LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Given a cast of Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill, and the guiding hand of director and writer Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up" and "The 40-Year-Old Virgin"), perhaps there is no more appropriate title than simply "Funny People."
Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow get together at the "Funny People" premiere in Hollywood.
Which is saying something, since "Funny People" frequently treads into the darker realms of comedy.
Sandler leads the cast as George Simmons, an A-list Hollywood comedian whose fame and fortune has brought him a beautiful mansion on the beach, lots of luck with the ladies and, as the audience soon discovers, a life of loneliness.
Sandler is quick to point out that he and his character have little in common.
"I can't really say this guy is me; he's not living my life," says Sandler, who is married with two children. "The movie star thing we have in common; we have a few mood swings in common. ... But the lifestyle and the attitude is not really me."
George's biggest problem isn't his desolation, however. He's been diagnosed with a leukemia-like terminal disease, prompting him to get back to his roots and do more stand-up comedy.
Along the way, he hires struggling comedian Ira Wright, played by Rogen, to pen jokes for him and act as his personal assistant. Despite hurling an occasional insult at Ira, George learns to trust his new, eager-to-please sidekick.
The feeling isn't always mutual. Ira is forced to adapt to his boss' constant mood swings, erratic behavior as he deals with the fear of dying and deep regret at losing Laura (Leslie Mann), the only woman he ever loved. However, Ira does earn a steady paycheck -- and gets a taste of show business.
Rogen, who says he wouldn't be in comedy if he never saw Sandler's movies while he was growing up, says "Funny People" paints an accurate picture of the ups and downs of comedians who are just starting out.
"It's an incredibly realistic representation," Rogen says. "Those scenes where you're backstage at the comedy club and you're all sitting around pitching jokes to each other. It's exactly like that."
Apatow, who performed stand-up comedy earlier in his career, says, "It is an ode to stand-up. I've always been a crazy fan of stand-up comedians. Jonathan Winters ... Don Rickles, things like that."
Apatow, who knows he's taking a risk with "Funny People's" mix of light and darkness, made a wisecrack about his hopes for the film at the Los Angeles premiere.
"Well, I think there's 10 movies that are going to be up for best picture this year, and we definitely are shooting for No. 16," he says.
The cast also took some risks, performing stand-up in front of live audiences for the film -- and, occasionally, watching their jokes fall flat.
Hill says he had never done stand-up before and calls the experience "terrifying."
"It can be brutal out there," Rogen adds.
Sandler, the most seasoned comedian by far, remembers his first days onstage and can relate.
"It's all about your last set," he recalls. "If I did good Wednesday ... all day Thursday, I was in a good mood.
"Then Thursday night comes around and I go onstage and if I did bad, Friday was a miserable time for everyone."