34 user 22 critic

Punchline (1988)

2:10 | Trailer
A medical school dropout and a housewife/mom try to make it as stand-up comedians. They become friends and help each other out at an NYC comedy club.


David Seltzer


David Seltzer
1 win. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Sally Field ... Lilah Krytsick
Tom Hanks ... Steven Gold
John Goodman ... John Krytsick
Mark Rydell ... Romeo
Kim Greist ... Madeline Urie
Paul Mazursky ... Arnold
Pam Matteson Pam Matteson ... Utica Blake
George McGrath ... Singing Nun (as George Michael McGrath)
Taylor Negron ... Albert Emperato
Barry Neikrug Barry Neikrug ... Krug
Ángel Salazar ... Rico (as Angel Salazar)
Damon Wayans ... Percy
Joycee Katz Joycee Katz ... Joycee
Mac Robbins Mac Robbins ... Billy Lane
Max Alexander ... Mister Ball


Steven Gold is a stand-up comedian who is flat broke and has recently dropped out of medical school. He and several others work regularly at the Gas Station, a New York comedy club. The wages are lousy and everybody hopes for the big break. Lilah Krytsick is housewife with an ambition to be a stand-up comedian, however she doesnt seem to have the talent. Steven takes her under his wings and teaches her the art of comedy and humour. But when a TV station arranges a comedy evening at the club, Steve sees his opportunity for fame and stardom. Their friendship seems quickly forgotten and now it's every man and woman for him- or herself! Written by Mattias Pettersson <seaman@sbbs.se>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Dying is easy. Comedy is hard. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


First of two collaborations of Tom Hanks and Sally Field, whose second outing together was where Field played Hanks' mother in Forrest Gump (1994). In this movie, Field took top billing, but in "Gump," Hanks had the higher billing. See more »


When Steven and Lilah are riding the #7 subway, the Manhattan terminus of the line is shown as Lexington Ave. The actual terminus should be 42nd St./ Times Square. See more »


Steven: Don't be scared, 'cuz I'm Funny Steve... with a lampshade on his head. Singing and dancing, for your entertainment, his own rendition of "Singin' in the Rain"!
See more »


Referenced in There's Nothing Out There (1991) See more »


It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)
Music by Duke Ellington
Lyrics by Irving Mills
Performed by George McGrath
[Sung by the Nun during the contest (the first song in the set)]
See more »

User Reviews

I wanted to like this
15 January 2008 | by markmywords85See all my reviews

It's hard to envision a time in Tom Hanks' career where he had roles in 5 critically panned, as well as commercially dismal films. While I find Joe Versus the Volcano to be a genuinely remarkable and unique film, and Turner and Hooch to be a K-9 ripoff that is a lot more fun than any James Belushi vehicle, Punchline falls flat in too many ways to even get an A for effort.

Hanks is woefully miscast as a guy who's supposed to come off as a selfish jerk (it doesn't help that I can't help but imagine Tom asking viewers to donate to a WWII veterans memorial). When he borders on the icy cold determination of someone who believes they are bound for greatness but are relegated to mentor and also-ran, the movie and Hanks hint at greatness. But ultimately the role should have gone to someone more adept at playing selfish jerks: I imagine a young Kevin Spacey or a world-wearied Richard Belzer.

The real problem is the utter flatness of Sally Field's crowd-winning "jokes." Was I the only one groaning in horror at her Z-rate, HBO late-night schtick? The idea that she's a stunning new talent in the cutthroat world of 80s stand-up is unthinkable (I can't remember what documentary it was, but I saw an excellent collection of comedians talking about the desperate need to be the "next Eddie Murphy" and later the "next Roseanne/Seinfeld"). That's where the movie fails: it suggests that Hanks is just too unrelentingly cruel and embittered to attain stardom, while Fields good-natured "hilarious" insights into real-world pressures make her a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. Neither fully embody their roles convincingly, and the writer just doesn't know good comedy.

Jay Mohr described the creative nadir in comedy: when the typical comedian was bland guys sporting a neon blazer, standing in front of brick walls blurting out tired clichés like "you ladies know what I'm talking about." It's obvious that David Seltzer (writer of the gut-busting Omen series and The Other Side of the Mountain) thinks the world of these garden variety hacks, and without convincing leads, remarkably funny stand-up routines, or the proper balance of convincing drama and humor, the movie just falls flat in every way. I'm giving it a four based on the gleam of promise in Hanks' otherwise unconvincing turn and the faint hope that he could actually portray a genuinely unlikable character in the future (though I doubt it considering a similar misstep with Bonfire of the Vanities and his lovable hit-man in Road to Perdition).

16 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 34 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »





English | Spanish | French

Release Date:

7 October 1988 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Punch Line See more »

Filming Locations:

New York City, New York, USA See more »


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$160,742, 2 October 1988

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed