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5.0 out of 5 stars THE KING OF COMEDY: A PRESCIENT MASTERPIECE
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...
Published 3 months ago by Terry Ott

versus
3.0 out of 5 stars Great Film...Poor transfer
This is a great film, as many before me have stated. However, this transfer to DVD is inexcusably poor. Nice way to treat your fans. What a disappointment.
Published on Jan. 6 2003


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5.0 out of 5 stars THE KING OF COMEDY: A PRESCIENT MASTERPIECE, April 8 2014
By 
Terry Ott (Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
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.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of DeNiro's best roles, July 9 2004
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
This scathing comedy about fame, television and hangers on to both is one of the best film roles Robert DeNiro has taken on. It is easily his best comic role, as he plays a schlemiel that finds a way -- an illegal way -- to worm his way onto network television to give a 5-minute monologue on a late night talk show. What is most telling in this film are the final mintues that document his fame after he goes to jail for kidnapping a talk show host. Few films have so accurately, and cynically, portrayed the world wide news media thirst for fame as these 10 minutes. If your cable system does not get WGN-TV from Chicago, which regularly schedules this movie, you may never have seen it. If so, it is worth your time and trouble. This is a funny, bitter and cyncial look at how fame warps people's minds, including little people, famous people and the media outlets that contribute to creation of fame.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars SHOWBIZ FROM THE LUNATIC FRINGES (ON A GREAT DVD!), Feb. 29 2004
By 
Shashank Tripathi (Gadabout) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
Martin Scorsese's brilliant satire about a wannabe standup/schmuck played with deliberate humorlessness by De Niro, who suffers from delusions of grandeur, determined to meet his hero Jerry Lewis in a performance played with shocking bravura.
The film is timeless in its depiction of the twin themes of celebrity stalking with its masochistic need to be discovered by the world on one hand, and the perils of stardom on the other. The perfect comic execution could easily have been the inspiration for several of recent thinkpieces -- "Election", "Fight Club", "The Truman Show", "One Hour Photo" etc.
A word for the DVD. It is brilliantly put together with detailed interviews with Scorcese, Bernhart, De Niro etc, plus some funny cameos by Jerry Lewis himself, and a funny handy-cam outtake or two while shooting Lewis on the streets of NY.
A very worthy purchase, not just a rental!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Greatest Film Ever - "I wouldn't lie to you Rupe!", Feb. 26 2004
By 
Carl Market "Carl Market" (Hollywood, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
How often do you see a film for the first time in which you get so embarrased for the star you want to press stop every 15 minutes! Once you've made it past the first viewing, you're gunna really enjoy watching this one over and over again - it gets better everytime! I've never laughed so hard watching a movie in my entire life!! It's totally original and nothing can compare to it. Thank you for making this Marty and thank you Bobby for talking him into doing it!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deniro's most underrated film?, Feb. 2 2004
By 
Scottie (Hampton, Iowa USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
I think this is definatley the most underrated film for Marty/Deniro and possibly even for Deniro. King of Comedy is the portral of Rupert Pupkin who has dreams of late night television. Robert DeNiro gives one of his best performances to date as the slightly nuerotic Rupert Pupkin. Also stars Sandra Bernhardt a crazed fan of Jerry Lewis, together Deniro and Bernhardt are hilarious. King of Comedy is one not to be missed and we see Deniro & Marty at the top of their game.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of De Niro's most human -- and hilarious -- roles!, Dec 30 2003
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
"Better to be king for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime."
As Travis Bickle's universally known line of dialogue from "Taxi Driver" has a deep meaning ("Are you talkin' to me? Well I'm the only one here"), Rupert Pupkin's closing speech of his first-ever standup comedy routine in "The King of Comedy" finalizes the entire meaning of the film, wrapping it up in one short sentence. Is it better to have one great day versus nothing? Do the ends justify the means? Two questions all of us ask ourselves at one point of time in our life.
The comparisons to Travis Bickle seem stronger on paper than they do in the film. The most striking resemblance between the two stories is that both contain the central theme of a man snapping and doing something apparently crazy. Both films star Robert De Niro, and both are directed by Martin Scorsese, which makes for an interesting discussion of relation. Some may even say that it's a sequel in sorts.
Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) is a lonely man whose daily life and routines consist around one man: Jerry Langston, a talk show host and comedian who is followed by a horde of rabid fans, including Masha (Sandra Bernhard), a fan to rival Pupkin, who admits that he has waited nine hours at a time outside Jerry's recording studio to catch a glimpse of him as he is shoved into limos by fancy bodyguards.
Rupert is given a rare opportunity to speak to Jerry one day as he saves him from Masha, who assaulted Jerry with kisses and hugs. It is as they drive away together and Rupert talks to Jerry that he proposes his long-time dream, which is to appear on Jerry's show as an aspiring standup comic. Of course, he's had no experience. But Rupert swears he would be great on stage -- he's studied Jerry for years and knows timing.
Langston gets these psychos all the time, but he doesn't realize just how strong a fan Rupert is until he shows up at his private home with suitcases and a girl claiming to have been invited. "I made a mistake," Rupert says. "So did Hitler," Jerry barks.
Jerry Lewis plays Jerry Langston in a self-referential (and very unflattering) role. It's his finest to date. The guy is a scumbag who barely tolerates fans and is cruel. Lewis has lost his manic, energetic, annoying comedy rituals seen in films such as "The Nutty Professor" and has moved on to real acting that demands true skill. Gone are the squeaky voice and the crossed eyes. Here is perhaps the wretched soul who really exists behind Jerry Lewis, as we know him.
All of us exaggerate, but Rupert does so to an extreme. After being shoved out of Jerry's limo the night of their confrontation with an invitation to call Jerry's secretary to schedule a meeting, Rupert shows up at Jerry's office claiming to have an appointment. "Is Jerry expecting you?" he is asked by a clerk. "Yes, I don't think so," Rupert says.
Jerry and his workers, who deny his taped comedy routine that we never hear until the end, shun Rupert. "Oh, I see, this is what happens to people like you from all of this!" Rupert yells at Jerry. "No," he replies. "I've always been like this."
So Rupert breaks down and kidnaps Jerry with the help of Masha, demanding a spot on his TV show as a ransom payment. He commands that he will be referenced to as "The King of Comedy" (hence the title), and to further demonstrate the innocence of Rupert's character, when he shows up, he fails to see the gravity of the offence he has just committed.
Rupert is twisted, as you may have guessed by now, but not in a Travis Bickle kind of way. He doesn't see the bad in the world -- he's oblivious to it. "You're so naive!" Masha tells him. I wouldn't be surprised if he took it as a compliment.
Rupert lives in complete isolation, kept locked up with his mother and living his life by what he says on TV. His dialogue and mannerisms are all clichéd -- he says the kind of stuff one would expect a poorly written film to feature. When he tries to impress a female bartender, and when he tries to make small talk with Jerry, he frightens both individuals (similar to Travis Bickle frightening Senator Palantine and the Secret Service Agent).
Rupert daydreams a lot, pretending to be a guest on Jerry's show and fighting off requests to host the show for six weeks. It's when the film cuts back and forth between a fancy restaurant and Rupert's mother's basement, with her yelling at him to shut up, that we realize how strange -- and yet how similar to all of us -- he really is.
The film essentially flopped upon its release in 1983, bringing in only $2,500,000 on a $20,000,000 budget. It has yet to find a strong cult following such as films like "Austin Powers" that brought in little in theaters and lots on video. But any fan of Scorsese and De Niro's work will adore "The King of Comedy." And it's the only De Niro/Scorsese flick that can be recommended to families.
As Rupert takes the stage at the end of the film, his entire dreams have been laid forth in front of him and he takes them by the throat. It is in that truly startling moment we've all been waiting for when we learn that Rupert is not only funny, but pretty darn talented. If the movie had used Rupert's life-long dreams as the butt end of a joke, if he had turned out to be an absolutely horrid comedian (which is what I honestly thought would happen), the film would have little effect. But as a filmgoer and critic, it ranks as one of the most surprising scenes I have ever laid eyes on.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Horror Movie, Dec 30 2003
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
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.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Long-time reward., Dec 5 2003
By 
R Jess "Raymond Jess" (Limerick, Ireland.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
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.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific!, Aug. 9 2003
By 
Scaramouche (Redlands, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
De Niro is great, and Lewis gives his best performance. Bernhardt is delightfully eccentric. Watch it twice--once you know how it turns out, the whole movie has a different feeling.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Taxi Driver Light!!! It's Still Yummy!!!, Aug. 6 2003
By 
David A. Dein "passafist" (The Garden State) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The King Of Comedy (DVD)
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)
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The King Of Comedy
The King Of Comedy by Martin Scorsese (DVD - 2004)
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