Veteran actor Robert De Niro plays Jackie Burke, a stand-up comic who years ago had a hit sitcom and has been remembered for that role ever since. Now in his mid 70s, he is tired of being associated with that one character. He enjoys his newer routines, which, I must say, are entertaining but very raunchy. The Comedian is not for young viewers.
Creator Art Linson explained, “We conceived of Jackie as a caustic, biting comic because he’s a discontented guy. He’s angry that he wasn’t bigger than he was, …”
Jackie is floundering in his career. He really has issues with anger and with his past. His brother Jimmy Berkowitz (Danny DeVito) adores his act but his sister-in-law Florence (Patti LuPone) isn’t fond of her brother-in-law’s comedy. Jackie changed his name a long time ago but still holds onto the Jewish words and traditions with which he grew up.
Jackie is a natural when it comes to one-liners. But he has issues with anger so when a heckler got to him one night he punched him and they ultimately ended up in court, with Jackie getting 3 months in prison and community service. He takes this in stride and while serving his community service (literally, at the soup kitchen), he meets Harmony Schultz (Leslie Mann). They have an instant rapport and soon they are accompanying each other to family events — she with him to his niece’s (Lucy DeVito) wedding and he with her to dinner with her father (Harvey Keitel).
A fun part of the movie is when Jackie leads a group of senior citizens in a raunchy parody of the song “Makin’ Whoopie” changing the words and the chorus to “Makin’ Poopie.”
Both leading characters are flawed. Harmony grew up without a mother and under the strict thumb of her hard-nosed father. But it’s Jackie who helps her find her own voice and identity.
Robert De Niro definitely put his heart and soul into this role. The actor acknowledged, “Aging changes the way you look at your life, whether you’re a comedian, an actor, a businessman, anything.”
Director Taylor Hackford said, “I think of the film as a dark drama with comedy — somebody else may see a dark comedy with drama. There are jokes, but it’s really watching a man confront his reality at the latter part of his life, moving beyond being a failure in his own mind.”
“The Comedian” is rated R and opens in theaters February 3, 2017.