Interview: Judd Apatow on why his return to stand-up comedy is an extension of ‘This is 40’

Many moons have passed since Judd Apatow has focused on doing stand-up comedy. But the entertainment juggernaut, who has filled his absence from the stage with project after project spanning from TV shows like The Ben Stiller Show and Freaks and Geeks to larger film projects that span too long of a list to include here, with credits in The 40-Year Old Virgin to Step Brothers to The Big Sick, has, has felt the itch, over the last three years, to get back to doing his full hour a bit more regularly than his periodic benefit shows at Largo in Los Angeles.

That itch leads him to various cities on the East Coast this month, and lands him on The Wilbur stage this Monday (July 24) for a pair of shows, with part of the proceeds for the 10 p.m. late gig going to benefit The Shout Syndicate’s Greater Boston After School Arts Fund.

Needing no additional reason to get him on the phone, Vanyaland chatted with Apatow recently to delve into what led him to his return to stand-up, as well as his reasons behind supporting The Shout Syndicate and using the arts as tools to affect positive change.

Jason Greenough: After so many years away from the stage, and so much success on the big screen, what led to your decision to return to stand-up?

Judd Apatow: Well, I stopped doing stand-up a long time ago, because I created The Ben Stiller Show that we did for Fox back in the day. I got so busy writing for that show that I didn’t have time to write any jokes or work out material at clubs for about a year. When that ended, I thought that maybe it was the universe telling me I was supposed to write. Then I got busy making all of those movies, and when I was working with Amy Schumer on Trainwreck, she was doing a ton of stand-up shows, so I got to talking to her about it, and started to miss it, and one day I thought ‘Ya know what? Let me go up on stage and make you laugh’ — just so she could see what it was like when I used to do it. So, I wrote some jokes and went over to the Comedy Cellar one night, it oddly went well, and after that show was over, I just wanted to do it every night.

Will the material be more sculpted and rehearsed, or more improvised riffing?

It’s going to be a set that I’ve been working on for about three years, and I’ll be talking about things that have happened to me, some family material, I talk a bit about politics. It feels a little like an extension of This is 40, but just as a monologue. Overall, it’ll be an update of where I am [in life].

Where did the idea to help support the Greater Boston After School Arts Fund come from? Was it your idea, or was it brought to you as a suggestion?

One of the ways I’ve approached doing stand-up this time around, I’ve tried to do as many shows as I can as benefits. So we reached out to some people in Boston to get a feel for what they thought was a good charity, and it got to where a lot was pointing to this After School Arts Fund, which I feel is very important. It’s an area that loses its funding very quickly, and it changes kids’ lives, so I’m really happy we can do this late show to support them!”

Do you think film or stand-up could be used as tools to affect positive social change?

Well, I think it definitely gets people thinking, especially stand-up. But for me, personally, I just try to raise money for people who are doing good work, and who are spreading an important message. I do a concert once a month at a place in Los Angeles called Largo, and one week it’ll be for Children’s Hospital, the next it’ll be for cancer research. And we’re able to get a lot of interesting people to do these benefits because we can’t put together a show that has me, and Louis [CK], and The Avett Brothers, and Gary Shandling, which also wound up being one of our benefits, unless it is a charitable event. A lot of people are always willing to help, and I think that’s a beautiful thing about the comedy world.”

JUDD APATOW :: Monday, July 24 at The Wilbur, 246 Tremont St. in Boston, MA :: 7:30 and 10 p.m., all ages, $37 to $52 :: The Wilbur event page :: Advance tickets :: Featured photo via the Comedy Cellar