on July 2, 2015
I can't recall anything quite like this movie. Rupert Pupkin is an amazing character and De Niro is brilliant. The King of Comedy often derives its best humor from serious situations, where realism and straight-faced delivery somehow lead to hilarity. For example, there are a few scenes where Rupert visits the office of talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). In an effort to speak with Jerry, he must deal with the receptionist, Jerry's assistant, Miss Long (Shelley Hack) and in the end, a tough security guard. On the surface, there is no humor at all. Everybody's behavior is ultra-realistic and rather dry but somehow remarkably funny. Much of the film is like this. Mixed in are some more traditional comedic elements but the dry element pervades and I know that this type of humor is not for everyone.
Aside from being wickedly funny and beautifully acted, it is also an original, satisfying story. In the end, the completely nutty and pathetic Rupert is actually rather good when given the chance. His routine fulfills the role and situation perfectly.
Martin did another movie after this called After Hours, which also derived humor from tense situations.
The King of Comedy Blu-ray includes some decent special features. I highly recommend it.
on April 8, 2014
Journalist Paul Zimmerman wrote the script for The King of Comedy nearly 40 years ago.
Its concept was so far ahead of its time that even celluloid sooth-Sayer and noted auteur Marty Scorsese could not really get his head around it until the late 1970s, and even then only at the persistent urging of Robert DiNiro who had originally acquired the script not long after it was produced.
Working to craft what may have been the last claustrophobic, quirky character study for a major studio, Scorsese produced a film that was brilliantly cast with Jerry Lewis and the then unknown Sandra Bernhard and featured the early 1980s, grungy New York City as a lead protagonist.
The story of a strange man in his mid 30s, under-employed and who still lived at home in his parents basement-see present day for reference-who believed that he was such a comedic talent that he could go directly from fooling around in his rec room, to headline on a national TV talk show.
DiNiro plays the mentally unbalanced principal character, Rupert Pupkin, as the new age (Taxi Driver) Travis Bickle, who instead of murder and mayhem will use guile and nerve to achieve world-wide fame and notoriety.
Jerry Lewis, as talk-show host Jerry Langford probably delivers the best performance of his long film career with the one caveat that he is basically just playing himself, although here, that is clearly enough.
DiNiro's character and that of Sandra Bernhard's frenzied styling of a wacko obsessed fan manage to somehow kidnap Lewis/Langford and hold him until DiNiro/Pupkin can tape the opening monologue of the late night show which features a terrific cameo by the late, great Tony Randall.
With the FBI ready to take Pupkin into custody after the show airs, the self styled King of Comedy remarks on stage, "better king for a night, than schmuck for a whole life," something that many poor souls, especially now in the age of social media and TMZ, may subscribe to.
Just how script-writer Zimmerman looked so far into the future to basically detail what would become of the modern mass media and celebrity culture is one for the ages to deduce.
But perhaps there may be something in the LA air that helped because both eerily prescient movies, Taxi Driver-written by Paul Schrader- and The King of Comedy came out of the LA zeitgeist in the early 70s. Go figure.
Interestingly, as Scorsese notes in the 50 minutes of bonus materials and deleted scenes supplied with this new 30th anniversary edition, Entertainment Tonight declared on Dec. 31, 1983 that The King of Comedy was "the flop of the year."
Forget ET's unknowing put-down, do yourself a favor and see this movie.
It just might be among Scorsese's and DiNiro's top five.
on December 30, 2003
De Niro and Bernhard are Rupert Pupkin and his friend Masha, obsessive fans of comedy TV star Jerry Langford played by Jerry Lewis. Their obsession takes somewhat different forms. Pupkin thinks he is a comic superstar in the making and all he must do to succeed is bring this to Langford's attention. Masha, on the other hand, has something romantic in mind... But both of them are obsessed to a point that is some distance beyond the threshold of insanity. The results are excruciatingly painful to watch as Pupkin haunts Langford's offices, is evicted by security, only to show up, a few days later on an impromptu visit at Langford's country house, with a date in tow...
De Niro is excellent but for once he is upstaged by Sandra Bernhard's terrifyingly mad Masha. Lewis adds an interesting dimension by portraying Langford pretty unsympathetically as a not particularly likeable guy. When Pupkin and Masha go to the extreme of kidnapping him, few people are likely to be wholeheartedly rooting for him to get away and thwart their plans. That gives the film a complexity lacking in the later de Niro movie "The Fan" which reprises the central theme of this in a far more simplistic, black and white way.
This is a brilliant film, one of Scorsese's very best. But do I enjoy watching it? Well, I'm not at all sure that I do. The mistake may be to think of it as a black comedy. We're tempted to do so really only because comedy is its subject matter but there is very little about it that is funny. Better perhaps to classify it as a horror movie. That captures the sense in which we manage to find ourselves engaged by something which is, at certain levels, simply an ordeal to watch. If you don't believe me or think I'm just speaking metaphorically, check out the scene near the end where Sandra Bernhard sings "Come Rain or Come Shine" to a tied-up Jerry Lewis and ask yourself, in all honesty, if you can recall anything Linda Blair does in "The Exorcist" that is remotely as terrifying. I can't.
on December 5, 2003
This movie is a forgotten classic. What's most unusual about it is the fact that everyone seemed to want to bury this movie from the moment it started production. Scorsese's previous movie 'Raging Bull' had bombed at the box office and marked the end of that great period of American film-making, the 1970's.
'The King of Comedy' was made in a period where film companies wanted to keep a tighter hold on the film-making process, keeping a close eye on budget and 'commercial value'. Even before Scorsese had finished editing the movie, 20th Century Fox told him that they felt uneasy about the commercial prospects of a movie called 'The King Of Comedy' that featured Jerry Lewis in an unfunny role.
The impetus behind making this film came from Robert DeNiro who wanted to extend his range beyond aggressive or introspective characters. Ironically shades of Rupert Pubkin would resurface in 'Casino' where DeNiro appears as Ace Rothstein in an extravegant wardrobe and as a lousy presenter of his own T.V. show.
Despite identifying with Pupkin in his incessant passion to get on in showbusiness, Scorsese felt that 'King of Comedy' was a personal failure from which it took him over 5 years to recover. It was certainly an experimental film for him in that his camera work is almost totally conventional -where is the moving camera that is his trademark?- I suppose he thought that if he made a 'conventional' picture then it should automatically do well at the box office. In contrast to when it was originally released, most people I've watched this movie with today thought it was hilarious.
on August 6, 2003
Ever since I saw Martin Scorsese's TAXI DRIVER I've had a problem getting into cabs especially in New York City. I always find myself asking, "Could Travis Bickle be driving me around?" What a scary thought. That fear has lingered into my adult hood. Now thanks to Mr. Scorsese I'm afraid of stand-up comics. Stop scaring me.
The King of Comedy tells the story of Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro, Flawless). Pupkin is a man with a dream, to become the newest King of Comedy. He will stop at nothing to get on the hottest late night talk show "The Jerry Langford Show" and after many months of trying he finally forces a meeting between him and the host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis, Funny Bones).
After the meeting Rupert thinks he's made a new friend. Too bad Jerry doesn't realize that. So Rupert begins to stalk Jerry, showing up at his office, and out his summer home. Then Rupert gets fed up with Jerry's games and decides to kidnap him. Will this get him a shot on the Jerry Langford show? That's up to you to find out.
THE KING OF COMEDY is Taxi Driver light. Rupert Pupkin is disturbed but not dangerous. This works really well, because it gives you an under dog to root for, even if the ends don't justify the means. But aren't all of us a little star struck. Don't we all at one time or another look up and see some hack on television, or a Michael Bay movie and say "Hey I Can Do That?" I think well all have a little Rupert Pupkin in us.
De Niro makes Pupkin come alive. Rupert Pupkin is a really annoying guy. He's the kind of guy who attacks famous people with banal chitchat. If I were famous I'd want to steer clear of a guy like this. I would assume De Niro has had exposure to people like this and that's why he can channel a character like this. It's a strong performance with subtle wit and amazing presence.
I especially liked the scene outside Jerry Apartment Building where Rupert doesn't want to stop talking to Jerry and Jerry just wants to get away from this nut. I loved the urgency in Rupert's voice like if he were to stop talking this night would end and that can't happen. It's almost a letdown when Jerry walks into his apartment. The mind game over. It's a shame.
Another bright spot in this film is an actress I usually have very little faith in Sandra Bernhard (Hudson Hawk). She plays Masha, another one of Jerry Langford's obsessive fans, and Rupert's partner in crime. There is a sequence in which she tries to seduce Jerry; it's a performance that is both painful and silly, and really astonishing. I was impressed.
THE KING OF COMEDY is a lot of fun. It's also quite painful, and beautiful at the same time. Director Scorsese does a bang up job, even going as far as inviting the likes of Dr. Joyce Brothers and Tony Randall in as guest stars. Offering us that little spark of reality. What a great movie THE KING OF COMEDY is.
Why not give it a try yourself.
****1/2 (out of 5)
on July 31, 2003
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro have their most under rated teaming here. The film had some scenes that I felt were perhaps more disturbing than those in the infamous Taxi Driver, just in the how originally twisted the lead's methods become.
De Niro is struggling nobody/comic Rupert Pupkin (if you define struggling as a man who talks to cardboard pictures of Liza Minelli and other celebtiries in his basement, working on his dialogue on a show he plans to get on), who stalks a comic and celebrity personality Jerry Longford (Jerry Lewis gives his most straightforward work here) to get a spot on his show. When Pupkin fails at his attempts, he goes for the desperate approach and kidnaps him. Startling most of the way, but it is the climax which will arouse audiences to be stunned from the irony in the tie in- "better to be king for a day than a shmuck for a lifetime".
One of the best Scorsese works (but of course, there are so many great ones, it's not fair to compare); he appears briefly as a director from the talk show. A few members of the punk group the Clash appear as street gawkers. By the way, considering how pestering Sandra Bernhard can get in stand-up and in appearances, she actually gave a fine breakthrough here.
on July 27, 2003
4 and a half stars, actually. "The King Of Comedy" is another collaboration between the great director Martin Scorsese and the fantastic actor Robert De Niro. This time, the two geniuses created a black comedy with doses of critic to the devotion to celebrities of every major city in the world.
Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is a devoted fan of Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), the host of a very popular variety show. Rupert meets Jerry outside the theater in which the show is recorded, and asks Jerry to help him with his comedian career. Jerry notices Rupert's lack of talent and gives him false promises to get ride of him. However, Rupert takes it too seriously and starts stalking Jerry. After several failed attempts, Rupert and a talk-show groupie, Marsha (Sandra Bernhard) kidnap Jerry. The only way to release him is to allow Rupert to perform a comedy routine in Jerry's show.
"The King Of Comedy" is a black comedy, very different to a standard comedy. This movie invites to the reflection. If you prefer a cheap entertainment and stupid jokes, go see an Adam Sandler movie or the "American Pie" trilogy. If you are searching for an intelligent and incisive comedy, "The King Of Comedy" is your movie.
Martin Scorsese's 'The King of Comedy' has long been a favourite film of mine. The storyline is nothing grand, and the acting is passing fair, but it is the little psychological pieces that keep poking in that make this movie an interesting one to watch.
This is not a typical Jerry Lewis film by any means. He is not a comedian in this film (of course, I know many who think, 'he's not a comedian in any film'). He plays the straight man, a rather sour and jaded entertainment professional. Robert DeNiro (as Rupert Pupkin) and Sandra Bernhard (as Marsha) play two star-struck fans who have focussed their lives on Jerry Langford (Lewis' character) to the extent that they are imagining weekend outings with him and knitting sweaters for him. The story largely revolves around Rupert's desire to be a comic and appear on Langford's Tonight Show-style talkshow.
In an interesting twist, given the Tonight Show character of the show, the movie features cameos from many old talkshow stand-bys, including Victor Borge, Dr. Joyce Brothers, and Tony Randall.
As Rupert and Marsha compete with each other to outdo the other in establishing a 'relationship' with Langford (everything from owning memorabilia to autographs to event attendance) Rupert's imagination keeps concocting more elaborate relationships, which he finally fails to be able to distinguish from reality. This comes to a confrontation when he travels out to Langford's weekend home (with an unsuspecting woman in tow) and gets ejected from the home by Langford and told, in no uncertain terms, that he is neither known nor wanted.
At this point, being confronted with a painful reality, Rupert decides upon drastic action, and with the assistance of Marsha, kidnaps Langford and holds him for ransom, the ransom being an appearance on the show.
Rupert's fantasies include being married to his high school crush on the show, by his old principal, who apologises for not seeing the worth in Rupert; Langford pleading with a resistant Rupert to guest host the show; essentially, everything in Rupert's life that had gone wrong gets righted.
This is dark humour, to be sure, and the pace can be rather slow. But this movie is largely overlooked, and deserves a bit more attention for the interesting psychological devices in the story.
on April 21, 2003
This is one of the great "lost" Martin Scorsese films; it has not and will not gain the attention that his more violent (but just as brilliant) epics have drawn, which really says more about audiences and critics than Scorsese. People complain about Scorsese's penchant for bloodshed, but they ignore the fact that very few of his films deal directly with organized crime, and they also deprive themselves of appreciating his versatility, on display in gems like "King of Comedy." The film came out in 1983, a troubled and expensive production that disappointed many who were looking for a follow-up to 1980's "Raging Bull." "King" is uneven in its pacing and script, especially after the kidnapping takes place. Rupert Pupkin is not one of the great Scorsese protagonists and DeNiro struggles with the role a bit. The compelling performance belongs to Jerry Lewis, who is a revelation here: subtle, barely controlled, and finally sympathetic--how could he manage that, you ask? Well, DeNiro and Scorsese had something to do with it, but watch the scene in which Jerry explains the pressures of his life to Rupert after being kidnapped and then tell me that Lewis didn't reach down into his own soul for that one. The fantasy scenes with Rupert, Jerry, and Diahnne Abbott (once married to DeNiro, and sultry gorgeous--a beautiful movie actress who doesn't buy into starvation images) are disturbing yet funny. Sandra Bernhard: after Lewis, the best acting here, charismatic, vulnerable, volatile and finally beautiful, too. Scorsese keeps his thrilling camera and editing moves in check here and proves himself to be a great director of actors. The film was widely perceived as a bitter commentary on how fame and infamy had changed Scorsese's life--some blamed him for creating situations that led to the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, when John Hinckley, obsessed by Jodie Foster in Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," followed his obsession to an ugly end.
Now, after the passage of 20 years, we can return to the film without that baggage and enjoy it for showing us yet another side of the artistry of Scorsese.
on April 21, 2003
You know the old Warhol quote that "everyone in the world, will eventually get their 15 minutes of fame"? In this 1983 film "The King of Comedy", director, Martin Scorsese explores this ideal further by looking at our culture's obsession with celebrity.He does this through the character of Rupert Pubkin (passionately played by Robert De Niro).Rupert is a would be comedian, who has a dream bordering on psychosis of becoming famous on a Johnny Carson styled TV talk show, which features his idol, Jerry Langford (brilliantly played by show biz legend, Jerry Lewis). Rupert is convinced in his own mind, that the TV host is his best buddy and that he is just one "Jerry Langford Show" appearance away from becoming a superstar. He makes several creepy, yet comical visits to Langford's offices, where he is rejected and humiliated in his quest to get on the show. Frustrated, he and another obsessive stalker (played with wild sexual abandon by a young, Sandra Bernhard) put into motion an amateur kidnapping scheme, that will get Rupert on the show and the attention he craves.Martin Scorsese has created a brilliant and unusual film which is funny, yet leaves you uneasy. It asks us to look at some rather uncomfortable questions about our culture through it's bizarre and scary characters.Why do we worship fame and celebrity? What is the line between just being a fan and being a stalker? Will we one day all be famous? Over twenty years ago, this film flopped at the box office.Why, I'm not sure.Maby it was just ahead of it's time.But today, in this modern age of reality TV, the "King of Comedy" seems like it is more relevent and prophetic than ever.The DVD for the film is well put together. It features some interesting menus. Extras include a very short featurette on the movie(including interviews with Scorsese)and some trailers and deleted scenes.This is a thought provoking film, which will either leave you laughing or keep you up at night.You be the judge!