Robert De Niro, comedian? That's the basic setup for Taylor Hackford's The Comedian, a dark comedy starring De Niro as an aging stand-up comic named Jackie Burkie who lands a community service nuisance after sparring with an audience member. As is usually the case with this sort of plot, Jackie's unique circumstances then inspire him to do some serious soul searching or whatever. Touching!
Hackford, who previously directed Ray and An Officer and a Gentleman, told Entertainment Weekly that he initially saw the story of The Comedian as more of a traditional drama. "I saw the movie as a dark drama with some comedy," Hackford said Monday, "but then we tested it with an audience, and they really laughed hard. So better to call it a dark comedy with drama." Fair enough. The comic darkness also includes appearances from Billy Crystal, Danny DeVito, and Leslie Mann.
During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this month, De Niro detailed the process of bringing a character like Jackie to the screen. "It's not so easy to do stand-up," De Niro recalled. "Stand-up is not easy. What I worked on was hard." While preparing for the shoot, comedians such as Jeff Ross and others stepped in for some consulting:
And who does De Niro consider to be among the greatest comedians of all time? As revealed to Kimmel, that honor goes to three super important dudes: Richard Belzer, Bill Murray, and his frequent co-star Billy Crystal. Was Crystal able to convince Belzer and Murray to join him for a cameo? Find out when The Comedian hits theaters Jan. 13.