The Comedian is the first episode of season 1 in The Twilight Zone (2019) series.

Synopsis

A struggling comedian (Kumail Nanjiani) learns his jokes can do more than produce big laughs after he receives advice from a strange legendary comic (Tracy Morgan).

Opening Narration

Samir Wassan is an artist of great principal. A man who refuses to compromise his beliefs for a cheap joke, but tonight, he felt the rush of the limelight for the first time. Now, he'll have to decide what really matters to him when the laughter stops, and how much he's willing to give... to The Twilight Zone.

Plot

Act I

Aspiring stand up comedian Samir Wassan performs a set for an open mic night at Eddie’s Comedy Club. His dark politically-inspired jokes get few laughs. Later in the night, fellow comic and Eddie’s headliner DiDi Scott playfully mocks his set. Samir knows his jokes don‘t hit with everyone, but he insists “if you don't make people think, your comedy is not going to matter”. They comment on Joe Donner — another comic who accidentally killed two people in a drunk driving accident — who DiDi claims is funnier than Samir before leaving for her set.

J.C. gives Samir some advice

Samir spots legendary comic J.C. Wheeler at the bar and approaches him with glee. J.C. says he saw Samir’s set; the aspiring comic asks for his thoughts, jokingly saying he would sell his dog for any advice. J.C. laughs and says that is funnier than his political jokes — relaying that the audience doesn’t care about what you think, but rather you. He asks Samir if he‘s happy with his life, then tells him to make his act personal and “put yourself out there“ because once you make a connection with the audience, it becomes theirs — and once that happens, “that shit is gone forever”. Samir insists he’s happy with life.

Later that night, Samir goes back up for another set — following Joe and his successfully laughing crowd. Samir tells his political jokes, which bomb. He changes things up and now tells low brow jokes about his dog named Cat, which gets many laughs. After his successful set, Samir goes home and tells his half awake girlfriend Rena about it. He asks her where Cat is, but Rena acts as if they never had a dog.

Act II

The next night, Samir and his nephew Deven put up flyers for his missing dog. They later go to another open mic night, where Samir tells his political jokes to an audience mostly on their phones — he sees a bored Deven also on his phone, which crushes him. He targets his nephew and cracks jokes about how he was making fun of his own act earlier. This draws big laughs; but when Samir calls out to “give it up for Devin Singh!” he looks over and finds Deven gone. He asks DiDi if she’s seen him, but she has no idea who he’s talking about. Nobody remembers a little boy coming with Samir and his phone number has mysteriously erased from his phone. He sees the parallels to this and his missing dog.

Samir goes home to Rena having wine with David Kendall, her former career mentor who argues comedy should be considered an art. Samir tries to talk to Rena about Deven, but she has no idea who he is — even claiming her sister can’t have children (which David ignorantly interprets as a dark joke). Panicked, Samir realizes that J.C.’s words might have given him this weird ability to make people disappear if he references them in his jokes. He tries explaining this to a confused Rena who recommends he should embrace it if his audience is connecting with him.

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On the next open mic night, Samir is given the opportunity to headline. Joe antagonizes him before he goes up, irking him. His set starts off with his political jokes, which gets no laughs. He tries the jokes about Deven — still no laughs. Running out of ideas, he spots Joe and starts making dark jokes about his accident. This gets huge shock laughs from everyone, even Joe himself. Samir signs off with “Give it up for Joe Donner!”, and Joe disappears. After the show‘s over, Samir goes outside and sees the bus stop Joe drunkenly drove into is now back to normal. He takes pride in knowing that because he caused Joe not to exist, he saved the mother and child killed at the bus stop the night of the accident.

Rena and Samir

Now fully starting to understand his new power, Samir looks up many people from his past who bullied him and writes their names in a notebook. He makes his acts about them, cracking mean jokes and saying their names under the belief the world is a better place without them. His popularity grows, and Rena couldn’t be happier for him. She attends his next open mic night, where he makes jokes about a random guy he saw on the bus — this gets no laughs. As the room stays silent, he sees Rena texting. Frustrated, he starts cracking jokes about David (they had previously had an argument about her friendship with him) then finishes by mentioning his full name. This has significant effects: it makes Samir a “Top Comedian to Follow” on social media, but he is starting to become conceited and snobby — specifically towards DiDi. Unfortunately, the past also changes: Rena is now a struggling waitress who put her support for Samir’s comedy over her own career, causing their relationship to suffer. She calls Samir selfish and accuses him of using everybody around as “material”. He finally admits his power and what he can do, but Rena refuses to listen and breaks up with him.

Act III

A comedy show host comes to the next open mic night to scout Samir and DiDi. Samir, who’s distracted by his breakup, goes up first and starts off slow. He focuses on two hedge fund investors in the crowd who heckle him; he gets their names and cracks jokes about their snobby rich lifestyles. As expected, this draws huge laughs and the two vanish into thin air. Unlike the others, this makes Samir feel uneasy. He retreats to the green room, where a jealous DiDi has a bizarre confrontation with him; she insists the host should be here specifically for her but also shows admiration for Samir’s sudden comedic surge. As she leaves for her set, J.C. suddenly appears in the room. Samir demands to know what he did to him; J.C. insists he warned Samir this would happen if he put himself out there. As Samir is called up for his next set, J.C. pushes the comic to keep going and to “finish that shit”.

The wheels fall off Samir’s act

DiDi leaves the stage after a successful set and wishes Samir good luck. He takes the stage and despite struggling with it at first, he finally says “Give it up for DiDi Scott!” The crowd cheers and DiDi disappears. From here, Samir’s act spirals out of control —he lists off any person he can think of in his life (even his own parents) and cracks mean jokes about them. This sends the crowd into a laughing frenzy, with one woman even falling out of her chair. The crowd grows silent when a heckler is heard booing — Samir sees it is Rena. She tells the crowd she found Samir’s notebook, revealing the names and his superiority to them is his whole act. She goads him into making jokes about her — after much deliberation, he begins cracking jokes about himself. He admits he’s a comedian because of the need for people to think he’s somebody and echoes a metaphor J.C. had previously told him: “I’m a country with one export!” The crowd, including Rena, laughs hysterically. He signs off by saying his name; the mic drops and the crowd gives a standing ovation to an empty stage.

Rena is with Deven in the bar area once the show ends. They spot DiDi and Rena praises her before the two leave. DiDi sees J.C. sitting next to her at the bar in a manner very similar to how he first met Samir. DiDi starts to ask J.C. for advice however the next shot shows Wheeler to not be present to others . The final shot shows Samir on the club's audience member mural , hinting that all members are victims of Wheeler.

Closing Narration

Samir Wassan learned the hard way that sometimes, getting everything you want means losing everything you love. And after finally finding himself on the verge of becoming somebody, he chose instead to once again be a nobody. In the end, Samir's final encore is a show you can only buy a ticket to... in The Twilight Zone.

Themes

Keywords

Wish fulfilment | Society | Success | Fame | Loops

Cast

Trivia

- Blurryman is seen outside Eddie’s shortly after Devin goes missing.

Blurryman’s appearance

- The ventriloquist dummy from “The Dummy” is seen in the dressing room at Eddie’s. It is an antique prop from the original TV Show and is owned by David Copperfield (who was briefly referenced in the episode).

- The mural in the back of Eddie’s features many spectators with distorted faces, who look very similar to the characters in “The Masks”.

- The Sock and Buskin masks associated with the theatre can be seen next to the stage in Eddies and are also distorted to resemble the characters from "The Masks".

Media

Video

References

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