No joke: It’s been 25 years since Judd Apatow — the man behind movies like Knocked Up and The 40 Year-Old Virgin — stood in front of a live audience and tried to make them laugh. In anticipation of his comedy special, Judd Apatow: The Return (Netflix, now streaming), we asked him to reflect on his best funny moments.
The album that inspired me to become a comedian:
First, I loved the Marx Brothers, because I liked people who attacked power structures and who would say that everything that is happening is BS. And then George Carlin’s FM & AM and Class Clown seemed to be a great follow-up to Duck Soup.
The first joke I ever told:
I don’t remember any joke that I told, but when I was in junior high school I remember putting poison ivy up my nose to make my friends laugh. Then I got poison ivy all over my face, and while I had poison ivy I also got the chicken pox. So I paid a big price for some of my first jokes.
The joke I’m most asked about:
I get asked about my Bill Cosby routine, where I imagine what his stand-up would be like now. I basically wrote his routine as if he was discussing the allegations in his style of comedy. I do it in the Netflix special.
The joke I wish I could take back:
I wish I could take back my entire act from the ’80s and early ’90s. When I watch old tapes, it is a horror show. The jokes were awful even when they worked. When you are young, you have nothing to talk about. You have no life experience. So you’re really scraping to find a subject.
The stand-up special I like and respect the most:
I am a gigantic fan of Maria Bamford. Sometimes in the morning I wake up and say, “Alexa, play Maria Bamford,” and it will create an instant playlist of her greatest hits. Nothing makes me happier.
The best advice I’ve ever received from another comedian:
Jon Stewart said to me, “You need to lean in to the bomb — that when it’s not going well, you need to enjoy it on some level.” That’s always something that’s been very difficult for me.
The joke that makes my family cringe:
My 15-year-old daughter, Iris, will go see me, and she’s always annoyed that I repeat any jokes from the last time she saw me. And then she’ll memorize the jokes and say them back to me as if they are terrible.
The jokes that are off-limits:
I don’t think anything is off-limits as long as your heart is in the right place.
The best heckle I’ve ever heard:
When I first started, I used to say to the crowd, “Can you please heckle me, because I don’t know how to handle hecklers and I need to practice,” assuming one or two people would heckle. But what would always happen is the entire club would start heckling and then refuse to stop.
My best Trump joke:
None of them are brief. They are all sad, depressed, 11-minute rants written in terror in the middle of the night while eating pints of ice cream while my family sleeps.
Judd Apatow: The Return is currently streaming on Netflix.