Backstage at the Hollywood Film Awards, Seth Rogen sat on a couch in the green room sipping a Heineken and going over his speech. There to present frequent collaborator Judd Apatow the Hollywood Comedy Award, Rogen wasn’t exactly worried, but he wasn’t exactly brimming with confidence, either.
“I’ve seen about 200 people in this room not laugh at my jokes,” Rogen said. “It’s a tough crowd.”
Shortly afterward, Apatow entered the green room, sat down next to his friend and took out notes he had scribbled on the back of the show’s program and on his entry ticket. “I’ve been writing these down throughout the evening,” Apatow says, showing me his hastily written handiwork. “Basically, just some ideas to improve the ceremony.”
Apatow’s notes -- which he did indeed read from the podium -- and Rogen’s speech were the highlights of the 16th annual Hollywood Film Awards, generating roars of approval from an audience that, nearing the evening’s end point, had grown a bit weary of a parade of effusive expressions of thanks and shout-outs to various “teams.”
“This is known as the first stop of awards season, or if you’re in comedy, the last stop of awards season,” Rogen began. “This is it. We’ll lose to a musical at the Golden Globes. The funniest movie in the world could come out, and we’d lose to ‘Les Miserables.’ ” (It should be noted that as we were sitting and drinking backstage, a commercial spot for “Les Miz” came on and Rogen told me he was actually looking forward to the film. “Though I’d like to see the ‘Les Wiz’ version too. Somebody should start work on that.”)
Rogen’s introduction of Apatow took broad shots at awards in general, the Hollywood Film Awards in particular and the man he was presenting.
“He’s an incredible director, but he’s not as good as Ben Affleck,” Rogen said of Apatow. “If Judd directed ‘Argo’ it would’ve been very unsuspenseful -- and I would have been in it.”
Apatow watched all this from the wings, laughing and listening, waiting for his turn. When he took the stage, he decried the fact that Rogen stole all his material, illustrating what he called the “mind meld” that has developed between himself and the young man who got his start in the celebrated, Apatow-produced TV show “Freaks and Geeks.”
Going through his list of ways to improve the Hollywood Film Awards, Apatow took shots at everyone, including himself. Among the notes:
“Ben Affleck is aging better than me.”
“Please tell kid from ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’ not to mention God. This is Hollywood.”
“John Hawkes looks like he would kick the ... out of the guy in ‘The Sessions.’ ”
“Why didn’t Hoffman have a friend give him the award? Is Carlos [de Abreu] Dustin Hoffman’s best friend? Where ... is Jon Voight, at Romney’s after-party?”
Noting Affleck’s pronunciation in discussing Iran: “So it’s ‘eee-ROHN,’ not ‘EYE-ran.’ OK.”
Apatow left the stage to a loud ovation, a sentiment that continued among those still left backstage.
“That was awesome, man,” filmmaker Quentin Tarantino told Apatow, shaking his hand.
“He did take my jokes, you know,” Apatow tells me, showing me his notes. “It’s literally word for word in some cases.”
Rogen couldn’t be found for comment.
A bit later in the evening, actor Edward Norton took the stage to give Richard Gere a career achievement award.
“I just got an email from Seth Rogen,” Norton joked. “He’s home in his underwear, high and already laughing at us.”
We can’t confirm any of those observations, except for the last part. And we were more than happy to join in.