Judd Apatow Takes a 5 Minute Break

Judd Apatow stands in a corner of the stage in silence while we wait for paramedics to arrive. The entire sold-out crowd of a Sunday early show is looking at the back table, where a man has passed out. 

There’s nothing to do but to wait anxiously for this new spectacle to be over, so we all stand in silence. It’s as awkward and quiet as a Prius. The entire room feels like a religious painting from one of Quito’s Catholic churches, those dark baroque oils (minus the impaling demons): hands covering mouths, eyes wide open in expectation, all looking into darkness. We don’t know if the man is ok.

Mike comes out of the booth and whispers in my ear. “Wow, he’s killing.”

I try not to laugh, but it’s true. Five minutes ago the entire room was bursting with laughter. The scene is surreal and unsettling. In the silence I look at Judd and I realize that after 48 hours of having a small glance at one of the most prolific comedic voices of our generation, and seeing him running around along with his small team -his assistant Scott, and his feature comic Wayne Federman – there’s something perhaps more surprising:  Judd Apatow has no choice but to take a 5 minute break, and this is the first time I’ve seen him not working.

48 hours earlier, as I jumped on stage to host our first Friday show I felt a sharp pain in my back, and I had the feeling I suddenly aged. It was a pain that felt like it would stay with me until I died. As I continued to work with Judd for 3 nights, a total of 6 shows, I lazily sat around while this man, fourteen years my senior, ran around, canvassing before the election, calling in interviews, coordinating a benefit show in Milwaukee for children. He even made some time to text the president of a major entertainment corporation, calling him out for a racist commercial that was running on a three-lettered channel. That was one day. What had I done that whole weekend, besides scheduled laundry? Not even laundry.

“I’m just stressed all day long trying to think of things. I’m sitting there thinking, Why aren’t you thinking of anything? You’re behind. You need to get going.

From Sick in the Head

I didn’t feel the need to ask him for advice, as I learned quickly what his answer might have been. There’s no easy way. No shortcuts. This unspoken answer was a disappointment for me, as I would very much appreciate a shortcut in my lazy comedy career (can I call 2 open mics and 30 minutes of writing a week a career?).  It was a disappointment too for one of Judd’s fans, an older lady who told me she had driven from far away just to see him, hopefully meet him, and hopefully give him, if possible and with my help, this very good script she wrote (she mischievously cracked her purse open to show it to me, like a contraband kitten).

I couldn’t believe someone could think that would be a possibility, but I also felt a connection to her: I would love if I could pull my talent out of a briefcase and just hand it to someone who could let the entire world know its worth. I wish I had the balls to have pitched Judd my spec script of “2 Funny 2 People,” my sequel in the “Funny People” Universe. But I didn’t.

The room is so quiet you can listen to the hum of the mic’s feedback. Everyone is looking at the back table, which is also surprisingly quiet. We’re all dying to know if the man is conscious, if his family and friends are ok, and if those paramedics are single (both of them ripped, hot humans. Very distracting). Judd just stands there, not used to being the person furthest away from attention.

As busy as he is Judd Apatow is a listener. His talent comes from an obsessive attention to what others are saying. When he was 14 years old he went to several comedians’ homes, including Jerry Seinfeld and Garry Shandling, in order to talk about comedy, and he’s been busy since. “He never stops,” his assistant Scott told me during one of his shows. He was glued to the monitor right outside the show room, briefly turning to me to respond to my questions. He’s expected to note how his latest jokes are doing, what could be done better, what didn’t work. He also needs to be ready in case Judd wanted to show the audience his slideshow, which includes a picture of him with Stormy Daniels (for six shows Scott was on hold, the slideshow was summoned once). “I’m expected to be available 24/7,” he tells me, and smiles. “It’s exhausting.” I can tell he works as hard as Judd does. I can tell he loves it too. He’s always on a great mood. He’s also on a break.

The hot paramedics confirm the man is conscious, and carry him outside on a stretcher. Judd thanks the audience for their patience. Is this the end of the show?  We all know the man and his family are OK. He takes a second to check the crowd. Measure the odds. “Good timing on him. The show was almost over anyway,” he says, and the silence bubble bursts in laughter. Apatow is back to work. Mike goes back to the booth. Scott glances back up to the monitor. Doors close, lights dim, glasses clink. And I just sit there, thinking about how this weekend has taught me the value of hard work. Maybe I’ll write about it, and finish a piece by tomorrow, November 5th. By next week, tops. For now I’m just waiting for Judd to hit his closer, so I can go back up and close the show, hopefully soon. I’m kind of jealous of that stretcher, to be perfectly honest. The pain in my back is killing me.

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