Comedy nerds, rejoice: Judd Apatow’s new book, Sick in the Head, a collection of interviews that bascially doubles as a who’s who of funny people, was created especially for you. The transcripts of these conversations are fascinating and informative, but the most interesting chats are the ones Apatow conducted when he was a plucky, 15-year-old kid, fooling comedy legends into sitting down with him, and recording the whole thing.
To learn the ins and outs of his future craft, Apatow spoke with a pre-Seinfeld Jerry Seinfeld, then frequent Letterman guest Jay Leno and Martin Short in 1984. The superstar comedians are patient and sweet with the young, eager Apatow, and some of their responses are pretty fantastic in hindsight.
Here are some of our favorite snippets:
Jerry Seinfeld, 1983
JA: So where do you go from here? Like right now you’re established as one of the top comedians and you get work, not only in the clubs but in Atlantic City. How much father can you get?
JS:It’s a tricky point that I’m at. But everyone that you’ll be talking to is that. Because there’s a lot you could do with TV series; you could do a sitcom, which a lot of people don’t want to be associated with.
JA: And what kind of vehicles are you looking for?
JS: Quality. That’s my only real consideration. It could be anything, as long as the people are trying to do something good. I don’t want to do a piece of junk. I’m not starving, you know.
Jay Leno, 1984
JA: Are you happy doing the clubs or would you like to play the larger audiences?
JL: I like doing the clubs. Two hundred to four hundred seats is about the maximum for ideal comedy, where you play with the crowd and all. I mean, obviously the big rooms are nice because there’s more money. But performance-wise, the smaller rooms are more fun to do.
Martin Short, 1984
JA: You also did a Robin Williams impression. You did all the different little characters that he does, and it was amazing. How did you develop that?
MS: Well, I know Robin, so there’s all different things—there’s his “ha ha,” a laugh which he rarely does on television, and I—that was from seeing him on The Tonight Show and he just never sat still, so I came up with the premise for Tang, the guy trying to get the answer out of him, and Robin wouldn’t do it. You just get into the voice, you know?
JA: Do you have any idea what you want to do after SCTV?
MS:My dream is to do a Broadway show. I’ve always wanted to do a Broadway musical.
A version of this article appears in the June 26 issue of Entertainment Weekly. To subscribe, head to ew.com/allaccess.