Leadership

How Judd Apatow started preparing for his career at 10 years old

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Christopher Polk | Getty Images

Emmy Award-winning writer, producer and director Judd Apatow, 49, knew he wanted to work in the film industry since he was 10 years old.

"Lucky for me, it wasn't something that I had to come around to," Apatow tells LinkedIn editor-in-chief Daniel Roth in an exclusive interview. "I always wanted to be ahead."

Even as the creative force behind Hollywood hits like "40-Year-Old Virgin," "Bridesmaids" and "Anchorman," among dozens of others, says he was nervous as a kid about finding his special talent.

"I was always being picked last in gym class, which, when you were a kid, was a big deal," Apatow tells Roth. "You had this massive humiliation multiple times a day, where you were treated lower than everyone."

As a kid, he brainstormed which area he could be "on his game" and "better than everybody at." The answer: entertainment and comedy.

"Mainly because no one was interested in it," he says. "There wasn't a second person watching comedians on the 'Tonight Show.' Now there is, because the internet and comedy's become such a giant business."

Apatow, who most recently produced the romantic comedy "The Big Sick" in June, would next ask himself one question: "What can I do next to make this path happen for me?"

As a teen, he got a job as a dishwasher at a comedy club just to watch the comedians' shows. He'd later interview them for his high school's radio station.

At college, Apatow studied screenwriting and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. He also grew close to Adam Sandler, David Spade, Rob Schneider and opened shows for Jim Carrey, a time in his life he thoroughly details in his 2015 book "Sick in the Head."

"Everybody told me it was going to take a long time, so I didn't have that sense of being behind," Apatow tells Roth. "I always felt ahead, because I started when I was 17. Even when I was 20, 21, I thought, if this all starts working out when I'm 30, it's okay."

He compares having relationships with traditional and newer studios, including Netflix and HBO which gave him his first job, to dating: "I just feel like I'm on a first date, always."

"You know, I just don't feel like any success I've had means the next one will be successful," Apatow says. "It keeps me on my toes and I have a lot of energy to succeed because I just don't get cocky or lazy because, again, in comedy, I just don't know."

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