One problem here is that the jokes aren't funny; another is that Sally Field is funny by mistake. It's saved by Tom Hanks' portrayal of Steven Gold, flunking seedy medical student by day and ambitious trainee stand-up by night. Admiration (hero worship) arrives in the shape of Lilah Krytsick (Field), a downtrodden housewife so sweetly caring, so maternally smothering, that even boiling oil couldn't be good enough. Lilah, alas, wants to be a comic too. Under Gold's tutelage she becomes one; the rule, he explains, is that you don't get on by telling someone else's haggard gags, but by spieling from experience. Her experience consists of Polish roots and her husband's personal habits, and the punters learn to love it. Worse, Krytsick learns to love Gold, and vice versa. The talent contest climax is the equivalent of a badly engineered courtroom drama, tantrums, tears and all. It's to Hanks' credit that Punchline remains grimly watchable.
Cast and crew