The film was released on July 31, 2009 and was a box office bomb, grossing $71 million against its $75 million budget.
George Simmons (Adam Sandler) is a middle-aged retired stand-up comedian turned movie star. Despite his wealth he is disillusioned and depressed as most of his recent film work is low-brow and poorly received. He is diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and offered an experimental treatment that has only an eight-percent chance of therapeutic response. Believing he is about to die, he returns to his roots of stand-up comedy.
Ira Wright (Seth Rogen) is an aspiring stand-up comedian in his twenties who shares an apartment with his two best friends, Mark and Leo (Jason Schwartzman and Jonah Hill). Mark is a lead in his own TV comedy series and makes good money. Leo is a rising comedy star and guest star for a recurring role on Mark's TV show. George meets Ira at a small comedy club and hires him as his assistant. Ira becomes one of George's only close relationships. The two travel around the country, George hires Ira as his personal assistant and joke writer and opens for him in the big comedy clubs, often meeting with real life comedians who play themselves and talk about the business of comedy.
George reconnects with his ex-fiancée, Laura (Leslie Mann) who is currently married to Clarke (Eric Bana). George′s physician tells him that the leukemia is in remission. George decides he wants Laura back. Laura invites George and Ira to her house in Marin County while her husband is away on business. George and Ira spend quality time with Laura and her two young daughters. George and Laura sneak off to have sex, but Clarke returns home and there is an altercation.
The plot of the movie now concerns whether Laura will choose her husband, Clarke, who she suspects has cheated on her (he later confirms he received a happy ending at a massage parlor), or George (who also cheated on her many times). Ira is not always on George's side in the love triangle, so when it doesn't go George's way in the end, he fires Ira, who then calls George out on having learned nothing from his near-death experience.
Ira returns to his old food-service job. After some time has passed, George attends Ira's stand-up act and sees that his old assistant has become a talented and competent performer. The next day, George finds Ira at work and they reconnect as friends, telling each other jokes as equals.
Dave Attell, Sarah Silverman, Norm Macdonald, Paul Reiser, Tom Anderson, Charles Fleischer, George Wallace, and Andy Dick made cameo appearances as themselves in the roles of George's fellow comedians. Rapper Eminem, comedian Ray Romano, musician James Taylor, MADtv member Nicole Parker, and newcomer Bo Burnham also appeared in small roles. Undeclared alum Carla Gallo had a cameo in the film as a character on Yo Teach!, the television show within the film that Mark stars in, while Justin Long and Apatow regular Ken Jeong have cameos in the film as characters in movies for which George is famous. Owen Wilson and Elizabeth Banks are featured on posters for fake movies in which George starred. Bryan Batt makes an appearance as George's agent. Musicians Jon Brion, Sebastian Steinberg, and James Gadson appear in the film as members of George's jam band. Comedians Rod Man, Budd Friedman, Monty Hoffman, Mark Schiff, Orny Adams, Al Lubel, and Jerry Minor appear as themselves. Comedian/producer/writer Carol Leifer appears as herself.
Judd Apatow had expressed his desire to make a stand-up comedian mentor film loosely based on his own early experiences as a struggling performer. He could not come up with an interesting idea, however, since most of his mentors were kind to him. He then thought of making a film about a mentor facing a life crisis, and decided to cast his former roommate Adam Sandler after seeing him in Reign Over Me. They discussed making the film almost two years prior to production.
Apatow had cast Sandler, Seth Rogen, and Leslie Mann as the three leads in March 2008. Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, and Jason Schwartzman were cast in June 2008 when the title of the film was announced. When asked about the decision to cast Bana, Apatow said that both he and Rogen are fans of his films; Rogen additionally commented they cast him as the husband because he was someone who would be considered an intimidating presence to both Sandler and Rogen. Bana mentioned that he decided to play the character with his native Australian accent so he would be more comfortable improvising. Apatow and Mann's daughters, Maude and Iris Apatow, play the young girls in the film. Both Apatow and Mann state that this casting choice allowed for more natural dialogue for the children, but the girls have not been allowed to actually see the film
Academy Award-winning cinematographer Janusz Kamiński handled the cinematography for the film. Apatow had Sandler, Rogen, and Hill write their own material for routines. Apatow filmed them performing their routines in front of live audiences, using six cameras to capture their performances and audience reactions. Apatow filmed their entire performances, although only five to ten minutes of stand-up footage appear in the film. Hill admitted his performance was not well-received because he had never done stand-up before. Additionally, Apatow filmed scenes from Sandler's character's fictional filmography, as well as scenes from Schwartzman's character's fictional television show Yo Teach!, for the film to add realism.
Apatow used an old video of Sandler, from when the two were roommates, in which Sandler makes prank phone calls, and features a young Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo.
The first teaser poster for the film was released November 13, 2008. On the day the teaser poster was released, Universal Pictures and MySpace partnered together to create a contest that would allow people to have a part in the film by just writing a comment explaining why. Additionally, Apatow held a stand-up comedy concert event called "A Night of Funny People" at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles to film a scene for the movie. The event was open to the general public and featured acts by Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, David Spade, and Patton Oswalt, with Sandler, Rogen, and Ansari performing as their characters in the film. The first theatrical trailer for the film was released February 20, 2009 on the Internet, with a shortened version first appearing in theaters with I Love You, Man.
A website for a fictional television show-within-a-film was created on NBC.com. The sitcom, Yo Teach!, "stars" character Mark Taylor Jackson (Jason Schwartzman), a C-list actor portraying a young teacher with a class of failing students, and includes a cameo by internet celebrity Bo Burnham.
A website for Aziz Ansari's character Randy Springs was created, along with a documentary of the character on FunnyOrDie.com. The documentary was directed by Jason Woliner.
Comedy Central aired a special, "Inside Funny People" on July 20, documenting the making of the film and showing clips of the stand-up. The channel also aired "Funny People: Live" on July 24, which is a live broadcast stand-up of Sandler, Rogen and Hill as part of the film's promotion.
Funny People premiered on July 20, 2009, in Los Angeles, California.
Funny People was released on DVD and Blu-ray in the United States on November 24, 2009. There is a one-disc "Unrated & Theatrical" cut and a two-disc "Unrated Edition". The Unrated cut of the film runs at 153 minutes. It was released in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2010.
Funny People grossed $51.9 million in the United States and Canada and $19.7 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $71.6 million, against a production budget of $75 million. In comparison, Apatow's previous directorial effort, Knocked Up, cost $33 million to produce and made over $219 million in gross receipts, while Sandler's last three movies had all made over $100 million.
In North America the film was released on July 31, 2009 in 3,007 theaters. It grossed $8.6 million on its opening day and $22.7 million in its opening weekend, finishing first at the box office.
Funny People received generally positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 68% based on 227 reviews, with an average rating of 6.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Funny People features the requisite humor, as well as considerable emotional depth, resulting in Judd Apatow's most mature film to date." Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a score of 60 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale.
Jeffrey Wells from Hollywood Elsewhere received feedback from sources who had seen a test screening, with one source calling it "really funny, a really sweet movie, a lot of veracity...really a brilliant film", comparing it to the works of James L. Brooks.
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times awarded the film 3½ stars of four, calling it "a real movie. That means carefully written dialogue and carefully placed supporting performances — and it's about something. It could have easily been a formula film...but George Simmons learns and changes during his ordeal, and we empathize." It is the highest rating Ebert ever gave an Adam Sandler film, tied with his review for Punch-Drunk Love. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also praised the film, writing, "Apatow scores by crafting the film equivalent of a stand-up routine that encompasses the joy, pain, anger, loneliness and aching doubt that go into making an audience laugh." Kyle Smith of the New York Post wrote that the film was "one of the most absorbing films of the year."
Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune gave the film one of its mixed reviews, complaining of the film's two-and-a-half-hour running time: "Funny People is...an attempt by Apatow to reconcile the huge success he has become with the up-and-comer he once was. The results run an increasingly exasperating 2½ hours.".
Manohla Dargis of the New York Times complains the film is "irritatingly self-satisfied" and describes the film as "nice" ... "but nice can be murder on comedy and drama alike".
Gene Shalit of NBC's The Today Show disliked the film greatly, stated that it's "A smirk of faithful characters that are making a vanity movie about themselves that keeps not ending for 2 1/2 unendurable hours. Director Judd Apatow wrote the script and it's vulgar, in fact it's ineffable, because without the letter F, he would have no script."
Funny People: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack was released on July 28, 2009.
- "Great Day" by Paul McCartney (2:08)
- "Wires" by Coconut Records (2:26)
- "All the King's Horses" by Robert Plant and the Strange Sensation (4:19)
- "Carolina in My Mind" (Live) by James Taylor (4:58)
- "Keep Me in Your Heart" by Warren Zevon (3:27)
- "Real Love" by John Lennon performed by Adam Sandler (4:56)
- "We (Early Take)" by Neil Diamond (4:11)
- "Jesus, Etc." (Live Summer '08) by Wilco feat. Andrew Bird (4:01)
- "George Simmons Soon Will Be Gone" by Adam Sandler (2:15)
- "I Am Young" by Coconut Records (3:07)
- "Memory" by Maude Apatow & Larry Goldings (3:53)
- "Numb as a Statue" by Warren Zevon (4:07)
- "Photograph" by Ringo Starr (3:58)
- "Watching the Wheels" (Acoustic Demo) by John Lennon (3:06)
Bonus tracks on iTunes release:
- "Secret O' Life (Live)" by James Taylor (3:55)
- "Photograph" (Live) by Adam Sandler (2:55)
- "Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere" by Adam Sandler (4:02)
- "Nighttiming" by Coconut Records (2:48)
The film also features "Joanna" by Kool & The Gang, "Three Little Birds" by Bob Marley, "Diamond Dave" by The Bird and the Bee, "Man in the Box" by Alice in Chains, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life" by Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes, "Walk Like an Egyptian" by The Bangles, "In Private" by Paul McCartney, "Cat Song" by Tomoko Kataoka and "Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth)" by George Harrison. Songs from all four former members of The Beatles are in the film and on its soundtrack.
The Blu-ray and 2-Disc DVD also includes Sandler performing The English Beat's "Save It for Later."
Additional songs used in the film's trailers are "We Will Become Silhouettes" by The Postal Service, "My Friend" by Dr. Dog, and "Nothing'severgonnastandinmyway (Again)" by Wilco.