Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anecdotes By Apatow & Martin

On the Metro ride home from DC, I was reading a recent issue of Vanity Fair.  This particular one was being guest edited by Judd Apatow.  I like Apatow, but as I’m going through the issue, I realize I like him more as a producer than as a director.  He produced Superbad, which was great and he directed Funny People which was … okay.  He produced Bridesmaid which was incredible and he directed This Is 40, which was sort of a drama and sort of a comedy and it didn’t quite work as either (and all the best scenes were in the previews- but not in the movie!  Huh?)  So you see what I mean?  I’ve started to think that he’s a bit overrated, at least for his own movies.  Yeah, Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin were good but after those, meh. 

Kind of Like James L. Brooks.  Broadcast News and As Good As It Gets?  Awesome.  Then comes Spanglish.  Barf.  Brooks lost his touch, kind of kind Apatow seems to have done.  I was about to write off Judd Apatow  for good and then I came to this little story where he fawns over Steve Martin.  That’s when I knew that he was not hopeless.  Anyone who worships Steve Martin is okay in my book.  Even Martin had his share of flops and misses but after every Sgt. Bilko or Pink Panther, he got back on track eventually and produced some great work.  Apatow can do the same- he just needs to get back in touch with his inner Martin.  If you look below at “Death Of An Anecdote”, you’ll see the item I’m talking about.  It was a really sweet and amusing story and it showed why Steve Martin is worthy of emulation and how Apatow’s comic sensibility can redeem him if he puts his mind to it. 

Then on the next page of the magazine, I see something titled “Birth Of An Anecdote” by Steve Martin.  I almost fall out of my seat from laughing, just from the anticipation, from the idea of what is about to come.  Then I actually read Martin’s response and think “No wonder this guy is a master of Twitter and a genius at succinct, humorous essays.”  He can take the nine sentences below and compose a perfect response- one that is funny, subversive, understands context and elevates the gag to a higher level.  Then on top of that, there is the picture after the two anecdotes.  Perfection.  These two pages made my day.  Now that I’ve hyped it up so much, maybe you should quickly lower your expectations before reading the bits below so you can experience the same unexpected reading pleasure that I experienced on a subway car late at night.

Judd Apatow: The Death of an Anecdote
(By Judd Apatow, Guest Editor for Vanity Fair December 2012 Issue)

I have always loved comedy, and this portfolio and issue, filled with men and women I admire, are my attempt to show you what it means to me. Some of them have shaped my sensibility; others just make me laugh.  Anyway, I’m proud to have worked with many of the comic geniuses who appear in these pages, one of whom I have a fantastic anecdote about. I probably tell it too often. But here goes. One last time, for Vanity Fair, and then I’ll retire it forever.

When I was 12 years old, I went to visit my grandparents in Beverly Hills. I was, and am still, a massive Steve Martin fan. One day, in the car, my grandmother pointed out where he lived.  A few days later, as we drove by, I looked out the window and saw something mind-blowing. Steve Martin was standing in front of his house! I yelled at my grandmother to stop the car, grab­bed a pen and paper, and jumped out.

“Mr. Martin. Can I have your autograph?”
“No, I’m sorry, but I don’t sign autographs at my house.”


“I’m sorry, but if I do, then people will start coming over.”
“Well, will you sign it in the street?”

I thought that was pretty good for a 12-year-old. But he said no and apologized. I jumped back in the car in a rage. Back at my grandparents, I pulled out a notepad and started writing him a letter:

Dear Mr. Martin,
I think you are the funniest man on earth, but you treat your fans like crap. If I didn’t buy all your albums and go to all your movies you wouldn’t live in that house. If you don’t send me an apology I am going to send your address to “Homes of the Stars” and you will have tour buses passing by 24 hours a day.

I left it in his mailbox—for effect.

About six months later, back home, I received a package. Inside was the book Cruel Shoes, by Steve Martin, with the following inscription:

Dear Judd,
I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was speaking to the Judd Apatow!

Your friend,
Steve Martin 3/80

I knew that the only reason he responded was because my letter had made him laugh. If I could make Steve Martin laugh, then maybe one day I could enter this mysterious world of comedy. I tell this story a lot and feel bad if it ever sounds like he was not gracious. If someone walked up to my door and asked for my autograph, I’d be pissed, then move in a panic. Thanks, Steve!

The Birth Of An Anecdote
(By Steve Martin, Vanity Fair, December 2012)

 When I was 67, I knew I could make money by taking tourists by Judd Apatow’s house.  I had been a big fan ever since his first movie, Young Adults, Gotta Love ’Em.  One day I was driving the tour bus by Judd’s house, and I saw him making coffee in the kitchen.  I just knew my tourists would love to get his autograph, so I drove them up his driveway and a few of them rang his doorbell.  I suggested that others go around to the backyard. Judd finally came out and said, “What’s going on here?”  It was funny the way he said it, but I could picture Seth Rogen or Jonah Hill saying it and making it really funny.  Actually, I could see it becoming a movie, What’s Going On Here?  Anyway, he signed everyone’s autograph book and posed for pictures, and then he took me aside and said he was going to end my banjo career.  But now I have a great anecdote.

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