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.