Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow. Random House, 2016. 9780812987287. 576pp.
I love Apatow’s films (The 40 Year Old Virgin, This is 40, Trainwreck), TV shows (Freaks and Geeks), and have enjoyed listening to him talk with Terry Gross, but he’s at his best talking to other comedians (Amy Schumer and Jerry Seinfeld). I say “other” because he gave stand up a try a long time back, before he became a comedy writer / producer / director, and is currently giving it another shot. About half of the interviews in this book were conducted when he was a comedy-obsessed high schooler who used shaky press credentials to get interviews with some of the best comedians of that era (and ours). What’s amazing is not only Apatow’s naked need to try to understand how they do what they do, right down to asking how they write jokes, but the comedians’ patience with his questions. (I’m not going to list who he interviews because this is a who’s who of greatness. If you like funny people read this book.) In the more recent interviews he talks to other comedians at the height of his own career, and he still can’t fully hide his wonder at getting to chat with them. (There are some non-comedians interviewed as well, including a few musicians and more than a few film folks.) In addition to discussing performing and writing comedy, there’s a lot of talk about creativity, parenting, marriage, and fame, and having been a serious nerd. It’s all pretty great.
Recommended if you enjoy Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Paul Provenza’s Satiristas or The Green Room, and listening to comedians discuss their work on podcasts — Marc Maron’s WTF and Jesse Thorn’s Bullseye are two of my favorites.