“The King of Comedy” Review ✦✦✦✦✧

4 March, 2017

Year of Release: 1982
Martin Scorsese
Paul D. Zimmerman
Director of Photography: 
Fred Schuler
Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Sandra Bernhard

Synopsis: A self-styled comedian who will do anything to perform a monologue in front of a live TV audience begins stalking a television host, believing that the presenter can help him in achieving fame and success.

King of Comedy Review:

Scorsese’s quirky tale of viral success and compulsive ambition, “The King of Comedy” is a film predating the internet age but one that has an awful lot to say about grabbing fifteen minutes of fame in a celebrity-centric world. In a time where home-grown talent has no place in mainstream entertainment, the movie forces two opposing worlds together, egging on fictional comedian Rupert Pupkin as he transforms from autograph collector to prime time stand-up. Presenting the same breed of instant-recognition fame that still exists today, the film begins with swarms of admirers losing their mind over a New York celebrity and ends with a moment of fleeting acknowledgement in the public eye.

The story of Rupert Pupkin isn’t one to be taken lightly and Scorsese refuses to laugh in the direction of his pitiful protagonist until the time is right, creating situational humour that permits us to both dissect and applaud a man whose unwavering keenness is indulged by the politeness and indifference of those around him. Painfully dragging us through each stage in Pupkin’s neurotic meltdown, writer Paul D. Zimmerman turns a film about comedy into the ultimate tragedy of the modern era, allowing fantasy and reality to overlap in scenes of pure discomfort and social ineptness. While the movie pities the plight of the unknown comedian, relating to the pain behind the puns, it also wallows in a deep depression as the daylight fantasies played out within the confines of Pupkin’s basement begin to shape his reality.

Playing an unstable man who hides behind humour, Robert De Niro turns his back on his own celebrity lifestyle, slipping into garish suits and nervously word-vomiting into Jerry Lewis’ lap during weighted moments of fanboy excitement. Relating to the struggles of the obsessive Pupkin, De Niro shows patience and persistence, creating a character who could easily flip at any moment but taking care to domesticate him with a bumbling charm that renders his dangerous obsession rather harmless in all its naivety. “The King of Comedy” understands the seriousness that goes into comedy as well as the literal madness that many go through in order to find an audience who will lend an ear for no more than an ephemeral moment in their busy lives but it’s ultimately a rather sad tale of delusional success confined to the experiences of a man who will do anything for even a millisecond of fame.


Review Date
The King of Comedy