ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Apatow creates next comedy hit
Whether it’s the raunchy guy flick The 40-Year-Old Virgin or date movie Knocked Up, Judd Apatow knows how to keep audiences cracking up.
Funny People is the third summer blockbuster he has directed for the big screen. The film involves many genres, but uses mostly stand-up comedy and real-life trials.
Adam Sandler plays George Simmons, a bitter, self-involved movie star who learns he has a life-threatening blood disease. Worried his legacy would be worse than his ridiculous movies, George decides to spend his remaining time doing stand-up comedy.
Although the movie revolves around Simmons’ disease and struggling comedian Ira Wright’s (Seth Rogen) attempts to keep the washed-out star happy, the film shows us a world that few have seen before; the lives of real comedians.
Apatow’s vision requires his actors to return to their comedic roots. Many ‘funny people’ begin their careers as stand-up comedians before they progress to television and films.
Rather than having actors use prepared jokes, the actors brought their characters to life by performing real stand-up comedy sets.
The process of trying jokes in front of audiences instead of extras gave the film an authentic and hilarious feel. Some, like Sandler, had gone years without being in front of an audience, but quickly picked up where he left off.
The film is even more rewarding for those who have followed the history of stars like Sandler and Rogen.
Apatow’s brand of comedy pulls no punches as there are no special effects or distractions to rely on, and the relationship with the audience is as crucial as the material.
Actors were required to write jokes while in character, adding another element to the comedic equation. Improv club sessions were taped and used in the movie, while the cast learned from their portrayals of their characters.
Most of the screen time was shared between Rogen and Sandler, but the other ‘funny people’ gave a needed release from the plot’s drama.
Cameos from Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman Eminem, Jonah Hill and Jason Schwartzman kept the jokes rolling throughout the two-hour film.
Jokes ranged from the sadistic humor of relatives to beating up the characters from
‘Everybody Loves Raymond.’ Whether the co-stars were playing themselves or other characters, the film is as hilarious as it is surprising.
As more actors obtain their own production companies, revival theater troupes have seen resurgence. Producers use the same actors as Adam Sandler does with his company, Happy Madison. They also borrowed a few from the cast of Apatow’s ‘Freaks and Geeks.’
Audiences now expect to see certain people in these films, resulting in a mixed signal when there are fewer opinions and faces to pull from.
Funny People is one of the first to thread these companies together, providing us with an original film with a mix of beloved faces.
The theater was packed at the press screening, and Funny People is a likely contender for big box office numbers.
Apatow has been involved with five of the top 25 highest-grossing R-rated comedies. He will likely add Funny People to the list before the year is complete.