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‘I had convinced myself that it wasn’t gonna happen’: Judd Apatow on his Emmy nominations

Judd Apatow is a producer, writer, director, actor and stand-up comedian. He is the founder of Apatow Productions.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Judd Apatow was in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, directing an episode of “Crashing” for HBO when he learned that his documentary, “The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” had been nominated for an Emmy for outstanding documentary, and Apatow for best director in that category.

The film is an exhaustive look at the life and legacy of Shandling, with quite a few revelations and twists along the way.

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Was this a surprise?

There are so many incredible docs being made right now that I had convinced myself that it wasn’t gonna happen, mainly out of self-preservation. I brought myself so low that it made this high even better.

What made you so endlessly fascinated with Garry Shandling’s life?

He was so kind to me for so long, but he was also a very complicated man, and most of us didn’t understand why he was so complicated. This movie was an exploration of his history and what he was.

Was the discovery about his lost brother particularly telling?

He never talked about his brother with me and I didn’t realize the importance of it until after he passed away. He didn’t have any family photos around, and we went through some boxes and there were hundreds of incredible photographs. He didn’t put anything out, but he saved everything.

What do you hope viewers learn about the man and his work through the documentary?

I hope it educates people as to his important, pioneering role in comedy. It’s an inspiring story because he was a normal human being who spent most of his life trying to figure out how to be a better human being and how to heal himself — it’s a very universal story.

What was the most important thing you learned from him?

He was the first person who introduced me to Buddhism, and that’s very helpful to me in my life. I have a busy mind, and to help quiet it down is very necessary.

Any thoughts on the new developments at HBO, with it possibly going bigger and broader?

The first job I ever had was working for HBO on the first “Comic Relief.” I’ve worked for them on and off for 33 years. I think it’s very exciting that they will have the opportunity to create more content. They have such an incredible thing there. It’s only good for me as a viewer and a supplier if they are going to make more shows and specials and documentaries — it’s fantastic news.

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