Monday (March 17) night’s William S. Paley Television Festival salute to Judd Apatow was one of the best Paleys I’ve been to in my five years of covering the event. Unfortunately, as Zap2it is a family friendly site (more, at least, than we’re a family-hostile site), reporting on what transpired is nearly impossible.
[While this breakdown will be as censored and tame as possible, it still contains language and concepts that aren’t suitable for small — or mid-size — children.]
Apatow served as host, moderator and star of the panel, getting things off to a fitting start by marching to the podium and announcing, "I feel like this whole night’s already going into the s***ter." Adding, "Let’s have a big round of applause for me."
The Knocked Up and 40-Year-Old Virgin filmmaker was quick to recall that while he’s been on previous Paley panels for Freaks & Geeks and Undeclared, both of those events came just weeks before the celebrated shows were cancelled. From there, with Apatow’s grandmother and mother in the crowd, the evening amusingly devolved into series of dick jokes, screened footage of Jason Segel’s dick and, finally, Andy Dick.
Special guest Garry Shandling, who worked with Apatow on The Larry Sanders Show and wasn’t listed in the Paley program, set the tone almost immediately, telling his friend and colleague, "I want to congratulate you and jerk you off tonight."
One participant would later call the evening a reverse roast — nobody said anything harsher than Tom Arnold’s observation "It’s amazing that Judd, with all of his success, is still kind of a bitter prick" — but it was really more like eavesdropping on a group of brilliant friends for 130 minutes. So yes, Shandling and Apatow talked about their creative process working together, but they were more into swapping stories, like the famous Grammy night Frank Sinatra was cut off mid-rambling speech, or the one joke that Apatow once pitched that Shandling rejected (something about a child on a leash that may or may not have actually been funny).
"I’m just proud of you and glad to know you," Shandling said, before warning Apatow not to let the success go to his head, as he put it, "Don’t turn into Seth [Rogen] or Jonah [Hill]."
While Shandling kept things remarkably kosher, Arnold, who gave Apatow his first paying gig writing material for his stand-up act ("I went and saw your stand-up and I thought ‘Man, he’s a great writer,’" Arnold recalled), went filthy pretty quickly, mixing in stories of brawling with Roseanne and having sex with her in Apatow’s grandma’s house.
All together now… "Ew."
Arnold freed Shandling to mix in an off-color joke involving Jeffrey Dahmer and fellatio, which led perfectly to Apatow introducing Freaks & Geeks stars Busy Philips, Rogen and Segel, plus series creator Paul Feig — a nice touch given the frequency with which folks in the media mistakenly identify Apatow as creator on Freaks — but even that was just an excuse to cue up a scene from Segel’s upcoming Forgetting Sarah Marshall, a sequence featuring multiple flashes of Segel’s most personal and private parts.
"You should be forced to watch it while people watch you watch it," Apatow explained to Segel, who turned several different shares of rouge and tried to crawl inside his hat. That didn’t mean, though, that everybody on the panel wasn’t impressed with the actor’s, um, equipment.
"Is there a best dick award?" Rogen mused. "Best achievement in dick?"
And finally, after Hill and Paul Rudd took the stage, Dick was brought up, saved for last perhaps due to his unpredictability. Or maybe for another reason?
"Why did you bring me on last?" Dick, a cast regular on the Apatow-produced Ben Stiller Show, asked. "Am I allowed on here? I’m not a movie star."
Dick mused, "He thinks I’m going to whip out my nutsack or show my butt crack."
Really, the evening ended with lots of love.
"He’s the greatest producer I’ve ever worked with, because he protects you," Rudd said.
"You’re also the most loyal person I’ve ever worked with," Segel added.
Apatow explained, "I started out, and still am, just a fan of comedians and funny people."