The writer and producer moderated his own session, which made for a more freewheeling experience that probably delighted hardcore fans but left me wishing someone with a bit of objective distance had shaped the evening a little more. The panel was at its best when Apatow was speaking or interacting with his friends, but Apatow the moderator had a tendency to let some of the participants' digressions overshadow Apatow the honoree.
His first friend was Gary Shandling, who was as strange and hilarious as you'd expect, as well as sincerely appreciative of the talent and character of his protégé from the days of The Larry Sanders Show.
Speaking of strange, but not of hilarious, Tom Arnold was next, since Apatow first got his break writing jokes for Arnold's HBO specials and for Roseanne. We were treated to a lot of incomprehensible anecdotes and, in the "haven't we moved past this in the last 10 years?" category, Arnold couldn't stay away from the "she's a fat bitch" jokes about ex-wife Roseanne.
The Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared/every-movie-Apatow-has-ever-made contingent arrived next. Appearing were Freaks and Geeks creator Paul Feig as well as Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, Jonah Hill, and Paul Rudd, many of whom started writing based on Apatow's early advice to them to take control of their careers, just as he had by delving into producing.
The session contained clips from many of Apatow's works, including the upcoming film Forgetting Sarah Marshall, which represents the culmination of years of trying to get a starring role for Segel. I enjoy Segel and his adorably goofy onscreen persona, but I really, really did not need to see his naked, doughy, body on the big screen, never mind the penis close-ups – yes, that's plural – not to mention the many, many penis jokes resulting from those close-ups. Yet for a true Apatow fan, I suppose that's one of his main attractions. Not Segel's penis, necessarily, but the kind of jokes arising from it.
Andy Dick, who worked with Apatow on The Ben Stiller Show, was the last participant to join the panel, a fact he sulked about for the short time (but not short enough) he was onstage. Some of his fellow panelists simply looked uncomfortable, while others expressed gratitude that he was still alive and looking good after his famous battles with sobriety. In what might have been a joke but didn't seem like it – if it was, it was horribly unfunny – Tom Arnold was outed as Dick's sobriety sponsor, while Dick claimed his previous sponsor was the late Chris Farley, who had, in turn, been sponsored by Arnold. That of course led to a swipe about Arnold's track record and to much cringing in the audience.