In 1983, Robert De Niro starred as Rupert Pupkin, a crazed fan who yearns desperately to be a stand-up comic, in the ironically titled The King of Comedy. Now 33 years later, the seven-time Oscar nominee (he’s won two statuettes) is in contention for nod number eight with his lead role in The Comedian, a darkly humorous film set in the strange world of comedy clubs.
Directed by Taylor Hackford (An Officer and a Gentleman, Ray) and written by a quartet of industry pros including Jeff Ross and Richard LaGravenese, The Comedian features De Niro as a once-edgy Don Rickles-like stand-up named Jackie Burke. After a successful but safe run on a television sitcom, Jackie charts his haphazard return to the insult-comedy boards.
As you can tell from this first trailer, De Niro isn’t the only famous face in the movie’s large ensemble. Danny DeVito and Patti LuPone appear as Jackie’s brother and sister-in-law; Edie Falco is his harried business manager; Leslie Mann plays his romantic interest; Harvey Keitel costars as her father; and you’ll recognize De Niro’s Analyze This partner Billy Crystal in a cameo as himself. (One wonders if we should also expect pop-ups from other De Niro friends like Joe Pesci and Martin Scorsese.)
“I saw the movie as a dark drama with some comedy,” Hackford tells EW about the film, “but then we tested it with an audience, and they really laughed hard. So better to call it a dark comedy with drama.”
De Niro’s Jackie heads to theaters on Dec. 2 (the same day as a much different Jackie) in New York and Los Angeles for a one-week Oscar qualifying run, before opening again in those cities on Jan 13. Check out the trailer above.