In his only New Zealand interview, Seth Rogen talks to ALEXANDER BISLEY about getting Knocked Up, Judd Apatow’s riotous follow-up to the The 40 Year Old Virgin. Illustration by LYNDON BARROIS.


IT’S THE Summer of Seth. The unlikely Canadian leading man’s movie Knocked Up, where he’s brilliant as stoner Ben Scott, has reeled in over 100 million US dollars at the American box office. His keenly awaited Superbad and The Pineapple Express (directed by arthouse fave David Gordon Green) are raring to go; he also had a small part in Shrek 3.

I spoke to the big, hirsute 25-year-old via cellphone from Australia, where he was promoting Knocked Up. This zeitgeisty comedy has swing (including Dawn Raid rapper Savage’s song Swing). About the aftermath of Seth’s schlub knocking up Katherine Heigl’s babe Alison, it had me laughing like a hyena on helium. From before the Marx Brothers to Seth’s work, Jews make the best comedy. How come? “Thousands of years of oppression. Jews have delivered a defence mechanism. Laughter instead of crying,” Seth laughs.

Laughter, of course, is what he wants his audience to take away from his work. And laugh they have since Seth (whose virgin gig was at a Vancouver lesbian bar called The Lotus at thirteen) teamed up with director Judd Apatow aged sixteen. Highlights include TV series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared and horse-powered movie The 40 Year Old Virgin.

Garrulous Seth describes himself as the Marshall Brickman to Apatow’s Woody Allen; he has worked with other of the finest comics working today, acting in Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko and co-writing Sacha Baron Cohen’s Da Ali G Show. “Sacha’s one of the funniest guys around. He has high standards,” Seth enthuses about his friend who created Borat. “I was Bruno,” Seth recalls waking up in the middle of the night, visions of Cohen’s gay Austrian fashion reporter on his brain. “I was talking in that voice for weeks.” Though he’s not afraid to mock the likes of Hitch, Seth says there’s “more quality than there normally is in Hollywood at the moment.” Both he and Cohen are well busy, but hope to work together again. Seth jokes about “hijacking Sacha’s career”.

Seth and his friend Evan Goldberg wrote the intensely autobiographical Superbad when both were at high school. “It a really sweet movie,” he tells me, beaming with pride that The LA Times describes it as the filthiest teen movie in twenty-five years.

Seth, who’s been with fetching writer Lauren Miller for over two years, enjoys the LA life. A traffic incident resulted in a slanging match; it turned out, in a case of life imitating art imitating life, that the other driver was Seinfeld/Curb Your Enthusiasm tycoon Larry David. I tell Seth a Rogen version of Curb Your Enthusiasm would be good. “I’d like that. There’d be a lot more cursing and dick-jokes. All the same neuroses.”

Is there anything comedians shouldn’t joke about? “With time you can make a joke about anything... If you’re gonna offend people it better be really f**kin’ funny.” Self-deprecatingly, Seth says his acting roles aren’t hard; generally they are “pretty similar” to his own life. His favourite scenes in Knocked Up involve Ben’s flatmate-website collaborators. “Those are all my actual best friends from real life.” Despite the slacker persona, Seth seems to be manically industrious at the mo. As ever, he endearingly laughs like a drain: “It’s weird. I still think I’m lazy. I still associate with slackers.”

» Illustration by Lyndon Barrois.

Knocked Up opens July 19. Superbad is due out September 13.