Before Judd Apatow was the ultra-successful producer of movies like Anchorman, Bridesmaids, and this year’s Sundance hit The Big Sick, all he wanted to be in life was a stand-up comedian. After 30 years of writing, directing and producing some of the best TV and film comedy of his generation, he has finally achieved that goal.
Introducing his mentor at a stand-up show to promote their HBO series Crashing at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles Saturday night, Pete Holmes joked that you might recognize Apatow from HBO’s Young Comedians Special. He was referring to the 1992 stand-up showcase that also featured Ray Romano, Janeane Garofalo, Bill Bellamy and others. But unlike those comedians, Apatow had to wait until he was close to 50 years old before reaching headliner status as a comedian.
The increasingly politically engaged Apatow, who found himself as the unlikely subject of a widely-read recent Maureen Dowd column in The New York Times, spent the majority of his set tearing into President Donald Trump—most forcefully in the disturbing analogy he used as his opener.
When Trump was elected, Apatow said, he felt like “a person about to get raped, but I didn’t know how bad it would be.” Now that Trump is president, he added, “I feel like I’ve just been raped and I just don’t know if I’m going to get murdered.”
The L.A. crowd applauded, knowingly.
Soon, he had moved on to the First Family, including Melania Trump, who has refused to even move into the White House. “That’s pretty bad,” he said. “I mean, think about it: Hillary Clinton didn’t move out of the White House and her husband got a blowjob in it.” As for Melania, he said he “understands” why she’s staying away. “Every day she’s not in the White House is a day she’s not getting fucked by Donald Trump,” Apatow said. “Wouldn’t you stay away?”
Apatow even included a few jokes about Barron Trump, a risky move that got Saturday Night Live writer Katie Rich suspended from the show last month. But unlike that controversial tweet, Apatow’s joke was not at the 10-year-old Trump’s expense.
“He fucking gets it,” Apatow said of the president’s youngest son. “You ever see the look on his face when Trump’s talking?” he asked, imitating the aloof expression. “People are like, ‘Is there something wrong with him?’ No! He knows his dad’s a fucking asshole!”
Later, he expanded on a common observation about Trump: He doesn’t laugh. “Laughter is how we connect, it’s how you show people you love them,” Apatow said. “He only laughs when he makes someone feel bad. What does he do to laugh, just go on YouTube and watch Special Olympics bloopers?”
On a bill that also included Holmes and Artie Lange, Apatow more than held his own, delivering the most consistently funny set of the night. Beyond just Trump, he also mined comedy out of the bizarre interactions he’s had over the years with celebrities like Robert De Niro and Kanye West.
Apatow ended his set by returning to the Bill Cosby material that he previously performed on The Tonight Show and at a People for the American Way benefit in late 2015. More than a year later, the bit was sharper and more finely tuned than before, and his Cosby impression has only become more spot-on.
“When you start out as a comedian, you’re not good,” Apatow told The Daily Beast in a recent interview. “You realize that if you stick with it and you’re talented, you will get good, but you don’t know if it’s going to happen in six months or five years.” Well, three decades after he set out to become a great stand-up comedian, no one could deny that he has achieved his goal.