In The Comic, Dick Van Dyke plays Billy Bright, silent-era film comedian. The opening scene is at his funeral in which his sidekick Cockeye (Mickey Rooney) honors his partner's last request by hitting the preacher in the face with a pie. Van Dyke's voice then narrates the life story of the comic in flashbacks.
Steve Allen plays himself and is the man who revives Billy's career towards the end of his life. Bright's life deteriorates as the bitter man becomes a drunk and abusive, alienating his wife Mary (Michele Lee). Van Dyke combines the characters of Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel for his interpretation of the fictional character Billy Bright.