Why Judd Apatow's Netflix Comedy Special Was Difficult, According To The Filmmaker

A filmmaker like Trainwreck's Judd Apatow might appear to be the kind of person who has zero worries or apprehensions when saying whatever is on his mind, but that's not exactly the case. Especially when it came to jumping back into stand-up comedy for the first time in 25 years for the new Netflix special Judd Apatow: The Return. When CinemaBlend recently spoke with Apatow, he shared with me two elements in the process that he found difficult: one involves believing that people actually want to watch him, and the other involves the editing process. In Apatow's words:

It's all nerve-wracking. I have a very deep insecurity. I have the most basic fears. Just 'Why would anyone want to see this?' It's very difficult just putting yourself out there talking about yourself for an hour and saying, 'People will love this!' It takes a certain amount of healthy arrogance that I don't have. But hopefully I was able to get over that and just do the work.

Strangely, that's a feeling that strikes a lot of comedians and others who would seemingly be quite sure of themselves when it comes to performing in front of others. After all, quite a few stand-up stars have suffered from inferiority complexes that make it harder for them to mentally understand rabid fans' attention. For Judd Apatow, it's probably easier to work on TV shows and movies where the feedback isn't quite so immediate and in his face. Not that Apatow's feedback was anything but joy-filled during the special or anything, since the filthy-minded writer/director definitely has a ton of fans out there, and plenty of them were in audience for Judd Apatow: The Return.

Judd Apatow has made a big name for himself for the past 25 years or so -- starting off with the short-lived The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show before hitting it big with Freaks and Geeks and The 40-Year-Old Virgin -- but he has almost always been an off-camera presence as a writer, director and/or producer. Exceptions are out there, of course, such as his killer Jay Leno impression, but Apatow has never been one to spend a whole lot of time front and center in any of his projects. That obviously had to change with this big stand-up special, and we're pumped that Apatow got over his nerves and made it all work.

Of course, getting everything recorded for the performance itself is only half the battle. And then post-production kicks into gear, with the editing process looming largest. When I asked Judd Apatow what it was like editing himself for the special, he immediately answered.

It's terrible, it's terrible! There's nothing worse than watching yourself. The only thing worse than watching yourself is watching yourself try to be funny, because you are critical of yourself. You just watch and go, 'What an idiot. Just shut up. Why do you think you're funny?' It really brings out your most critical voices. But by the end of the process, I started liking it again and wound up very happy, but it was a rough road getting there.

Similar to the nerves issue referred to earlier, Judd Apatow isn't alone in feeling discomfort while watching and listening to himself for the special. Musicians and comedians, journalists and many more people aren't happy hearing themselves on recordings -- this writer included -- but with so much footage to go through, I guess Apatow hit upon that golden rule of comedy that states when something stops being funny, just keep doing it over and over until it's funny again.

Fans should rejoice, because Judd Apatow: The Return is set to hit Netflix on Tuesday, December 12, at 12:01 a.m. PT. Check out what the brilliant comedian told me about why crafting a stand-up act is way easier now than it was when he was starting out. After that, head to our 2017 Netflix schedule and our 2018 midseason schedule to see all the other fabulous programming hitting the small screen soon.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.