This past year was an interesting one for comedy. We saw the Glen Powell and Sydney Sweeney movie Anyone But You rake in the bucks, with over $200 million at the box office. And we saw Barbie, a comedy franchise and event movie, rocket over $1.5 billion.

These comedy films made a lot of money for their studios, and also were so much fun to watch with an audience in theaters.

It brought me back to the heydey of the early 2000s, when comedies got major theatrical releases with stars.

The king of that era was writer, producer, and director Judd Apatow, whose landmark movies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up brought in audiences and became part of the cultural lexicon.

Then came the rise of tentpoles and comic book films, and comedies kind of disappeared from big theatrical film, relegated to TV, streaming, and indies,

For what its worth, Apatow didn't lose hope that comedies will be back thriving on the big screen like they did back then.

Apatow told Vulture that we just need more hits to prove to Hollywood that comedies belong in theaters.

He points to Barbie as proof comedy in theaters is not dead, saying, "Iwould say that’s wrong, because the highest-grossing comedy last year made over a billion dollars. Barbie was a comedy, you know?"

When Vulture pushed back on that idea, saying that Barbie is more IP, like Marvel, than a comedy, Apatow responded, "I don’t think so. It’s not a drama. There are some emotional moments in it, but it’s just wall-to-wall jokes. There’s something about it where I feel like no one wants to give comedy the win there. Like, why can’t we say Barbie is a comedy? What other category would it be?"

This is a fair shot. Barbie is full of whacky jokes that only pause for a few emotional moments, also punctuated with comedy.

So how does it swing back?

Apatow has ideas on that: "I assume it’ll swing back. The industry does follow the leader. That’s why in the monologue I had a joke about all the different toy movies that will come out next, like Rock ’Em Sock ’Em Robots by Lars von Trier. But for comedy, it just requires another hit or two. If a movie like The Hangover came out and it was a big hit, suddenly everyone would want five more of those. Here’s the thing that most people don’t understand because they’re not in any of those executive suites: There’s a hit and then they just go, 'Oh, people like that. Make more like that.' The thinking is not deeper than that. They will just chase anything that does well, because people generally are averse to risk taking."

Pushing anyone to make anything now feels like an arduous chore. After the dual strikes, and with a pending IATSE action, I'm having trouble even getting executives to read anything.

But that's why I think we need to rely on the next crop of executives, the younger, bolder executives who are willing to take chances.

Or the execs who have proven over the course of their careers that they're willing to make big bets.

Apatow had a point of view on this as well, saying, "I mainly work at Universal. Donna Langley, who runs Universal, who’s supported us in our comedies, took a bet onOppenheimer. Like, who would think that anyone cared about Oppenheimer like that? Oppenheimer is going to make almost $1 billion. Like, is anyone talking about the inventor of the atom bomb in their lives? We don’t, but the people have to take big risks, and then you realize, No, people want to be challenged. They want smart movies. They want original cinematic experiences. You do need a comedy equivalent of that. You need people to say, “This is a need that is not satisfied just by sitting home alone, watching a streamer comedy.” There’s a place for that, surely, but what’s more fun than being in the theater, watching one of the great comedies?"

We need some comedy writers out there taking big risks on the page. Deliver something that is provocative but also funny and original.

I think we should all be rooting for comedies in any capacity as well. This genre needs some new voices, but also needs audiences to come back.

Let me know what you think in the comments.