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

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Free State of Jones Movie Review

Since its true story is still so timely after some 150 years, we can forgive...

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

Deepwater Horizon Movie Review

This reunion of actor Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg feels like a natural successor...

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Movie Review

Ransom Riggs' bestselling novel is appropriately adapted into a movie by Tim Burton, the gothic...

Get Back Movie Review

Get Back Movie Review

Roger Appleton's documentary 'Get Back' looks into the music scene that come out of Liverpool....

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Advertisement
Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

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.