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About The Production
Judd Apatow has had a lifelong fascination with stand-up and the people who make it their livelihood. One summer, his mother, Tami Shad, worked in a comedy club in Southampton on Long Island, and as a young teenager, his nights at the club kindled his obsession. In high school, he created a radio talk show and interviewed comic performers he admired, from Howard Stern to Steve Allen and Paul Reiser to John Candy. He asked them how they did it…how they wrote jokes, performed and other secrets of their trade. Inspired by their guidance, he began performing stand-up by the end of his senior year.

After dropping out of USC School of Cinema, Apatow worked his way into a full-time gig at the legendary Improv Comedy Club in Los Angeles. While there, he kept at what was, by his admission, a "just okay run” as a stand-up…at least compared to the great performers he saw firsthand.

Following an appearance on a young comics special for HBO, Apatow started to realize it was unlikely he'd set the world on fire as a performer; therefore, he began to transition his focus from the stage to writing jokes for other comedians. It was his longtime roommate and friend who continued down the spotlit path…a young performer named Adam Sandler. But it would take several years honing their separate careers before they would work together on screen.

After the success of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Apatow decided he wanted his third story to revolve around the people he had grown up alongside in the comedy world. He was curious to explore the reasons performers were drawn into stand-up and wondered why they tried so hard to get attention as they plunged into the "terror of revealing themselves.” Was it a desire to please audiences? Or was it simply egocentrism mixed with an inability to intimately connect with others unless they were on stage? "As a person working in comedy I often think, ‘Why do I do this? What's wrong with me? What led me here?'” reveals Apatow.

As he began to write Funny People, he drew inspiration from a freak, life-changing occurrence that happened at his Southern California home in 1994. "When the Northridge earthquake hit, my chimney fell through the roof of my bedroom,” explains the director. "The only reason I wasn't there was because I was painting the house. For about three days, I really appreciated life… but just for three days. The movie is based on that idea: If you survive, do you learn anything from it that you keep using in your life?”

There were also more intimate reasons that prompted Apatow to create a screenplay in which his protagonist realizes he is dying. He offers, "In recent years, I've had people in my life who have been ill. You see how those who know they're sick struggle with how to live. They also look at how they feel about the way they lived before they got sick.”

He found it sobering to see that people weren't always thrilled with the results of the self-examination and could easily begin to revert to old habits. "When people get better, I wondered if they can take that fear, terror and opportunity to understand what's important in life and use it. Or are they thrown by the fact that it's really hard, and a week later, they're back on the same treadmill?”

For the primary comedians in his story, he imagined George Simmons, a superstar struck with a rare form of leukemia who is forced to reevaluate his life, and Ira Wright, the up-and-coming comic who idolizes George and whom George reluctantly mentors. "I've had a lot of people who have been kind and mentored me, so I understand that relationship,” the director says. "They were kind, generous, normal comedians, some of whom were brilliant. But I thought, ‘What if one of those comedians I knew was not very nice and had really<

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