Judd Apatow – the man who made famous many awkward and chubby white comedians people love, those comedians Ryan Murphy, steps from behind the camera. He decides to fulfill a dream of being a true stand up comic after dabbling when he was in his late teens, early 20s, but being scared off because he grew up around the greats. Yet, now, as those greats have all but abandoned doing stand up, here is Apatow.
Someone who leads us on a very imbalanced series of self-deprecating stories which make you question if you are laughing with him or at him. For as he notes how lucky he is to be married to Leslie Mann, as if she may leave him tomorrow; speaking as if one of the main things of value he offers his kids and wife is access to a satisfying life, minus what little he can do in sex; or the awkwardness of fatherhood, there is a certain amount of cringe here.
Which, if you are familiar with Apatow’s work, either as a director, writer, or producing what many may find cringey productions, you’ll be well used to it. However, there is something about Apatow, unlike the many people he made famous, that pushes you to realize why he stayed away from doing stand-up, at this capacity, and never really cast himself as the star in any of his movies.
Other Noteworthy Facts & Moments
Apatow wanted to do standup since he was around 10 and actually worked his local circuit from 17 to 24. Some of the people he worked with at the time were Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey. He also found himself around Rosie O’Donnell and Eddie Murphy as he was coming up.
Expect a lot of Netflix references in the early parts of the special.
The Slide Show Presentations
Throughout the special, you’ll see Apatow bring up pictures which act as an exclamation mark for a joke or a setup. Such as a picture of him vomiting in college which is part of this joke about how things change when your kid becomes 18. Thus leading you to remove any façade you had with them and get real. Also, there are a series of pictures dealing with him trying to make Obama laugh which makes for a good story. It leads to his usual self-deprecatoin but hopefully, you got used to his humor by then.
When He Isn’t Humbling Himself, He Can Be Funny
Getting to be up on stage, much less have a comedy special, when you aren’t known for your stand up at all, is a privilege. One which I think Apatow realizes and so, when he realizes he is starting to lose the audience, he starts rolling out some jokes. Of which, sadly, the jokes don’t really begin until he talks about how his daughter, around 3, told her preschool teacher, or an admin, to F off. From there, he gets his mojo and this seems less like a therapy session.
This especially becomes the case as he starts really going into fatherhood and talks about this college tour he did, the slide shows come out, and when he does a Bill Cosby impression, dealing with when his wife found out he was a rapist.
He Makes It Hard To Laugh For He Seems Kind Of Unhappy, And Has A Difficult Time Hiding It
Finding a comedian who had a happy and well-adjusted life is like finding a popular rapper who doesn’t curse in their music and had a fairly safe upbringing with loads of opportunities. Do they exist? Yes. Are there many of them though? Nope! But, here is the thing, from Richard Pryor to Tiffany Haddish, through years of work, they learn how to balance finding the laughter in their pain and frustration. With Apatow however, he struggles with that.
His feelings of inadequacy start off funny, especially as he paints himself as sort of generic. Which he further extrapolates as he has front row audience members stand and show how they are basically him. It is just some are younger, ethnic, or him if he gave a damn about fitness. Yet, as he keeps pushing this idea that his wife is too good for him, he struggles to fit in with his family, and other issues, he becomes a bit of a downer. Making it so, any jokes he does early on, you may smile because he is trying, but the laugh doesn’t come as it should since you feel genuinely worried about him.
Which isn’t to say he talks about anything you or I wouldn’t go through. It is just, he doesn’t wrap these confessions around comedy. They come very straightforward as if the audience is his friend and because they look like him, they paid to see him, there is this hope they will get him and he won’t feel alone in these feelings. Making it seem, like his contemporaries, Apatow may be better off pursuing being a dramatic actor than a stand-up comedian.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
There comes a certain point where you wonder if this is a comedy special or people are paying to be this man’s silent therapist. I mean, I get that generally, the majority of popular comics are self-deprecating and there is this attempt to balance humbling themselves and yet still being worthy of being the person on stage. However, with Apatow, he doesn’t find this balance. In the beginning, and towards the end, he tries to find and loses that sweet spot. But, in the middle, you get that vibe that truly this is a return and not just Netflix trying to consistently have content come out weekly.
Leading to why this is being labeled mixed. Apatow seems like a nice guy, is definitely funny, but it seems between what his daughter Maude might have said, and all the comedians asking him why he is doing this, he maybe should have listened. For while by no means terrible, this seems like an act which could have used being worked on just a bit more.