Romantic Comedy Summary, Characters and Themes

Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld is a novel that tells the story of Sally Milz, a comedy writer for a late-night sketch show who has sworn off love. When a charming pop star named Noah guest hosts the show, Sally finds herself unexpectedly falling for him. However, she is convinced that someone like him would never be interested in someone like her. 

The story explores the complexities of love and relationships, as Sally navigates her feelings for Noah while dealing with her own insecurities. The novel also offers a satirical look at gender roles and societal expectations in the context of modern romance.


Sally Milz, a 36-year-old comedy writer for the famed late-night sketch show The Night Owls (TNO), finds herself at a crossroads in life. She loves her job but feels stagnant, content with casual flings rather than meaningful relationships.

When superstar Noah Brewster hosts TNO in 2018, Sally unexpectedly connects with him. 

Despite their mutual attraction, Sally’s insecurities about her looks and career compared to Noah’s fame and attractiveness create a barrier. Sally’s self-deprecating comments about his dating history lead to a tense ending to their interaction.

Two years later, during the COVID-19 lockdown, an email from Noah rekindles their connection. 

Through a series of heartfelt emails, they delve into their past and present, expressing their lingering feelings for each other. Noah invites Sally to his home in Los Angeles.

Their reunion in LA is passionate, and they fall in love. However, Sally’s insecurities resurface when a paparazzo confronts them. 

She misinterprets Noah’s frustration as disdain for being photographed with her, further fueling her doubts. Noah reassures her of his love, but when unflattering photos of Sally surface online, her insecurities are reignited.

Seeking space, Sally retreats to a hotel, wrestling with the decision of whether to embrace a new life with Noah in LA or return to the familiar safety of TNO.

An unexpected turn of events occurs when Sally’s stepfather, Jerry, falls critically ill with COVID. 

Noah’s immediate support and care for Jerry in Kansas City reveal his genuine character and deep affection for Sally. Witnessing Noah’s kindness and love, Sally realizes she wants a future with him.

Jerry recovers, and Sally takes the leap, quitting TNO to pursue her screenwriting dreams in LA with Noah. 

They eventually marry, and while Sally still grapples with insecurities, she learns to not let them control her life. 

In the following years, Sally’s screenplay becomes a successful film, and her life with Noah, though not without its challenges, is filled with love and happiness.

Romantic Comedy Summary


Sally Milz

Sally Milz is the protagonist and narrator of the novel. She is a 36-year-old comedy writer for The Night Owls, a late-night sketch comedy show. Sally is intelligent, witty, and insightful, but she also struggles with insecurities about her appearance and her worthiness of love. 

She has a cynical outlook on romance, believing that women like her are not the type to end up with men like Noah Brewster, a famous pop star. 

Throughout the novel, Sally undergoes a journey of self-discovery, learning to embrace her own value and accept love.

Noah Brewster

Noah Brewster is a world-renowned pop star and the object of Sally’s affection. He is charming, intelligent, and kind, with a genuine interest in Sally’s life and opinions. 

Noah challenges Sally’s assumptions about love and relationships, showing her that she is worthy of love and happiness. 

He is patient and understanding with Sally’s insecurities, ultimately helping her to overcome them.

Danny Horst

Danny Horst is Sally’s closest friend and confidant. He is a fellow comedy writer at The Night Owls and provides a sounding board for Sally’s thoughts and feelings. 

Danny is supportive and encouraging, offering Sally valuable advice and perspective throughout the novel.

Viv and Henrietta

Viv and Henrietta are Sally’s female colleagues at The Night Owls. They are strong, independent women who have successful careers in a male-dominated industry. 

Viv and Henrietta provide a sense of camaraderie and support for Sally, helping her to navigate the challenges of her personal and professional life.


Nigel is the head writer at The Night Owls. He is a demanding boss but also recognizes Sally’s talent and potential. Nigel plays a crucial role in Sally’s career, helping her to secure a deal for her screenplay.


Elliot is a former colleague of Sally’s at The Night Owls. He is the object of Sally’s unrequited love, and their past relationship has contributed to her insecurities about romance. 

Elliot serves as a reminder of Sally’s past hurts and the challenges she has faced in love.


Challenging Gender Norms and Double Standards

Sittenfeld’s novel directly confronts societal expectations and double standards surrounding gender in the context of romance and the workplace. 

Sally, the protagonist, is a successful comedy writer, yet she grapples with the perception that funny women are not as desirable as funny men. This is evident in the workplace dynamics of The Night Owls, where male writers often date and marry famous female guests, while the female writers remain single or settle for less glamorous partners. 

Sally’s internalization of these societal norms manifests as insecurity and self-doubt, particularly when she begins a relationship with the charismatic and handsome Noah. 

The novel challenges these norms by portraying a successful and intelligent woman who grapples with societal expectations, ultimately finding love on her own terms.

Overcoming Insecurity and Self-Doubt

A central theme of the novel is Sally’s journey to overcome her deep-seated insecurities and embrace her own worth.

These insecurities stem from societal pressures and the double standards she observes in her professional and personal life. Sally’s self-doubt is further amplified by her relationship with Noah, whose fame and attractiveness trigger her anxieties about not being good enough. 

Through her experiences and interactions with Noah, Sally gradually learns to challenge these negative thoughts and recognize her own value. 

The novel’s exploration of insecurity is relatable and poignant, offering a message of self-acceptance and the importance of recognizing one’s own worth, regardless of external validation.

The Power of Female Friendship

In addition to the romantic relationship between Sally and Noah, Romantic Comedy highlights the significance of female friendships in navigating life’s challenges and uncertainties. 

Sally’s close bonds with her colleagues, Viv and Henrietta, provide her with support, encouragement, and a sense of belonging. Their shared experiences in the male-dominated comedy industry create a strong sense of camaraderie and understanding. 

Throughout the novel, Viv and Henrietta offer Sally valuable advice, challenge her insecurities, and celebrate her successes. 

The depiction of these friendships emphasizes the importance of female solidarity and the power of women supporting each other.

The Pursuit of Dreams and Self-Discovery

The novel also explores the themes of pursuing one’s dreams and embarking on a journey of self-discovery. 

Sally, though successful in her career as a comedy writer, harbors a desire to write screenplays. However, fear and insecurity hold her back from taking the leap. Through her relationship with Noah and the challenges she faces, Sally is encouraged to step outside her comfort zone and pursue her passion. 

The novel’s ending sees Sally embracing her dream of becoming a screenwriter, signifying the importance of taking risks and pursuing one’s aspirations, even in the face of uncertainty.