Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: Paul D. Zimmerman
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott & Sandra Bernhard
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Runtime: 1 hr. 49 min.
Released: Dec. 18, 1982
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro recently earned rave reviews coming out of the New York premiere of their upcoming Netflix film The Irishman. Coincidentally, Joker hits theaters this weekend and also features De Niro in a prominent role. With this confluence of buzz and many already making comparisons between Joker and The King of Comedy, I thought now would be the perfect time to take a look back at the misunderstood classic.
The King of Comedy is the fifth collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro and like Taxi Driver before it, follows an outsider who yearns of being an insider. De Niro is endlessly watchable as the quirky Rupert Pupkin, a passionate yet unsuccessful standup comedian who becomes obsessed with a late night talk show host (Jerry Lewis) and goes to increasingly desperate lengths to secure a spot performing the opening monologue.
The King of Comedy leans much more into comedy than a lot of Scorsese’s other films, though it’s societal skewering is every bit as sharp. More specifically, the film’s commentary on celebrity culture and our collective obsession with fame and relevancy is only more fitting today than it was back in 1982.
Admittedly, The King of Comedy isn’t the most pleasant experience. Rupert is a selfish jerk who won’t take “no” for an answer. We gain more insight into Rupert’s warped worldview thanks to a handful of daydream sequences in which he’s endlessly adored and everyone who ever doubted him begs his forgiveness. Though I found myself lacking sympathy for Rupert, I’d be lying if I didn’t mention I was often compelled by his story. Most of the film provides me a cathartic experience in witnessing the downfall of such a poisonous individual before leaving me right at the end with a moral dilemma that I still find myself reflecting back on from time to time. I have to imagine then that in this way the film is unnervingly successful.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (out of five)
That’s my review of The King of Comedy. Have you had a chance yet to check out this film? If so, what did you think? Does it still hold up three decades later? Sound off in the comments below and let me know how this movie hit you!