Funny People

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Something was amiss at The Future of Funny panel discussion presented by the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University at Creative Artists Agency last Thursday night. Judd Apatow was there, as advertised, along with Sarah Silverman and Andy Borowitz, to chat with moderator Ken Auletta, but the room, which was at capacity with agents, students, entertainment execs and media, felt a little stuffy.

The last time I saw Judd Apatow being interviewed, he chatted openly for over an hour. It’s been weeks since my colleague Kari Mozena last saw Apatow, and she’s still laughing. Sitting in a director’s chair at the front of CAA’s screening room on this night, the writer and director just made me uneasy:

Ken: Would we laugh as hard today at the comedy of the late greats?
Judd: Is this a real event? Is CAA just trying to sign me right now?

Ken: How does comedy affect social change?
Judd: I’m more concerned about what my cursing looks like in sign language right now. (Note: the discussion was signed.)

Ken: Is comedy written differently for different mediums?
Judd: That is the kind of question that makes me want to take a nap.

The evening started off well enough. Video of Sara Silverman and Apatow’s Funny People and a presentation by Any Borowitz made everybody laugh—including the microphoned comedians. Borowitz and Silverman, who on and off spoke into her chest to get her mic to work, answered Auletta’s questions thoughtfully, then cracked jokes. Actually, Borowitz got one of the biggest laughs of the night when he predicted, “comedy increasingly is going to come from china.”

As for Apatow being uncharacteristically hard to reach, I think his fans will agree that he’s allowed. Uneasy or not, everybody laughed.