Rogan and Apatow

Supported by Greenhaven Road Capital, finding value off the beaten path.

Judd Apatow’s book, Sick in the Head is full of good advice and we’ve done two posts here about it, to recap.

When you start, your work will be shit. That’s okay, do it anyway. During this time keep your commitments few so you can practice. Find a boot camp. Eventually, a good opportunity will come up, take it. Try to find good people to work with and projects that sip at whatever got you started in the first place. You’ll need luck along the way. Don’t forget to appreciate what you have. Stop at certain diminishing returns.

In his conversation with Rogan, Apatow offers more advice.

Focus on what you can control. Apatow asks Rogan if he gets nervous about slow ticket sales. Rogan says, “no.”

“I try to tune in to as little as I possibly can other than doing the jokes, doing the shows, I don’t tune in anymore…there’s things to think about and there’s things to not think about.”

Time spent worrying about things out of your control doesn’t help. Dan Harris said he was always worried about catching his flight. Eventually, he realized he could worry once but beyond that it didn’t do any good. We all have 168 hours each week, spend them on skill jar activities.

Take your job seriously. Apatow said:

“When I started I was opening for Larry Miller and he would have these incredible bits, some of them were like ten minutes long…they would get funnier and funnier. One day he said to me, ‘you know, this is a job, you got to sit down every day and write jokes. You don’t just go to the mall and watch a movie every day. If you just sat down for two hours at a desk and treated this like it was a job that deserved your respect you’d be a hundred times better than everybody else. Now, I didn’t listen to his advice at the time, but I do now.”

Excellence requires – about – 10,000 hours. Comedians are fortunate because they get immediate feedback – laughs – as they practice. Steven Pressfield said, “put your ass where your heart wants to be.”

You can’t do one thing.

“I was talking with this very famous actor who does a lot of charity work around the world and he said, I was working on this project to dig wells in a community in Africa and he dug the wells and it was incredible for this community. Then the neighboring community came and murdered everybody for the wells. That’s what it’s like to help people in the world. There’s always something that results that you did not anticipate that makes it more complicated.”

A similar thing happened to Anthony Bourdain:

Even the smallest stone in a pond causes ripples.


“Because I make movies and TV, my standup career is all about getting to hangout with everybody and that particular crowd on that particular night…I don’t need it to pay the rent and that frees me up to be a little more daring.”

The more bosses, kids, spouses, co-workers, peers, agencies, etc that you have to answer to the fewer degrees of freedom to make good choices. Seth Klarman said he tries to only bring on investors who trust his process because he needs the freedom to invest in a variety of issues.

Talk to your customers.

“Oh yeah. When you don’t talk directly to the crowd you get stale as to what people are thinking about. I can tell when I bring up certain topics, what peole’s concerns are…it’s weird to write jokes, make a movie and then two years later find out if they’re funny”

Apatow’s customers are the people seeing his standup show and it’s great to hear how he and others test jokes. Patrick Collison went to the bay area before starting his company. Ty Warner talked constantly to his customers to create Beanie Babies. Paul Graham wrote, “If you can’t understand users, however, you should either learn how or find a co-founder who can. That is the single most important issue for technology startups, and the rock that sinks more of them than anything else.”


“With any scene I’m always like ‘well that’s where the joke’s supposed to be, here’s my favorite, let’s get eight more and we’ll move on.”

“I do not have the courage to assume that when I hit editing that I’m such a genius that I will have not fucked up any of this in the writing.”

“I’ll say, ‘hey let him change it, but tell him to hit the same idea,’ half the time he beats the joke (if you have the right joke).”

Rogan adds that when they did this on News Radio people felt invested. Aziz Ansari said they do this on his show too. Brian Koppelman and David Levien said that they do it on their show too. Apatow et al. have humility.


“I write better after I do any physical activity. What I do is I walk really fast around my neighborhood in circles for like forty-five minutes every day.”

“They say that when you write you should go over everything you wrote on a walk,” Rogan added. Walking, Eric Weiner wrote in Geograhy of Genius, “quiets the mind without silencing it.”

See it to believe it. Rogan said:

“The one that kicked in for me was my parents taking me to see Live on the Sunset Strip, I remember being in the audience while Richard Pryor was on stage. I looked around and was like, (never seen real standup before)…that planted a seed that this is possible.”

Holy shit that’s possible?!?! moments can have huge effects. Whether it’s the neighbor tinkering in the garage or an explorer in the Canary Islands. Once you see it it makes another world possible.

Reps. How to get better, Rogan says do it over and over.

“I think the only way is constant repetition. You have to be on stage all the time. You have to always be trying to improve it. You have to always be listening to your recordings. You gotta listen to bad sets too.”

Jeff Annello compare it to chess, “I think an efficient decision maker is like a chess player that has studied a lot of games, and can very quickly call to mind other moves that have been made and what the best moves are.”

Jim O’Shaughnessy said, “If it’s art, you want to look at tons of art.”

Thanks for reading,

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