The beginning of the movie “The Comedian” for me gave me an idea of what could have been a much better movie. Examining the life of someone who has either tried to be a stand-up comedian for many years and has never really made it, or follow the life of someone like Brett Butler who appears as a stand-up at the beginning of this film and had her own TV show in 1993 “Grace Under Fire” . After her show ended 5 years later Butler has tried to find that level of fame again, probably by still doing stand-up in seedy clubs like the one at the start of this movie and this difficult life of chasing show-business fame would be a very compelling story for a much better movie.
From an outsider looking at the life of anyone who thinks they can be a stand-up comedian it appears to be a dark depressing life of low paying gigs, heckling and drunk audiences, bombing many times over before you master the this most difficult art form and years of dues all for the hopes of a miracle down the road. This life includes traveling around the country and living day by day in run down motels, wondering if the cost of traveling from one club to the next is going to be more or less than you are making by performing your act at the next performance. Living a life like this is not for the faint of heart, but in my opinion, making a real life documentary or movie about a person who chooses a life like this would be fascinating and far more interesting than the Comedian which turned out to be a surprisingly bad movie.
During one of the talk show interviews Robert De Niro did to promote this movie he revealed that he worked very hard to perfect the art of being a stand-up comedian. The problem is that for whatever reason, De Niro, despite his acting talent has virtually no ability as a stand-up comedian. What is worse about this film, is that during the four times De Niro performed comedy in front of an audience in this bad movie, the material was not only not funny but disgusting and raunchy. Being disgusting and raunchy will never overcome material that is not funny. The worst of his performances was the last one he made at a retirement home in Florida and even one of the female patients in the audience said what everybody was thinking, “is this supposed to be funny”?
De Niro has made a few bad movies lately, the last very bad one was “Dirty Grandpa” and now this one, but he has also made a few very good movies as well, including Hands of Stone and Joy. At this point in his career, I see no reason why he would ever make a movie like this because one of the main points of becoming rich and famous as an actor is that you can control your own destiny and never take a bad role just because of money. The movie The Comedian will probably encourage all of his fans ask him, “what the hell were you thinking”? This bad film is far beneath Robert De Niro and the long list of actors who appear in this production.
As for the screenplay, there is no real story here, just a series of events that occur with Deniro, who plays a former TV comedy star like Brett Butler and his girlfriend played by Leslie Mann. Harvey Keitel is also in this movie as Leslie Mann’s father and there are numerous unfunny scenes of anger between Robert De Niro and Keitel in this movie that are nothing more than temporary distractions as you desperately wait for these very long two hours to come to an end.
Despite the bad script and story for The Comedian, there are a remarkably large number of famous comedians and actors that have cameos, including Billy Crystal, Cloris Leachman, Charles Grodin, Danny Devito and even Jimmy Walker. Despite all of the cameos and some small parts of this film that do work, I cannot recommend this movie for about ten different reasons, starting with the horrible, awkward, raunchy and unfunny comedy performances that De Niro’s character gives throughout this bad film. This is one movie that should have went straight to DVD.