The King of Comedy

"Excellent"

The King of Comedy Review


The King of Comedy is a wholly original and entirely offbeat, dark comedy about fame, obsessive fandom, and the medium from which they both feed: television. The film careens from witty satire to difficult melodrama to downright silly and back again. And while King, made in 1983, does appear slightly dated, Scorsese's first film after Raging Bull and perhaps most underappreciated work (or at least a close second to The Last Temptation of Christ) deserves to be seen. And with the recently released DVD, maybe it will.

The film concerns aspiring comedian and completely obtuse Rupert Pupkin, played by Robert De Niro in one of his few comic performances. Kings, however, is no Analyze This or ; De Niro gives a brilliant and, at times, disturbing portrayal of a man so obsessed by fame and enthralled with his idols that he kidnaps comedian and late night talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis in a thinly veiled parody of his own star image) in order to get his big break and show the world that Rupert Pupkin is the new king of comedy. The problem is that he is not that funny, and his self-deprecating brand of humor quickly becomes sad as it traverses the line from joke to personal trauma.

The funny thing is - and I hesitate to use the word funny, but for lack of a better one I must - that one is never sure how much of Pupkin's life is true and how much is part of his act. It is much like watching a guest on a talk show: You can never be sure what is true and what is made up for camera.

Thus, not only do Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Zimmermann (who may very well be depicting himself) manage to create a comedy based on something that isn't funny, but they have come up with a poignant satire on comedy, fame, and the ambiguous epistemological nature of television. King also puts to great use the often overlooked but always cheesy aesthetics of television - i.e. swelling music, slow cross-fades, forced drama, and overdetermined comedic moments, among other things. This "look" is used throughout the film in order to depict Rupert's elaborate fantasy sequences, which are akin to John Schlesinger's (Billy Liar, Midnight Cowboy) characters' aptly depicted, never tangential fantasy musings. It just seems perfectly funny, both funny ha-ha and funny peculiar, that a man's fantasy life can be reduced to the shallow flow and lo-fi aesthetic of television.

King also boasts a strong, if hard to watch, performance by Sandra Bernhard as Marsha, Rupert's clingy friend in fandom and kidnapper accomplice. The scene where she tries to seduce Jerry Lewis, who is so wrapped up in white tape that he looks like a mummy, is almost too surreal to believe. Another bonus is the blink-and-you'll-miss-him cameo by Scorsese himself, playing, of course, a director. The DVD features widescreen format and a making-of featurette.

King is better, in my opinion, than Scorsese's other foray into "dark" comedy, After Hours, although the two films do share a certain sense of indescribable paranoia and uneasiness, not only as thematic elements but also in the process of viewing them. They are hard to watch but I mean that in a good way, if that makes sense.



The King of Comedy

Facts and Figures

Genre: Dramas

Run time: 109 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 18th December 1982

Budget: $20M

Distributed by: Fox

Production compaines: Embassy International

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 4

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Rupert Pupkin, as Jerry Langford, as Rita Keane, as Masha, Shelley Hack as Cathy Long, Ed Herlihy as Ed Herlihy, Lou Brown as Band leader, Loretta Tupper as Stage Door Fan, Peter Potulski as Stage Door Fan, Vinnie Gonzales as Stage Door Fan

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.