Saturday, September 14, 2013

704. The King of Comedy (1983)

Running Time: 109 minutes
Directed By: Martin Scorsese
Written By: Paul D. Zimmermann
Main Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott, Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack
Click here to view the trailer


Okay, so the fourth anniversary of the blog has officially concluded and it's back to business as usual and the continuation of "Scorsese Week". I do, one last time, want to thank everyone who stopped by and wished me & the blog a happy birthday. Thank you. Today, we take a look at one of the first Scorsese pictures I fell in love with - "The King of Comedy".

Once again, the star of the film is Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin (perhaps my all-time favorite fictional name), a man who treats celebrities like Gods, wants to be a celebrity himself and who lives in his mother's basement. If in Rupert's mind all celebrities are to be worshiped, then the be all, end all is Jerry Langford (Lewis), host of a late-night show (ie. The Tonight Show) and someone who doesn't really want to be bothered by his fans. One evening, when Rupert assists Jerry into his car, Jerry repays Rupert by allowing him to ride along with him to his apartment. In the car, Rupert suggests that he is about to break into show business and wonders if Jerry would be interested in listening to a tape. Jerry agrees (only to get rid of Rupert) and the following day, Rupert records a tape and takes it to Jerry's offices. The tape is listened to and rejected by Cathy (Hack), Jerry's assistant and, as you can imagine, this doesn't sit well with Rupert. You see, Rupert is a little unbalanced, to say the least. This becomes no more evident than when Rupert, along with his obsessed cohort Masha (Bernhard) kidnap Jerry and tie him up, forcing him to make a call to his producer and schedule a spot for Rupert on that night's show. When Rupert makes his appearance, delivers his comedy act and it airs, Jerry will be released, but not a second sooner.


You know I really had no idea I was this in love with Robert De Niro, but here I am about to gush all over him for a fourth time. You see, this is the advantage of doing a blog, because you get to sit down and sort out all your thoughts, write them out, discuss them with others and it really pounds into your head what you like and who you like. Until this week, I sincerely never really considered myself a De Niro fan, but in the four Scorsese films I've watched thus far, I've seen four completely different Robert De Niro's and to me, that's talent. I mean it too, there was no trace of Travis in Rupert, no trace of Jake in Johnny Boy, no trace of Johnny Boy in Travis, etc, etc. These were four stellar, different performances and Rupert Pupkin is the funnest one of them all. I mean, this is a character who is just a treat to watch. Maybe it's just me, but I get a crack (a huge one) out of watching De Niro holler at his mother, telling her to please be quiet so he can record his comedy tape. It gets me every time.

What is this film about? Perhaps it's another exploration of how we build people up who have no right being built up. But it's more than that, it's also about a man who can't differentiate between reality and fantasy, who gets lost in his own head and who has SERIOUS delusions of grandeur. The idea of people worshiping celebrities, fainting at their feet, has always been a fascination of mine. I just don't get it, I guess. We see Rupert's inability to separate fact and fiction when Martin seamlessly alters back and forth between fantasy and reality, with no clue that we're going from one to the other. It's also a big clue that the ending may not be fact, but rather existing only in Rupert's head. In fact, I think it's essential that we think that, because if the ending is real, then that defeats the whole purpose of the film, which to me is that Rupert isn't funny, won't be successful and is just someone who thinks he's hilarious. Surely if Rupert was talented, Cathy and whomever listened to his tape, would've told him so, but they didn't and just sort of wanted to be rid of him. Even Rupert's act isn't funny in the slightest and I think for the ending to be reality, then the act would have to be really good and something that would've genuinely made the audience laugh. To me, it was the act of an amateur and a never will be. So in my world, either Jerry makes it back to the studio before Rupert's act airs or Rupert's act does air, it flops and he goes to jail, end of story.

The film also examines the expectations we put upon celebrities, that they have to be nice, polite and always sign our autographs, even if they're clutching their chest and claiming a heart attack. The lady who praises Jerry on the street and then seconds later wishes cancer on him always cracks me up, but also fascinates me. I feel sorry for celebs at times, how they're almost forced to live as prisoners, just because they wanted to pursue something that they were good at. How they can't even buy a gallon of milk without getting bombarded for a signature, a picture or a hug - something they probably once dreamed of, now just a hassle. The film explores a lot of fascinating ideas, holds great acting from both De Niro and Lewis, but also manages to be a laugh out loud riot. Scorsese proves with this and "After Hours" that not only can he make classics, but also classic comedies. That's versatility.

RATING: 8.5/10  I can't go '9', even though I kind of want to, because this just isn't AS GOOD as "Raging Bull". However, it's damn close.


September 14, 2013  6:50pm


  1. I'm glad this one came up next.. as I can now show that I do not dislike Scorsese films full stop.
    It also is the only time I've seen Jerry Lewis and not loathed him. Yes folks.. I have seen a Jerry Lewis character that I liked.
    You are getting the picture I liked this one. I really liked this one.Interesting characters, good lines, good story and especially good reflections on the 'sleb culture' that (I think) is one of the more horrible aspects of today's culture.


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