The King of Comedy (1982)

The King of Comedy (1982)
  • Time: 109 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Drama
  • Director: Martin Scorsese
  • Cast: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard


Rupert Pupkin is obsessed with becoming a comedy great. However, when he confronts his idol, talk show host Jerry Langford, with a plea to perform on the Jerry’s show, he is only given the run-around. He does not give up, however, but persists in stalking Jerry until he gets what he wants. Eventually he must team up with his psychotic Langford-obsessed friend Masha to kidnap the talk show host in hopes of finally getting to perform his stand-up routine.

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  • Everyone idolizes someone. Whether it be an athlete, a family member, or a performer, we all aspire to be like someone. For some, however, this love and aspiration is taken deeper, and it becomes one’s life goal to literally become their idol. Such an instance is evident in the story of Rupert Pupkin. Infatuated with late night show host Jerry Langford, Rupert is desperate to become the next “King of Comedy”. When we first meet our protagonist, he is in the middle of the crowd outside the building where the Jerry Langford Show is filmed. After the mob of fans surround’s Jerry’s car, Rupert manages to get into the car with his idol, and Rupert does his best to spark up a relationship. Insisting that the man call the office, Langford gets out of the car, and Rupert still seems cluelessly optimistic about his career in comedy.
    Following his chance encounter with Langford, Rupert is insistent that he is worthy of comedic stardom, and even though he is turned down time and time again by the studio, he remains oblivious to the fact that he is going about this the wrong way. Still disillusioned, Pupkin retreats back into his mother’s basement, where cardboard cut-outs of Jerry, celebrity guests, and a crowd stand posed in his room. As he carries on his fantasy in his room, the real world that he refuses to face moves on.
    Still driven by his desire for a slot in the Langford Show for a standup set, Rupert resorts to the most desperate of plans, kidnapping the show host himself.

    My Thoughts
    With the name “The King of Comedy”, one may probably think that this is a comedic film. As much as Rupert Pupkin would want it to be a big comedy performance, his story is not one of humor. Though tenacity is a desirable trait in the working world, there comes a point where one must realize that their ambitions are unrealistic. For Rupert, he simply does not think his actions through from the other person’s point of view, and his persistence is futile. Taking the “crazed fan” persona far past normalcy, Pupkin is seemingly unaware of his odd behavior, which makes him sympathetic in a way. However, this feeling of sympathy disapates when he kidnaps Langford.
    This film was made after Scorsese classics Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, and thi film shares one common vein with the previous two: an isolated man that struggles against his surroundings and situation. For Travis, Jake, and Rupert, the problems that they face are amplified by the fact that they are at odds with the world that they live in.
    From a filmmaking standpoint, this film is good, but not up to par with its predecessors. Robert De Niro delivers his signature method acting as usual, but the cast around him don’t seem to even the film out. Jerry Lewis isn’t his usual funny self (as a kidnapped man usually is), and Sandra Bernhard is utterly….psychotic.
    This film does not attract the eye with stunning cinematography, but it is still agreat Scorsese film.

    Score: 8/10
    Comments: I didn’t like how the film ended. It isn’t true to the character of Rupert. Also, the intention of this movie is not to wow the viewer, it is to spark thought. Still a great film, however, and I encourage its viewing. This film, and the character of Rupert, is summed up in one of his biggest lines: “It’s better to be a king for a day rather than a schmuck for a lifetime.”

    *Quick Note: though this is a PG-rated film, it’s a grown up movie. The idea behind it won’t register in a youngsters mind, an odd scene involving the removal of clothing (down to bra and panties), and an invitation for “doing it” won’t be a wise choice to let a child see

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