Starring Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott, Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack, Margo Winkler, Frederick De Cordova, Ed Herlihy, Lou Brown
Directed by Martin Scorsese
The experience of watching The King of Comedy felt like looking at a shirt with a single loose thread. At first everything seems perfect, but once you notice the flaw, it’s all you can focus on. Robert De Niro’s character Rupert Pupkin is this thread personified, and as Scorsese pulls him through the film, I wondered how far he would take it. He couldn’t possibly pull the whole shirt apart, could he? The King of Comedy goes in directions I never would have expected, and this is exactly what makes it a riveting experience. It was a flop upon its initial release, but thankfully intrepid film fans have kept this one alive over the years, as it most definitely deserves to be seen.
As good as it is, though, it’s not a film for everyone. The comedy that runs throughout the film is dark and uncomfortable; the type of stuff that you feel bad for laughing at. What makes the comedy so uncomfortable is that Rupert Pupkin is such a sad character at his heart. He’s likeable to a point because De Niro’s inherent charm goes a long way, but with each passing scene Pupkin pushes this boundary further and further towards the edge, daring you to keep following him. He is a fascinating character; a king in his own mind, Pupkin just has to convince everyone else of it.