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Film / Mr. Saturday Night

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Mr. Saturday Night is a 1992 comedy-drama film that details the rise and fall of fictional stand-up comedian Buddy Young, Jr., played by Billy Crystal, who also makes his directorial debut with the film. The film is shown from the perspective of Buddy in present-day as an old man with flashbacks to his earlier life featuring his highs and lows. Also stars David Paymer as his brother Stan, who works as his manager, Julie Warner as his wife Elaine, and co-stars Helen Hunt and Ron Silver.

In 2021 Billy Crystal announced that he had adapted the film into a stage musical, which opened on Broadway on April 27 2022. Billy Crystal and David Paymer both reprised their roles from the film, and Crystal also co-authored the musical's book.

This Film Contains Examples of:

  • Adapted Out: The stage musical removes Buddy and Stan's mother, and Buddy's son (who is only seen as a child in flashbacks and is referred to only a couple of times in the present day scenes, thus having no real impact on the plot at all).
  • Adaptational Alternate Ending: In the stage musical, the show ends with Buddy getting the part of the grandfather after all (though he still passes on it at first).
  • Ascended Fanboy: Director Larry Meyerson loved Buddy growing up, and even created a main character based on him. (Unfortunately, when you have Walter Matthau interested in the part, you go with Matthau.)
  • As Himself: Comedians Jerry Lewis, Carl Ballantine, Slappy White, and Jackie Gayle all appear at the New York Friars' Club, where Buddy has lunch with them.
  • Big Eater: Buddy and Stan's family were these, and even incorporated in their comedy act, which they told in front of them as teens. They all found it hilarious.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Buddy blows his chance at starring in the movie, but after getting told off by Stan, he takes a level in kindness and makes peace with his family while enjoying himself performing in small clubs for elders.
  • Borscht Belt: Buddy was born and raised around the area and got his start in comedy there.
  • Career Resurrection: In-Universe, as an old man, Buddy wants one more chance at the spotlight, first as a warm-up comic and a commercial, both chances which he ruins with his comedic tendencies. Then he's offered a part in a movie that was specifically written for him. He doesn't get it, as Walter Matthau accepts it and while Buddy is offered a smaller part the director feels he would do well in, Buddy's ego once again kills another opportunity.
  • Cast the Runner-Up: In-Universe, Buddy loses a potentially career-reviving role to Walter Matthau but is offered a smaller role instead. Subverted in that he rejects it out of pride.
  • Creator Killer: In-Universe, Buddy's CBS show competes against Davy Crockett and despite Stan's wishes, Buddy's monologue makes insulting gay remarks about this show, which doesn't go over well with the audience and sees his show end and his career go downhill.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: For all his faults, Buddy loved his mother dearly and one of the most satisfying things he did in his life was make her laugh and was visibly broken when she passes away.
  • Expy: Relating to the Davy Crockett incident, Buddy fires the comedy writers who wrote a more appropriate monologue for him to perform instead of his original, one of whom was an expy for Woody Allen, and is even referred to as "Woody".
  • Fatal Flaw: The only way Buddy can communicate with people is with humor. Outside of it, he's a sour, bitter man who is self-centered.
  • Flashback: We see Buddy in various points of his life in these.
  • George Jetson Job Security: The minutes before the Davy Crockett incident, Buddy, in a sour mood, was firing crew members left and right.
  • The Heckler: In his first stage appearance at the Catskills, Buddy starts off bombing and getting heckled by a fat man. Buddy flings insults at him, which brings the laughs and is the beginning of his stage persona.
    Buddy: Look at you! You're New Jersey in pants!
  • Heel Realization: After he blows his chance at reviving his career, Buddy and Stan have a heated argument which ends with Stan telling him he could have been nicer. Buddy acknowledges that this is true, then makes peace with his family.
  • Insult Comic: Which is Buddy's comedy persona, though even off-stage, he could be quite condescending.
  • I Resemble That Remark!: Buddy asks Jerry Lewis if he's still combing his hair with the Exxon Valdez. Jerry laughs it off.
  • Jerkass: Buddy is an egotist whose mouth gets him in trouble, insulting the people who could advance his career, rude to his family (except his wife, but even then he can be neglectful), temperamental when things don't go his way and blames everyone but himself for his career downfall.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Buddy is right, his booking on the Ed Sullivan Show was poor. Things would have worked out better if they put him before the Beatles as a warm-up comic, where he would have had a chance to shine.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Buddy might be alienating to them, but he does love his family very much. And he becomes kinder by the end of the film.
  • Jews Love to Argue:
    • Again part of Buddy and Stan's comedy act in front of the family, about their Uncles. "You're spitting in the cookies!" "It makes them moist!"invoked
    • Also with Buddy and Stan, sometimes in good humor, other times, not so much.
  • Job Title: Mr. Saturday Night.
  • Mood Whiplash: The film veers wildly between cheerful and maudlin, one of the reasons it was an Acclaimed Flop. invoked
  • Morality Pet; Elaine, Buddy's wife, is the only person he's been nice to in the film, and while he was neglectful to her at times, he still loves her very much and didn't hurl insults to her like he did others.
  • Old Shame: Another In-Universe example, with his appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in which he performed... right after the biggest band in the world performed, which made the audience so excited, they ignored his act and it ended up being cut short. This is a Berserk Button for Buddy for years to come.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Buddy is the Red Oni to Stan's Blue Oni.
  • Running Gag: Buddy and family do this with each other: (Make insulting comment) "See what I did there? I made it sound like I was going to say (insert sweet comment) when I said (insulting comment)."
  • Sibling Team: Subverted with Buddy and Stan, who started off as a comedy team entertaining their family as children and talked of hitting it big together, but on their first performance, Stan chickens out, letting Buddy go out and perform by himself. That said, Stan becomes his manager, so he is still a big part of his career, for better or worse until his retirement; it's strongly implied that Stan is the better comedic talent of the two. He is replaced with Annie Wells.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Even after his career is in shambles, Buddy never lost the ego.
  • Snark Knight: Buddy often snarks to others, even making some remarks about himself.
    Annie: (laughing) What is that?!
    Buddy: It was my album, Disco Jew. That record was a huge hit. It went zinc.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Buddy and Stan always engage in this. The last lines of the film:
    Buddy: You have friends here?
    Stan: Yeah, you get a choice of friends or cable. I took the friends.
    Buddy: Over cable?!
  • Spin-Off: Believe it or not, yes. Buddy Young Jr. actually made an appearance on Saturday Night Live during Weekend Update, where he gave a review of a restaurant and even bantered with Waylon Jennings and Johnny Cash, during Billy Crystal's tenure as a cast member in the 1984-1985 season.
  • The Unfavorite: Buddy feels this way about his daughter Susan, who's had problems in her adult years with shoplifting and drugs. Even as a child, Buddy wasn't that great to her, as when she was part of his act, he asked for her funny face and told her it needs work, which didn't make her too happy, and he also replaced her with an actress playing his daughter. In another episode, he screamed at her to take off her coonskin cap before the Davy Crockett incident. All this in contrast to a son he mentioned who's a successful lawyer. Buddy makes it up to her eventually, giving her a check to help her and even asking her to do the funny face again, which he called "perfect".
  • While You Were in Diapers: The reason Buddy dismisses Annie is that she knows nothing of the comics from the Golden Age of Television. To her credit, she returns having done her research, recognizing Buddy's (and other comics') contribution to show biz, and they bond.
  • White-Dwarf Starlet: A male example with Buddy.
  • Yiddish as a Second Language: Buddy incorporates Yiddish words in his act and at one point in an early stage appearance (where he meets Elaine), he even does a song in the language!