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'The King of Comedy' Review (1983)

Brett Nichols

Posted on November 9, 2020 03:19

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A retro review of Martin Scorsese's hidden gem and how it might call back to Todd McFarlane's 2019 film

Many people love Martin Scorsese's all-time classics like "Taxi Driver," "Casino," and "Goodfellas" (or essentially any film lauded as Leonardo Di Caprio or Robert De Niro's best films). However, many of his films go under the radar. One of those films being the 1983 film "The King of Comedy" starring Robert De Niro and the late (and great) comedy actor Jerry Lewis.

The film is widely considered a satire comedy on the extreme measures that some people will take to get into the spotlight of stardom. The story is based around a far from reality 34-year-old aspiring comedian named Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) who is obsessed with the late-night talk show host and comedian Jerry Langford (Lewis). Pupkin will do nearly anything for Langford to hear his audition tape. However, when things don't go the way Pupkin intends, he becomes desperate enough to do anything to get his fifteen minutes of fame, including leveraging the headlining celebrity with the help of a psychotic fan.

De Niro's portrayal of Pupkin, much like his performance of Travis Bickle in "Taxi Driver," is both disheartening as well as lovable. The legendary De Niro transforms himself into a delusional and aspirational schmuck that makes you greatly pity him while eagerly waiting to see what he's going to do next. One of the film's strong suits is its lack of taking itself too seriously with its hilariously unstable cast just gives the viewer a sense of unease throughout the whole movie. One of the actors that really sets the film's psychotically funny tone is Sandra Bernhard as Jerry Langford's most unstable fan. Her and De Niro's deluded conversations about who's the closest to Langford in the film are simply psychotic and hilarious. The film's strongest moments are between the two and it perfectly reflects the insanity of the whole film well.

Looking back at this film in 2020, I have made an observation, Todd McFarlane's 2019 film "Joker" takes some of its biggest elements from "The King of Comedy." The delusional comedian complete with confusing hallucinations, the famous comedian turned talk-show host (of whom is played by De Niro in "Joker"), and his living arrangements with his peculiar mother. If you mix that with the elements from "Taxi Driver," "Joker" is one big love letter to Martin Scorsese. That, or just a blatant plagiarizing of his work. Whichever it may be, it just goes to show how well Scorsese's movies have stood the test of time. 

If you are a big fan of Martin Scorsese and his ability to transcend genres like no director before him, I would give "The King of Comedy" a watch. Though, being a great film in its own right, it's dark humor and peculiarity is certainly not for everyone. To put it in more relevant terms, if you enjoyed "Joker" but you wish that Fleck was a little less homicidal and a little more charming then a little Rupert Pupkin may go a long way.

Brett Nichols

Posted on November 9, 2020 03:19

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