EXCLUSIVE: HBO is teaming with Knocked Up creator Judd Apatow to make a two-part documentary on legendary U.S. comedian George Carlin, with UK outfit Rise Films producing alongside Apatow Productions.
HBO Documentary Films has commissioned Apatow and his longtime collaborator Michael Bonfiglio to direct the films, which will feature interviews with Carlin’s family and friends, material from his stand-up specials and TV appearances, as well as material from his personal archive.
Born in New York City in 1937, Carlin became renowned for his razor-sharp observational comedic style on language, politics, religion and the world. He filmed the first of his 14 HBO stand-up specials in 1977 and appeared on The Tonight Show more than 130 times. As well as filling comedy venues, he also wrote a number of books, which sharpened his credentials as a social critic. Carlin died in 2008 at age 71.
Apatow has talked about the project previously, though he did not reveal that it had been placed with HBO. He told the Boston Globe in June that he thought Carlin’s work had become “very prophetic” and that “he was looking forward to watching a lot of Carlin interviews and specials.” Apatow said Monday: “It is an honor to be given the opportunity to tell the story of his life and work.”
Teddy Leifer, the executive producer for Rise Films, added: “The sting of his words is as sharp now as when he was on stage. Carlin is the comedian’s comedian who mastered his craft and shaped American counterculture such that he paved the way for a generation of comics that followed.”
Carlin’s daughter, Kelly Carlin, said she has “dreamt” of finding the right people to tell her father’s story through a documentary that honors his work, while also “not shying away from his personal struggles and humanity.”
In bringing together Apatow, Bonfiglio and editor Joe Beshenkovsky, the Carlin project reunites the team behind HBO’s The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, which won an Emmy in 2018 for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special. It cements Apatow’s growing reputation as a curator of American comedy.
Apatow, Leifer, Kelly Carlin and Jerry Hamza are the executive producers. Through his company Rise, Leifer has produced the Oscar-winning Netflix doping documentary Icarus, while his other credits include Oscar-nominated The Invisible War and ITV’s Roman comedy Plebs, which was in development with Seth Rogen’s Point Grey Pictures.
Apatow is represented by UTA, Mosaic, and Ziffren Brittenham, while Bonfiglio is repped by 3 Arts Entertainment. Leifer is represented by UTA and SmithDehn.