I have an unsettled relationship with the idea of celebrity. I hate when people give celebrities more attention than they deserve. I think it’s because I’m such a fan of people and if on a human level the “quote-unquote” celebrity isn’t able to connect with you on that basic level then their status as a famous person is totally moot for me. That being said, living in Los Angeles has provided me with interactions with certain celebrities that are not only famous but are also dynamic human beings that I actually admire. Recently I was performing at The Hollywood Improv and right when I walked in, sitting in a booth with his notes, was Judd Apatow (director of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up and most recently Trainwreck, among many other producing credits). At first I didn’t recognize him. I walked from the bar into the packed showroom, checked in with the host and was informed that Apatow was going to do a set. I got excited. It’s a rare feeling for me, I’m usually pretty dead to the idea of famous people. But for me Apatow isn’t just a famous person. His career is specifically the template for how I’ve been constructing my own career: Start as a stand-up comedian, go into TV writing, then become a highly successful producer and director…
So I go back into the bar area and confirm that the normal looking guy with a touch of grey in his beard was Apatow. I was one of the producers of the show that night so I took the opportunity to introduce myself and thank him for doing our show. Super nice guy, down to earth, incredibly approachable. I told Apatow that my roommate Jason was the actor who played the bully in Freaks and Geeks and that Jason was in the audience that night. Apatow got excited and regaled me with old memories from the show. At one point I built up the courage to ask for a photo and he humbly obliged.
Here’s where it gets interesting…
Then Apatow goes on stage, has a good set and about half way through goes into a bit about why celebrities don’t like taking photos. In his words it’s because the person who asks for the photo always ends up putting their arm around the celebrity thus inevitably putting their armpit on the shoulder of said celebrity (see photo above) and by the end of the day if they have done 50 photos their shoulder smells like ass. I’m in the back of the audience realizing I just did the precise faux pas that he is talking about just 10 minutes prior. It’s clearly a bit he’s been working on for a while and not about me specifically but still it was a momentarily uncomfortable coincidence. So I go on stage after Judd and open my set referring to the stink shoulder bit and admitting that I was guitly of doing the exact shoulder stinking he was joking about (again view photo above). It gets a laugh and that should be the end of the story.
Until, we are in the bar after the show, it’s packed. Doing my best to make sure I say hello to everyone who came for the show. It’s a bit of a whirl wind. Suddenly, my roommate Jason comes up to me and points at me with an attitude of ‘gotcha’, Jason then exclaims, “Apatow just took a photo with me! And he put his armpit on my shoulder giving me the stink shoulder.” We laughed our asses off. What a random, crazy story and a blast of a night.
So, what does this all mean? I don’t know. Maybe I’m just guilty of perpetuating the very celebrity culture that I have been so critical of, or maybe this is an objectively interesting story? Either could be true, but when I really think about it… working with someone who has accomplishments that I actually admire was inspiring and if a celebrity is first and fore most a good person than maybe I need to be honest with the fact that that’s what I’m aiming for.
…but I seriously have no desire to be famous, I just want to be really fucking good!