How did Judd Apatow fall off?

I’m so glad you posted this because my first thought was “have you seen Our Flag Means Death”?


The role of comedy is to say out loud the truth that would otherwise go unspoken because it’s embarrassing, unpopular, personal, unnoticed, or hard to admit. Good comedy forces you to connect thoughts in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t have.

Sometimes that truth isn’t yours.


I think improv is a very… live format. I think good improvisers can actually generate a strong series of hits- in front of a live audience. There’s an active complicity in theater where the audience is actively enabling the show. Record the best live improv show in history, and the filmed version is going to feel flat and dead and weird. Without editing, heavy editing, improv doesn’t land well on film. I’m of the mind that for film, a strong script needs to be the backbone, and then improv can flesh out the characters in the moment- and usually results in edits to the script so you can assemble a strong film out of the elements you have.

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Again, I’d argue that’s the point of arts. Art should tell us something true, something that we can’t see without the art pointing us towards that idea. Something that can’t just be said directly, but that has to be approached through the unique perspective of that art.

Comedy isn’t special in this.


The cancelation of that so soon was a crime against humanity.

I’m not an Apatow fan generally (see above re: dick jokes, casual racism, and queerphobia) but F&G was really incredible television. It was too good for this earth and we didn’t deserve it, I guess. :smiling_face_with_tear:


It was the only media representation of high school that ever resonated with me.


So you’re saying “comedy films have become a joke”?


Even those old Marx Bros and silent films were products of their eras. There’s a lot of unfortunate racial stereotyping from content of that era, from that “Yassir Mr. Benny” of Rochester to various unflattering Asian portrayals. Let’s not even get into Native American portrayals.

Films made under the Hayes code seem more palatable now because they were essentially stripped of ANYTHING that might upset ‘average’ America (meaning, of course, white, straight, Christian, male, etc).

But there was still frisson there. Look at The Three Stooges. Sure, it’s slapstick, low-brow humor, but underneath is almost always a class struggle. The Stooges are working stiffs, trying to get by in a historic Economic Depression. Their antagonists are almost always upperclass buffoons or authority figures (cops, judges, politicians, bosses)

Revenge of the Nerds was made when the whole Jock/Fratboy dominance of youth culture was relatively absolute. As awful as the portrayals of gay folk, black folk, and others are, that they were the heroes AT ALL was a big deal at the time. It was a continuation of the ‘class struggle’ from the Stooges. Same w/ Animal House and Caddy Shack. Rich vs Poor (or at least, Rich vs. Middle Class). The new era allowed for swearing and sex, so we got all of that, everywhere, which we can NOW see was applied in a very one-sided way. The newly minted Reaganite GOP was all about the worship of wealth and that The Rich would save us all if only we let them get richer. These movies had THAT as their target. It would take another 20-30 years for intersectionality to hit the mainstream


Having seen way WAY too much live improv, I can tell you that even live, the VERY BEST improv actors are good enough to watch about 50% of the time.

Improv is a great way to come up with ideas and concepts and characters and a way for actors to hone their skills. It is only incidentally suitable for the viewing public.


I dunno, maybe I have no taste or too much hubris, but I do a lot of improv, and watch a lot of improv, and I definitely know some acts that are consistently entertaining. Then again, I produce a show that’s an improvised play about strangers meeting in a diner at 2AM, and I’d argue that it’s been consistently good in its run and is more accessible to the general public than a typical improv show.


The status-reversal mode of comedy is definitely one of the oldest. High status figures and low status figures swapping places is only slightly newer than fart jokes.


I admit I have never seen an Apatow film and I didn’t find the trailers appealing.


F&G was full of the kind of whistful sad/funny humor that rarely succeeds on American television. My So Called Life, was similar show that was cancelled too early. The Original Wonder Years was an exception, and I think it succeeded because there was enough broader comedy for it to establish an audience so it could then hit you in the feels.


I am reminded of the early seasons of SNL. People remember fondly the routines that worked and tend to forget the large number that were flat.


Every time I hear a comedian complaining that woke culture has made it impossible to be funny anymore I think about an out-of-touch Krusty the Clown horrifying an audience with his offensive and racist “me so solly!” bit.


If you can’t make a contemporary audience laugh the problem isn’t that people today have forgotten how to appreciate a joke, it’s that society has moved on and you have not.


I think it also succeeded because it told a distinctly and explicitly white male story where everyone else was there to enable and empower the white male. Media like that always finds an audience. It also spoke to the fauxstalgia that so many Americans have for a past that didn’t exist. In addition to telling more varied stories, F&G was also a lot more honest about what the experience of the teenage years of the period was. That honesty doesn’t play well in the cheap seats.


The King of Staten Island was recent and hilarious. Good Boys and Cock Blockers are also recent hilarious comedies. I don’t believe Apatow had anything to do with making the latter 2 but they’re in the same vein of the style of comedy he produces. I disagree with the premise of this article.

So why are you bringing them up?

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For the reason I explicitly stated. This isn’t just saying that Apatow 's work has fallen off. It’s saying that that entire style of comedy is dead and these examples demonstrate my contention that that is false.

disagree GIF