David Seltzer, who wrote The Omen and Prophecy, was excited about comedy clubs all the way back to 1979, but the script sat for years unmade before producer Daniel Melnick found it in the Columbia files. Tom Hanks Steven Gold character was the hero of the movie, but comes off so mean at parts that it just didn’t work. Instead of making this a small movie with no stars, Columbia president Steve Sohmer reached out to Sally Field, who came on board as the producer and co-star.
Both Hanks and Field worked for months to improve their timing on stage, with Hanks training with comedy writer Randy Fechter and stand-up comic Barry Sobel, while Field studied under comic Susie Essman and sitcom writer Dottie Archibald.
Steven Gold (Hanks) is a failed medical student obsessed with his stand-up career, someone who uses the skills he should have in the operating room to dissect what makes stand-up work. Lilah Krytsick (Field) is a housewife with the dream of making a career that she can own outside of her boring life cooking dinners and raising children with her husband John (John Goodman, ironically playing the wife of a Roseanne Barr-type comedian, ironically in the same year that he would play Barr’s TV husband; fellow ABC actor Candace Cameron is one of their daughters).
The true joy of this film is in seeing the stand-ups work on their material, as well as the actors and real comedians selected to play them, like Damon Wayans, Sobel, Pam Matteson, George McGrath (the singing nun in this movie also wrote Big Top Pee-Wee), Taylor Negron (who was trained for comedy by Lucille Ball), Barry Neikrug, Angel Salazar, Mac Robbins, Max Alexander, Paul Kozlowski, Marty Pollio (a real-life juggling comedian), Casey Sander, George Wallace, Michael Pollock and Bob Zmuda as a heckler.
Romeo, the owner of the club in this movie, is played by Mark Rydell, who hadn’t acted since The Long Goodbye. He’s much better known as a director with The Rose and On Golden Pond being his best-considered movies.
Comedians are screwed up people. This movie won’t change that notion. That said, it got me emotionally a few times and has some decent moments.
The Mill Creek Through the Decades: 1980s Collection has a ton of great movies at an affordable price. It also has Like Father, Like Son, Vice Versa, Little Nikita, Roxanne, The New Kids, Who’s Harry Crumb?, Blue Thunder, Suspect and Band of the Hand. You can get this set from Deep Discount.