There’s a fairly great Albert Brooks/Judd Apatow q & a in the Apatow-edited Vanity Fair comedy issue. It’s summarized in the online version but a Brooks quote about “being ahead of the herd”, readable only in the magazine version, is the best of it. Apatow tells Brooks that he’s always been respected “as a bit of a futurist,” and Brooks says he realized early on “I should at least take [that] as a compliment because that’s all it’s good for.

“My friend Harry Nilsson used to say the definition of an artist wa s someone who rode away ahead of the herd and was sort of the lookout. Now you don’t have to be that, to be an artist. You can be right smack-dab in the middle of the herd. If you are, you’ll be the richest.”

Also: “Brooks says the comedian who made the biggest impression on him when he was starting out was Jack Benny. ‘Because of his minimalism. And the way he got laughs. He was at the center of a storm, he let his players do the work, and just by being there made it funny. That was mind-boggling to me,’ Brooks says.

“He tells Apatow that early on in his career he performed on The Tonight Show one night when Benny was on. ‘There was always that last two minutes where Johnny was asking people, ‘Thank you for coming — what do you have coming up?’ And during the last commercial Jack Benny leaned over to Johnny Carson and said, ‘When we get back, ask me where I’m going to be, will you?’ So they came back. Johnny said, ‘I want to thank Albert. Jack, where are you going to be performing?’ And Jack Benny said, ‘Never mind about me — this is the funniest kid I’ve ever seen!'”

“‘And it was this profound thing,’ Brooks continues. ‘Like, Oh, that’s how you lead your life. Be generous and you can be the best person who ever lived.'”