King for a Night

The King of Comedy is no laughing matter. Although Martin Scorsese is best known for hard-hitting drama, Robert De Niro wanted to make a PG rated comedy. Especially after Raging Bull. The King of Comedy feels very underrated considering I hadn’t heard of it until Joker came out. Everyone knows Taxi Driver, but The King of Comedy received a renewed interest. Despite watching the film a year after Joker, I’m shocked by how well its themes were translated. De Niro plays aspiring stand-up comedian Rupert Pupkin.

Pupkin is obsessed with late-night New York talk show host Jerry Langford. Although delusional to the point of imagining a friendship with Jerry, Pupkin never feels too threatening. De Niro makes him surprisingly sympathetic. When Jerry tells him to start at the bottom, he practices his act with an elaborate set in his unseen mother’s basement. Pupkin only goes a step too far when he invites his lady friend to Jerry’s house uninvited. The King of Comedy isn’t violent like Taxi Driver, but it is a realistic depiction of stalking and celebrity worship.

The legendary Jerry Lewis is perfect for the aptly named role of Jerry. I’ve never seen the comedian so serious. When Pupkin is continually turned away, he resorts to kidnapping Jerry with an even crazier fan. Sandra Bernhard is just as well cast as the romantically obsessed Masha. Calling himself “The King of Comedy,” Rupert Pupkin literally breaks into show business when Jerry is all tied up. The final stand-up routine is both funny and tragic as Pupkin lives his dream before going to jail. The ambiguous ending was the right call, since The King of Comedy is so good at blurring the line.

The King of Comedy

Rupert Pupkin on The Jerry Langford Show

8 thoughts on “King for a Night

  1. This is one of my favorite Scorsese films. I adore it. It is so genius. A premier example of black comedy.
    I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a Jerry Lewis movie…I hated them. They are soooo silly. Lewis always plays this outrageously, goofy, blundering doofus…replete with ill fitting glasses, buck rabbit teeth and high water pants…that kind of thing. He’s famously revered in France and he’s a huge influence of Jim Carrey…I’m not saying he wasn’t talented but I didn’t like his shtick. So he obviously plays completely against type here. He really gives a bravo performance that, indeed, showed me what a great many people from France already knew. He’s talented.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Jerry Lewis’s finest two hours. I remember being shocked to see clownish Lewis in a dramatic role. He is brilliant, and if memory serves me well, he got better reviews than then critics’ darling De Niro.

    Liked by 1 person

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