You don't hear many people talk about Punchline. The 1987 dramedy about stand-up comedians hoping for their big break stars Tom Hanks at the height of his early career (it hit theaters only a few months after Big). This was a Tom Hanks that was beginning to change, though, moving away from the more overt comedies like Splash, Bachelor Party and The Money Pit in order to attempt material with more emotional weight. And Punchline gave him that, though it also brought Hanks into a sort of darker period in his career. He followed Punchline with The Burbs, Turner & Hooch, Joe Versus the Volcano, The Bonfore of the Vanities and Radio Flyer before reigniting his career with a turn in 1992's A League of Their Own. That lead to Sleepless in Seattle, which brought him Philadelphia, Oscars and the rest is history.
Punchline is a good film though, featuring a terrific performance from Sally Field. It's one of the films that gets overlooked when discussing Hanks' filmography, and it shouldn't. I think it definitely played a role in inspiring Judd Apatow's Funny People, and even the TV show Seinfeld. Punchline helped shine a more personal spotlight on the rough and somewhat depressing lives of stand-up comedians, and if you haven't seen it then let this post inspire you to do so.
While preparing to play the role of Steven Gold in Punchine, Hanks did some random stand-up to feel his way into the character. We dug up this rare video of him in New York in 1987 doing a pretty funny bit on Sylvester Stallone's Over the Top.
And here's one of the more painful scenes from the film itself featuring Hanks' character bombing during a set.
You can see more of Hanks this weekend in the terrific (and ambitious) Cloud Atlas.