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Judd Apatow and Dave Eggers team up for 'I Found This Funny'

The filmmaker assembled the diverse, er, humor anthology (Conan O'Brien! Alice Munro?), and the author's McSweeney's is publishing it.

October 27, 2010|By Deborah Vankin, Los Angeles Times

In a way, there's some cyclical closure to the whole project — "I Found This Funny" is the culmination of Apatow's own literary exploration. After his TV shows "Freaks and Geeks" and "Undeclared" were canceled in 2000 and 2002, respectively, he took a year off to read. He'd dropped out of college his sophomore year because he "ran out of money and interest," he says, and this was his way to play catch-up, as well as stoke the creative fires. "At some point, you need more input than output or your brain turns to mush," he says. Apatow asked everyone he knew "what should I have read at this stage in my life?"

And then, a funny thing happened: His own writing changed. "When you read something that's really strong and insightful, it makes you think about your thought process and how much courage it takes to reveal yourself in your work." Apatow began taking more risks in his scripts and found "the deeper I went, the more people seemed to respond to it." Which set off a warm and fuzzy domino effect: The counterintuitive emotional depth of Steve Carell's "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," Apatow says, especially resonated with audiences and led to box-office success. Which put him on the map. Which led to giving back.

Apatow has been fortunate, he says, to have had many comedic mentors, dating back to high school — Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Jim Carrey and Shandling among them. "So when I was in a position to help other people, it felt natural," he says. "I Found This Funny" is his literary compass for readers embarking on their own bookish journeys.

Though before getting too sacharine, he adds: "We'll call the sequel 'I Found This Depressing.' "

deborah.vankin@latimes.com

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