Before he was one of Hollywood’s biggest directors and a kingmaker of up-and-coming comedians, Judd Apatow was just a comedy fan. As a teen, he got a job washing dishes at a comedy club just to see comedians’ sets and eventually started performing himself. While he has since become a behind-the-scenes comedian, producer, writer, and director (which is pretty good work if you can get it), he seemingly does not tired of putting his love of comedy to good use. His latest documentary is on George Carlin, one of several stand-up comics regularly considered to be the greatest to ever perform, and a trailer has just dropped for it. Check it out:
In the trailer for George Carlin’s American Dream, we see and hear the legendary comedian in performance clips from throughout his staggeringly six decades as a central part of American humor. The vast difference between a Carlin in a suit and tie during his years of partnership with Jack Burns (in black and white, no less), his 1960s phase as a “Hippy Dippy Weatherman,” his emergence in the 1970s with the influential “seven dirty words” routine, his 1980s and 1990s as an early HBO stand-up. It is all there. We also hear George Carlin in voice-over describing his own life; it seems the documentary will cover his career and difficulties, warts and all. His prolific drug use and compulsive need to change are both mentioned, as are the health problems that plagued him for years.
We also see many, many notable comedy figures discussing the influence and power of George Carlin’s work. Jerry Seinfeld, Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswalt, Bette Midler, W. Kamau Bell, and many others pop up to heap praise on the man. George Carlin’s American Dream will reportedly also feature interviews from associates throughout his career and his surviving family. The documentary is co-directed by Judd Apatow and filmmaker Michael Bonfiglio, who has also made films about comedians Patrice O’Neal and Gary Gulman. In 2018, Apatow directed The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling, centered on fellow standup comedy legend Garry Shandling.
George Carlin’s American Dream will debut as a two-part documentary on HBO on May 20 and 21 (with HBO Max streaming both simultaneously). Judd Apatow’s most recent film was Netflix’s The Bubble, which starred an enormous ensemble cast including Karen Gillian, Pedro Pascal, David Duchovny, Keegan-Michael Key, and naturally, his wife Leslie Mann and two daughters Iris and Maude. The film about the disastrous production of a fictional film was poorly received by critics; it currently stands at 22% on Rotten Tomatoes, the lowest of his career as a director.
It would seem unlikely for critics to be so harsh about a documentary on as revered and beloved a topic as George Carlin. While he may have been controversial in his lifetime, since his death in 2008, Carlin has been elevated to something of a comedic deity. Hopefully, the documentary will treat its subject matter with both the fond respect and critical disrespect that an iconoclast like George Carlin likely would have preferred.