Penthouse Retrospective

by Paul Provenza Originally Published: june, 2010

With All Disrespect | 10 Years Ago This Month

Two women opening up to each other isn’t as comedically interesting to me, because women tend to do that naturally. But guys trying to be open and vulnerable while trying to be macho and strong at the same time is pure comic fodder.

APATOW: I think a lot of that’s just being uncomfortable being a man and the struggle — to “own” your masculinity and cockiness as part of all that. I’ve always found that funny. The goofy guy trying to figure out how to be confident is one of the funniest things of all to me. I also think there’s an interesting dynamic of women “straightening out” men or trying to manipulate them into being something different. That struggle is always human, and really good for comedy.

And they’re usually both right and both wrong — that’s what’s really funny.

APATOW: I learned slowly over the years that I’m wrong about most everything. In every fight, there’s that struggle to accept the fact that you’re wrong about something and how hard you’ll hold on to being right.

Your movies say a lot about the male-female dynamic, evolution into manhood, and our assumptions about all that sort of stuff, I think. But they’re not always appreciated for that, are they?

APATOW: People see the movies through their subjective eyes. Some critics said they’re sexist, but to me the whole point is that there’s no way the guys could be worse with their behavior; it’s about their struggle to grow up, to be able to handle a family and kids and whatever. With something like Seth saving his bong during an earthquake before thinking about his pregnant girlfriend, I’m trying to show the worst side of a man.

And I should also be able to show the worst side of a woman, which sometimes is being pregnant and hormonal and kicking your boyfriend out of the car in the middle of a major intersection. You go into nesting mode, your hormones are kicking in, you’re in a panic trying to hold it all together, and once in a while it just blows — at the man you’re with, or at someone you bump into walking down the street. That is very real, very human, and also very funny.

In Knocked Up, I tried to show a really unpleasant relationship; two people that don’t really work well together. I always thought, These two might not last three weeks after this movie ends. It doesn’t even imply they’ll be together forever, but I like that they’re saying, “We screwed up and got pregnant. but we owe it to the baby to at least find out if we could like each other. It’d be wrong to not find out.” That’s the point of the movie: They don’t just blow each other off. It’s an original premise, because people don’t do that. People usually just head out of town.

And some people say, “Oh, come on, a woman like that would never go for him.” Well, a goofy Jewish guy being with a gorgeous woman is not all that crazy. If you need proof, Google Image me and my wife. Look at my wife, then look at me.

I walked out of Pineapple Express — a very funny movie — thinking, I don’t know whether this is a pro-pot or anti-pot movie.

APATOW: That movie started because I watched True Romance, and Brad Pitt played this guy who was high in one scene, but he was so funny I wished they were chasing his character instead of Christian Slater, because it must be really hard to run away when you’re that high. And I thought How great would it be to do a Cheech & Chong movie but with Jerry Bruckheimer-level action? A big action movie, but they are just high out of their minds.

I had read Superbad, but couldn’t get anybody to make it, so I thought, If Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg wrote this stoner/action-movie idea, maybe that’s more commercial. I don’t know why we thought the pot movie could be more commercial than the liquor movie, but Superbad ended up happening, and in the middle of shooting that, the studio said, “Since the alcohol movie seems to be going well, maybe we should make that pot movie, too.”

Now, Seth and Evan always said, “Superbad is the kind of movie we wish someone would make. It’s the way we talk, the kind of comedy we like, the kind of action we like,” so it’s been like hooking into two people with this unique perspective as young guys; how they look at the world and what they want to see.

I can talk to them, like, “You have these friends in Superbad, but other than trying to get liquor, what’s the movie about?” I said to them, “It’s really about two guys that love each other and are about to separate probably for the rest of their lives, and they’re heartbroken and mad that they can’t stay together.” That’s the engine of Superbad.

From the book iSatiristas! Comedians, Contrarians, Raconteurs & Vulgarians by Paul Provenza and Dan Dion. Copyright© 2010 by Paul Provenza. Photographs by Dan Dion. Reprinted by permission of It Books, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Leave a Reply