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Tuesday night, the Sundance Channel series Iconoclasts pairs Lena Dunham with Judd Apatow for an interesting conversation about comedy.
You might not think they make an obvious pair, since he's often pegged as a writer of things that are fairly specifically about post-youth men and she's often pegged as a writer of things about young women. They play in the culture in very different ways: his movies are populist hits; her HBO show, Girls, is a controversy magnet with a smallish audience. But he's a producer on Girls and obviously a mentor on whom she relies pretty heavily. Interestingly, she says the film of his that she truly loves, that got her tuned in to his voice, is Funny People, one of his less warmly received projects.
What they have in common that the special teases out is that they're both obsessed with mining comedy from real experiences — they both assume that the way you get stories is from your own life, which is not what everyone who writes comedy believes. At one point, Apatow speaks almost enviously about something that's often tagged as a weakness: Dunham's almost complete lack of experience in traditional environments. He points out that she hasn't worked her way up through all kinds of junk projects, so she hasn't picked up bad habits. "No one ever told her the generic way to do anything," he says. "She only has her instincts."
It makes for an interesting chat.
Iconoclasts airs at 8:00 p.m. on the Sundance Channel.