There was plenty of passion for stand-up comedy on display at Friday night’s world premiere of Robert De Niro‘s “The Comedian” at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood as part of AFI Fest.

More than three decades after starring in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy,” De Niro returned in another role as a troubled stand-up with a supporting cast of Leslie Mann, Danny DeVito, Edie Falco, Patti Lupone and Cloris Leachman. “This has been a passion project of mine for many years,” he said on the red carpet.

But De Niro — who’s won two Oscars and been nominated seven times —  admitted after the screening that getting honest laughs was a serious challenge.

“It was good but it was not an easy experience” he allowed. “Sometimes the extras didn’t realize they were supposed to laugh.”

De Niro, who was a major Hillary Clinton supporter, was asked about “The Comedian” opening on Jan. 13 — just a week before the Presidential Inauguration of Donald Trump. “That’s too big a question,” De Niro said with a grin.

Director Taylor Hackford, who once was a part owner of the Storyville comedy club in New Orleans, reiterated the inherent difficulty of stand-up.

“It’s really hard because if they don’t laugh, then you die,” he said. “It’s so dark when a comedian doesn’t get laughs, so this has some really dark moments.”

Hackford noted that the film was shot in 27 days and needed much of the shooting to take place in the middle of the night — when comedy clubs are in operation.

“We did a lot of this by the seat of our pants because the comedy needs to feel spontaneous,” he added. “And nobody could complain when the star is working harder than anyone else.”

Mann noted that it’s her first acting gig with De Niro. “I feel so lucky. I’ve been doing this for 25 years — like forever,” she noted.

Politics were not much in evidence. “We really need a comedy after this week,” said producer Courtney Solomon.