The lead times and editing periods for books being what they are (extensive), it seems safe to assume that Apatow’s parenthetical was an edit to an original version of that introduction that did, in fact, go into his personal connection to Cosby. And it is personal — the comedy of Bill Cosby was a bond shared by this boy and his dad, and those bonds are stronger than oak. They last your lifetime, which is why so many men spend their lives rooting for the sports team their dad loved, a fandom less about the franchise or the game than about the memory of a common experience. And last fall, Apatow discovered that he and his dad’s Yankees were probably rapists. He took it personally.
On top of that childhood connection, there’s the love of comedy that prompted Apatow to conduct those interviews and write that book; he’s one of the most visible and vocal of all comedy nerds, a guy who inserted vintage Shandling clips and Groucho references into Freaks and Geeks, who made an entire movie about the form in 2009’s Funny People (a film about the kind of guys who’d decorate their apartment with framed Redd Foxx album covers). And from that standpoint, the paternal connection is both literal and metaphorical.
“I’m a comedian. I see him a little bit as our comedy dad. It’s like finding out your comedy dad is a really evil guy,” Apatow told Marc Maron in January. “And when the community is pretty silent, I feel like, if no one’s gonna talk, I’m gonna talk.”
Lena Dunham and Judd Apatow at Film Society of Lincoln Center. Photo credit: Jason Bailey / Flavorwire
So Apatow’s unrelenting attention to the matter isn’t just about being a good keeper of the comedy flame — it’s also about being a good human being, about using the attention granted him as a public figure to talk about something important to him, as an ally and (lest we forget) a father of two girls. And he knows that the “Bill Cosby thing” is about more than just Bill Cosby.
“I went on a tweet rampage yesterday,” Lena Dunham said at in a recent conversation with Apatow at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, “because I had people tweeting at me, ‘When’s Judd gonna let it go with the Cosby thing?’ And it’s like, ‘When are we as a country gonna let it go with the defending rapists thing?’ It’s not like he was really upset with the finale of Breaking Bad and he can’t stop talking about it.”
“He’s symbolic of something that is important,” Apatow explained, pinpointing the campus rape epidemic described in The Hunting Ground. “All of these universities, they just don’t wanna have a high rape statistic. So when women come forward, or men come forward, who’ve been raped, they don’t kick people out of school! And it’s true in the military too. So I think women not being listened to is what’s scary; Bill Cosby is just a symbol of a situation that’s so obvious, and yet people don’t stand up and say ,‘This is crazy. We should so something about it’ — in the most obvious situation of all. Then what’s it like for a woman when it’s just her and some awful dude and no one listens to her, because no one listened to 40 women with the same exact story?”