One of the most popular archetypes that has emerged in film and television during the last 15 years or so is Sad Funny Guy. You’ve almost certainly seen something whose protagonist falls into this category. Imagine a TV show or movie about a comedian who, plot twist, has a dark inner life or, alternately, is revealed to have been the victim of some tragedy or, god forbid, childhood trauma. He also fucks a lot, but poorly. That’s the joke. Did you think of Funny People? Or Louie? Or Crashing? Or The Big Sick? Or, tangentially, Master of None? Those are all Sad Funny Guy tentpoles.
The goal of this archetype is to show the comedian as a full person. Because, you know, when we (regular people) encounter comedians on stage, they are hilarious rays of light with the power to make us spit out the first gin and tonic of a two-drink minimum. But once they leave the stage? They have a darkness that the rest of the world doesn’t see. This is the kind of thing Aristotle was talking about in Poetics.
What this archetype hints at, and almost always avoids committing to, is that a comedian’s number one trait is being annoying. In that way, And Just Like That is one of the only pieces of media to get it right (Joker being the other). You might spend most of an episode thinking, “If Che Diaz says one more thing I’m going to turn off my television,” but that just means that Sara Ramirez is giving the performance of their career. And you should be thankful — in real life, you can’t turn a comedian off.
Che Diaz (and I will be referring to them by their full name throughout) is, among other things, a stand-up comedian, a podcaster, a stoner, and someone who fucks their employee’s married friend in her apartment while she recovers from hip surgery. Any one of those traits alone would make for someone who you’d roll your eyes at, but the combination of all of them — and the fact that so many people find them to be indescribably cool — makes Che Diaz the most annoying person on television, and that is an important corrective to the last two decades of comedian propaganda. In fact, Che Diaz is the most accurate portrayal of a stand-up comedian I’ve seen on screen since The King of Comedy.
Unlike other entertainers, comedians want to be famous not for playing fictional characters but for being themselves — or at least the version of themselves they choose to share with an audience who is not allowed to talk back. They want to be known for their face and their voice and what they have to say. It is the politician of arts careers, and as we all know politician sits right up there with tech CEO on the list of people you wouldn’t want at a dinner party.
And Just Like That gets this right about Che Diaz — they want to hear the audience snapping at the taping of their Netflix special after they say, “You’re not happy with who you are? Step outta that box and change it!” And then they want to be adored at the bar later by middle aged lawyers on their monthly night out who are hypnotized by a kind of overpowering confidence they could not dream of accessing themselves, because they are not clinical narcissists.
So yes, Che Diaz is annoying and I hate them and what they’re doing with Miranda, but if they are one thing it is realistic. As someone with lots of friends who are, regrettably, in the comedy world, I have met many comedians who I hope to never talk to again. I can imagine being at a party with Che Diaz just as clearly as I can imagine leaving that party and saying, “They have a Netflix special? They’re kind of annoying.”