Judd Apatow: the new King of Comedy
A funny person
Believe it or not, Judd Apatow has been making funny movies and TV shows for about 20 years. Before that, he was writing stand-up routines for some of the most esteemed comedians of the 80's and 90's- notably, Roseanne Barr, Garry Shandling, and Jim Carrey. As far as comedy goes, Judd's done it all- and he's been wildly successful along the way. But just because his films have now grossed more than 1 billion dollars does not mean that things have always come easy for the Jew from Syosset, New York.
Early on in his television and film career, Apatow showed his resiliency by continuously battling back after the failure of several shows, notably, The Ben Stiller Show, which ran on MTV and Fox from 1990 to '93 before being canceled (by Fox) due to low ratings. His early films, which included Heavyweights (1995), Celtic Pride (1996), and the ill-received, The Cable Guy (1996), were box-office disasters. And even when he thought he had finally caught his much-deserved break in showbiz with 1999's television series, Freaks and Geeks, Apatow, again, came up short, and the show was canceled less than a full season in. Ultimately, Judd Apatow was the most successful loser in Hollywood: his movies and television series' were outstanding- I don't care what the critics say- and still, as the legend, Rodney Dangerfield would put it, "he couldn't get any respect". But 10 years, and a plethora of comedy-triumphs later, and Judd is on top of the comedy world! So what took so long for critics and fans to realize that this guy farted hilarity? Well, I do not know. In my opinion, The Cable Guy, once called the worst film ever made, is neck-in-neck with the hugely-successful, Knocked Up (2007), and delivers way more laughs- in my opinion- than The 40-year old Virgin (2005), which is kind of stupid and obnoxious in a specifically-Steve Carell way. But whether it's old Judd or new Judd, the formula for success has remained relatively constant throughout. The key ingredient to Apatow's rise to the top, simply put, is his uncanny ability to create real characters that deal with real problems. Indeed, keeping it relatable, and keeping it believable, seem to be Apatow's bread and butter.
Now, like any good filmmaker, Apatow has a rather vast range of storytelling and moviemaking methods, and the array of genres and styles (within the comedic realm) of his films speak to his brilliance and originality in an otherwise mundane comedy film industry. I should clarify that, as a result of this range, not all Apatow productions share that 'real' quality about them. I don't think that Walk Hard (2007) or Anchorman (2004) were written as social commentary pieces. Nevertheless, and for the most part, Judd's most recent successes- Superbad (2007), Funny People (2009)- are largely built on a foundation of real problems happening to very real people. And it is when Judd is portraying reality at it's purest and funniest that- in my opinion- he is at his best. As laugh-out-loud-funny as some of those slapstick, childish comedies may be (and they really are), it is his ability to create these characters that all of us know, or have known at some point in our lives, that separates Judd Apatow from the rest. Just as the scariest horror movies are those based on true events, so to are the funniest movies based on real life scenarios. Judd has made a niche, and a powerful name for himself in Hollywood, and it's because- especially of late- he has taken comedy further away from unreality, and pumped his films full of relatable material- material that not only makes audiences laugh, but truly makes them reflect on their own situation(s). Apatow is a funny person because he takes seemingly normal people (often times the same people for each film) and places them in seemingly normal situations, only to have their interaction, their development, and their problems turn out utterly hilarious. I ask, who can do it better than Judd Apatow?