What is it about the Pantages Theatre that makes audience members think they can get in casual conversations with the performers while they're on stage?!
Just a couple months after Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy faced some truly oddball crowd interactions at the historic hall in downtown Minneapolis, Judd Apatow – one of the most royal names in comedy if not all of Hollywood over the past 15 years – also got stuck listening to blathering attendees when he should’ve been entertaining them Wednesday night.
The writer and director of such blockbusters as “40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” actually seemed to get a kick out of the exchanges, though. As he hinted in a pre-show interview, that type of unpredictability may have been exactly what Apatow was looking for in his first local stand-up set in 27 years, an old job he only just took up again in recent years -- and definitely should not shy away from in the future.
First up among the gabbers was a woman in the front row who repeatedly cut in to tell Apatow how much she loves his wife, actress Leslie Mann. The “This Is 40” star obviously came up a lot in an hourlong set heavy on marital and familial dealings. Apatow finally blurted to the woman fawning over every mention, “I get it; I like my wife more than me, too.”
Then came a voice from on up high, a woman who not only wanted to express her own affection for Mann but also had a movie idea she thinks Mann and Apatow would be perfect for. “Are you actually pitching me a movie from the balcony, ma'am?” Apatow asked.
Turns out, the would-be film auteur – who was then brought to the stage -- was a former roommate of ex-Minneapolitan (and Roseanne’s ex-husband) comedian Tom Arnold. Or so she claimed. When Apatow asked her for a story from the famously high-living Arnold’s wilder days, she came up short. “So you’re the only person in the world who has a story about a sober, boring Tom Arnold?!” Apatow inquired.
Not so coincidentally, Apatow recounted that his last time performing a stand-up set in Minneapolis was opening for Roseanne's HBO taping at the Guthrie Theater in 1991, when he was also writing jokes for the sitcom star. What a life he’s led since then, offering a goldmine of material to choose from in his set. He delivered many name-dropping stories about being a Hollywood insider – from complaining about the time Jon Favreau cut in on his “coolest moment ever” backstage with Beyonce to having Kanye West run two album titles past him for the album that would be “Yeezus.” Remembered Apatow, “He seriously couldn’t decide if he felt more like God or Jesus.”
Apatow’s best stuff, though, came more from his all-too-normal home life with two daughters, one now old enough to drink and the other old enough to ask him not to dance or sing along when he took her to a Taylor Swift concert. “Then I’m just going to stand here looking like I’m a pedophile,” the uncool dad retorted. He also offered plenty of great anecdotes from his marriage, enough to fill a sequel to “This Is 40.” Like the fact that his wife told him 23 years into their relationship that he always mispronounced her name (“Less-lee,” not “Lezz-lee”). When he asked why she never corrected him, her response was, “Because then I’d just think about how much I hate you anytime you kept saying it wrong.”
As for the movie idea thrown at him on stage, Apatow not surprisingly declined the pitch. However, he pointed out to the balcony lady that his judgement was bad enough to have also turned down future “Breaking Bad” star Bryan Cranston for a bad-guy role in the stoner flick “Pineapple Express.”
“I didn’t believe he could play a scary drug dealer,” Apatow groaned. Those kind of stories were addictive.