DATE November 19, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A
PROGRAM Fresh Air
Interview: Judd Apatow talks about "Undeclared," his new Fox series
TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
My guest, Judd Apatow, is the creator and executive producer of "Undeclared,"
the new Fox comedy series about a group of college freshmen living on the same
floor of a dormitory. The central character is a geeky-looking kid who wants
to transform himself, now that he's left home. It's as if the boy in the high
school sitcom, "Freaks and Geeks," was going to college. Apatow was the
executive producer of "Freaks and Geeks," the critically acclaimed NBC sitcom
that premiered last year and was canceled after a few episodes. He was also
the co-creator and executive producer of "The Ben Stiller Show," and wrote
for "The Larry Sanders Show."
Let's start with a scene from the first episode of "Undeclared." The main
character, Steven, is talking to an old friend just before leaving for
college. Steven's body has been changing, and he hopes his image is about to
(Soundbite from "Undeclared")
"STEVEN": Sixty percent of all people meet their spouses at college. That
means my future wife could be, like, seated right beside me.
Unidentified Actor #1: You and a girl?
"STEVEN": Yeah, exac--yeah, why not? Exactly, because you just--these girls
at college, they don't know me. They don't know who I am.
Unidentified Actor #1: Yeah. They don't know that you threw up on the bus in
Unidentified Actor #1: ...that you had to have your finger reattached after
that wood shop...
"STEVEN": The point is, I'm tall and handsome and I've gained weight, and
I've, like, finally got a fashion sense. Man, it's like the beginning of a
whole new era.
GROSS: I asked Judd Apatow if he saw college as a place where you could
geshape your life and personality.
Mr. JUDD APATOW (Creator/Executive Producer of "Undeclared"): I assume most
people, in some way, have this feeling, but I know I did. I always dreamed of
going to a new location and getting a little more respect than I was getting.
And when I was a kid, I was the funny guy who hung around the athletes, so I
always wanted to be more of a normal kid who had a better shot with girls and
wasn't goofed on as much.
And for me, that fantasy started when I went to summer camp. I would always
pray that at summer camp, somehow, I would play baseball better and no one
would realize that I was awful, and that my popularity would be a little
better as a result of that. And I felt that way going to college as well. I
had a girlfriend in high school, but I still felt like a goofy guy, and I
loved the idea that you could go somewhere new and be anyone you wanted to be.
Of course, everyone busts you within three or four days, and you are in
exactly the same place.
GROSS: Why were you hanging around with the athletes in high school?
Mr. APATOW: I had a couple of friends, who were very nice guys, who I'd met
in fourth grade, and as they turned into athletes, slowly I became the
athletes' friend. They got better and better at sports, and I was awful and
never got better. So while they went out for the football team, I sat home
and watched "The Mike Douglas Show" and "Dinah Shore" by myself at home every
There's a sequence in a "Freaks and Geeks" episode where one of the geeks,
Bill, goes home, and there's nobody at his house because his parents are
divorced, and he puts on "The Dinah Shore Show" and he watches Garry Shandling
perform, and he eats chocolate cake and grilled cheese sandwiches, and has the
time of his life, and the TV is his best friend. And that encapsulates my,
you know, childhood experience.
GROSS: Now you say that in high school, you were often goofed on. What's an
example of a really embarrassing way that you were goofed on?
Mr. APATOW: I was goofed on in elementary school. I remember pretending to
be a cow and eating rocks to amuse the other kids, or putting quarters in my
nose and pretending I was a slot machine. And I would close my eyes a couple
of times and open my nostrils and a quarter would fall out.
This is very different than your interview with David Chase, by the way. I
know that. I heard that interview, and he didn't do that kind of thing.
Mr. APATOW: So I was looking to entertain the other kids as a way to make up
for the fact that if I was goalie in soccer, they would probably lose.
GROSS: I want to play a clip from the first episode of "Undeclared," and this
is--I think it's Steven's first night in college. He's at his new dorm, and
there's going to be a hall party that night at the dorm. And then his father
shows up, played by Loudon Wainwright, and as if being visited by his father
in the dorm wasn't embarrassing enough, the father also drops a bomb.
Steven's mother wants a divorce.
(Soundbite from "Undeclared")
"STEVEN": What happened?
Mr. LOUDON WAINWRIGHT: (As Steven's father) I don't know. She says she's
miserable. She doesn't want to have sex. She feels dead inside. Life is
passing her by. I don't know.
"STEVEN": I don't want to talk about this. Dad, we're in the middle of a
party, OK? This is my first day at school.
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: Steven, I've given my entire life to you, so if I need to
talk to you, you're going to listen.
"STEVEN": I'm sorry. So why do you think Mom feels dead inside?
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: I don't know.
"STEVEN": Um--um--has she said why she doesn't want to have sex with you?
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: You know what? You're right. This is not the time. I
don't want to ruin your first night, so I'm going to go crash at Uncle Bill's.
"STEVEN": OK. Good stuff.
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: I just wanted to let you know that's where I'm going to be,
in case you want to get in touch, all right?
"STEVEN": Cool. Thanks.
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: We'll talk about this tomorrow.
"STEVEN": Right. Yeah.
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: All right? So have fun at the party.
"STEVEN": Thank you. Have fun at Uncle Bill's.
Mr. WAINWRIGHT: All right. I will.
"STEVEN": Cool. Bye.
GROSS: After the father leaves, Steven has to fake that he's a happy and
confident college student. What inspired that scene?
Mr. APATOW: When I was in junior high school, my parents got divorced, and
it had a big impression on me and the way I looked at the world. So when I
started working on this idea, I had been listening a lot to a Loudon
Wainwright record, where he sang about fighting with his son--he has a song
called "A Father and a Son"--and I liked the idea of a kid trying to start his
adult life at the same time his father has to start his adult life for the
second time, so one person is restarting, one person is starting, and that
they have somewhat of a parallel experience. He moves into a dorm, the dad
moves into an apartment, and they're both trying to figure out who they are.
And that was the inspiration for it, listening to Loudon Wainwright's album,
and as well as my experiences as a kid, watching my parents go through their
divorce, as well as every kid I went to school with, one by one, all of my
friends went through the experience of watching their parents get divorced.
So we started talking about it on "Freaks and Geeks." We showed a character
named Neal, who is a geek, whose dad was cheating on his mother, and he
figured it out, and he was stuck with this secret and he didn't know whether
or not to tell his mother. And then when he tells his mother, she tells him
that she has known for a long time, but she didn't want to do anything about
it because she wanted the family to stay together, basically, until he left
for college. So in my head, I thought, `Well, this could be what the next
stage of that story would have been,' the mom dumping the dad at the moment
the kid leaves for college.
GROSS: In the scene that we just heard, the father, played by Loudon
Wainwright, says, `You know, and your mother doesn't want to have sex with me
anymore,' and the kid, Steven, just really tenses up. He doesn't want to
know about this. Was that typical of the kind of thing that you and your
friends really didn't want to know about?
Mr. APATOW: There's nothing worse than being a little kid and having to find
out about adult problems. And it, for me, was always very uncomfortable and I
begged and pleaded to be told nothing, and I was told everything. And it is a
very uncomfortable thing and it's also a very comic thing, because it's
information a kid really is not prepared to process. And it forces a child to
become an adult at that moment, because it is the moment that you realize that
your parents aren't perfect, and that potentially the advice they've given you
throughout your life may have been imperfect as well, and that you're going to
have to start making choices about whether or not what they have told you is
And that's a scary time, as a child, but it's also an experience that everyone
has to go through. I mean, people have that moment, when they go, `Oh, he
doesn't know what he's talking about,' or `What was Mom saying with that?
That's not right.' And it's natural, and I think it's really funny and human,
and so it's an area that I find interesting.
GROSS: The first episode of any series usually establishes the premise of the
series and gives, like, an establishing shot for each of the characters, what
their basic personality is like. And then usually, the characters change a
lot as the shows go on and as different writers handle those characters. What
are some of the changes you've been seeing to the characters you've created as
other writers get their hands on them?
Mr. APATOW: This has been a unique experience, because when we started
shooting the first episode, I still hadn't figured out who the characters
were. I hired actors that I liked, and since the experience of going to
college and living in a dorm is moving into a room and being surrounded by
strangers and having to figure out how you're going to get along with them, I
thought it would work well to hire a bunch of kids and observe their natural
chemistry and develop the show, based on what was actually happening with the
So it's not so much that the scripts were handed off to writers who changed
the characters. It more had to do with the natural development of the
relationship between our actors, and all of the writers paying attention and
trying to put some of those nuances into the script. A lot of it is still
fiction, but if we notice that two people don't seem to like each other as
much as other people, that seems to enter our show. If two people are funny
and warm with each other, that becomes part of the show. That's partially
because I think you get a more truthful, three-dimensional character, and it's
also because I'm not imaginative enough to think of a character.
GROSS: Are there mistakes that you learned from while you were producing
"Freaks and Geeks," things that you've since applied to "Undeclared"?
Mr. APATOW: No. One of the nice articles when "Freaks and Geeks" was
canceled was written by Robert Lloyd in the LA Weekly, and it was
basically a letter to Paul Feig and I; Paul Feig being the creator of "Freaks
and Geeks," saying, `Please don't think you made any mistakes, and do not
learn anything from this situation; make no adjustments in your future,' and
I've tried to listen to that.
That was a very unique situation, because at the time Paul Feig thought of
that idea, his main concept was, `People are sick of all of these shows about
handsome kids and their problems being written in the manner of a 45-year-old
man.' And so we thought, `Well, this could be an anecdote to all of those
shows, because it will be funny and it will be more truthful to what actually
happens when you're a kid.' And we thought it would go through the roof. You
know, we were up against "Cops" on Saturday night, how can we not win? And
one of the lessons were learned was America loves "Cops." That was the first
lesson. Then they moved us to Tuesday, and we learned America loves "That 70s
Show." And now that "That 70s Show" is the lead into "Undeclared," everything
seems to be working out.
But we knew we were going to get canceled very early in our production season.
And the only thing that was preventing us from being canceled immediately was
this enormous mountain of press begging them not to cancel us. So we shot a
final episode in the middle of the season, 'cause we knew any day we could get
the call. So we shot it early, and we had it in the can, and so if they
cancel us today, we've already shot some sort of conclusion to this story.
And as a result of the fact that we knew we would probably go down, we didn't
really take any notes from the network or make any adjustments, and we really
followed our hearts about where the show should go, and it became more of our
personal art project.
I used to say to Paul all the time, `This show is being made right now for its
cable run and for showings in the Museum of Broadcasting. It's not really
being made for NBC,' and that turned out to be true. And a year later, they
ran it on the Fox Family Channel and they ran it every week in order. And the
ratings were very, very high; whereas on NBC, we were only on 12 out of 26
weeks. So there was really no way for the audience to find the show and get
into a rhythm with our story line. That doesn't mean it would have (technical
difficulties), because it still might not have been, but we didn't really get
a shot to find an audience for our unique show.
GROSS: My guest is Judd Apatow, the creator and executive producer of the new
Fox comedy series "Undeclared." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Judd Apatow, the creator and executive producer of the new
Fox TV comedy series "Undeclared." It's about a geeky kid who's just gone off
to college. It's as if the boy in last year's high school sitcom "Freaks and
Geeks" had just graduated. Apatow was the executive producer of "Freaks and
Geeks." In this scene from "Freaks and Geeks," the main character is sitting
on the curb with his nerdy friends. As they talk, they watch with envy as the
jocks and cheerleaders flirt with each other across the street.
(Soundbite from "Freaks and Geeks")
Unidentified Actor #2: What do they have that we don't?
Unidentified Actor #3: Good bodies.
Unidentified Actor #2: So he can throw her over his shoulder, big deal.
Unidentified Actor #4: He should use his legs more. He's going to throw out
Unidentified Actor #5: I don't know. I mean, my mom says that women prefer
guys with a good sense of humor.
Unidentified Actor #4: But you're not very funny.
Unidentified Actor #5: Screw you! I'm hilarious.
Unidentified Actor #4: Oh, how witty. Get this guy on "Hollywood Squares."
Unidentified Actor #3: I overheard that Todd Schellinger takes off his
shirt when he makes out. Why would he do that?
Unidentified Actor #4: Why would anybody do that?
Unidentified Actor #5: Probably to show off his chest hair. I know that's
what I'm going to do.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Actor #5: Go ahead, laugh. But all cool guys have hairy
chests--Selleck, Reynolds, Rockford.
Unidentified Actor #4: Hey, what about Mork?
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Actor #4: He's got more hair on his hands than Sam has in his
(Soundbite of laughter)
Unidentified Actor #2: Shut up!
Will girls ever like us?
GROSS: Let's talk a little bit more about "Freaks and Geeks." Why don't you
describe what the premise was.
Mr. APATOW: The premise of "Freaks and Geeks" was a family, the Weir family,
which consisted of Sam Weir, who was a geek, and Lindsay Weir, who was a
freak, which is a term that represents potheads, burnouts and the kids who
kind of didn't care much about school, who were kind of going nowhere. They
were also kids who were having a good time, and most of them were from broken
homes, but they were having trouble. And basically, it was about a kid who
was a freshman in high school, trying desperately to hold onto his childhood
while his sister was trying hard to become an adult. And it was about a
family that loved each other, not a family that was broken.
The thing that I always thought was great about Paul's idea was that he made
sure that the kids loved their parents and that Lindsay's journey as a misfit
wasn't about that her parents screwed up. It was just about that she was
very, very smart, and suddenly all of the rules didn't seem to make sense to
her. On the pilot episode, she tells a story about when her grandmother died,
everyone else was at the cafeteria in the hospital, and her grandmother
started dying. And she said to her grandmother, `Do you see a light?' And
her grandmother said, `No.' And it basically shook her to her foundations,
and she stopped caring about school, so she went from an A-plus student to
someone who didn't care and was interested in finding out about other aspects
of life, and she was questioning her parents' ideas. So that was basically
the premise of our show.
GROSS: Did you relate to the character of the sister who was very smart, but
was hanging out with a group of people who were more like slackers, and her
kind of intelligence wasn't necessarily respected in the crowd that she was
starting to hang around with?
Mr. APATOW: I definitely related to that. My friends were on the football
team, and they were smart. They did go to good colleges. But the fact that I
was into things that were different when I was a kid--I was into comedy and I
was the station manager of the radio station--wasn't very high on their lists
of interests, and they saw it as something that was different. They didn't
think it was bad. They were supportive, but I'm sure it amused them. And so
I related with that in some sense.
Earlier in my high school career, in junior high school, I hung out with some
kids that were very nice and I watched them turn into potheads, and then I
stopped hanging around with them. So I related it to that experience, because
I was terrified. I remember there was a moment when we tried to buy pot from
this senior in junior high school. And one day my brother walked up to me and
he was friends with this pot dealer, or used to be, and he found out I was
trying to buy pot. And he basically said he was going to beat my head in if I
ever tried again. And I often think that if I had received that first bag of
pot, I wouldn't be where I am today. Who knows where I would be? I'd be
writing for "That 70s Show." I don't know. I'd be writing all those Tommy
GROSS: You knew at a young age that you wanted to be in comedy. What did you
see and hear as a kid that you really liked and aspired to?
Mr. APATOW: The first thing I liked was the Marx Brothers. Around second or
third grade, I became obsessed with the Marx Brothers. I remember writing a
32-page book report on the Marx Brothers, and it wasn't even assigned in
class. I just wrote it for myself. And I think I was attracted to their
sense of anarchy. They were saying that a lot of the systems that run the
world are ridiculous and make no sense. And I think as a little kid who felt
like an outsider among other kids, I liked the idea of somebody knocking down
the system. I wasn't consciously aware of that.
And then later when I was in third, fourth, fifth grade, it was the height of
"Saturday Night Live," Monty Python movies were coming out at that time.
George Carlin was putting out his best records, Richard Pryor was putting
out his best stand-up material. Steve Martin was peaking and exploding. And
I couldn't have enjoyed it more. There was nothing more fun than trying to
stay up on "Saturday Night Live" and watch the show, even though I was a
little kid and I would usually fall asleep five minutes in. I just loved it,
couldn't get enough of it. That turned into a love of stand-up comedy, which
led to me getting a job as a dishwasher in a comedy club, and doing anything I
could to be around it.
GROSS: Judd Apatow is the creator of the new Fox TV series "Undeclared," and
was the executive producer of "Freaks and Geeks."
I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: Music from a new Grateful Dead boxed set of their early recordings;
coming up, Milo Miles has a review.
Also, A.E. Hotchner talks about Ernest Hemingway. Tonight, Hotchner's
adaptation of Hemingway's "Nick Adams Stories" will be performed in New York
by an all-star cast.
Also, we continue our interview with Judd Apatow.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Judd Apatow, the creator
and executive producer of the new Fox TV sitcom "Undeclared," about a group of
college freshmen. He was also executive producer of last year's high school
series "Freaks and Geeks." He started as a stand-up comic.
You did a comedy show on your high school radio station, and from what I've
read, it sounds like you interviewed a lot of comics for the show, named
comics like Steve Allen and Jay Leno, maybe before Jay Leno was famous, but
still, what was it like trying to get professionals to be interviewed by you,
a high school kid, for your high school radio show? It wasn't exactly going
to sell a lot of tickets to their gigs or, you know, get them a lot of
Mr. APATOW: They did the interviews because I was calling publicists from
New York. And I would say I worked for WKWZ Radio, and I never would say it
was a high school station. And I would trick them into giving me a half an
hour with their client, and then I would show up with a tape recorder that
was from the A/V department and, like, an enormous boom box and at, you know,
Jerry Seinfeld's apartment or whatever. And it was basically an excuse for me
to meet people that I looked up to and have 45 minutes to say, `How do you do
it?' It was just my instruction manual. I didn't air most of the interviews.
I just kept them for myself.
But it was an amazing time, and I was so driven to do this. I think it was
because my parents had gotten divorced, and it was a time of a lot of trauma
in my family, and I had to find something to distract myself, and also a way
to survive in this world because I lost a sense of safety. So I decided to
interview these people I like and become a comedian using this information.
So I interviewed Seinfeld and Harry Anderson. I interviewed most of the
writers from "Saturday Night Live," like Franken and Davis and Michael
O'Donoghue and James Downey. And I interviewed Guido Sarducci and John Candy,
Harry Shearer. Everybody that I liked, I would hunt them down. And I did get
an enormous amount of information that was very helpful. And most of them
were nice, and it only made me want to do what I thought I wanted to do more.
GROSS: How old were you when you started doing stand-up?
Mr. APATOW: I was 17. I started during my senior year of high school on
Long Island at the East Side Comedy Club.
GROSS: What kind of jokes were you doing?
Mr. APATOW: I remember I used to say to the audience, `I don't know how to
handle hecklers, so I'd like to practice. So if anyone would like to heckle
me, please do it now.' And then the entire audience would start screaming and
cursing at me. And then I would say, `Yeah. See? I got nothing.' And I
would do jokes like that. I had a lot of jokes about how bad I was. I would
finish my act by saying, `You know, Jerry Lewis said you don't learn how to be
funny by getting laughs. You only learn how to be funny by not getting
laughs. And I have received a college education tonight.'
GROSS: How did you start writing for other comics?
Mr. APATOW: I was known as someone who had a good act, but I don't think I
was a very good performer, so people would just say, `You want to write jokes
for me?' And I was looking for some other income, and comedians are generally
willing to buy jokes. It's just most comedians want to keep their jokes for
themselves. So I started selling jokes to a ventriloquist here, you know,
people that are nothing like me, as a way to make some extra money. And then
at some point, Garry Shandling signed on to do the Grammys, and someone
recommended to him that I could write music jokes. So he called me while I
was on the road at the Dallas Improv and said, `Do you want to write jokes?'
And I said yes, and then I stayed up till 4 in the morning writing jokes and
sent him like 12 pages of jokes, like 100 jokes the next day. And he liked a
lot of them, and we became friends and he used me for the Grammys a few more
times and eventually hired me to work for "The Larry Sanders Show."
But that's the kind of thing I would do when I was starting out. If someone
needed jokes, I would write 100 jokes. I would always do way more than was
necessary as a way to prove that I could do it. And I always try to inspire
the writers on my show with stories like that because it is what it takes to
succeed in a business where a lot of people are trying to get in.
GROSS: Can you remember one of the jokes you wrote for Garry Shandling for
the Grammys or for your audition?
Mr. APATOW: One of the jokes that I wrote was--he was introducing The Judds,
and he said, `God, I wish I had the courage to break up with my mother.'
Another one was--a lot of people asked me why I'm involved in the Grammys.
`Why are you hosting the Grammys? What's your connection to music?' `Well,
my girlfriend used to do the guy in Uriah Heep.'
Mr. APATOW: That was probably the only two jokes I got in, and there were
some 800 better jokes that Garry had.
Generally when you write for people like him--I've written jokes with Jim
Carrey and Dennis Miller--all you are is a pleasant presence that makes them
focus to write the jokes themselves. And the thing that I was always very
good at was writing down what they said really fast and reminding them later
that that was the good joke. I wrote very few jokes for any of those people.
GROSS: What was it like to go from writing jokes to actually writing
situations, you know, where you're writing dialogue and it has to be something
funny, but it's not just a joke?
Mr. APATOW: I didn't know how to do it at all. And when I started writing
for "The Larry Sanders Show" during its second season, Garry would always say
to me, `Oh, you're going to learn so much.' And I learned everything about
writing from Garry. And also I worked for an animated show called "The
Critic" that was run by Al Jean and Mike Reiss. And James Brooks was the
production company, and he was around a fair amount. And all those guys
preach honesty in the writing. And I just tried to do what they told me to
do, which is to, in a respectful manner, reveal what's happening in somebody's
mind; their pain, their triumphs, their goals, their sadness. And if I do it
honestly, the drama should work and the comedy should work. And I look at
movies like "Terms of Endearment" as the benchmark for doing that well. For
me, there's nothing better than "Terms of Endearment." And I'm always using
that as an example of what I would attempt to do, something that's funny and
tragic and hilarious all at the same time. That's why I like Loudon
Wainwright's music because he does that as well.
GROSS: My guest is Judd Apatow, the creator and executive producer of the
new Fox comedy series "Undeclared." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
GROSS: My guest is Judd Apatow. He's the creator and the executive producer
of the new Fox TV comedy series "Undeclared," which is about a group of
college students, freshmen, who are living together on the same floor in a
dormitory. Judd Apatow also was the executive producer and one of the writers
of the series "Freaks and Geeks," which was about a brother and a sister in
You've had to direct, particularly in "Freaks and Geeks," actors who are very
young and don't have a lot of experience. What are some of the things you
learned about how to work with young, inexperienced actors who are very
talented, but it's not like they've done this a lot before.
Mr. APATOW: When it comes to young actors, it really just depends on the
person. The kids on "Freaks and Geeks" were very prepared when they came to
work every day. They had an enormous amount of ideas. And they were very
comfortable in their own skin and with their parts. So they didn't have to
reach too deep to get where they had to go within a scene. And if I gave them
space and let something naturally happen between the young people--I sound
like Jerry Lewis now--then hopefully something magical would happen. And how
I tend to do that is to shoot two cameras all the time, allow the kids to go
off page if they feel like it and try to capture a real moment.
GROSS: Can you give us an example of that?
Mr. APATOW: When we shot the pilot, for example, Jay Baruchel had to kiss
this girl he has a crush on. So instead of choreographing a make-out scene, I
just said, `OK, we're gonna put two cameras on you, and make out.' And they
were very awkward, uncomfortable, which they needed to be for the show. And
she starts unbuttoning his shirt. And Jay got very nervous and he didn't know
what to do, so he started undoing the strap on her shoe, and it's really sweet
and funny. And it's exactly what Jay would do in life. And it's my favorite
moment on the show. It's just a little choice, but it's something that I
never would have thought of.
GROSS: Does it make you feel really good and maybe even a little victorious
to see the kid who really thinks of himself as a geek and is really kind of
awkward and not handsome by, you know, model standards, kissing the girl? And
he really likes this girl a lot and she likes him, and she's smart and
attractive. Does that make you feel good?
Mr. APATOW: On the show? I mean, for me...
GROSS: I mean, to see that and to have created it, you know, as opposed to
like two fashion models kissing each other?
Mr. APATOW: I guess, you know, the point of it all for me is that I always
felt like this geeky kid in high school who would one day have his day. And
I always thought, `This isn't my time. One day I'll have my time. One day
people will appreciate my interests and what I'm really about.' It doesn't
matter that I'm bad as sports, 'cause when you're 30, no one cares if you're
good at softball. And now I have done well. I'm proud of the work I've
done. I married a beautiful woman and had a beautiful child. And I like
letting that kid get the girl, 'cause he deserves the girl. It doesn't mean
it's not going to be an enormous struggle. And occasionally, as a child, I
did get the girl, but I'm proud to let the geeks win every once in a while.
GROSS: Judd Apatow is the creator and executive producer of the Fox TV comedy
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Interview: A.E. Hotchner discusses Ernest Hemingway's life and
TERRY GROSS, host:
Tonight at Avery Fisher Hall in New York, an all-star cast, including Paul
Newman, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep and Morgan Freeman, will perform an
adaptation of Ernest Hemingway's "Nick Adams Stories." The adaptation was
written in 1957 by A.E. Hotchner. Hotchner became Hemingway's friend,
associate and biographer. Tonight's production is a benefit for a summer camp
for children with cancer founded by Hotchner and Paul Newman.
I spoke with Hotchner about Hemingway. I asked him to read a few of his
favorite Hemingway sentences, and he chose the opening of "A Farewell To
(Soundbite from 1999 FRESH AIR interview)
Mr. A.E. HOTCHNER: (Reading) "In the late summer of that year we lived in a
house in the village that looked across the river and the plain to the
mountains. In the bed of the river there were pebbles and boulders, dry and
white in the sun, and the water was clear and swiftly moving and blue in the
channels. Troops went by the house and down the road, and the dust they
raised powdered the leaves of the trees. The trunks of the trees, too, were
dusty and the leaves fell early that year, and we saw the troops marching
along the road and the dust rising, and leaves, stirred by the breeze,
falling and the soldiers marching and, afterwards, the road bare and white,
except for the leaves."
GROSS: Now what's quintessential Hemingway about that?
Mr. HOTCHNER: Notice the simplicity of the language that's used and the
almost poetic repetition. It's almost as if it's poetry. You could scan
that, I'll bet, and you would find that it has a scan to it, but the
real--the realism of it--when I first read that, I could feel the autumn in
the air. I could feel leaves falling. And there was a brook rushing
outside. He transports you into the area with a minimum of description so
that you furnish some of the description. That's the great gift that he had
that he brought to American literature. That was his skill. That was the
GROSS: At some point you asked Hemingway if you should do like he did and
move to Paris to test yourself to see if you could be--you know, if you could
write a great novel there. What advice did Hemingway give you?
Mr. HOTCHNER: He said, `You know, nobody knows what is in him, if anything,
until he gives it a try. So one of two things can happen: You can find, to
your benefit, that you have good stuff in you and that what comes out is
something that you can be proud of, you can deal with and so forth.' `But,'
he said, `you run the risk that there may be nothing in you or what's in you
is inadequate and what's in you would be a big disappointment to you. And it
could very well crack you for the rest of your life. So that's your risk.
I mean, it's a gamble. So if you go there thinking that you've got the right
stuff and you haven't, then how are you going to deal with it? And if you
have, then how are you going to deal with it?'
GROSS: So did you stay home after that?
Mr. HOTCHNER: I went.
GROSS: You went?
Mr. HOTCHNER: Oh, yeah. You know, I've always felt that the only thing that
you have to regret are the things you didn't do.
GROSS: Hemingway had a lot of interesting things to say about writing, and I
thought I'd read one of those things. And this is from his posthumously
published book "A Movable Feast," which you gave the title to. This is about
trying to write in the '20s. And he says--when he's in Paris, and he says, "I
would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, `Do not worry.
You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is
write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.' So,
finally, I would write one true sentence and then go on from there. It was
easy then because there was always one true sentence that I knew or had seen
or had heard someone say. If I started to write elaborately or like someone
introducing or presenting something, I found that I could cut that scroll work
or ornament out and throw it away and start with the first, true, simple
declarative sentence I had written."
I like the idea of `throwing away the ornamentation' and realizing when he was
sounding too presentational. Did you get a sense of that ever from observing
him write or...
Mr. HOTCHNER: He told me that...
GROSS: ...hear him talk about that?
Mr. HOTCHNER: ...he really picked up on that business of editing out from
Gertrude Stein, because he had had an introduction to her and her salon from
Sherwood Anderson--given a letter of introduction. And he had subsequently
shown her one of his stories. They weren't selling and they were all being
rejected. And she had said, `Hemingway, take this back and just remove all of
the `verys' that are in there--the word `very.' Don't use any of the `very.'
Not `very late' or `very beautiful.' Take all the `verys' out. So he said, `I
picked the verys.' Like you'd pick berries, `I picked verys.' And he said,
`And it strengthened it a lot.'
And then Scott Fitzgerald, in the story "Fifty Grand," which was one of the
stories that he sent to Maxwell Perkins for him--he said, `Hemingway, you
don't need the first paragraph. Cut it out.' And he said, `I learned from
those early experiences, the more you leave out the better, the stronger you
can get, if what you've got is substance. And you just want to trim away all
the curlicues that don't mean anything.' So I think that he had good teachers
along the way.
GROSS: One of the most famous war injuries in literature is in "The Sun Also
Mr. HOTCHNER: Right.
GROSS: ...where the main character, Jake Barnes, has had his penis blown
Mr. HOTCHNER: Yeah.
GROSS: ...and is, you know, unable to make love and, therefore, to consummate
the relationship with the woman he loves. What did Hemingway tell you that
that character's injury was based on?
Mr. HOTCHNER: I think it was based probably on his own injury when he, as an
18-year-old volunteer ambulance driver in the Italian War, suffered a
grievous wound in his leg. His knee was really blown off in a trench, and he
had to recuperate in a hospital in Milan, where he met Agnes Von Kurwosky,
whom he had an affair with in the hospital. I think that that was a searing
event. And I think he simply transferred that terrible moment to Jake Barnes'
private parts, but I think that he realized what that would mean. I think
that was a playoff from that. From everything we ever discussed, I would come
with that conclusion.
GROSS: He told you shortly after writing "The Sun Also Rises," that he was
unable to make love. He said he felt as if he might have well have been Jake
Barnes at that point. What happened to him?
Mr. HOTCHNER: That was very funny because he had--during his marriage to
Hadley, he had fallen into an affair with Pauline. And Pauline had come to
visit them, and after he married Pauline there, he then found that he had this
terrible impotence, which he trans--said got transferred from having written
about Jake Barnes. So he said he tried a variety of remedies, and none of
them--there was one guy had some electrodes that he--that he attached to him.
And he drank calves' liver juice and all that sort of--calves' liver blood.
And finally, Pauline suggested that maybe he should go to the local church
down the street and pray. And Ernest said, well, he really felt like a damned
fool praying to the Virgin Mary for an erection, but at any rate, he did this.
And then he came back to the room, the little place that he had with Pauline,
and Pauline was in bed. And he said, `And we made love like we invented it.'
And said, `And that's when I became a Catholic.'
GROSS: Did he stay a Catholic?
Mr. HOTCHNER: No. Then he always referred to himself as a `failed
GROSS: A quick failure.
Mr. HOTCHNER: Yeah, right.
GROSS: A.E. Hotchner recorded in 1999. Tonight is adaptation of Hemingway's
"Nick Adams Stories" will be performed by an all-star cast at Avery Fisher
Hall in New York.
Coming up, Milo Miles reviews a new Grateful Dead box set. This is FRESH AIR.
(Soundbite of music)
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Review: Grateful Dead's new boxed set "The Golden Road: 1965-1973"
TERRY GROSS, host:
Rhino Records has released a new 12-CD Grateful Dead retrospective covering
the years 1965 to 1973. It's an occasion for music critic Milo Miles to talk
about something that's been bothering him; why some people hate The Dead so
(Soundbite from The Grateful Dead song "Box of Rain")
THE GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) Look out of any window, any morning, any
evening, any day. Maybe the sun is shining, birds are singing. No rain is
falling from a heavy sky.
MILO MILES reporting:
I'm no Deadhead; only saw the band twice, the last time in 1974. They
certainly had limitations. Even with two drummers, they couldn't develop a
serious groove and the half-dozen people who sang with them had only mild,
pastel voices. They had a hard time conveying blues feelings and were
terrible at soul numbers. Even so, The Dead turned out compelling work from
their start in the mid-'60s until their retirement in the mid-'70s. And then
they more or less coasted until Jerry Garcia's death 20 years later. Their
folk rock and space explorations were as charming as anyone's, and their songs
were about mortality and disaster as much as peace and love.
The Dead have put out a handsome box set called
"The Golden Road: 1965-1973," 10 CDs that reproduce all of their albums for
Warner Brothers, plus two more CDs of material recorded before they signed,
plus a load of unreleased live and miscellaneous songs; been in the works for
16 years. It contains--What?--85, 90 percent of their essential stuff. If
you have a bunch of worn Grateful Dead LPs you've been meaning to replace,
it's worth it to splurge for the lively sound of "The Golden Road." That's
what I would do.
But the box set is not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about
something that's bothered me for a long time. Why do people hate The Grateful
Dead so? Every so often, maybe not so much now that they're gone, I'd read or
hear this pile of vituperation heaped on the band. `They couldn't play,
couldn't rock, were the antithesis of everything that music should be about.'
You'd think they were Journey or something. A lot of it is resentment toward
young Deadheads who followed the band all over the country or even the world
from concert to concert. Well, one of my principles is that you don't blame a
band for its fans, whether they're high school shooters or folks who live in a
minivan all summer. And how come so many Deadhead bashers sound like my
father, snarling at `No good, lazy, unwashed, drug-taking, long-haired
dropouts'? Also, when Deadheads include basketball great Bill Walton and
Republican commentator Ann Coulter, maybe they're harder to characterize than
Some complain that The Dead are just more baby-boomer culture that refuses to
go away. I've always been big on simply ignoring culture I don't like; old,
new or whatever. Besides, who are The Dead displacing, that band Phish? But
I do think there is something about what The Grateful Dead stood for that
really disturbed people both of their generation and younger.
(Soundbite of The Grateful Dead music)
THE GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) Some folks just quit. Well, XXX. I don't
trust XXX, but I know XXX. XXX I hope you understand, when it's XXX man
here playin', playin' in the band. Daybreak, daybreak on the land.
MILES: A few folks are lucky enough to have known the sensation of concerts
where the band, the audience and the times are perfectly primed to fuse into a
world apart from the everyday. A strangely giddy hope can fill every fiber in
the participants on stage and off. In certain times and places, the sensation
has been particularly intense.
Such was the ecstatic atmosphere at the original acid-test dances in San
Francisco 35 years ago. More than any other band, The Grateful Dead provided
the soundtrack to what seemed like the birth of a new society. And despite
endless bummers and baloney, there was always the hint that they kept going
because they were all that remained of that old vision, and they were serious
about possibilities. Among bands who persisted beyond the call of duty, The
Dead always reminded me more of The Ramones than, say, The Beach Boys or--God
help us--Jimmy Buffett.
The standard Dead-hater argument is that the hippy vision was always just a
lie. I think that's wrong. The problematic pain is that not enough of it
came true. By now it's beyond easy to make fun of The Dead and their ideals,
but cold mockery is no substitute.
GROSS: Milo Milo--Milo Miles lives in Cambridge. The Grateful Dead's new box
set is called "The Golden Road: 1965-1973."
(Soundbite from The Grateful Dead song "Truckin'")
THE GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) Truckin', got my chips cashed in. Keep
truckin', like the do-dah man. Together, more or less in line, just keep
GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
(Soundbite of The Grateful Dead music)
THE GRATEFUL DEAD: (Singing) Hang it up and see what tomorrow brings.
Dallas, got a soft machine. Houston, too close to New Orleans. New York's
got the ways and means, but just won't let you be.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.