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An auteur in good comic company

August 24, 2008|Susan King

There CAN be little doubt that we live in the Judd Apatow era of comedy. Since his 2005 box office hit "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Apatow has followed up either as a writer, director or producer with "Knocked Up," "Superbad," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and, most recently, "Pineapple Express." Apatow is not the first who can rightly claim to be Hollywood's king of movie comedy -- here's a glance at his and previous titleholders' careers.

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Writer, director, producer

Judd Apatow

Age: 40

Years active: Began stand-up in 1985; produced and won an Emmy for 1992's "The Ben Stiller Show" on Fox and spent five years as a writer-producer on "The Larry Sanders Show." From 1999 to 2002, he created and produced two acclaimed short-lived TV series, "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared."

Trademarks: Freaky, geeky teenagers; sweet, overweight Peter Pan slackers looking for love; virginal men looking for love; toilet humor; copious amounts of drugs, gratuitous male frontal nudity, booze, and rock and pop soundtracks. His films are generally set in the Los Angeles area.

Stock company: Steve Carell, Seth Rogen, Danny McBride, James Franco, Jason Segel, Jonah Hill, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly, Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann, Kevin Corrigan, Bill Hader, David Koechner, Chris Parnell, Ben Stiller, Loudon Wainwright III, Fred Willard, Jack Black.

Directing pool: Adam McKay ("Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby," "Step Brothers"); Jake Kasdan ("Freaks and Geeks," "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story"); Greg Mottola ("Superbad"); Nicholas Stoller ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall"); David Gordon Green ("Pineapple Express"); Harold Ramis (the upcoming "Year One").

Box office champ (as director): 2007's "Knocked Up" -- $219 million internationally.

Misstep: Despite good reviews, 2007's "Walk Hard" earned a mere $20.6 million internationally.

Did you know: Apatow has been nominated for a Writers Guild of America award for his screenplays for "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" -- he shared nomination with Carell -- and for "Knocked Up."

Legacy: Expect to see a lot more gross-out comedy hits with schlubby protagonists.

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John Hughes

Writer, director, producer

Age: 58

Years active: 1979 -- writer on the TV series "Delta House" -- to present -- provided story as Edmond Dantes for "Drillbit Taylor." Since 1994, though, has lived a reclusive life in Chicago.

Hit films: "Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," "Home Alone" franchise, "Planes, Trains and Automobiles"

Trademarks: Angst-ridden misfit teenagers, wise-beyond-their-years children and Peter Pan adults, characters breaking the fourth wall, pop soundtracks. Plenty of slapstick mixed with pathos and sentimentality. The majority of his films are set in the fictional Shermer, Ill., or Chicago's North Shore suburbs or metropolitan area. Hughes grew up in Northbrook, Ill.

Stock company: Molly Ringwald, Anthony Michael Hall, John Candy, Edie McClurg, Macaulay Culkin.

Directing pool: Howard Deutch ("Pretty in Pink," "Some Kind of Wonderful," "The Great Outdoors"); Chris Columbus ("Home Alone," "Home Alone 2," "Only the Lonely").

Box office champ: 1990's "Home Alone" -- $477.6 million worldwide.

Misstep: The outrageously stereotypical Asian character of Long Duk Dong (played by Gedde Watanabe in "Sixteen Candles").

Did you know: Annette Bening made her film debut in 1988's "The Great Outdoors."

Legacy: Character-driven comedies, music soundtracks and trail-blazer for Apatow-esque misfit teens

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Peter and Bobby Farrelly -- a.k.a. the Farrelly brothers

Writers, directors and producers

Ages: Peter, 51; Bobby, 50

Years active: Since 1994

Hit films: "Dumb & Dumber" (1994), "There's Something About Mary" (1998), "Me, Myself & Irene" (2000), "Shallow Hal" (2001).

Trademarks: Loser males looking for love; pop soundtracks; crass, toilet humor. Sports play a big part in their films with such pro athletes as Roger Clemens and Brett Favre showing up in cameos. The majority of their films are set in Rhode Island -- they hail from Cumberland, R.I. -- or New England, though they have ventured to Miami, New York and Pennsylvania. They frequently have disabled characters in their movies and often depict them as far more normal and bright than the protagonists.

Stock company: Ben Stiller, Jim Carrey

Directing pool: Michael Corrente ("Outside Providence"); Barry W. Blaustein ("The Ringer").

Box office champ: "There's Something About Mary" -- $369.9 million worldwide.

Misstep: Their 2007 remake of the 1972 comedy classic "The Heartbreak Kid" was trounced by critics and audiences.

Did you know: Cameron Diaz won the New York Film Critics Circle award for best actress for "There's Something About Mary."

Legacy: Inspired the Weitz brothers ("American Pie") as well as Apatow, Adam McKay ("Step Brothers") and Todd Phillips ("Old School")

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John Landis, Ivan Reitman, Harold Ramis

Writers, directors, producers

Ages: Landis, 58; Reitman, 61; Ramis, 63.

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