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Actor Seth Rogen laughs on stage against a gray backdrop

Seth Rogen, Looking Less Geeky These Days

The Pineapple Express star often portrays less successful members of society — but he's hardly one of them. The actor and screenwriter has four Hollywood projects out this summer.


Other segments from the episode on July 31, 2008

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, July 31, 2008: Interview with Seth Rogen; Commentary on the music of the guitarist Lonnie Mack.


TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM

Interview: Seth Rogen talks about his new film "Pineapple Express"
and his career

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Seth Rogen, was only 17 when he got his first big break, a role on
the TV series "Freaks and Geeks" produced by Judd Apatow. Too bad it was
cancelled before the end of the first season. So was Rogen's next series with
Apatow, "Undeclared." But they reunited for a string of big hits, "The 40 Year
Old Virgin," "Knocked Up" and "Superbad," which Rogen also co-wrote. Rogen
co-wrote and stars in the new film "Pineapple Express," a funny hybrid of a
stoner film and action film. Rogen plays Dale Denton, a process server.
While parked outside the home of someone he's about to serve with a subpoena,
he witnesses the guy being murdered. Not wanting to be discovered, Dale
drives away, but he accidentally drops some telltale evidence, the very potent
marijuana pineapple express, which is sold only by one dealer, his. So the
killers know how to find Dale and his dealer, Saul Silver, played by James
Franco. Rogen and Franco first worked together on "Freaks and Geeks."

Here's a scene from "Pineapple Express" just before the murder. Dale is at
his dealer Saul's place smoking and buying pineapple express before heading to
his next assignment. Saul is surprised to see Dale so professionally dressed.

(Soundbite from "Pineapple Express")

Mr. JAMES FRANCO: (As Saul Silver) What's up with the suit?

Mr. SETH ROGEN: (As Dale Denton) Oh, I'm a process server so I have to wear
a suit.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) Wow, you're a servant? Like a butler, a chauffeur?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) No, no. What? No, I'm not like--no, I'm a...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) Shine shoes?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) I'm a process server. I like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) In process.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) I work for a company that's like hired by lawyers to
like hand out legal documents like subpoenas to people who don't want them so
I've got to wear like...

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) Subpoenas?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) ...disguises sometimes just to make them admit that
they're themselves so I can serve them the papers.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) Disguise?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) Kind of, I guess. It's a hell of a job.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) That's cool, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) Like a day-to-day basis, it's fine.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) You've got a great job where you don't do anything.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) That's what I say.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) I wish I had that.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) Are you kidding? You do. You have the easiest job on

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) That's true.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) You didn't think of that, huh?

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) I do have a good job.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) Yeah, you do nothing.

Mr. FRANCO: (As Saul) Thanks, man.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Dale) No prob.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Seth Rogen, welcome to FRESH AIR. What are some of the possibilities
you saw in the idea of an action film with two stoners as the heroes?

Mr. ROGEN: You know, it just kind of seemed like a funny way to explore
action movies, I guess. I mean, I'm a big fan of them always. And, you know,
there's always people who are very equipped to deal with the situations that
they're thrown in. So the notion just seemed funny because it's like
basically stoners are kind of the last guys of the world who are equipped to
deal with that. And the humor possibilities just seemed somewhat endless.

GROSS: So you had to go through the action scenes playing stoned, not quite
as stoned as James Franco has to play.

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: So what kind of challenges did that present for you, you know, being
stoned and then getting, you know, shot at and taken on wild car rides and,
you know, chase scenes, all the standard action stuff?

Mr. ROGEN: It was pretty easy, I got to say, because I thought, you know,
that going in, you know, we knew two major things happen to you when you get
stoned, you know, you either get like really stupid or you get really
paranoid. And Franco was kind of representing the stupid and I was kind of
representing the paranoid. And it's easy to act paranoid when you're in a car
chase because it's actually really scary. But, you know, when we shot,
though, we actually shot a lot of different levels of stonedess, and then in
the editing room kind of modulated how high we wanted us to be. It's the most
thought anyone has ever put into two stoned idiots being on screen, I would

GROSS: Did you play it like you are when you're stoned, or did you play it
like a different character would be when he's stoned?

Mr. ROGEN: Honestly, when I'm stoned I don't act very stoned at all, or so I
think. But, you know, I would try to kind of recall times when I was
extremely stoned, when I was younger mostly, and I would stupid things to get
stoned like smoke cross-shaped joints. That kind of puts you into another
level that I don't really go anymore just because I don't know how I would
handle that. But, yeah, I definitely--I drew some from personal experience, I
would say.

GROSS: You mentioned the cross joint. I have to confess I had never seen one
of those before. I wasn't sure if you made it up for the film or whether they
actually exist in real life.

Mr. ROGEN: They do. We actually smoke--that's like a party trick in high
school, you know, like it was the weed equivalent of like a beer bong or
something like that.

GROSS: So you've got to describe it.

Mr. ROGEN: It's one large joint that has a hole punctured in it and then a
smaller joint is kind of threaded through that hole and it makes two
intersecting joints that are shaped like a cross. And the key is that you
can't see--for anyone, I don't know how many people who listen to NPR want to
role a cross joint on their own--the key is to puncture the smaller joint with
a hole also so you can suck through that. But it's ridiculous. There's no
need to do it other than to see if you can do it. And you can. It's very

GROSS: There's a lot of action scenes in the film that are obviously inspired
by action movies. What was one of the classic scenes you wanted to try
yourself? Like there's one scene where you have to jump from a balcony, I
think it's on to Gary Cole, who's one of the villains.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: And that's such a classic scene, like, tell me the action film that
doesn't have that kind of jump on it.

Mr. ROGEN: That dramatic leap.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: So what are the things you wanted to like do that you've seen in other
action films?

Mr. ROGEN: Well, one of the big things that we wanted to do was try to kick
out a car window as you're driving after it's been shattered, you know,
obstructing your view. I mean, that's--I can't count how many movies I've
seen that in. And we just thought, you know, like it could be funny if it
just kind of goes wrong and his foot just kind of punctures through the window
and gets stuck. And, yeah, you know, we just kind of wanted to play with
these iconic moments in action. There's a really small one that always makes
me laugh really hard where there's a big shoot-out at the end and the moment
my gun runs out of bullets I turn and there's just another gun sitting there
and I'm like `oh, nice.' And to me that always just--it's like so convenient
to, you know, they never run out of bullets in action movies unless it's at
the most dramatic time possible.

GROSS: And you had--this is your first movie where you had to carry a gun,

Mr. ROGEN: In "Superbad" I carry a gun, but I didn't get to shoot it that

GROSS: Oh, that's true, because you're a cop.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Yeah, of course.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: And you carry it very responsibly, yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: I do. But in this there was like a week straight of shooting
where like all I did was shoot a machine gun. And I hate to--it went against
all my Jewish and Canadian instincts, but I enjoyed every second of it.

GROSS: When you were growing up, could you physically defend yourself as a
kid and did you every need to?

Mr. ROGEN: I did. I did karate for a really long time, almost 10 years when
I was younger. And I was always big. I was kind of around this size, like
since I went into high school. I played rugby and stuff like that. So
people, you know, would screw with me, but I never got like into a real fight
or anything like that.

GROSS: Why did you take karate?

Mr. ROGEN: My friends did it. Sammy and Evan took it. It was at the Jewish
community center. It was just really something to do. I was really into
martial arts movies and stuff like that, you know.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. ROGEN: I liked action movies. Jean-Claude Van Damme was a major
influence on me at that point in my life. So I thought, you know, what better
thing to do than learn karate at the Jewish community center.

GROSS: So how far did you get, what belt?

Mr. ROGEN: I was like a brown belt, which is pretty good. I entered a
tournament once and I punched a guy in the throat and got disqualified. I
realized--I don't know if you're familiar with "Karate Kid," but the bad guys
in that are called Cobra Kai and they're like the evil karate guys. And when
I went to the tournament I realized that's what we were. We were like the
Cobra Kai of the Jewish karate community.

GROSS: Now, the stunt coordinator that you used on "Pineapple Express" has
done some pretty serious stunt work. He worked on a Jet Li film, "The Italian
Job," "Speed," "Jurassic Park."

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Did you need someone that good for a comedy?

Mr. ROGEN: We thought it would be, you know, funnier if the action was kind
of serious and not that funny and handled--you know, and obviously we would be
funny reacting to it, but we wanted the, you know, the stunts themselves to be
as close to what an actual action movie is as humanly possible. So we
thought, yeah, let's hire a real stunt guy, you know. And it makes the movie,
I think, a lot funnier, more exciting, and you really feel like we're in

GROSS: What is the most ridiculous position you were in in making the movie
and putting yourself in actual jeopardy to film a stunt?

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, you always get hurt in ways that you don't think you're
going to. There was always little awkward things that would happen, like
there's a big scene where me and James and Danny McBride have a fight in Danny
McBride's character's house, and it kind of goes on for a really long time and
we destroy the entire house. And there's like a kind of simple shot where I'm
like crashing through a coffee table, and I almost broke my finger and I had
to go to the hospital and I had like a splint on it. And that was relatively
easy. But meanwhile, when you're leaping off like a 40 foot balcony suspended
from wires, that's like the, you know, that's the easy day of shooting. You
just have to sit there. They swing you around on wires. It really hurts your
groin, but no serious injury is possible.

GROSS: So since you play stoners in so many films, tell us about the first
time you got high and what the experience was like.

Mr. ROGEN: I was pretty young. I guess I was in high school, so I was
probably 13 years old at the time. I'd just gotten into high school. And
there were these kind of like railroad tracks near our high school. One of my
friends bought a bag of weed and, you know, I'd never really even seen weed at
that point and, you know, you picture it being this kind of like leafy,
oregano-like substance always. I guess that's because like that's what you
see in movies, kind of like this big huge bag, you know, this green stuff that
looks like, you know, lettuce almost. And what he had was like one little
bud, it was probably like the size of like, you know, a marble that had been
squished down as much as humanly possible. And so it almost looked like a--it
was like the shape of like a quarter or something like that. And we really
just didn't know what it was. We're like, `How is this weed?' Like, it was
hard as a rock. It clearly had been in someone's pocket for a really long.

And now in my, in retrospect, I can recognize that what that is is a little
bud that's been in someone's pocket for too long, or someone's book bag and
there's been a science binder on it all day. But it was squished down and we
rolled a really crappy joint out of it because we didn't know what to do, it
was so hard, you know. Now I would know you would need a grinder, scissors,
something like that. But at the time we didn't know. And then we smoked it,
and it did absolutely nothing. And then the next weekend, though, we actually
smoked it properly and I got more stoned than I've ever been in my entire

GROSS: And what was that experience like?

Mr. ROGEN: We walked around...

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: It was crazy. I remember it very vividly. I remember it was
actually kind of horrifying because one of my friends, we smoked out of a
bong. That's why we got really high from the second time. And one of my
friends--this was so stupid--he didn't want to bring, it was after school on a
Friday, and we smoked weed in this park called the Ravine that was right
across the street from my high school. And he didn't want to bring the bong
back home with him. We were going to walk back to his house and hang out. He
didn't want to bring it there. So he wanted to go back into school and put
the bong in his locker and leave it in there. And I was like, `dude,' I was
so paranoid and high and scared, I was like, `We can't go back into school,
like that's the last place we should go, to school, are you kidding me?' And
he was just like, `No, I'm just going to put it in my locker, no one will
know, no one will know we're high.' He had smoked pot before a few times. And
I like lost my mind. I was like, `We can't go back in there!'

And they just went in anyway. I remember thinking we're traveling through
time. I remember keep thinking that. And then he put it back in, and
everything was fine and we went back to his place. We ate a lot and we
wrestled in his room, I remember. And one of my friends tripped over a
beanbag chair and hurt his head and it sobered us up completely.

GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen. He co-wrote and stars in the new film
"Pineapple Express." It opens next week. He'll be back in the second half of
the show. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen, and he's starring in the new movie "Pineapple
Express," which he also co-wrote with Evan Goldberg. And the two of them also
wrote "Superbad," and also were producers of "40 Year Old Virgin."

So how did you meet Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: I met Evan at bar mitzvah class. It was
called...(unintelligible). Every day after--maybe not every day, a few days a
week after school all the Jews that went to that temple would converge and
learn of their haftorahs and what not. And him and Fogell were in my bar
mitzvah class. And we became great friends. Once, you know, you're in bar
mitzvah class with people the got to invite you to their bar mitzvah. So we
got invited to dozens and dozens of bar mitzvahs. And there was a year
straight where every weekend I went to at least one bar mitzvah, or bat
mitzvah. And we would all go, and it was a lot of fun. We'd sneak some
beers. We'd hang out. We would try to get with girls and not, and usually
we'd just end up hanging out together alone. But we became good friends.

GROSS: So going to bar mitzvah class with Evan Goldberg, how did you realize
that you could write together?

Mr. ROGEN: I really never--you know, when I first met him I don't know what
made me think--he was just a funny guy, obviously, he was a lot goofier back
then. He was a pretty goofy kid. He was like one of those kids that you look
at and you're like, ah, that's like, that kid, something's not working out
quite right with that kid, like his clothes never fit right. He was just kind
of too big.

But we started hanging out, and I remember we actually started making like
little movies together kind of. We made like very strange like "Star Wars"
spoof. And we made kind of like this like "Blues Brothers"-y, Pulp Fiction"
type spoof. And that was when we were pretty young. I mean, that's when we
were like 12 years old. And then pretty soon after that I like started doing
standup comedy and just kind of the notion of writing and doing that kind of
thing seemed less, you know, foreign to us. And we just decided to try to
write a movie.

GROSS: Well, didn't you write the first draft of "Superbad" when you were 15
with Evan Goldberg?

Mr. ROGEN: We started younger. We started when we were around 13, writing
it, maybe 14. I mean, you know, I'm a little older than he is, like only like
six months. But like when I was 14, he was 13. I think we started around
then, though.

GROSS: So the movie wasn't made until you were in your 20s. And by then you
were too old to play the part that you had written for yourself.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: But were there things that remained in from when you were 13 or 14 and
you started writing it?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah, a ton of it remained in.

GROSS: Really?

Mr. ROGEN: I would say like the general structure of the movie, like the
series of events is very similar ultimately in the final movie to what it was
when we first wrote it. You know, the idea that it's these two guys and they
want to get girls, and there's a party and they get asked to buy the alcohol,
and another one of their friends gets a fake ID that says McLovin, and he gets
caught, and they get caught up with these cops. I mean, that was always, you
know, from when, you know, we were 13, 14 years old, that's what happened.
What wasn't there, though, was the relationship between the Seth and Evan
characters. The fact that, you know, they were going to college and they were
breaking up and they were going to different colleges and they felt weird
about that. That was all stuff that was added as we got older and a little
smarter and, you know, we realized more, you know, what made a good movie.
And ultimately, you know, that's what the movie's about, and we kind of wrote
the movie backwards in that regard. Now that's what we would start with and
kind of build everything around it.

But, you know, we wrote it. We were young. We just started, you know,
instantly just put in all the fun stuff and what was happening to us at
parties and stuff like that and putting in stories that had happened to us.
And then, you know, later we worked out the emotional side.

GROSS: Well, let me play something from working out the emotional side, and
it sounds like this is a scene that you added later when you were older. And
this is towards the end of the movie when the Evan and Seth characters,
they've been fighting a lot and getting in each other's way. But at this
party where all kinds of mayhem happens, but anyways the Evan character
rescues the Seth character from this terrible situation. They're both really
drunk. They sleep side by side in sleeping bags, and the Evan character,
played by Michael Cera, has this to say to the Seth character, played by Jonah

(Soundbite from "Superbad")

Mr. MICHAEL CERA: (As Evan) Can't believe you saved me.

Mr. JONAH HILL: (As Seth) Right.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) You saved me. Can't believe--I owe you so much. You
cared. I love you. I love you, man.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I love you. I love you. I'm not even embarrassed to
say it, I just--I lo--I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I'm not embarrassed.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I love you.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I love you. It's like, why don't we say that every day?
Why can't we say it more often?

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I just love you. I just want to go to the rooftops and
scream, `I love my best friend Evan.'

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) We should go up on my roof.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) For sure.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) Like when you went away for Easter, what, on your
vacation, I'm like, I missed you.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) I missed you, too.

Mr. CERA: (As Evan) I want the world to know. It's--it's the most beautiful
thing in the world. Boop, boop, boop.

Mr. HILL: (As Seth) Come here. Come here, man.

(Soundbite of smacking)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: And that's the Seth character giving the Evan character a big hug.

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: So it's a very uncharacteristically emotional scene for these two

Mr. ROGEN: It is.

GROSS: And they're very embarrassed in the morning when they wake up next to
each other, hung over.

Mr. ROGEN: It's like they slept to each other. Exactly.

GROSS: Yes, exactly. Exactly. So where did that scene come from? Had you
had emotional moments like that with Evan or any other male friend?

Mr. ROGEN: Never, ever in a million--never. Not with Evan, for sure. I
mean, I've never had something like, you know, drunk people have tried to do
that to me and I instantly shut it off and just say, `Don't do this, dude,
you'll feel terrible about this later. I'll bring it up all the time. I'll
make fun of you. I'll constantly bring up the night you got drunk and told me
you loved me. Just don't. Save yourself the embarrassment and don't do it.'

To us, you know, these male friendship stories are just funny, you know. Evan
describes it funny. I only heard him say this recently. But he thinks a lot
of it came from when we, you know, when we grew up in Vancouver, you know, our
friends were, I don't know if I'd say callous, but we had a very, you know,
harsh relationship with one another. We'd constantly make fun of each other;
you know, emotions, you know, really were not welcome there, you know. There
was no room to get your feelings hurt. You just kind of hung out and
everything, you know, we knew everyone was joking. But, you know, everyone
had really thick skin, I would say.

And then I moved to LA and everyone's actors here and writers and everyone's
like super emotional and super in touch with their feelings. And it seemed
like every two weeks one of my friends was coming to me and be like, `You hurt
my feelings the other day, dude.' And I'd be like, `What are you talking
about? What?' And, you know, it was funny that Evan pointed that out. And I
really think that probably has a lot to do with where it came from, where why
we're just so fascinated and amused by these, you know, male relationships.
You know, to us there's just nothing funnier than like a guy awkwardly
explaining to another guy that he's hurt his feelings, and then later
awkwardly, you know, forgiving him for doing that.

GROSS: Seth Rogen will be back in the second half of the show. He co-wrote
and stars in the new film "Pineapple Express." It opens next week. I'm Terry
Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross back with Seth Rogen. He co-wrote
and stars in the new comedy "Pineapple Express" about two stoners on the run
from hitmen. Rogen also co-starred in "The 40 Year Old Virgin" and "Knocked
Up," and co-wrote and co-starred in "Superbad." He got his start as a teenager
in the TV series "Freaks and Geeks," which premiered in 1999.

You've played several characters who are kind of clueless about women and what
women or girls really want and who they really are. So I thought I'd play a
scene like that from "40 Year Old Virgin." And this is a scene where you're
giving advice to Steve Carell, the 40-year-old virgin, and he lacks the
confidence to approach women. So here's your pep talk.

(Soundbite from "The 40 Year Old Virgin")

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) Look at me. Looks are not important. Really look at
me. I am ugly as...(word censored by network) traditional standards, but
I get with women. Aren't you curious as to how that's possible?

Mr. STEVE CARELL: (As Andy Stitzer) I am not ugly as...(word censored by

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) I didn't say you were ugly as...

Mr. CARELL: (As Andy) Well, you implied it.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) OK, OK. It doesn't matter if you're ugly as...(word
censored by network)...or your ugly as...(word censored by network). It's
about talking to women, and I know how to do that because I observe because I
am a novelist.

Mr. CARELL: (As Andy) What? You never told me that before.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) That's because I'm not an arrogant...(word censored by
network)...Andy. OK? The problem most men have is they don't know how to
talk to women.

Mr. CARELL: (As Andy) You know what my problem is? I am not interesting!
What am I supposed to say? I went to magic camp? I'm an accomplished
ventriloquist? Oh, I am a seventh-degree imperial yo-yo master. `Oh, do me,
yo-yo master. I want you to do me because you're the yo-yo guy.'

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) Are you done? Listen, the problem most men have is they
just plain straight up have no clue how to talk to women.

Just ask questions. OK, that's it because women do not care about what you
have to say at all, anyway, you know. And all they want to do is talk about
themselves. So you're just going to let them do that. OK? So remember,
questions, be cool and be kind of a...(word censored by network). You--here,
be David Caruso in "Jade."

Mr. CARELL: (As Andy) OK. I know exactly what you're talking about.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Cal) You do? That's good.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's my guest Seth Rogen and Steve Carell in a scene from "40 Year
Old Virgin."

Now, I have to say, you grew up in Vancouver.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Vancouver. You've described your parents as radical Jewish
socialists. So I have to assume that your parents tried to bring you up in an
enlightened atmosphere where you learned to respect women and treat them as

Mr. ROGEN: Yes, very much so. Yes.

GROSS: Which your characters never know how to do. So...

Mr. ROGEN: No, not at all. But I feel like the reason I have the insight to
know that that's funny to watch is because I know how wrong it is, you know.
And I also feel like that's kind of why we can get away with it is because you
can tell that we're, you know--hopefully, most people can tell that we're not
actually like that, that we're showing these guys as idiots and that we think
they're wrong and that's the joke of the scene is it's not like how great this
guy's advice is, it's look what a moron he is.

GROSS: So what are some of the things your mother taught you about how to
behave around women, or how to treat women?

Mr. ROGEN: Oh, just always be extremely respectful was something that was
drilled into me, which I think probably prevented me from having sex for a
good seven years longer than it should have. I mean, you know, some of my
friends would lie to girls to get them or do things, you know, that
were--cheat on girls. That was just never in the realm of what was something
that, you know, that was instilled in me, you know. Yeah, I mean, my mom's a
social worker, for God's sakes. I mean, it's always--when it came to like
appropriate behavior towards one another, I was well versed.

GROSS: So you moved to LA when you were 17, maybe?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: Were you graduated from high school yet?

Mr. ROGEN: Nope. It was the summer going into my senior year is when I

GROSS: Why did you move? I mean, you ended up working on "Freaks and Geeks,"
but you didn't have that lined up yet, did you?

Mr. ROGEN: I moved because I got--no, I did. I did. I got cast on that
from Vancouver.


Mr. ROGEN: They did like casting sessions like all over North America, in
Chicago, in New York and Toronto. And, yeah, I went to the Vancouver one.
And so I moved to LA with a job.

GROSS: Wow, that's amazing. So what was the audition like?

Mr. ROGEN: It was--you know, what's funny is the audition scene was actually
a guy that--it was a scene that Judd wrote, and it was about a guy saying he
wanted to grow pot in an underground bunker, and if anyone came he could blow
it all up and just say he was a farmer. And Judd wrote that scene, and that
is actually where the idea for "Pineapple Express" came from.

GROSS: Oh, you're kidding.

Mr. ROGEN: No.

GROSS: Now, let me play a scene from "Freaks and Geeks," and this is a, you
know, again a series set in high school which also it starred James Franco,
who's in "Pineapple Express" with you. This is one of the episodes that you
were prominently featured in, and you're with a girl who plays tuba...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...and you're starting to date and she's about to hit you with a
really big surprise.

(Soundbite from "Freaks and Geeks")

Ms. JESSICA CAMPBELL: (As Amy) This isn't really that uncommon, but when I
was born I had the potential to be male or female.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken Miller) Yeah, me, too.

Ms. CAMPBELL: (As Amy) No, I mean--I mean I was born with both--with both
male and female parts.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken) Uh-huh.

Ms. CAMPBELL: (As Amy) My parents made a decision with the doctors that I
should be a girl. I mean, thank God because that's who I am. But it's still
a really big part of my life, and I thought you should know.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken) No, this is good that you told me this.

Ms. CAMPBELL: (As Amy) Are you freaking out?

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken) No. You know, it--you're--you're uh, you're all girl

Ms. CAMPBELL: (As Amy) Yeah.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken) Yeah, so you know, it's OK. You know?
It's--you're--you know, if I was dating you when you were just born, things
might be a little different because, you know, that stuff. But now you're all
girl now, so it's OK.

Ms. CAMPBELL: (As Amy) Thanks, Ken.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ken) Yeah. You know, it's--I had--I had my appendix out so,
you know, I've been there.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: That's Seth Rogen in a scene from "Freaks and Geeks."

How did this episode end up being based around your character?

Mr. ROGEN: You know, from very early on this was an idea that they had.
John Kasdan, who's the brother of Jake Kasdan, was a writer for the--and who
directed the pilot of "Freaks and Geeks" and several episodes, including that
one, actually--was a writer for the show. And very early on in the show he
came up to me and was like--he has this really kind of weird voice--he's like,
`Hey, you know, I've got an idea for an episode where you're dating a
hermaphrodite.' And I was like, `What?' And he's like, `Yeah, and it'll show
your character's really sensitive.' And I was like `OK. OK, whatever, sure.'
And I just didn't think they would ever get around to it. And then, lo and
behold, they actually did it. And they apparently had a hard time writing the
episode, and that was the first time Judd really brought me and the actors
into his office and just said, `Improvise the scene; let's see what happens.'
And, yeah, and what we used ultimately was totally improvised, if I recall.

GROSS: Oh, the appendix line was really funny. Was that yours?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah. Thanks.

GROSS: It must have been an amazing experience at the age of 17 to suddenly
be on a show like "Freaks and Geeks." And even though it wasn't a commercial
success, it was a big cult success. And I bet it's still popular on DVD. And
that's where you met Judd Apatow, who you're still working with. I mean,
you've had such incredible successes together. So can you talk a little about
what it was like to suddenly go from like high school kid to suddenly being a
co-star on an American TV series at the age of 17?

Mr. ROGEN: It was amazing. You know what's funny about that time, when I
think back on it, is how--it's actually kind of scary--how little thought I
put into the actual, you know, quality of the show. Like, I didn't think it
was a bad show necessarily, but I don't remember, at the beginning especially,
like putting any thought at all into whether or not it was a good or bad show.
I think I was just so ecstatic that I was working and that, you know, I didn't
have to go to high school anymore--even though, you know, I had a lot of good
friends there; I didn't have a bad experience. But it just looked like
finally, you know, I had, you know, my, you know, there was a career that was
beginning. And I think I was just so excited about that that I really, I
don't remember thinking that much at all at first, `Is this a good show or bad
show?' I honestly didn't care. And then as it went on, you know, I started to
really appreciate that it was good and that we were doing something a little
different and that, you know, everyone was really cool to work with and that
it was a really talented group of people. And it was kind of just when I was
realizing that that it got cancelled.

GROSS: When "Freaks and Geeks" was cancelled, how did you end up continuing
to work with Judd Apatow?

Mr. ROGEN: You know, it was pretty random how it went down, from my
perspective. I really didn't hear much from him for a while. I sent him the
script for "Superbad." I don't even think he ever read it. And I auditioned.
I was just auditioning for stuff. I had a small part in this movie "Donnie
Darko" with Jake Gyllenhaal. And, you know, it wasn't going that great,
though. And then I literally got a call out of nowhere one day that Judd was
doing this new show about college called "Undeclared"--well, it didn't have a
name--he was doing like a college show, and that he wanted me to come and be a
writer on it. And it was like literally just out of nowhere. It was like
that. It was like, `Hey, come in and be a writer.' `OK.' And next thing I
knew I was working on "Undeclared."

GROSS: And "Undeclared" lasted even a shorter time than "Freaks and Geeks."

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah, it was one episode less, I think.

GROSS: So then you were out in the cold again.

Mr. ROGEN: Exactly.

GROSS: And ended up making movies with Judd Apatow. But I guess at that
point you knew you had something going together.

Mr. ROGEN: Not really. There was a big downtime between "Undeclared" and--I
mean, "Undeclared" ended in 2001 and "40 Year Old Virgin" wasn't made till
2005, I think. So there was a good four years there where I did almost
absolutely nothing. And it was bad, you know. Yeah, I just didn't work at
all for a really long time. Me and Jason Segel wrote a pilot together with
Jack Black for HBO and it didn't get picked up. And slowly, you know, I
started getting more work. I wrote for "Da Ali G Show" in there. But it was
not until "40 Year Old Virgin" that things really picked up again in any way
that seemed reliable.

GROSS: Were you depressed during that period?

Mr. ROGEN: I don't know if I'd say I was depressed. I was probably too
stoned to realize it if I was. Yeah, I mean, there was definitely--I think I
was angry more than depressed. I think I was just kind of bitter. I got very
bitter about Hollywood and just the whole thing, you know. I mean, we had
written "Pineapple Express" and we had written "Superbad," and at that time
they really weren't that different than they are now. And I just felt like
these are good movies, why can't we get them made, you know. I always
believed in them. I never doubted that--I never start to think like, maybe
we're just not good. It was always, you know, why aren't they giving us our
shot. And so, yeah, I just remember being angry.

GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen. He co-wrote and stars in the new film
"Pineapple Express." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


GROSS: My guest is Seth Rogen. His movies include "The 40 Year Old Virgin,"
"Knocked Up" and "Superbad." He co-wrote and stars in the new comedy
"Pineapple Express."

Now, let me ask you about "Knocked Up."

Mr. ROGEN: Yes.

GROSS: In which you play a very unenlightened guy who has a kind of
drunken--you're drunk at a bar and a very attractive woman is drunk at the
bar, too. She's an anchor for a local station. And you end up sleeping
together for one night. Actually, let me play a clip from the movie, and this
is like the morning after. It's like the day after, you're meeting in a
coffee shop...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...after you slept together, and you're both like really

(Soundbite from "Knocked Up")

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Whoo! I just yakked something nasty. I feel way
better, though. I think that's like the secret, like you got to--I mean, once
you're hung over you just got to puke. It feels so--did you puke?

Ms KATHERINE HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You can. I won't think it's gross.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Oh, that's OK. I'm fine.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) OK.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) I'm just going to have some coffee.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know, the best thing for a hang over is weed.
Do you smoke--do you smoke weed?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Not really.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You don't?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) At all?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Unh-unh.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Like in the morning?

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) No, I just don't.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) You know, it's like, it is like the best medicine.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Because it fixes everything. Jonah broke his
elbow once. We just got high. And it still clicks, but I mean, he's OK.

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right.

Mr. ROGEN: (As Ben Stone) Yeah. Last night was great. What I remember of

Ms. HEIGL: (As Alison Scott) Right, yeah.

(End of soundbite)

GROSS: Well, it turns out, as most of our listeners probably know, that she's
pregnant from this one night stand that you've had together and she decides to
keep the baby. And then you're in the position of having to figure out what
the heck to do. And you end up actually falling in love with each other. So,
you know, a lot of people's reaction to the movie was, there's no way she
would have had this baby. You know...

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: ...she's just started this like new job. She's so into her career.
There's now way she would have this baby. And you and she are so different.
There's no way that she'd actually stay with your character because you guys
have nothing in common. So what's your reaction to that response?

Mr. ROGEN: I don't know. I mean, she does keep the baby. I mean, to me
that's a weird issue that there's no way she would keep this baby. I mean, I
don't think this character's the first person in the history of the universe
to get pregnant and keep the baby. I mean, people do that. So, I mean, if
she didn't keep the baby it'd be a pretty short movie. So, you know, we just
didn't tell that story. To me, you know, when there's movies that are about,
you know, guys named Hellboy and, you know, the issue that they have with our
movie is that she doesn't get an abortion. I mean, there's greater
suspensions of disbelief that are made on a daily basis among movie-goers.

And as far as, you know, she would never fall in love with me, I mean, I feel
like that's what the movie is about. I mean, either you buy it or you don't.
And, you know, either one is fine with me. But it's, I mean, that's what it
is. I mean, that's the journey. It's that she does, you know, we do slowly
fall in love with each other. So either the movie worked for you or it
doesn't. I mean, and that's, you know, that's up for debate.

GROSS: I have to ask you about writing for "Ali G," and this is the Sacha
Baron Cohen show in which he--in character, he interviewed real people who
didn't know that this was just a character. They didn't know that "Da Ali G
Show" was just like a put on. And he'd interview like real political figures
who were clueless about this.

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah.

GROSS: So what was it like to be a writer on that show? What was the job?
Writing questions for the interviews?

Mr. ROGEN: Yeah, that's exactly what it was. We would write the interview
questions and think of people that he could maybe interview also was part of
it. But it was mostly writing the interview questions. And, you know, you
try to predict what the other people would say. I mean, it's a lot easier
when it's people who, you know, deserve it and, you know, when you get someone
who's job it is is to convert gay people into straight people, it's easy to
think of questions making fun of them because that's kind of a terrible thing
to do, you know. So when I first actually heard that we had the opportunity
to work on it, I didn't even want to try. I just assumed that--I just like,
that guy's really smart. We can't do that. But slowly he kind of taught us
the thought process needed in order to really do it effectively.

GROSS: So what's one of the best questions you wrote?

Mr. ROGEN: There's one funny thing we did, I think, where we got these guys
to do all this, you know, all these guys on spring break to do somewhat
homoerotic stuff, you know. There was a drunk wrestling team, and we got them
to do push ups and wrestle each other. And, I mean, it is like the gayest
stuff you could ever be doing, what these guys are doing. And then at the end
the character goes, `Now say hello, tell them--now say hello to our audience
and say, "I love being on Gay TV."' And they just completely lost it, even
though like, I mean, what they were doing. It didn't change what they did in
the first place. But they completely got furious and completely flew off the
handle. And it was a proud moment for us, I thought.

GROSS: Could you put your finger on anything in particular that you learned
about comedy from working with Sacha Baron Cohen?

Mr. ROGEN: I mean, a lot. I don't know if I could necessarily put my finger
on it. I mean, but I did learn that if you think really hard, odds are it
will be funnier. He really works hard, that guy. I mean, it's a difficult
job to work on that show. The hardest job I've had. It's just an extremely
intellectually challenging process. So it was just, you know, it was just a
good lesson in work ethic in general, I would say.

GROSS: Well, it was great to talk with you. I really want to thank you a

Mr. ROGEN: Thank you very much for having me.

GROSS: Seth Rogen co-wrote and stars in the new film "Pineapple Express." It
opens next week.

Coming up, rock historian Ed Ward tells the story of guitarist Lonnie Mack.
This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Review: Ed Ward takes a look at the career and music of guitarist
Lonnie Mack

Cincinnati is one of America's hidden musical cities, having produced some of
the best popular music of the 1940s, '50s and '60s. Its heroes tend not to be
well known. And one of the most elusive is the guitar player Lonnie Mack.
Rock historian Ed Ward tells his story.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. ED WARD: On March 12th, 1963, Lonnie Mack, an imposing barrel like
guitarist was doing what he did, playing guitar in a recording studio in
Cincinnati. He was scheduled for three sessions that day, one with the girl
group GiGi and The Charmaines, and the others by Max Falcon and Kenny Patton
Smith. Somewhere in there he picked up his signature Gibson Flying V guitar
and he and the studio band slid into a jam based on Chuck Berry's "Memphis."

(Soundbite of "Memphis")

Mr. WARD: They were recording in King Record studios, owned by Cincinnati's
main record label, but they were recording for Fraternity, a smaller label
that picked up artists King didn't want and hadn't had a hit in years. For
some reason Fraternity took this informal jam, pressed it up, and just a few
months later Lonnie Mack found himself in the top 10. At the time Lonnie was
22 years old, having been born in 1941 in rural Ohio and brought up in
Indiana. His mother bought him a $10 guitar when he was six and taught him a
few chords, and the course of his life was fixed.

After an argument with a teacher in sixth grade, he dropped out of school and
joined a country band fronted by someone named Hoot Smith. By the time he cut
"Memphis," Lonnie was a nine year veteran of Cincinnati's bars and honky tonks
and had recorded a couple of forgettable singles before becoming a guitarist
for hire. In fact, when "Memphis" became a hit he was on the road backing
singer Troy Seals and had to rush back to Cincinnati to record a follow up.
It was another instrumental called "Wham," and it didn't do as well. But to
Lonnie, just focusing on his instrumental prowess was missing half the point.
He'd picked up a lot of songs in his life and he knew he could sing. He was

(Soundbite of "I Apologize")

Mr. LONNIE MACK: (Singing) Oh, I apologize

Unidentified Group of Singers: (Singing in unison) I apologize

Mr. MACK: (Singing) For never making you time

Singers: (Singing in unison) I apologize

Mr. MACK: (Singing) For ever making you sad
For ever treating you bad
Oh, I apologize

Singers: (Singing in unison) I apologize

Mr. WARD: But there was a small problem. Back then nobody expected such a
soulful voice from a white guy. "I Apologize" wasn't released in 1963 when it
was recorded, but other vocals were. And neither country nor rhythm and blues
radio would play them, let alone pop radio. At least Fraternity believed in
Lonnie, and his constant touring meant that, between local hits, sales of
records to jukeboxes and live appearances, he did OK. He was cutting more
instrumentals that he'd have liked, but one of them made him a legend in

(Soundbite of "King Curtis Soul Serenade")

Mr. WARD: His 1966 version of "King Curtis Soul Serenade" became the theme
song of a popular BBC show and made guitarists all over Britain wonder how he
got that sound. It was played through a speaker made for an electric organ
called a Leslie, they discovered.

Fraternity Records wasn't doing too well and eventually expired early in 1967.
But American record companies were looking for American guitar heroes. And
Elektra Records found Lonnie and signed him up. It must have seemed like a
great idea: someone who could sing soul and country and play a mean guitar.
And in fact, he cut three albums for them, the first of which came out in
early 1969.

(Soundibte of music)

Mr. MACK: (Singing) Well, I went to the place where we used to go
The doorman wasn't there
He met at the door
I know who you are, yeah,
And who you're looking for
She, she don't come here anymore
Well, I went...

(End of soundbite)

Mr. WARD: The stint at Elektra also found him on, of all places, a Doors
album, "Morrison Hotel," where on "Roadhouse Blues" Jim Morrison can be heard
urging him on.

(Soundbite of "Roadhouse Blues")

Mr. JIM MORRISON: (Singing) Let it roll, baby, roll
Let it roll, baby roll
Let it roll, baby roll
Let it roll
All night long

Do it Lonnie, do it

All right

(End of soundbite)

Mr. WARD: But his records weren't selling, so in 1971 Elektra dropped him.
Capital tried to market him as a country artist during the '70s, but got
nowhere. In 1983, though, a young guitarist who'd had some success and who
had picked up the guitar after hearing "Memphis" as a little boy convinced
Lonnie to let him produce an album. The fact that it was Stevie Ray Vaughn
meant that the album, "Strike Like Lightning," got noticed, and Lonnie's
career picked up again only to peter out once more in 1988 when changes at his
latest record company, Epic, sank his first album for them.

Today, Lonnie Mack lives in the hills of Tennessee, making rare live
appearances and selling his music via his Web site at He's
even got a MySpace page. Something tells me this story's not over yet.

GROSS: Ed Ward lives in Berlin.

I'm Terry Gross, and I'm happy and sad to end the show with news about our
associate producer Patty Leswing. Happy for her because she's just gotten a
great job working for a great radio program. Sad because that means she's
leaving our show. But add another point in the happy column because Patty's
only going down the hall, where she'll be a producer of "Radio Times," which
is produced here at WHYY.

I want to thank her for the work she's done making me and my guests sound
better through the magic of editing, and for all her help behind the scenes
holding things together. It's always been fun talking with her about music,
even more fun when I've gotten a chance to hear her sing. She's good. That's
why we're going to close with a recording she made with the band The

Patty, good luck on your new job and thanks for staying close by.

(Soundbite of music)

Ms. PATTY LESWING: (Singing) A man in my shoes runs a light
And all the papers lie tonight
They're falling over you
Is the news of the day
Angels fall like rain

And love is only heaven away
The race is on
I'm on your side

(End of soundbite)
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.

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