When you’re an actor, things can get hot and exciting for a second, and then it cools off. Maybe, something else happens down the line, and it gets a little crazy for a while, and it cools off again. And then you have a guy like Seth Rogen, who just seems to have sustained this heat for a long while. It’s a never-ending hot thing with him Since Knocked Up, it’s just hasn’t let up.
I met Seth on the set of You, Me and Dupree — I’d just been cast in SNL, and this was the first movie I’d had a part in. I just started hanging out and bullshitting with him and Evan Goldberg, his best friend; we talked about movies and comic books, and we were just making each other laugh a lot. Like a lot of folks, I had been a fan of Freaks and Geeks, and I remember watching him on that show and thinking, “This guy is not self-conscious at all.” Seth is the kind of star where you watch him onscreen and think, “I’d actually like to hang out with that guy. And maybe smoke a lot of pot with him.”
The thing is, I don’t even smoke pot, and I still want to hang out with Seth. I’m not sure I can give him a bigger compliment than that. When I have smoked pot with him, I feel weird and get tired really quick. He once told me, “Smoking pot with you is like smoking pot with my dad.” When I hosted Saturday Night Live recently, he came backstage to see me before the show, and there were a number of folks who were like, “Oh man, Seth Rogen is here…I’m going to go get high with him!” I kept telling them, “Guys, just leave him alone…” But that’s how people think of him. You’re kind of awestruck yet you still want to burn a doob with him.
I found out I got the part in Superbad when I met Judd Apatow for the first time; he said, “Hey, so Seth and Evan wrote this movie, and you’re going to play a cop in it.” I figured it was going to be one scene where I play a cop in the background, or I show up and say two lines so someone gets from Point A to Point B. So I called Seth and he goes “Congratulations, you’re in!” I said, “Yeah, so I guess I’m a cop. Cool.” And he just said, “No, you and I are cops, we’re in, like, most of the movie.” That was when I realized, oh, it’s legitimate! And this all came from just hanging out with him on the You, Me and Dupree set. He just operates by instinct.
Which isn’t to say he’s just some guy who shows up, cracks a few jokes and then goes home. The guy works really fucking hard. A lot of people romanticize the process of making movies: “I’m going to wake up every morning and work on my script, I’m going to carry my notebook around and I shall be inspired!” Seth and Evan were the first people I’d met who just took a real no-bullshit attitude about it. It was very “Yeah, writing…this is work. You have to put the fucking hours in.”
You’re kind of awestruck yet you still want to burn a doob with him.
The thing about comedy is, it’s all about trying to bottle the feeling you get when you’re with your friends fucking around. There’s a lot “if you structure comedy, you’ll kill it” mindsets out there. Rogen is having none of that. He also has no interest in trying to outmaneuver people when it comes to making movies. It’s simply: “These are the types of movies I like. Here’s what I want to do. This is my best friend, Evan; he’ll be writing with me. These are some more funny people I know. We’re going to go make something now.” The Venn Diagram between what he finds funny and what a lot of other people find funny just happens to be huge, so he’s able to attract a large audience and make popular stuff.
I remember being in a comic book shop with him once, and I picked up some indie Daniel Clowes-like graphic novel…it may have even been a Daniel Clowes book. I recommended it to him, and he just said, “Dude, if it doesn’t involve someone flying around with a cape and punching people…I’m just not interested.” That’s Seth in a nutshell. He likes what he likes and he makes no bones about it.
I remember that when it came to filming our scenes together in Superbad, everything felt kind of loose. I mean, for someone who had co-written the script and lived with this story for a long time, he wasn’t the least bit precious about it. If anything, he kept trying to encourage me to do more out-there shit. The whole thing I did where I was talking about meeting my wife in the bar, it was something I just improvised…I did it in one take and I thought, “Oh, I don’t think this is going to work.” And Seth was like, “Hey, great, you sounded like you were just having fun there. Let’s go with that. Do that again.” He didn’t care that it was a little weird. He just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to contradict something later.
On the other hand, when something really wasn’t working, he wasn’t shy about speaking up. There was one point where some kid spits on me at a house party and I hit him with my baton. The other actors kept suggesting that I say some sort of line after he falls — and one person pitched something that revolves around a certain derogatory term. It was right at the point where it was really not cool to use that word any more…maybe it was OK on the playground once upon a time, but certainly not any more. I certainly felt uncomfortable saying it. And though some of the other folks laughed, Seth just shut it down immediately: “No, no, we’re not using that. Nope. Nuh-uh.” Then he quickly suggested another joke right over that off the top of his head, and that one worked! He knew what to come up with. He also knew it wasn’t cool and that the audience would not react well to it, so funny or not, the line wasn’t going in. Period.
You tend to have two types of people who work in movie comedy. You have the comedians who always need to be the smartest person in the film, who has to be the alpha and have everything revolve around them. You won’t get a good line, because it may make them seem less funny. And then you get the kind of person who wants everyone around them to be funnier — and that’s Seth. Watch This Is the End: He’s hilarious in it, but that’s a movie where everybody shines. He subscribes to the idea that if you’re good, it’ll make him seem better instead of worse. And it’s also the type of Hollywood movie where it could have been elitist and smug — “Hey, look at me and my famous friends” — and totally isn’t. It’s an inclusive movie; you kind of wish you were trapped in that house with them, even though those guys would be completely fucking useless during the apocalypse!
I just did a voice for this animated movie Sausage Party that Seth co-wrote, and the day I went in to do my recording session was the day he got the first weekend’s numbers back for Neighbors. Most people would have popped open a bottle of champagne and taken a victory lap. But when Seth got in, he just came up and said, “Oh, hey Bill…so here’s what worked in the last session and here’s what didn’t, but I kinda chalk that up to my writing, so, you know, arrgghh! Sorry about that. I’ll try to come up with something better.” You just had a $49 million opening weekend on a movie you starred in and you’re apologizing for your writing?!? That’s Seth. No ego, all work.
The one beef I have with him is that…I have this appropriation thing where I just pick up traits and characteristics from people that I’m around and make them my own. And I ended up picking up his laugh, which drives my family crazy. My wife is constantly telling me, “You don’t laugh like that. That’s Seth’s laugh!” But I can’t help it — I mean, it’s so infectious! So, damn your infectious laugh, Seth Rogen! And thanks for being so cool and funny.