Judd Apatow is 47 years old today, and this seems like the perfect time to look back at his career to this point. Over the span of 25 years, Apatow went from being a relatively unknown stand-up comedian to becoming one of the most powerful names in showbiz. His art is continuing to evolve, transitioning from the goofiness of Knocked Up to more contemplative works like This Is 40.With that, let’s track Apatow’s road from his humble beginnings to a successful career as one of the most influential names in comedy.
In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Apatow worked as a stand-up, and while he never became truly famous in this realm, he was featured on an HBO special in 1992. Perhaps the most notable facet of Apatow’s stand-up career was his joke about a man with an electrolarynx voice box trying in vain to order food at a drive-through. A joke which was seemingly stolen by Denis Leary. You can judge for yourself in the clip below, but the two routines are undeniably similar:
While his stand-up was funny, Apatow cut his teeth working as a writer and producer on television. From the ’90s to the early 2000s, he would be involved in works that were critically acclaimed, but never found a significant audience. In the mid ’90s, he was a writer and producer on The Critic, a much-beloved show that was sadly canceled after just 23 episodes. Later on, he would work as a director and producer on Paul Feig’s Freaks And Geeks, another canceled-too-soon show that also launched the careers of Apatow regulars like Seth Rogen, James Franco, and Jason Segel.
After the tragic cancellation of Freaks And Geeks, Apatow would create yet another beloved-but-short-lived series, Undeclared, which aired for just one season. Basically, everything Apatow worked on would receive rave reviews, and gain a devoted cult following, but none of it was appealing to a mainstream audience. To oversimplify things just a bit, these projects, while great, were before their time.