Friday night I got the opportunity to attend a talk with three of my writing heroes: "The Jack Oakie Celebration of Comedy in Film featuring Judd Apatow, James L. Brooks and Larry Gelbart." James L. Brooks is one of the major reasons I started writing. I saw Terms of Endearment when I was a little kid and sobbed like...that little kid in Terms of Endearment. I have seen Broadcast News fifty times, and consider it perhaps the finest romantic comedy ever written. As Good As It Gets is a modern classic, I loved I'll Do Anything, and even have a soft spot in my heart for Spanglish. Oh, plus The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi, and the guy has been with The Simpsons from day one! No further questions, your honor.

Brooks' incredible skill of seamlessly blending laughter and heartbreak clearly made a huge influence on Judd Apatow (although from reading all the articles about him, you'd think Apatow invented the practice). Like Brooks, Apatow did a lot of television work (the classics Larry Sanders Show, Freaks and Geeks, and Undeclared), and lately he's written and directed two of the best film comedies of the decade -- The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up.

Larry Gelbart wrote Tootsie (with Murray Schisgal) -- one of the greatest screenplays ever penned, comedy or otherwise. That script earned him an Oscar nomination, as did Oh God! He earned Emmy nominations for writing, producing, and directing episodes of the classic sitcom M*A*S*H, and his writing career spans more than 50 years.

These three dudes on one stage, plus little cameos from the likes of Garry Shandling, Leslie Mann, and Jonah Hill. It was quite a night. Apatow kicked off the evening by sharing that he had been in that very theater as a boy, to see Steven Spielberg's notorious flop 1941. "I thought this was about comedy," quipped Gelbart.
categories Features, Cinematical