Director Judd Apatow gave a fascinating interview to Vulture this week, revealing a glimpse into how his massively influential mind approaches the craft of comedy, as well as the industry’s intersection with politics.
Asked by David Marchese why “there been this shift in comedy toward moralizing and self-confession,” Apatow replied, “It’s because people are hungrier for honesty now, which is something they’re not getting from other places.”
“Comedians,” Apatow continued, “have no motivation to lie and almost every other public figure we encounter nowadays does. Politicians are lying to you all day long; comedians are telling you what they really feel.”
But later in the same interview, Apatow also suggested liberal politicians are more open and honest than their conservative counterparts, drawing a strange comparison between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to illustrate his point. “Hillary Clinton’s a mess. Trump is obviously a mess. But I do think Hillary Clinton could probably talk to you about what she struggles with and the mistakes she makes. Can you imagine Donald Trump doing that?”
To the contrary, Clinton’s insincerity and reluctance to admit mistakes is pretty well-documented. But I think his larger point is correct. If most politicians are not being straightforward with the truth, and people are starved for honesty, wouldn’t the consequential honesty expressed through comedy be less partisan?
In fact, some of the best critiques of cultural liberalism have been conveyed through comedy, in standup and in movies and television. That’s why it’s so important to fortify the industry against the increasingly powerful pressures of political correctness.
There is clearly a strong market for comedic takes on politics, whether they’re from Jon Stewart or Tim Allen. Comedians today are some of the only remaining liberals willing to shrug the constraints of political correctness and broach the difficult conversations their peers should be having.
Apatow elaborated on this argument in another part of the interview as well. “I know who I am as a storyteller: I want to feel hope about people’s abilities to incrementally learn,” the standup said. “This is related to the reason why you don’t see movies and television about Republican and conservative ideas — because Republicans are trying to present themselves as correct, as clean, as Mike Pence–y. Unlike them, I want people who actually evolve.”
Drawing an unlikely comparison between Mike Pence and Lena…