The heart of “The Comedian” is an unsavory Faustian bargain, where Samir is initially unaware of the true cost of the deal, and is lured into a false sense of security by legendary comic, J.C. Wheeler (Tracy Morgan). As Samir does more shows, he realizes that only jokes that incorporate aspects of his personal life elicit laughter, but the people he jokes about end up vanishing as if they never existed.
While Samir is hesitant at the beginning, he becomes more ruthless over time: what starts as an innocent desire to savor success soon descends into a “Death Note”-esque obsession, where Samir chooses people he deems “unnecessary” as victims of his scheme. These decisions weigh heavy on the comic in the end, ushering in tragedy.
“The main character I play goes to such dark places. I’ve never played anything like that…Honestly, I tried to get out of it once I read the script. I got very intimidated, and I saw Jordan [Peele] at a party and I was like, ‘Hey, I don’t know if I’m the person to do this; I’ve never done anything like this.’ And Jordan was like, ‘Nope, it’s got to be you. You’re going to do great; you have to do it.’ He talked me into not dropping out of doing the episode. I just was really scared.”
Despite Nanjiani’s misgivings, he ends up doing an incredible job, investing Samir with raw vulnerability mixed with a dangerous need to be liked and applauded at all times. Samir goes from half-heartedly sacrificing his moral compass to actively dismantling it altogether, and this journey is both fascinating and terrifying to witness.