No one ruled comedy quite like Judd Apatow, which makes his creative fall so shocking.
He had all the right connections, loading his directorial projects with the best comic actors in Hollywood. Think:
- Steve Carell
- Paul Rudd
- Melissa McCarthy
- Jane Lynch
- Elizabeth Banks
- Seth Rogen
And many, many more.
Apatow’s reach spread across the comedy landscape, from producing smashes like “Superbad, “Pineapple Express” and “Bridesmaids” to cultural sensations like HBO’s “Girls.”
Most modern, big-screen comedies have Apatow’s name attached to them in some fashion, be it a producer, writer or directorial credit. He was the King of Comedy, even if he lacked a crown or royal garb. And then his directorial efforts started to slide.
The 2009 film “Funny People” started the descent, which continued through HBO’s “Love,” “This is 40” and “The King of Staten Island.”
The laugh-a-minute banter from “Knocked Up” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” was gone. His last directorial effort, “The Bubble,” generated the worst reviews of his decades old career.
The Netflix comedy earned a scathing 21 percent “rotten” rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences were just as revolted by the movie satire, slamming it with a 30 percent “rotten” score.
It has nothing new or insightful to add to the discourse, and instead seems comfortable recycling jokes that weren’t funny when we first encountered them on Twitter two years ago. – Observer
A movie so staggeringly unfunny as to be barely recognizable as comedy at all. – The L.A. Times
Artists are entitled to an eventual clunker, but the downward spiral of Apatow-directed comedies is hard to miss.
It’s not the only issue in play.
Apatow also may be part of Hollywood’s woke revolution. He doesn’t use his comedy clout to defend Cancel Culture attacks on Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan, for example. Apatow once opened for Chappelle prior to the trans-related attacks on the comedy icon, but he hasn’t used his bully pulpit to defend his fellow comic like he could, or should.
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Apatow slammed Louis CK for a daring bit involving the students who became gun control activists following the 2018 shooting rampage Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. that left 17 people dead.
CK had a tough point to share – what makes a mass shooting survivor an expert on the subject? It’s the kind of daring commentary the best comedians make, forcing us to consider the subject from a different light.
Apatow raged at CK for the material, suggesting the topic was off-limits.
More recently, Apatow signed a letter demanding the New York Times only cover the trans debate by echoing the activists’ narrative, not those who find fault with the movement.
I have no idea if Cruise and Apatow have a bad history, but the jokes fell flat because they were written in a way that felt more like some kind of vendetta rather than comedy. It made me wonder if Cruise had purposely stepped on Apatow’s foot or hit his dog.
Ironically, World of Reel points out that Apatow once criticized Ricky Gervais for the British comic’s purportedly mean Golden Globes monologue.
Is Apatow now on board with mean comedy? It’s confusing.
Here’s what’s obvious about Apatow’s decline. He can’t make laugh-riot movies like “Virgin” and “Knocked Up” anymore. The Cancel Culture won’t let him.
Even more troubling?
Apatow’s new persona, attacking fellow comics and demanding the New York Times report on the news from an even farther Left perspective, may be his defensive posture.
His classic films are now “problematic” to the woke mob, filled with toxic masculinity and straight white male heroes.
Films like “Virgin” and “Superbad” remain hysterical, but modern Hollywood can no longer produce films like that anymore. And Apatow knows it.
Apatow famously teamed with Amy Schumer, just as her career was cresting, for the 2015 smash “Trainwreck.” He may need to team with another comedian, like apolitical rebel Ryan Long, to remind him not only what’s funny but why poking the establishment matters now more than ever.
Or, he could enrage his fellow liberals and uncork a comedy in the “Knocked Up” mold. Bold. Funny. Outrageous. Inappropriate but with a big, beating heart at its core. The kind of movie he used to make.
Such a project would inflame his Hollywood peers, but he’d reclaim his comedy crown in short order.