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Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow at the New Yorker Festival

By Jenny Spaulding

Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow appeared at the New Yorker Festival on October 7, 2007.

David Denby, the moderator, asked both Seth and Judd to describe their initial meeting during the audition for Freaks and Geeks. Seth said he didn't pay much attention to Judd because he was so excited to see Paul Feig (who created Freaks and Geeks) because he recognized him from the movie Ski Patrol. Judd had seen Seth audition on videotape before meeting him in person. He said they'd written a sample scene to use for the live auditions. The scene centered around a guy describing how he was going to grow weed underground so if the cops ever found out he could blast the entrance to the underground cave and just pretend to be growing corn and vegetables like a regular farmer. Judd went on to say that the upcoming Pineapple Express involves a stoner growing weed underground, laughing at how they'd finally used that idea.

Judd discussed his early stand up comic days and how he had trouble developing his own comic persona on stage since at the time he was young and had limited life experience and wasn't angry about anything like most comics were. He was much more comfortable writing for others. He told an amusing story about how much he idolized Steve Martin and while with relatives in L.A. he would drive by his house hoping to see Steve. One day he finally did and begged him for an autograph, but Steve refused saying it was his policy not to give autographs at his house for fear that it would encourage fans to invade his privacy. Upon returning home, Judd wrote him a letter about how disappointed he was and how if he didn't get his autograph he would give Steve's address to the map of the stars and he would be bombarded with fans. Several months later, Judd received a book from Steve that was inscribed with something to the effect of he was sorry, he didn't realized he's been THE Judd Apatow.

Judd said some of his influences for Freaks and Geeks were Welcome to the Dollhouse and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Overtime it became more clear they were going to be cancelled so they started pushing the boundaries with their stories, hence Seth's character's entanglement with his hermaphrodite girlfriend. They showed a clip from that episode when he tells his buddies about it and debates on whether or not he'll break up with her. Judd said situation parallels Knocked Up in that the guy is in a tough situation and has to decide if he's man enough to deal with it.

They discussed The 40 Year Old Virgin. Seth had been in Judd's office when he got the news the film had been given the go ahead and took advantage of the moment and convinced him to cast him, figuring he'd agree to anything at the time. They said at first Steve Carell had been skeptical of how dirty the film was and so Seth did a pass at the script making it PG-13 so Steve could see how lame it was.

I seems Judd really likes to get to know his actors and wants to know about their experiences and personalities to help mold their characters better. The scripts of both Virgin and Knocked Up were influenced not only by his personal stories, but the casts' as well. They laughed at Romany Malco shocking them my saying he'd lost his virginity at age 8!!!

The interviewer addressed that some people were upset that there wasn't more in Knocked Up about the possibility of getting an abortion. They showed an extended clip (from the deleted scenes on the DVD) that covered that a bit and joked how it would have been an 8 minute movie if they'd gone the abortion route.

In regards to casting Katherine Heigl, Seth said she was tall, statuesque and could dish it out as well as he did in their fight scenes. Plus, she killed something like 7 terrorists in Under Siege 2 and could clearly hold her own. He joked that if they'd gone with a small, petite actress that in arguments it might look like he was about to eat her. (Imagine Seth in saying this with his distinctive laugh and speech patterns, very funny!).

With Superbad they'd been told all along that the movie was "fundamentally unmake-able" since it was targeted at kids too young to see an R-rated film. Michael Cera was cast first, which ended up being problematic because he was so good that they had trouble finding anyone to be more funny than he was. Jonah Hill kept asking for the part, but Seth kept telling him he was too old, but finally let him do a test and decided he'd be prefect.

There wasn't much time for an audience Q&A, but a few people were able to ask questions. One man, who I believe taught media studies, asked if the character of Seth in Superbad was unacknowledged as gay, even to himself. Seth replied that he was not, but that the character was over-sexualized and remarked that the internet had come into existence at a crucial time in his life, going so far as to say that he probably got his first boner the same day broadband had developed.

Another young man came to the mic who was clearly a Rogen look alike. Seth started to laugh before the guy could even ask a question saying that if the two of them shook hands the world would fold in on itself, at least according to Timecop. Hysterical!

A young female college-dropout asked if Seth had ever been discouraged. He said the great thing about not having an education was that it forced him to succeed or he'd be homeless, but that yes, several years after Undeclared was cancelled he was pretty jaded about the Hollywood system, joking that there were a lot of movies that he'd auditioned for that went to Seann William Scott.

One audience member asked what advice they'd give to people wanting to get into the business. Judd said to focus on doing good work and not to get caught up in the business end of things; Seth's advice was to befriend Judd. Seth also said to start with a simple emotional story and that the jokes would come later.

One man commented on what a great movie The TV Set is. I totally agree, catch it now on DVD. When I first saw it at a film festival a while back I loved it, but didn't know at the time it was somewhat inspired by Judd's experiences with cancelled TV shows and how original ideas get so manipulated and distorted by committee in the process of getting on the air.

Anyhow, it was a terrific 90 minutes and fantastic to see how funny, cool and personable they both truly are.

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