Back in the late 1980s, Judd Apatow was a fixture on the standup comedy circuit, performing alongside then-unknown names like Adam Sandler and Jim Carrey. But then he received a negative review that prompted him to quit the spotlight. The author of that review? None other than beloved children’s entertainer Jim Henson. Apatow reveals this previously unknown piece of history in his new Netflix comedy special, Judd Apatow: The Return, which premieres on the streaming service Dec. 12. Today, Yahoo Entertainment has the exclusive debut of the trailer for the special, which finds the comedian-turned-Hollywood power player returning to the standup stage for the first time in 25 years.
Toward the end of his hourlong set, which covers everything from his family life as the father of two teenage daughters to his many, many insecurities, Apatow recalls how an audition for a Henson-backed reality series ended with the Muppets creator offering to buy all of his ideas — but not to feature him on camera, because he lacked “warmth.”
“It hurt so badly!” Apatow admits to us now. “I took it as a sign; it was one of the moments that made me think I should focus on my writing. In looking back, I think I was just insecure and happy to find a reason to stop.”
The choice to focus on writing certainly proved lucrative for Apatow. Early stints on such shows as The Ben Stiller Show and The Larry Sanders Show led to the beloved, if low-rated, series Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared, followed by blockbuster big-screen comedies ranging from Knocked Up to Trainwreck. Apatow says that it was directing Trainwreck, which standup superstar Amy Schumer wrote and starred in, that reignited his desire to get back in front of a crowd himself. And Netflix, which is also home to the Apatow-produced series Love, was only too happy to offer him a platform.
His standup set, like his movies and TV shows, alternates bawdy comedy with moments of great warmth, suggesting that maybe Apatow took Henson’s criticism to heart. “I started performing again partially as a message to myself that I am worth being heard and that possibly Jim Henson was wrong,” he says. “That’s what I should have called the special: Jim Henson Was Wrong.”
Judd Apatow: The Return premieres on Netflix on Dec. 12.
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