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Hearing Kristen Wiig’s name attached to something titled The Comedian makes sense. Clarify that it’s a Robert De Niro vehicle scheduled to be directed by Sean Penn, and the project becomes more of a headscratcher.
The Comedian long was thought of as a possible reunion gig for De Niro and Martin Scorsese (and if you haven’t seen the duo’s brilliant The King of Comedy, rectify that situation immediately), but attracted Penn’s attentions earlier this year and now appears ready to go before the camera. Deadline reports that Penn has tapped Wiig to star opposite De Niro in the story of Jackie Burke, a fading star on the stand-up circuit who clings to any recognition that comes his way and is desperate to reignite his sputtering career. Wiig would play Harmony, a "dazzling and defiant redhead" who meets Jackie while he is doing community service after hitting a heckler in the head with a microphone.
Really? Bitter comic and sassy sidekick? OK. I’d feel a lot better about this if Scorsese still were on board. Nothing against Penn, who’s an immensely talented artist. But his directorial efforts – from The Crossing Guard to Into the Wild - weren’t exactly laugh riots. Scorsese and De Niro could have shaped this into a pseudo-King of Comedy sequel. Instead, we’ll get to see Penn’s sense of humor … which could surprise everybody (hey, he did do Fast Times At Ridgemont High at one point in his career).
The Comedian does have a few things going for it. Wiig could be an excellent foil for De Niro and the script was penned by seriously funny comic Jeff Ross and producer Art Linson. If anyone can capture the tone of a bitter, fed-up comic, it’s Ross, so De Niro and Wiig should have great lines. Now we’ll just hope Penn can elevate what already should be strong material.