Bringing the fictional comedian he created eight years earlier to the big screen, Billy Crystal hits a double with Mr. Saturday Night. By turns relentlessly jokey and shamelessly schmaltzy, the actor-writer’s directorial debut charts a sometimes unpleasant funnyman’s long career in choppy, two-dimensional fashion, but delivers enough laughs and heart-tugging.
As a veteran who feels dead without an audience, Buddy (Crystal) says he’s ‘got cancer of the career. It’s inoperable.’ Flashbacks reveal that the stubborn comic was usually his own worst enemy, deliberately undercutting himself with his superiors and letting his emotions get the better of him.
Other than his career, the only thing of enduring importance to Buddy is his relationship with his brother Stan, a gentle, kind soul (David Paymer, in a standout performance).
After Stan retires to Florida, Buddy decides to take on a new agent (waspy blonde Helen Hunt), who has never heard of any of the old-time comedy greats but nevertheless gets Buddy a chance at some top jobs, such as a possible starring role in a film by megadirector Larry Meyerson (Ron Silver).
It’s basically all Crystal and Paymer’s show, and they age very convincingly through the years.
1992: Nomination: Best Supp. Actor (David Paymer