids director Paul Feig. Kasdan and Feig also both worked on another Apatow TV production, Undeclared (2001-2002), which starred Montreal’s own Jay Baruchel, plus Rogen and Segel, among others.
So there you have it: The Hollywood comedy scene wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Judd Apatow and all the talented people he’s brought together. Like I said, even when he’s not directly involved, for instance in the wonderful Jason Segel-Paul Rudd bromantic comedy I Love You, Man, you can still feel his influence somehow.
This year should be a big one for Apatow. In addition to being the highest grossing movie he’s ever been associated with, Bridesmaids has made the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Movies of the Year list, earned two Golden Globe nominations (Best Motion Picture-Musical or Comedy and Best Actress-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for Kristen Wiig), been shortlisted by the Producers Guild of America Awards, the Writers Guild Awards and the Screen Actors Guild Awards, and is bound to get a few Oscar nods as well, defying the Academy’s usual bias against comedies.
Meanwhile, Apatow is putting the finishing touches to his fourth feature as a writer-director, This Is Forty. Due in theatres on December 21, it’s a spin-off from Knocked Up in which Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reprise the roles of Pete and Debbie; the supporting cast includes Bridesmaids scene-stealer Melissa McCarthy, Megan Fox, Albert Brooks, John Lithgow and, who else, Jason Segel.
Earlier this year, we’ll also be able to see two other Apatow productions: The Five-Year Engagement, which reunites Segel with Forgetting Sarah Marshall director Nicholas Stoller (release date: April 27), and Wanderlust, with Rudd shacking up again with The Object of My Affection co-star Jennifer Aniston (February 24).
It’s Judd Apatow’s world; we’re just laughing in it.