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'The King Of Comedy' is easily Martin Scorsese's most underrated and misunderstood movie. Scorsese and Robert De Niro's previous collaboration was the brilliant boxing biopic 'Raging Bull', generally regarded by most people as a masterpiece. Then the two made 'The King Of Comedy'... What a brave move! You couldn't find a more different movie, but one just as impressive and extraordinary. This movie is disliked by many, deliberately ignored by others. It's a very uncomfortable film. It's a (very) black comedy and is genuinely funny in places, but much of it is embarrassing to watch. Not because it is inept, but because of the believability of De Niro's obnoxious and irritating "loser" and wanna be comic Rupert Pupkin. De Niro has made a lot of disappointing movies in the last few years but 'The King Of Comedy' reminds you of just how brilliant he can be. I can't think of many actors who would be brave enough to play this part! Jerry Lewis is a performer I have always disliked, but he is excellent in this movie, probably because he is playing someone very close to himself in real life. The rest of the supporting cast aren't the most obvious choices, led by confrontational comedienne Sandra Bernhard and the "forgotten" Charlie's Angel Shelley Hack. Plus there are Tony Randall and a couple of other celebrities playing themselves, and a blink and you'll miss it cameo by The Clash (!). I really admire Scorsese for taking such a risk with this movie, which is one of the most original and provocative ever released by a major Hollywood studio. Bravo! This is must see viewing for not only all Scorsese or De Niro fans, but anyone who appreciates unusual or difficult movies.
I hate the celebrity culture. I hate the fact that people become famous,
just for the sake of being famous. I hate the fact that just because a
celebrity gets married or has a child, that's front page news. I hate
reality TV. I hate shows like "Pop Idol" (or "American Idol"), where normal
people seem to think they are destined for A-list status. The fact that this
film (The King of Comedy) is as old as I am, is either an all too worrying
statement on society, or proves that it was way ahead of its time. Maybe
that's why I love it so much.
De Niro has always amazed me, but the fact that he seems to understand this character so well is a little overwhelming. Whether he is delivering cringeworthy gags to a cardboard audience, or embarrassing himself, obliviously, in front of Jerry Lewis, his consistency is amazing. His motives are understandable to anyone who's ever had a dream. Perhaps it's De Niro's early ambition as an actor, that fuelled this shamefully overlooked performance.
Jerry Lewis is perfect as the disgruntled TV host. A man who lives a double-life of hilarious TV personality, with a bitter persona off-screen. You can certainly relate to this man's motivations, his love for his work, but his resistance to allow it run his personal life.
The only character I can't totally emphasize with is Sandra Bernhard's Masha (her actions aren't justified as well as De Niro's Rupert). But maybe that just goes with my aforementioned hatred for celebrity culture. The scary thing is, I know that people like this exist, and I didn't for a second, question the feasibility of her performance.
As usual, Scorsese shows brilliant control, despite this being one of his most modest works.
"The King of Comedy" should be looked upon, now more than ever, as a very important film, that has a lot to say about the world we live in and the obsessions that we consume. 9/10
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro seem to have taken a different road to arrive to very familiar places. Forttunately we're all in for the ride. This is a bitter, dark comedy in the tradition of Pietro Germi and Mario Monicelli. In Scorsese's hands it becomes something we've never seen before. De Niro travels unknown territory with the panache of a seasoned explorer. His Rupert Pupkin is a sub Jay Leno without an agent. His hunger is as shallow as his talent. The arrival to Jerry Lewis's house without an invitation trying to impress his girl is one of the most painful studies in modern humiliation ever put on film. I found myself laughing in horror. "The King of Comedy" is ripe for a revival. Some people consider it a "minor" Scorsese. I disagree. I think it's one of Scorsese and De Niro's best.
Martin Scorsese's clever, inventive and splendidly witty little masterpiece
"The King of Comedy" was highly underrated 19 years ago but nowadays it
rightfully gets more of that appreciation it undoubtably deserves. My
favorite Scorsese-flick will naturally always be the massively celebrated
"Goodfellas" but yes, this is number two in my books (I love it even more
than "Taxi driver", even though it's a perfect film too).
Both "Goodfellas" and "The King of Comedy" are in my all time favorite Top 10. Robert De Niro makes the very best comedic performance of his whole career as a wannabe-famous stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin. Just observe his sensational, sharp and devoted acting in "King of comedy" and you will truly have the great pleasure of seeing a real genius at work.
Elderly Jerry Lewis is also marvelous as the melancholic and cheerless Jerry Langford. This is Lewis' best role as an aged actor and it has absolutely nothing to got to do with the vivid pre-Jim Carrey stuff he used to do in the 50's-60's. Although he made the biggest hits of his career back then "The King of Comedy" is one of his greatest achievements as a real, talented actor and not just a clown (Nothing wrong with the clown, though. I do love old Lewis comedies too).
People who claim this movie is not a comedy: I can surely agree but not without reserve. Of course this is not the traditional comedy, that goes without saying and the humor we have is very odd and black. However this is a film that really makes me laugh. Laugh a lot. Characters, acting and script are so bloody hilarious and the unbelievable story is incredibly funny I can't help of loving every single scene. This is exactly what I would call a perfect film. 10/10.
Saw it first time late at night and never thought about sleeping again for a
couple of days.
DeNiro nails perfectly the unflappable and determined comic wannabe. We watch him throughout the whole film, wondering, Is he really just that sure of himself, or is he dangerously deranged? That question will take you through right to the end. Between Rupert, whose basement (in his mother's house) is decorated like a comedy club, and his oddball chum (S.Bernhard), there's considerable pathos. Jerry Lewis gives a lot of insight into the real person behind his easygoing public persona.
Part of what makes this movie so compelling is Scorsese's decision to keep the musical score to a minimum. Music could force the viewer to a conclusion that isn't entirely accurate. Listening to Rupert's endless exchanges Jerry, and everyone who stands in his way -- as is, without musical coloring -- enhances the "squirm factor."
Anyone who has been in the uncomfortable position of coming to regret being nice to someone will relate to this movie. It's a must-see, and despite being more than 20 years old now, it is not a bit dated.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"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).
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.
- John Ulmer
This is one of the most memorable films I have ever seen. The first time I
saw it in 1983, my dad took me to see it with my older cousin, who laughed
hysterically throughout the film, then said afterwards how much he hated it.
That was a memorable moment, but the film itself also made a very large
impression on me. Despite the title, it is anything but a comedy, save for
some amusing moments that could pass for dark comedy.
The story involves a 34 year old nerd (Robert DeNiro) who wants badly to be a standup comedian, but his only method of trying to attain this goal is by essentially stalking a popular talk show host played by Jerry Lewis. The performances are amazing, of course DeNiro can never fail at playing someone offbeat and deranged. Jerry Lewis is very good as the talk show host, and Sandra Bernhard is also well cast as a fellow stalker. The film is a tough watch as its tense and uncomfortable throughout, yet entertaining and intruiging enough so it never crosses the line into unbearable, which I imagine must have been exactly what filmmaker Scorcese was going for. Overall, the film is a combination of disturbing, entertaining, and unforgettable. What's more, it holds up extremely well seventeen years later, although it initially did not do well at the box office. Score: 9/10
From Jerry Lewis's subtle, deeply personal performance, to Robert DeNiro's amazing interpretation of a neurotic nerbish whose fantasy world collides with reality on late night talk TV, "The King of Comedy" is a true original that guts the glamour from showbiz and finds it cold and empty inside. Then there's the media, always ready to create another celebrity, even if he's an autograph hound and hack comic turned kidnapper who believes he's earned a shot in the spotlight. Cynical and melancholy, at times hilarious, it bombed when first released, but has been surprising video treasure hunters ever since.
Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver" and Rupert Pupkin from "The King of
are not as unlike as they may first appear. They are men desperately
searching for some meaning in their spiritually empty lives, neither man
connecting with anyone else; the consequent strain has driven each to his
own brand of insanity. Both can be likened to Lee Harvey Oswald-men
lives of quiet desperation, wanting to do something-ANYTHING-to have SOME
impact on the world.
Pupkin is further removed from reality than Bickle (actually Bickle's attitudes about his environment aren't entirely unreasonable) and it's unlikely he could ever be "normal", no matter how much therapy he had. He's lost in his own little world, a world devoid of any real substance. To him, Heaven would be a place where he would exist solely on TV. Real life is too messy.
"The King of Comedy" is the best satire I've seen about the vapidness of society's values and the public's obsession with celebrity. It has its share of funny moments but the overall effect is deadening. Even though things went about as well as Pupkin could have expected in the end, what has he gained? Nothing of any value, though in his delusional mind, he probably would disagree. Ah, Pupkin! Ah, humanity!
For some reason, I rarely count any movie in the past 30 years "a
classic" but I think of this one as such, and that's a compliment. It
has stayed with me since the first time I saw it almost 20 years ago.
In fact, I've never forgotten the name, "Rupert Pupkin," a strange name made famous by Robert De Niro as the leading actor in this unique drama/comedy/ crime film. De Niro was just outstanding, one of his best efforts in an illustrious career.
Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard also were really good here, in supporting roles. Comedians sometimes make great dramatic actors as Lewis has demonstrated in several films. I don't know, frankly, if Bernard has ever done anything remotely as good as this.
Biographies of eccentric people usually are interesting and this one more than fits the bill. This movie was not popular with audiences and a number of critics but I think it was superbly done with laugh-out-loud lines as well as subtle humor and great acting. It is a wonderful character study of obsessed fans of celebrities, a pitiful condition that exists even more today.
I am not particularly a fan of director Martin Scorcese. Almost all of his films are ultra profane, but not here. There has very little profanity, and none, ironically, by De Niro. The only negative I found was making a hero out of his character, who executes a kidnapping and is richly rewarded for his efforts. Puh-leeze!! I wish Hollywood would stop making heroes out of criminals.
If you have a warped sense humor, however, which I do, you'll love this film. I think it is perhaps the best-ever from Scorcese and De Niro.
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