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Comedy producer, director, and screenwriter Judd Apatow is drawn to songs that are “deeply truthful” and encourage allowing your “inner self to shine”, a life philosophy presented by The Who, Cat Stevens and more in his Guest DJ set. Judd is producing both the Anchorman sequel and the HBO series Girls. He’s also hosting a live reading of the first Anchorman as a fundraiser for 826 LA on November 21.
1. Cat Stevens - Don't Be Shy
2. Warren Zevon - The French Inhaler
3. The Who - I Am One
4. Loudon Wainwright - A Father and A Son
5. Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt
Raul Campos: Hey I’m Raul Campos from KCRW and I’m here with comedy producer, director, screenwriter, Judd Apatow. Today we're here to talk with him about songs that have inspired him over the years as part of KCRW’s Guest DJ Project. Judd, how are you? Welcome.
Judd Apatow: It’s great to be here.
Campos: You’ve selected some tunes and I guess let’s get right into this first song.
Apatow: Well, the first song I picked is a Cat Stevens song which many people heard in the movie Harold and Maude. It’s called “Don’t Be Shy”.
It’s a life philosophy for a insecure nerd. You know, I’ve always related to that feeling you have when you’re a kid. You feel lost and you don’t know who you are. You feel like you can’t compete. You feel strange. There’s a part of you that thinks, ‘Oh maybe my strangeness is the best part of me.’ But you do need someone to encourage that idea, because often your uniqueness and the things that get you a beating is actually the best part of you. So this song seems like it's written by a parent telling you that you’re going to be okay and to allow your inner self to shine.
Song: Cat Stevens -- “Don’t Be Shy”
Campos: That was Cat Stevens, “Don’t Be Shy”. Our Guest DJ is Judd Apatow right here on KCRW.com. Great tune. Let’s get into the next one. What do you got coming up?
Apatow: The next song is by the great Warren Zevon, “The French Inhaler.”
When I worked at the Larry Sanders show in the 90’s one of the writer at the time, Paul Sims, pushed to have Warren Zevon on the show. He wanted Warren Zevon to sing this song, “The French Inhaler.”
I didn’t know that much about Warren Zevon at the time and when he played in on the show it really blew me away. It sounds like it's about people in a bar talking about their Hollywood lives and their dreams, their crumbling dreams. It’s a very powerful song and it’s an amazing performance of it on his live album.
Song: Warren Zevon - “The French Inhaler”
Apatow: I was going to make a movie at one point and I thought Warren Zevon would be great to score the movie so I took him out to lunch. At the lunch I was talking about the script and I said that I was waiting for notes from the studio on the script. He looked at me and he said ‘Why would you take notes from anybody? So you would change it for someone else?’
I was so embarrassed and it really blew my mind that I thought, “Oh this is an artist.” He writes a song and that’s it. He’s not checking with anyone to see if it's okay. It really changed a lot of my philosophy about my work and got me into a lot of trouble as I fought off notes in the years that followed.
Song: Warren Zevon- “Don’t Be Shy”
Campos: Our Guest DJ is Judd Apatow. He’s just picking some tunes right here for KCRW in the Guest DJ Project. You just heard Warren Zevon, a very cool live version. We’re going to get into The Who. Now who doesn’t love The Who? Let’s hear why you’re into this track.
Apatow: The Who was one of my favorite bands when I was a kid. Probably my favorite band. Especially the album Quadrophenia. There is a song on that album called “I Am One”, which was sung by Pete Townshend.
It is about feeling like an awkward teenager and not knowing how you’re going to survive and who you’re going to be. Just feeling weird, but also having a sense that you might succeed. Also feeling that, that’s in you. That there is something special about you.
In that sense, it’s similar to “Don’t Be Shy.” I’m always attracted to that idea. I must need to hear it.
We used it an episode of Freaks and Geeks where we showed Martin Starr’s character, Bill, come home after school and no one’s there. He’s kind of a latch-key kid. He makes a grilled cheese sandwich and gets a piece of chocolate cake. He starts watching the Dinah Shore show. Gary Shandling comes on and he slowly starts laughing. That was basically my childhood in a nutshell -- being alone and finding solace in comedians. That's one of my favorite sequences in any episode of Freaks and Geeks. Probably because it’s personal.
Song: The Who - “I Am One”
Campos: That was The Who. The classic, “I Am One”. It’s been selected here by our guest DJ Mr. Judd Apatow. Were going to get into Loudon Wainwright. Why this track?
Apatow: When I was a kid I saw Loudon Wainwright perform on the David Letterman Morning Show. Before he had a late night show he had a morning show around 1980 and Loudon Wainwright was on it a fair amount. He was this incredible folk singer who also was very funny but it was personal. His work was deeply, deeply truthful. Painfully truthful. He’s inspired me throughout my career to just tell stories that are based on feelings I’ve had or experiences I have had.
This song, “A Father and A Son”, is from an album called History. He just captures the tension between sons and dads better than anybody else ever has, or ever will I think.
Song: Loudon Wainwright -- “A Father and A Son”
Apatow: One of the highlights of working on This Is 40 is I used a song by Loudon Wainwright that he sings with his son Rufus in the soundtrack. I thought that was a special thing because I don’t think I had heard them sing together on record before. I always, you know, try to get the people that I look up to involved in my work. So if I love an artist, I’m always look for a way to connect with them by having their music in our film.
Campos: That was Loudon Wainwright doing “A Father and A Son”. Our guest DJ is Judd Apatow picking some great tunes. Some classics, some rare gems. But now we’re going to get into to something brand new. I have not even heard this song. So talk about this Pearl Jam track that we’re going to get into.
Apatow: They have a new record coming out called Lightning Bolt. This is the title track. I have been a big fan of theirs since the early days. In some ways, I feel like a lot of our comedy careers, the people that I started with, has mirrored the journey of Pearl Jam. We all started in the late 80s and we’re all around the same age. You know, we’re all getting married at the same time, having kids at the same time. So when they put out new records I feel like someone’s singing about my current life.
Song: Pearl Jam -- “Lightning Bolt”
Campos: Bands that have had such longevity and just the great history. What do you think the secret is to their success, to keep it fresh and current?
Apatow: I think certain people just stay very engaged with people, engaged with what’s happening in the world. It's very easy to kind of just go in your room, shut the door, and just watch Survivor for the rest of your life. I think everybody has this energy to make it. You're trying to get in the business and establish yourself.
Then, once you do, you have to continually try to figure out what you want to say and what you want to communicate. It definitely takes a lot of work and energy to keep exploring.
I feel like Pearl Jam has done that so well for so long. And in the comedy world, there are people like Woody Allen who stays very active and does some of his best work well into his ‘70s. I’m always looking to those people to remind myself that it is possible to not just burn out and disappear.
Campos: So let’s check it out. This is “Lightning Bolt,” something brand new from Pearl Jam right here on KCRW.com.
Pearl Jam- “Lightning Bolt”
Campos: Judd thanks so much for coming through and playing some of these songs.
Apatow: It was a pleasure to be here.