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So why has Judd Apatow taken to stand-up comedy? “It’s because I wanted to lower my salary and my self-esteem at the same time,” he opens on his show The Return, which debuted December 12 on Netflix.
Return? So, exactly when did he quit stand-up and go on to write-producedirect Hollywood films like Anchorman and Bridesmaids and TV series like Knocked Up? That has to do with doing dishes at a comedy club in New York City when he was 15. The job allowed him to see several comedians. He actually got to try his hand at stand-up. “I wanted to be a comedian since I was 10,” he says on the show.
Here’s the summary. A Jewish boy from a broken New York family leaves for Hollywood and makes it big, but wants to go back to what brought him into entertainment in the first place. Do we take him seriously? Is this a vanity project of a successful writer-producer? Is that funny?
The early jokes are nothing much. Apatow labours over the opening, looking like somebody who is going through his paces. For about 10 minutes, there’s a touch of a struggling NYC Jewish comedian. Apatow seems a little too set on starting where he left off. But it’s worth getting past the bump, because once he establishes the pattern, he begins to twist it around—allowing himself to become the butt of jokes about the travails of a family man and father of two actresses—the younger one 15 years old.
If you have teenage kids, especially daughters, you’ll be muttering hear! hear! between the laughs. If you are a teenager, you’ll be regretting not having Apatow-like parents.
Asking his daughter to not show skin on Instagram photos rebounds into him slut-shaming her. Then there are the hazards of binge-watching on Netflix, the mandatory Kardashian references, the anxiety of being a parent in a media-saturated world, and of course Donald Trump.
The Trump presidency is a godsend to comedians. The twist? Apatow went with his wife to the White House during the Obama presidency, to get a photo of him making the president laugh. Instead, the photo shows Obama making him and his wife laugh. The best American standup is, of course, replete with black and Jewish comics. Apatow belongs. Not at the top, but there alright.