Judd Apatow Has Feeling He’s ‘Drifting Out of the Culture’

Apatow realizes popular comedy is quickly forgotten
Judd Apatow Has Feeling He’s ‘Drifting Out of the Culture’

Are people already forgetting the comedies of Judd Apatow? If not, the writer and director fears that day may come sooner than he’d like. “You get a little older and you begin to feel the drift,” he confessed to Mike Birbiglia on the comic’s Working It Out podcast. “Just as a feeling of ‘Are you drifting out of the culture in some way?’” 

As Apatow grows older, he realizes how quickly even the most popular comedy can be lost to the past. “People forget your work really fast,” he says. In his comedy sets, Apatow will pick out someone young to illustrate his point with questions like, “‘Have you ever seen The Odd Couple? Have you ever seen Honeymooners?’ ‘No.’ And they say no to everything really fast. Have you ever seen Falcon Crest? Have you ever seen Taxi? Have you ever seen The Jeffersons? Have you ever seen Sergeant Bilko? And I run through 30 or 40 and it's literally a ‘No’ on all of them. And then I started doing them a little later. Have you ever seen Home improvement? Oh, have you ever seen Roseanne? Have you ever seen 30 Rock?”

As a person who makes things, Apatow says, it’s easy to have the delusion that Freaks and Geeks or Superbad will last forever. “And now you realize, things from 54 years ago is 1970,” he says. “Fifty years before when I was growing up in the seventies was Charlie Chaplin. That's how fast it turns over.”

At this stage of his career, the realization is enough to make Apatow ask why he should create anything at all. “There's so much stuff,” he says about the proliferation of content, comedy or otherwise, in the Internet/streaming age. “I've made enough stuff. Like, do (audiences) need more stuff?”

Apatow tries not to give in to that insecurity. “I have to get over that hump. I can't have that be part of the equation. Because eventually, anything we do is like the guy who is the competitor to Shakespeare who you don't remember.” In other words, we’re all Christopher Marlowe. “You work in spite of it.”

If we’re all Marlowe, asked Birbiglia, who is our current Shakespeare? John Mulaney?

“I saw Mulaney the other night and he was so funny,” agreed Apatow. “I was like, I don't know why I do this. He's one of those people, he can make you quit.”

Maybe Mulaney is to 2020s stand-up comedy as Apatow was to 2000s movie comedies, although Apatow would say Mulaney is better than that. He considered the difference between Mulaney and the Replacements. “The Replacements, (people) said it was the band that launched a thousand bands. People would see the Replacements and go, ‘I should start a band!’ John's the opposite. John makes people stop doing stand-up. You don’t become a standup because of John. You're like, ‘Oh, I'll never be that guy.’”


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