Sick in the Head by Judd Apatow – Review
Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy by Judd Apatow
by Victoria Holdsworth
If you’re a Judd Apatow fan, you probably have this book already. If not he is the director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Trainwreck and writer and producer on many other funny, silly, smart, irreverent films.
This book has been a work in progress for Apatow since he started writing it when he was just 15-years-old. It wasn’t so much a hobby that developed into an obsession; it was so much more than that. Thanks to his young, inquisitive and silly adolescent thoughts, coupled with his love of laughter, with these encounters and interviews he actually creates a historical reference book of comedy – and in particular, American comedy.
After a bad experience stalking and finally asking Steve Martin for an autograph, aged 10, his passion for funny was ignited further when his mother took a job as a hostess in a comedy club in New York, and he was allowed to watch Jay Leno from the back of the venue.
From there he got a job washing dishes at the East Side Comedy Club where he saw Eddie Murphy and Rosie O’Donnell do their first ever gigs and, by his own admission, when he reaches 15, “the obsession was full-blown.”
Whilst the author is at high school he tries his hand at radio, and there is an excellent story about when he meets Jerry Seinfeld at his apartment to do an interview under the guise of being a real journalist. He recalls: “Thirty years later I can still see that slightly crestfallen look in his eyes when he opened the door and realised that I was not, in fact, a real journalist from a real radio station with a real audience. That I was just a 15-year old kid with a tape recorder.”
There are around forty conversations with various comedians throughout the book from all different times frames and comedic eras. Some of the conversations he records are from his youth with the likes of Sandra Bernhard, right through to his more adult conversations with Mel Brookes, Jim Carrey and Marc Marron.
The whole book offers a unique glimpse into the minds of the rising comedic stars of the 1980s, including one of my favourites, the late Harold Ramis. Ramis takes us inside the self-destructive, drug-fuelled world that a group of Chicago-based Second City graduates built for themselves in the 1980s and then injected into Saturday Night Live. How could one kid have ever known that some of the people he was talking with would go on to be some of the most dominant forces in the history of their craft?
There is a nice touch to the book too, with some follow up interviews with several comedians for juxtapositions, which are hilariously and sentimentally charming. However there are a few more obscure and non-comedy interviews in there also, including an amusing chat with Eddie Vedder, from rock band Pearl Jam, and the film director Spike Jonze.
The honesty to some of the interviews is extremely enjoyable and refreshing. However, what the author unwittingly does is expose the unusual and sometimes peculiar community of comedians with anecdotes and sketches that you will never hear anywhere else.
Sick in the Head is a witty and side-splitting read for anyone interested in what makes comedians tick, and generally just get out of bed in the morning. Atapow’s determined inner child, proves that laughter is a very precious commodity.
‘Sick in the Head’ by Judd Apatow is published by Duckworth Overlook, £12.99, ISBN: 9780715651605