Judd Apatow

Former TV writer-turned-feature comedy guru, Judd Apatow reached the peak of his professional career in the late 2000s after a long and steady climb up the Hollywood ladder. Considered one of the hottest comedy "punch-up" men in the industry, Apatow's services were originally in high demand as a script doctor. As a television producer, however, Apatow's career was practically cursed. Plagued by a cycle of critical praise, cult followings and speedy cancellations, Apatow's work on such quality shows as "The Ben Stiller Show" (Fox, 1992-93), "The Larry Sanders Show" (HBO, 1992-98), "Freaks and Geeks" (NBC, 1999-2000) and "Undeclared" (Fox, 2001-02 ) were a mixed bag of blessings. Still, the quality of his work won Apatow more than a small measure of respect. In 2005, he became a triple-threat by making his film directorial debut, resulting in a homerun with the "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" (2005). The film not only put him on the map, it made a marquee name out of its star, Steve Carell and ushered in a new era of sophomoric R-rated comedies with heart. With a reserve of respect built up after the instant comedy classic that was "Virgin," expectations were high for Apatow's second directorial outing - the comedically fertile 2007 comedy, "Knocked Up." Proving his first foray was no fluke, his next several films as a writer and director were embraced by fans and critics alike for their blend of raunch and emotional realism. Soon, every comedic actor in town looked to join the very exclusive Apatow comedy repertory company - an elite, tight-knit group that included Paul Rudd, Seth Rogen, Will Ferrell, Carell and Apatow's wife, Leslie Mann. A pair of more personal serio-comic films, "Funny People" (2009) and "This Is 40" (2012), were somewhat less commercially successful, but Apatow continued producing a string of hilarious and inventive films and TV shows, from "Freaks and Geeks" creator Paul Feig's smash "Bridesmaids" (2011) to Lena Dunham's "Girls" (HBO 2012-17). A big-screen collaboration with comedian Amy Schumer, the raunchy romantic comedy "Trainwreck" (2015), revived his box office fortunes at the same time that his first book, a collection of interviews with fellow comedians called Sick in the Head, proved that Apatow remained a lifelong student of comedy.