Mike White Calls Out Judd Apatow

Mike White, Judd ApatowPhoto: Patrick McMullan (2)

Reigning Hollywood comedy king Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, the upcoming Knocked Up) worked with Mike White (Year of the Dog, School of Rock) on the much-beloved, long-lamented Freaks and Geeks. White wrote three episodes of the show, including the memorable “Kim Kelly Is My Friend,” and the two auteurs share a comic sensibility and an affection for the underdog. But according to the New York Times’ Sharon Waxman, who writes about Apatow in the paper’s annual Summer Movie preview section, in recent years White has become disenchanted with his former running mate, objecting to the treatment of women and gay men in Apatow’s recent movies.

“To me, I definitely stand in the corner of wanting to give voice to the bullied, and not the bully. Here’s where comedy is catharsis for people who are picked on. There’s a strain in Knocked Up where you sort of feel like something’s changed a little bit. My sense of it is that because those guys are idiosyncratic-looking, their perception is that they’re still the underdogs. But there is something about the spirit of the thing, that comes under the guise of comedy, where — it’s weird. At some point it starts feeling like comedy of the bullies, rather than the bullied.”

Is White right? It probably depends on whether you view the “You know how I know you’re gay?” scene in The 40-Year-Old Virgin as gay-baiting or hilarious. (Or, more properly, both.) Certainly, when Knocked Up opens June 1 and makes ten gazillion dollars — in that same Summer Movie preview, the full-page ad for Knocked Up simply reprinted the movie’s near-absurdly gushing Variety review — Apatow and friends will probably have to cede forever the position of underdog in Hollywood.

Giving the Last Laugh to Life’s Losers [NYT]

Mike White Calls Out Judd Apatow