"I’m kind of shocked there hasn’t been a giant fucking backlash,” says Seth Rogen, laughing at his uncanny run of profane hits, which have pushed pot, porn, and filthy jokes into the multiplex like never before. As the scruffy, puffy face of the vast Judd Apatow comedy syndicate, Rogen has ratcheted up the raunch of mainstream America, from the TV-safe Freaks and Geeks to the R-rated laughs of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up, Superbad, summer’s marijuana-action hit Pineapple Express, and now the wincingly vulgar Zack and Miri Make a Porno, in movie theaters on Halloween.
And instead of facing the obligatory comedown, Rogen—who is 26 but still often mistaken for 46—has become Hollywood’s hottest, most unlikely leading man and chick magnet. Not since the heyday of Woody Allen has a nebbishy actor bedded so many lookers on the screen, a list that includes Katherine Heigl, Amber Heard, and now Porno’s Elizabeth Banks. “Yup,” he admits, scratching his Jew-fro (Rogen’s term for his hairstyle, not ours), “I get to have sex on-screen…with a hot girl. It’s ridiculous.” And then he laughs his signature “har-har-har” so deeply that he sounds like the love child of Kathleen Turner and James Earl Jones.
“If it’s honestly funny, you can get people to see anything,” says Rogen, his slacker figure sunk into a shabby velvet sofa within a cavernous hotel lobby on downtown Manhattan’s Bowery one recent late summer afternoon. The slice of salmon he’s eating may seem uncharacteristic for his tastes, nearly dainty for a guy audiences imagine subsisting entirely on Baconators and the occasional McRib. (He’s trimming down for his upcoming role as the comic book superhero the Green Hornet.) But that he’s chosen to stay at a hotel on the notorious Bowery—albeit a trendy one—is strangely befitting. It was in this neighborhood of men’s lodgings and crusty sailor bars that the true “blue” comics, like Jackie Gleason and Richard Pryor, would come to exorcise their most off-color routines in seedy holes-in-the-wall.