"We do have a very revealing moment with Mr. Ferrell," promises its director and co-writer, Adam McKay, who previously teamed with Apatow on "Anchorman" and "Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby." What exactly is shown is under wraps. But at early screenings, he says, "the big question has been, 'Was it real or not?' "
Suddenly, Rogen's bulbous naked butt in "Knocked Up" seems quaint.
Such one-upmanship raises the question: Will there come a point when audiences tire of this penchant for down-and-dirty frivolity and ribald foolishness?
"I've shown all the movies to audiences, and they play great," flatly states a confident Apatow, who suggests each title is a different shade of his comedy rainbow. "'Pineapple Express' is about a drug dealer and client running from assassins. 'Step Brothers' is a demented version of 'The Parent Trap.' 'Finding Sarah Marshall' is a romantic disaster movie about getting dumped."
For him, an R rating is simply a way to make sure there will be some semblance of reality on-screen. "It's just an excuse to be honest and show how people speak and behave," he says. "Everything I do during the day would put me in an R rating. Even now I'm naked."
His mix of sex, swearing and silly antics has yet to bore fans, says Kevin Crossman, ringleader of the Frat Pack Tribute website. Judging by the response to the upcoming trailers, "People are still jazzed about this stuff." The key: Work that adult rating, baby. "R-rated romps have to look and act like R-rated romps," while "Walk Hard" was dismissed as R-lite.
There also is an altruistic thrust to Apatow's need to dictate our national comic tastes. His expanding sphere of influence in the industry has given him the power to grant the career wishes of others.
He's the fairy godfather of comedy. A hairy goof like Rogen wants to become a romantic lead and get his scripts produced? POOF! "Knocked Up" happened. The doughy gentle giant Segel, another "Freaks and Geeks" alum, wants to follow suit? POOF! Here is "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."
"I noticed that it was very hard for unique actors to find a job that showed off their talents," Apatow says. "Then I noticed that people who write scripts for themselves would break through, like Jim Carrey when he co-wrote 'Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.' So I encourage them to write for themselves. Jason knows what is funny for Jason."
Segel has a different theory on why Apatow is so bent on making a star out of everyone from "Freaks and Geeks."
"When Judd got on this comedy steam train, he decided to make a point to everyone who canceled the show that they were wrong. We were on a plane recently, and I heard him let out a long exhale. 'I finally got you a lead in a movie,' he said. 'You're the last one.' "
Once Apatow launches them, however, he tends to keep them. With "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" riding a wave of buzz, he quickly re-signed Segel and director pal Nicholas Stoller for another romantic comedy, "Five-Year Engagement."
Apatow also is spreading his talent net beyond past associates. He lured well-regarded director David Gordon Green into his fold for "Pineapple Express."
Green, whose latest, "Snow Angels," is best described as dark and disturbing, gushed to New York magazine: "I just
wanted to do something fun and loose and light, with some action in it. … It was a blast. I can't wait to do it again."