Mr. Saturday Night

1992 Directed by Billy Crystal. Starring Billy Crystal, David Paymer, Julie Warner, Helen Hunt, Ron Silver, Mary Mara.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 25, 1992

The character of Buddy Young, Jr. has been percolating through Billy Crystal's act for a number of years now. This fictional comic, a master of one-liners and insult humor, has evolved over the course of Crystal's appearances on Saturday Night Live and various TV specials. In Mr. Saturday Night, Buddy becomes fully fleshed out, a feature film protagonist instead of a fleeting comedy sketch. Crystal, who debuts as a director here in addition to co-scripting with Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel (Crystal also teamed up with this writing duo to pen last summer's comedy hit, City Slickers), has created a personality near and dear to his heart. His portrait of the comic spans a lifetime, starting with Buddy's contempt for his current gigs on the retirement community circuit and then ricocheting wantonly through the past and the present to show us the man behind the next-big-thing-that-never-was. Always the groomsman, never a groom, Buddy's humor has a real mean streak and his drive for success has a tendency to self-detonate. Even when Buddy has his own weekly TV show which earned him the title, Mr. Saturday Night, his nastiness costs him this prized spot. He emotionally abuses his understanding wife (Warner) and less-than-understanding daughter (Mara) but, most of all, we witness the strains on his relationship with his brother (Payner), who is also his agent, advisor, best friend and comedy partner back in their childhood living room. Payner's depiction of brother Stan is a thing of quiet beauty as he stoicly plays straight man to Buddy's insane ego. But then, for all Buddy's mean-tempered stingers, he also has a counterbalancing pool of sentimental sludge. Crystal, the filmmaker, works this heart-wrenching ooze for all it's worth. Every time you're about to write Buddy off as a obnoxious pig, he has some kind of touching moment that reminds you that “pigs” are people, too. Whereas someone like Martin Scorsese can give us a fascinating portrait of a hateful, self-defeating “almost was” in something like his monumental Raging Bull, what we have in Mr. Saturday Night is mostly a portrait of a sad old man as a hateful, young man. Mr. Saturday Night will probably be a box office hit for all the same reasons that Crystal himself is a popular draw. But to quote Buddy Young's catch phrase: “Don't get me started on that.”

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Billy Crystal Films
Standing Up, Falling Down
Billy Crystal and a smart script add heart to this burnout dramedy

Josh Kupecki, Feb. 21, 2020

The Comedian
De Niro plays an aging insult comic

Steve Davis, Feb. 3, 2017

More by Marjorie Baumgarten
Story of America's itinerant population wanders too much

Feb. 19, 2021

The Reason I Jump
Poetic insight into autism, based on Naoki Higashida memoir

Jan. 8, 2021


Mr. Saturday Night, Billy Crystal, Billy Crystal, David Paymer, Julie Warner, Helen Hunt, Ron Silver, Mary Mara

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle