Seth Rogen on "Neighbors," Alzheimer's and laughs

The actor-writer who blends sweetness and crudity in his films says he has to ramp up the outrageous factor more than ever
CBS News

Seth Rogen is a comic actor known for his outrageous sense of humor. But he can speak on more weighty matters when the situation requires . . . as Tracy Smith has discovered:

Seth Rogen loves his job -- except maybe the part where he has to act like a movie star.

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"Oh, they're so ridiculous," he said of the red carpet festivities at the premiere of his new movie, "Neighbors. "These are always a little surreal and silly and overblown for my taste."

Still, he's used to public adulation -- he's had a lot of it.

In the past 10 years, Rogen has become one of the biggest stars of his generation, bringing his trademark laugh to more than two dozen feature films that are often surprisingly sweet -- and just as often downright crude.

Most of the time, Rogen's the weed-smoking good guy. He was the stoner dad-to-be in the 2007 hit, "Knocked Up"; and a laid-back process-server in "Pineapple Express."

The characters he plays are not -- by his own admission -- much of a stretch.

"Do you smoke while you're writing? Or is that a separate part of your life?" asked Smith.

"It's kind of asking someone how coffee plays into their process, I guess," he said. "Sometimes you go days without it. Sometimes you really need it. I definitely don't think it makes us better at what we do, by any stretch of the imagination."

And now, in his latest film, he's a family man at odds with the noisy fraternity next door.

Zac Efron, Seth Rogen, Dave Franco and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in "Neighbors." Universal Pictures

Compared to the humor in his earlier films, Rogen said, "We have to go so much further now to make people laugh, and to seem edgy and outrageous than we did even, you know, eight years ago. It's crazy, the level of disgust people want these days!"

"How much are you responsible for that?" asked Smith.

"I try to push it forward, a lot," he replied.

And there's plenty of "shock and eeew" in "Neighbors."

But Rogen's never really wanted to do anything else.

He started doing standup comedy in his native Vancouver when he was just a teen.

He said his parents were cool with it: "Yeah. My mom drove to me almost every show I ever went to until I got my driver's license and I could drive myself to them. They were very supportive of my ambitions."

His standup gigs eventually led to a part on the short lived TV series "Freaks and Geeks," alongside future stars Jason Segel and James Franco.

The series' executive producer Judd Apatow was an early mentor.

Smith asked, "When you met Judd Apatow, did you know that this was going to be the start of a beautiful relationship?"

"No, not by any means at all," Rogen said. "I didn't think he liked me. No one thought he liked him. He had this effect on people back then where, like, everyone thought he didn't like them."

He was wrong about that: Apatow hired him for another TV series, but then things kind of dried up.

"Did you think back in those days, 'I'm on the verge of something'?" asked Smith. "Or did you think, 'Man, I had my ride and maybe this is coming to an end'?"

"I was running out of money, so there was a chance I was just going to have to move back to Canada out of, like, purely financial reasons," Rogen said. "I was pretty angry. I remember I would sit with Jason Segel a lot and just kind of, like, rant about how unfair Hollywood was.

"I probably wasn't that cool to hang out with back then," he added.

So how did the anger go away? "I remember saying, 'I need to get a job." And I think I just put that out there to people. Like, 'Please, I need a job. Like, if anyone hears of a job, let us know about it.'"

His next big on-screen break came in Apatow's 2007 hit, "The 40-Year-Old Virgin." And more movies soon followed, like the super-successful "Superbad." Rogen and his friend, Evan Goldberg, actually started writing "Superbad" 'way back when they were fresh out of bar mitzvah class.

Rogen and Goldberg are still making movies together, cutting and re-cutting every scene to try to pack in the laughs.

"Everyone pitches jokes, and they always help," said Goldberg.

"And we use a lot of them. We'll try 'em," said Rogen

"And then we take all the credit!"

Rogen explained: "That's how comedy works."

"Your relationship has lasted longer than a lot of marriages," said Smith.

"Yeah -- it's longer than my current marriage," Rogen said.

He's right about that. Rogen has been married to actress Lauren Miller since 2011. They don't always work together, but they are heavily involved in something bigger than any movie role.

While they were still dating, Lauren's mom, Adele, was diagnosed -- at age 55 -- with early onset Alzheimer's.

"Now she literally is completely incapacitated in a wheelchair," said Rogen. "She can't eat on her own. She can't really do anything on her own."

"Did you have any idea that the disease could have that effect?" asked Smith.

"No. Not at all. I think my impression of it was kind of the more naïve, like, 'Oh, an old person losing their keys' kind of thing. I didn't think it was, like, a completely debilitating disease."

"What have you seen that do to Lauren?"

"A lot. It's been a massive bummer," he said. "I mean, it's just hugely depressing. But it's also gotten her very motivated to do something about it."

It's changed his life, too.

In February Rogen took his mother-in-law's story to Washington in a bid for more Alzheimer's funding:

"After forgetting who she and her loved ones were, my mother-in-law, a teacher for 35 years, then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself, and go to the bathroom herself, all by the age of 60."

He described testifying before Congress as "crazy."

"Do you think that testimony made a difference?" asked Smith.

"Yeah, I think definitely at least for a moment -- even if it was literally the week it happened -- made Alzheimer's something that was slightly cool to talk about. So it was definitely a step. It's a step in the right direction."

He went to Capitol Hill to raise Alzheimer's awareness. To raise money, he went to his fans.

Rogen founded Hilarity for Charity to benefit the Alzheimer's Association. He and his pals pack 'em in at events in cities and colleges nationwide. So far they've pulled in nearly a million dollars.

"I think it's been for us so incredible to not focus on the sad part of it," said Lauren Miller, "and we can bring a light to a dark situation."

Seth Rogen says he'll keep telling people about a disease that can rob them of their brains, even as he keeps making movies that are less than cerebral.

But it seems Rogen has figured out how to take on just about anything . . . and find a way to keep laughing.

To watch a trailer for "Neighbors" click on the video player below.

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