Breakouts and Outbreaks: Seth Rogen with ‘Knocked Up’

Early in the last decade, it appeared that comedy had hit an all time low. Adam Sandler was the comic figure most reliable to produce revenue. Thanks to Judd Apatow, this area of film has started to shape up again. He certainly is not a flawless producer, but he has brought a lot of talent front and center with his films and his films actually find the humor in raunchy situations by utilizing various forms of humor (rather than focusing exclusively on crude scenarios). One talent, perhaps the most notable talent his films have elevated, is that of Seth Rogen.

Rogen’s career essentially started with The 40 Year Old Virgin. This film is probably the most significant in the new movement in the comedy genre. This movement is somewhat made up of a second generation brat pack. You all know who I am talking about. But other than just create a seismic shift in one of Hollywood’s most profitable genres, the film also brought the talent of Seth Rogen out from behind the limitations of bit parts in the made for T.V. Speak and Richard Kelly’s Donnie Darko. But The 40 Year Old Virgin was not Rogen’s breakout. In fact not many people even noticed him in that film, for the obvious reason that the film is truly Steve Carrell’s. But Kevin Smith saw this performance and immediately penned Zack and Miri Make a Porno, a film written upon the inspiration of Rogen’s talent.

Unfortunately for Smith, Rogen became a star under Apatow’s watch first. By the time Smith had completed Zack and Miri, Knocked Up was about ready to hit theaters. The rest, as they say, is history. Knocked Up is a masterful comedy that brought with it two very talented faces. One, Katherine Heigl, threw away her talent by insulting the people that gave her a career and then became a rom-com regular. The other, Seth Rogen, was a truly passionate individual who used his newfound stardom to write and produce several of the best comedies of the decade, one of which was his childhood passion project, Superbad.

But all of that history aside, Rogen’s performance in Knocked Up is worthy of the opportunities it afforded him. Here is a character that combined two of comedy’s most beloved stereotypes: the fun-loving chubby guy and the stoner. Rogen brings to the table his likeable charisma, but also just enough stature to make us believe that he really wants to be a good guy. It is a delicate balance that Rogen nails scene-in and scene-out. His goofiness creates expertly handled awkward situations and his stature elevates the serious, emotional trauma of unexpected pregnancy.

Seth Rogen is an important comic actor, producer, and writer. He obviously has made his share of mistakes both in his past career and his post-Knocked Up glory (Drillbit Taylor). But the bulk of his work is genuinely funny and I believe it is from someone who is passionate about film. Rogen is an actor that I think we can all agree does not possess the goods that Hollywood usually likes to show off. But his endurance and talent paid off and now he is reaping the benefits of stardom and offering up quality cinema. From the writing credit of Walk Hard to the supporting role of Funny People, Rogen is a decently hard-working actor who I respect, despite his imperfections.

I enjoy this era of Seth Rogen dominated comedy far more than Adam Sandler’s work. But I have to admit, that my favorite performance from either of them, is seeing them on screen together in Funny People. I found Apatow’s third venture to be an underrated film. I guess I am a sucker for nostalgia. But I also enjoyed seeing Rogen take on a role with at least a little more substance, even if the film went a little bit off the deep end in the third act.

Rogen is a self-made star and I hope he continues to write. Even though Pineapple Express was not my favorite film, not by a long shot, I appreciate its originality and I hope Rogen continues to push comedy in new directions. I eagerly await his voice-work in Greg Mottola’s Paul where Rogen will act alongside Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Last year we got to see another breakout comedic performance. This time it was Zach Galifianakis. Is this the future comedy?

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