Sick in the Head: Conversations About Life and Comedy

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

From the writer and director of Knocked Up and the producer of Freaks and Geeks comes a collection of intimate, hilarious conversations with the biggest names in comedy from the past thirty years—including Mel Brooks, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Roseanne Barr, Harold Ramis, Louis C.K., Chris Rock, and Lena Dunham.
 
Before becoming one of the most successful filmmakers in Hollywood, Judd Apatow was the original comedy nerd. At fifteen, he took a job washing dishes in a local comedy club—just so he could watch endless stand-up for free. At sixteen, he was hosting a show for his local high school radio station in Syosset, Long Island—a show that consisted of Q&As with his comedy heroes, from Garry Shandling to Jerry Seinfeld. They talked about their careers, the science of a good joke, and their dreams of future glory (turns out, Shandling was interested in having his own TV show one day and Steve Allen had already invented everything).

Thirty years later, Apatow is still that same comedy nerd—and he’s still interviewing funny people about why they do what they do.

Sick in the Head gathers Apatow’s most memorable and revealing conversations into one hilarious, wide-ranging, and incredibly candid collection that spans not only his career but his entire adult life. Here are the comedy legends who inspired and shaped him, from Mel Brooks to Steve Martin. Here are the contemporaries he grew up with in Hollywood, from Spike Jonze to Sarah Silverman. And here, finally, are the brightest stars in comedy today, many of whom Apatow has been fortunate to work with, from Seth Rogen to Amy Schumer. And along the way, something kind of magical happens: What started as a lifetime’s worth of conversations about comedy becomes something else entirely. It becomes an exploration of creativity, ambition, neediness, generosity, spirituality, and the joy that comes from making people laugh.

Loaded with the kind of back-of-the-club stories that comics tell one another when no one else is watching, this fascinating, personal (and borderline-obsessive) book is Judd Apatow’s gift to comedy nerds everywhere.

Praise for Sick in the Head
 
“Open this book anywhere, and you’re bound to find some interesting nugget from someone who has had you in stitches many, many times.”—Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“Incandescent . . . an irresistible, ultimate-insider’s comedy-interview extravaganza . . . Apatow never loses his unabashed fan’s enthusiasm even as he asks canny questions that yield superbly illuminating conversations rich in shop talk and musings on the lure, demands, and resonance of comedy.”—Booklist (starred review)
 
“If Apatow’s gift for comedy is a sickness, may he never be cured.”—Playboy
 
“Sprawling and insightful . . . The candidness of the interviews also exposes the peculiar community of comedians with anecdotes and cameos unlikely to be heard elsewhere. A delightful and hilarious read.”—Kirkus Reviews

“These are wonderful, expansive interviews—at times brutal, at times breathtaking—with artists whose wit, intelligence, gaze, and insights are all sharp enough to draw blood.”—Michael Chabon
 
“Anyone even remotely interested in comedy or humanity should own this book. It is hilarious and informative and it contains insightful interviews with the greatest comics, comedians, and comediennes of our time. My representatives assure me I will appear in a future edition.”—Will Ferrell

Nanci Arvizu, Writing and Reviews Editor

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3 Comments

  1. A must read While I’m not the biggest fan of Judd Apatow’s movies — my style of humor is a bit more retro than his cutting-edge raunchy comedies — I think we can all agree that this book is a must-read. 

  2. Interesting idea that fails to live up to expectations The book is almost worth purchasing for the interviews with Garry Shandling alone. The Jerry Seinfeld interviews are also top notch, but readers may want to recuse my review of this interview, based on my freakish, near stalker fandom. The Albert Brooks interviews are some of the more engaging in the series, as is the interview conducted with Larry Gelbart and James L. Brooks. The final interview worthy of note, that should also carry an asterisk based on freakish fandom is the interview…

  3. Reading this book is like being invited to the best party ever Reading this book is like being invited to the best party ever. Only the earlier entries (chronologically) are technically interviews: the rest are conversations among friends, collaborators, masters of their craft, in which they try out outdo and one-up each-other not just in how funny they are but how revealing they can be about their work, their hopes, their fears, their pasts, and their personal screw-ups. This book has kept me up two nights now, as I had to read “just one more.”…

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