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Scott Ventura >> Movie Commentary >> July 2000 >> The King of Comedy

The King of Comedy

Movie Commentary by Scott Ventura


Scott's Rating:
4 / 5
Times Seen:
Viewing Date:
July 2000
IMDB Name:
King of Comedy, The (1983)
Martin Scorsese
comedy, drama
MPAA Rating:

Fine Line

There's a fine line between raw ambition and complete delusion. Rupert Pupkin, who calls himself The King of Comedy, is well into the delusional. The movie starts out innocently enough with a comic looking for a break. When he gets a brief audience with a Johnny Carson-like talk show host, he makes the most of it. The amount he's willing to make of it is absolutely scary. Director Martin Scorsese finds the comedy in Rupert's desperation while still making the audience a little nervous about just how far he's willing to go. Pupkin has an accomplice who is a few watts short of a bulb, although she seems inexplicably rich. She, too, is after the host, but with romantic intent. For his part, the host wants to be left alone.

Robert De Niro is absolutely convincing as Rupert, crazy as he might be. Sandra Bernhard, the similarly crazy Marsha, shows more range and more skin than I ever would've expected. King of Comedy represents a dead serious role for Jerry Lewis. He's the host of the eponymous Jerry Langford Show, and has more attention than he needs. The mob trying to get to him as he leaves his show is just one indication of the joyless part of celebrity life. Playing the whole movie stonefaced, Lewis is a great baffle for De Niro and Bernhard.

Cameo Caravan

Many famous faces appear as themselves in and around Langford's show. I was particularly excited to see Victor Borge, even if they used him for a fairly mundane purpose. The more interesting cameos are those that aren't so easily identified. Scorsese himself appears as the director of the show. Catherine Scorsese, Martin's mother, plays Rupert's nagging, off-screen mother. Langford's butler Jonno was played by Kim Chan, the flying food vendor in The Fifth Element.

Copyright 2000-2001 by Scott Ventura. All rights reserved.