Judd Apatow On 2016 Election: 'I'm Post-Comedy, I Am Deeply Troubled & Concerned'
Judd Apatow, January 2016. (Getty)
All it takes is a quick scan of Judd Apatow's Twitter feed to see how concerned he is with the direction America is heading. Like anyone in the comedy world, he seems to absorb the awful parts of life in a way that directly affects him, gets under his skin, and holes up in his brain. I wanted to hear more about Apatow's thoughts on the state of the nation right now, as we are in the grips of the most insane and surreal elections this country has ever seen. If you're looking for comic relief, you're not going to get it—Apatow told me he's "post-comedy" and "deeply concerned" right now.
What Donald Trump said in the tape ["And when you're a star, they let you do it, you can do anything... Grab 'em by the pussy"] he boiled down to locker room talk. How would you define locker room talk, or where would you draw that line at when it stops becoming locker room talk? I think he has a pattern of, at the very least, massive disrespect. I think this only confirms what we assume he is really like. He is somebody who is being sued for mistreating employees he didn't think were attractive enough. It was very disturbing [to hear of] details in his divorce papers about how he has treated the women in his life. He's clearly not somebody who cares about and respects women the way we would want our president to. He's also somebody who is not fighting for women to have control over their own bodies. It's just all the worse case scenario.
What I find shocking is that people are shocked by this but they haven't been shocked by everything else. All you have to do is listen to all of those old Howard Stern interviews to know how disgusting a person he is. He used a very inflammatory word and certainly implied that it's possible that he has physically assaulted people, but the stuff that we've been listening to for the last fifteen years has been bad enough for me to think that he should never serve in elected office.
Do you think that it is changing anyone's mind? We've seen some moves from the Republican party, but as far as his supporters—to me they're not going to change their minds, because he obviously, at that point, can say anything... To me, this is just a narcissistic person. He's the embodiment of selfishness. This is just another example of somebody that really doesn't care about anybody but himself and maybe his family. He just wants to take what he wants. He has money. Now he would like power. He hasn't spent any time in his life fighting for any cause or anything that he believes in. He has stolen money from his own charity which wasn't even registered as a charity. He has taken advantage of people who are struggling with Trump University and with the sub-prime meltdown. I don't think a person at that age suddenly becomes obsessed with helping the citizens of the United States.
Unite Here local 54 casino worker's union members protest outside Trump Taj Mahal in July 2016 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. (Getty)
One aspect of this that no one ever talks about is he's a casino owner, and Louis C.K. I thought was very eloquent about the kind of person that takes advantage of people who don't have that much money. He's happy to take what little they have. He's not giving anything back, not to the government, not to any cause. It's the last person in the world I would trust with anything. All politicians are making bargains that are both uncomfortable and sometimes unethical. It's definitely a very muddy world. I do believe that most politicians are in it for the right reason and believe in their positions.
I don't think Donald Trump believes in anything. I don't think there's one thing he says that he has thought through as deeply as we would need the president to research something to have a very thoughtful position about it. That's terrifying. I've read a bunch of the books about him. It's all scary. I've read a bunch of Trump's books. I can't believe what's in those books. No one talks about it. He has a whole page about revenge. If anyone goes after you, you go after them ten times harder because it will discourage others from going after you and it feels good. This is just a demented person.
I think maybe there's so much in his history that it's hard for every single thing to be dug up and talked about... He's created a fog of madness. Any one of these issues are worthy of us saying he probably shouldn't be the President. He probably shouldn't be the person who's in control of the largest army in the world and a nuclear arsenal. It seems so ridiculous that there's any debate about it. I understand the position the Republicans are in because if Hillary wins she's going to fight for a lot of things that they don't believe in, but this is a man that really puts the entire world in danger. We never had somebody like this take control of the nuclear arsenal—you see how upset he gets. What happens when China does something provocative or North Korea, or Russia?
This is a very scary moment. We have a lot of powerful countries testing each other and this is a guy who has a meltdown over the tiniest issues. It really scares me. I think it takes some courage for Republicans to say, "You know what, this is not safe for our population so let's get Hillary in there," but it's insane not to say that. It's a shame that some people in positions of power are taking so long to get there.
Do you think that he has a chance at winning? I think anything can happen because the world is so crazy and media changes the subject so fast. Things happen in a split second in the modern world. I don't think anyone should relax and think this is over. People really need to get out and vote. People should work really hard to get people to the polls. This is not done until it's actually done.
If he wins, do you have any scenarios, nightmares in your head that are playing out? I remember how scared I was when George Bush became President and almost all of my fears came true so, yes, I think we all should be scared because almost none of his positions make sense, even to the Republicans. That's the interesting thing about this. The Republicans don't actually agree with him. I don't know who does agree with him. If anyone went through all of his positions they would disagree with the majority of them.
What I found interesting in the debate was they kept asking him about humanitarian issues in Aleppo and he never ever acknowledged that that was a question. He just kept saying, "We've got to get ISIS. We've got to get ISIS." That's not what they were trying to find out. They were trying to find out what would you do to take care of this enormous population that's at risk and that's getting killed every day and he didn't say a word about it because he actually does not care.
This is the person that said you should be able to kill the families of terrorists even if the families had nothing to do with it. Have you ever seen a person like this? He doesn't understand how government works. He actually doesn't understand. He doesn't know that the president either doesn't have the ability to, on his own, prosecute Hillary Clinton. That's what I find most troubling. I actually think he doesn't have a deep knowledge of almost any issue.
It's funny that we're not all laughing at him. If you said to me, "Hey, Judd, what would you do about ISIS?" And I said,"You know what, I've got the answer. I have it all figured out but I can't tell you because I don't want ISIS to know." You would laugh at me. You wouldn't make me the president.
Do you think that humor has been an effective tool against him, or is it just a coping mechanism for us at this point? I'm not sure because I always thought that George Bush wouldn't get re-elected as a result of the amazing work of The Daily Show and then he was re-elected. To me, it seemed like the case was so simple against him. I don't know if humor is anything but preaching to the converted. It's hard to know. People are doing amazing work. Everybody is doing amazing work—Seth Meyers, Trevor Noah, Samantha Bee, John Oliver, Larry Wilmore when he was on the air. Everyone's doing exactly what they should be doing. I don't know if undecided voters are touched by it or not or if it affects their thinking.
I don't find almost any of it funny anymore. I'm post-comedy. I am deeply troubled and concerned and semi-depressed that our country let it get this far. I think it's very sad the type of people that have crawled out from their holes and have revealed themselves. This is the country that had people fighting against civil rights and fighting for slavery. I guess there's always some percentage of the population that still believes in things like that. It is terrifying to see them reveal themselves.
That's definitely part of why this is awful, just seeing that there are people like this... Before modern technology maybe all of those people still were that racist and sexist but they were hiding in their homes and had no way to tell us all about their stupid ideas. Now we see them. It's very sad. I used to think it was a small amount of people but you see these big rallies and it's deeply troubling. Those rallies are not thinning out. The more we learn about Trump, we're not seeing Trump playing a half-filled basketball arena. Those people are still going to be around after Trump, hopefully, loses the election.
You think you're in a bubble in New York or L.A., but a lot of people turn up to support him there, too. I was talking to a friend of mine and he said he thought that was the last gasp from a certain part of the population. The demographics are changing and those people are getting older and they're going to disappear. I have my doubts. I believe there's always a certain percentage of any population that's just awful in every country of the world. I don't know what the number is, maybe it's 2%, maybe it's 26%, but there are always terrible, dangerous people.
I have a friend who lives in Brooklyn, he's in a band, he's a millennial or hipster or whatever word you want to tag onto him, and he's never really done anything that would lead me to believe he would be a Trump supporter, but I recently found out he is. What should I tell that friend? I never understand what the issue is that's affecting most of them directly. It's hard to know. I would say this. If when George Bush left office, the economy was rockin' and life was great and we weren't in all of these wars, you might say the last eight years have been a huge setback. Our current president stepped into a situation which was a complete disaster and with zero support from the legislature he's done everything he can do to try to turn things around. The legislature made a choice to make sure that he could accomplish as close to nothing as they could make happen. Still, things have gotten so much better than eight years ago.
There may be a long way to go and a lot to change in government with our economy but eight years ago we were worried that our country was going to go into another depression. We just started a pointless war which killed hundreds of thousands of people and opened up a Pandora's box in the Middle East. It's not simple to put all of that back in the box. That's why I never understand when people are pro-Trump and don't understand the history of the last twenty years.
Maybe it's just that they don't like Hillary, or they're misogynists, I don't know... It's hard to know. It began a long time ago with Lee Atwater and then Bill Clinton and a different way of treating this process. It's all so much more disrespectful then it used to be. I don't know. It might be... it's easy to say about the fact that she's a woman but I'm not sure it would be that much different if Tim Kaine was at the top of the ticket. It may just be the people are so polarized that whoever is on the other side, they are not going to respect and admire for dedicating their lives to serving our country. Those days seem to be over. Donald Trump is talking about that. That's what birtherism was about. We're not going to respect this man who is president and so all respect goes out the window.
Do you have a plan if he wins, for you and your family? Are you going to leave or just watch the world burn from here? No, I'll just continue to support people whose values I agree with. That's all any of us can do is just do our best to help the people who we feel are fighting for causes which are important to us. I'm hopeful that everything will work out the way it should if there's any logic in the universe. I just think people should be disgusted by him for fifty reasons.
Yes, the tape is vile but never giving money to charity is vile, stealing from the money that you ask for from other people to put in your foundation is vile, taking advantage of the students at Trump University is vile, the way he's treated veterans is vile, the way he's treated women and minorities is vile. It's all bad. I think any one of them is enough to not vote for him.
You just heard [the tape], but imagine what the other tapes would be... Imagine if we had tapes from Donald and Fred Trump talking about how to handle the lawsuit from the Justice Department about their discriminatory real estate practices. What would that private conversation sound like? What would the conversation sound like when he did a meeting for Trump University where somebody explained how they were going to make money on it? What did the conversation sound like when he's having discussions about how to get the most out of the visitors to his casinos, milk every penny out of them? They all would be that bad.
With The Apprentice tapes, there's a bit of a push for them to be released now... I think we've had enough. If you need it to be worse at this point to think he shouldn't be president then I'm just scared for you. I'm sure there is much worse out there. Maybe they'll dribble in but we have enough information to think maybe this guy shouldn't have his finger on the nuclear button. It is as simple and clear as that. I think people don't realize if you want to start a nuclear war you don't go in front of Congress for permission. He can just do it five minutes in to his first day. There is no checks and balances with how the president uses the military most of the time. You've got to be able to pull it back after it started. The president in the modern era has an enormous amount of freedom to take action. If that's not scary, I don't know what is.
It's hard to even keep discussing at a certain point, because it's just so weird, surreal, crazy and unbelievable that we're living in this. It makes us all feel crazy. If this was a screenplay you couldn't write it because it's so bizarre. There's not one moment of it that anyone would believe. People will be dissecting this forever and I hope they'll be doing it in retrospect during better times, but my concern is it's just the beginning of this idiocy infecting every aspect of modern life.
We're not a country that talks a lot about sacrifice. I'm always shocked at how little the government asks of the citizenry. They never ask you to save energy anymore. There's not an enormous amount of concern... we're all ready to let cities go underwater from global warming because we don't want to be inconvenienced and get cars or factories made that save the environment. We're a country that waits until everything's on fire before thinking maybe we should do something. It's like Sandy Hook. If that doesn't get people thinking let's have logical gun safety laws then what will? We didn't get any logical federal gun safety laws. We never talk about getting rid of assault weapons or having much stricter rules. We're nowhere near closing gun show loopholes or getting universal background checks. That's what our country is about these days. We can't get everybody to give the most obvious things that support everybody.
That's what I'm most concerned about... how we want everything we want, when we want it and we're going to let the ship almost completely sink before we realize it's probably a mistake. I think that's what Donald Trump represents. Climate denier, doesn't see the humanitarian needs in Syria, doesn't see the danger with Russia; it's all about money, it's all about how good the lobbies of his buildings look, it's all about success. Nothing is about caring for other people.
Donald Trump never talks in terms of what can I do to help my fellow man? All about how many billions of dollars he has. We all see how much money billionaires are giving to charity these days. All these people making agreements either when they die or even in their lifetimes to give away the majorities of what they've earned. This is a guy spending ten thousands of dollars people donated to his foundation to buy a painting of himself. What has he ever cared about? What makes me sad is there are people who think Donald Trump cares about them. That makes me sad because what happened to them that they put their faith in him but they can't tell that he really doesn't care at all.
Yeah, he's very—to the rest of us—transparent with all of that. It's hard to see others falling for it. Yeah, I don't understand. I never understand why anyone thinks he wants to make them rich or even solvent. Look at all of his proposals. I love when they were talking about how much he was charging his own campaigns to do events at his properties. He found a way to make money off his own campaign.
I think when he did a benefit for Pam Bondi and he was trying to manipulate her to stop prosecuting him he didn't charge her a rental fee... or he charged her almost nothing... and then when he held events for his campaign, he charged, I think, like $140,000. To me, that's enough.
He would probably pat himself on the back publicly for that, saying he found a loophole. Right, yeah, and it's really a bribe. There's so many of them. That's what's fascinating. With Hillary there's about two or three things that people talk about. With him because it's a hundred we can't even remember all of them. It's like going to a party and meeting a hundred people and you go home and you don't remember any of their names. In a way he survives because of it. America needs video and now that that exists it's hard to shake. It's like hearing Romney talk about the "47 percent." As soon as you hear his voice and hear people recording him you get a sense of what the rest of it probably is.
I think that tape definitely was helpful for getting his own party to turn away from him, because it existed, and even if it's just for optics, they can't sit there and say they support this. If one or two words were different on that video a lot of those people would still be supporting him.
Trump supporters arrive at a campaign rally for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania earlier this month. (Getty)
Right. And if Hillary does win, which hopefully—I think I'm mostly hopeful that will happen—do you think that we've hit a point where we can't even reverse from some of this? Where we can't unsee what we've seen, what he wants and what his supporters want? The problem that everybody is debating... the only problems that people are talking about are very important. We need to spend a lot of time trying to crack the code about what our taxes should be, what our immigration policy will be, what to do concerning all these conflicts around the world but we do need a very intelligent, measured, knowledgeable person to be at the center of these conversations.
You can't solve any of these problems with a catchy phrase. Hopefully, whatever happens, we won’t have the same obstruction in the Legislature so that absolutely nothing gets done. We're a country that makes it impossible to pass laws to stop the Zika virus. We can't get our legislatures to quickly pass laws to support 9/11 responders. If that continues, then we're in for a real disaster. We can't have another four or eight years of that. Unfortunately, unless people vote Democratic all the way down the ticket we are going to be in that situation.
Would you have been able to, prior to this, write a Trump character? Would he even be believable? Have you ever thought of such an evil character? These people, they exist. Usually it's because they are so successful or famous or they have been in a bubble so long they have clearly lost touch with reality. Trump's story is not that complicated. He's the broken guy who only found love from his dad by caring about his dad's business and so there's really nothing else he cares about except material success because that's what he was brought up to care about.
It makes sense psychologically. It's troubling and sad. We shouldn't allow this guy to run our country. He wasn't someone who spent an enormous amount of time in inner cities trying to figure out how to help people. That's not what his life's purpose has been. At this point, I think he's just bored of being rich. He may be bored of sex. He may not even be having sex any more and he needs power. He's just an unsatisfied person looking for one more thing that might fill that hole and it won't.
The New York Times had a story today that was just like: the sad, lonely life of Trump... There are people like Trump and then there are people like Bill Gates who say, "I made a lot of money. I'm going to try to figure out how I can change people's lives." We need more Bill Gates people. People can debate the politics of fundraising and Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton's fundraising, but they have saved thousands and thousands of lives and changed thousands and thousands of lives because that's what they have dedicated their lives to, to service. That's not something that Donald Trump has any interest in. He just... does nothing.
When they researched and said every time on The Apprentice when Donald Trump said, "I'm going to match that donation to your charity," no check ever came from Donald Trump to one of those people's charities. It was always from NBC or somewhere else. I'll tell you something, as someone who receives eight billion requests for donations and to attend events, it takes a lot of work for someone like Donald Trump to never write that check, to not care enough, to not have your heart touched in a way that makes you want to go out and help out a cause... maybe it's a disease, maybe it's helping people in other counties, but something by the time you turn 70 should have touched him to the point where he's kind of stuck with that one charity. It doesn't exist. It's really weird.
Yeah, it's just him. He's his own charity. It's hard not to write a check for five grand if you are worth ten billion dollars. You have to be obsessed with not writing that check. Then the only checks you write are to attorneys general who are thinking about prosecuting you. Those checks are easy to locate.
I could rant on forever. I never stop ranting. It's a never ending, upsetting conversation. I could give you two more hours, but thank you.
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