109 Min | Comedy – Drama | December 1982
IMDB Rating: 7.8
Director: Martin Scorsese
Starring: Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott
The King of Comedy Review: Though ‘The King of Comedy’ stands on its own two feet, it bares a striking resemblance to ‘Taxi Driver’. Aside from the blatant Scorsese-De Niro connection, both films center on similar characters, though that is not to say they’re identical. Whereas Travis Bickle’s persona was built around loneliness, Rupert Pupkin’s was built around obsession. However in The King of Comedy, each character has an inherent violence that bubbles underneath the surface. In ‘Taxi Driver’, Travis Bickle gives into the pressures mounting within and kills three people at the film’s end. With ‘The King of Comedy’, however, Rupert Pupkin’s violence never really erupts. Acts that seems like they might be frightening and violent turn out to be rather comical and pathetic.
Toward the end of The King of Comedy, when Rupert makes it on TV, his jokes aren’t that funny, but that’s not the point. The audience laughs. It has been trained to laugh. That’s what audience’s are supposed to do when a comedian comes on. Plus, if he’s on TV, he must be good. Everyone at the bar, watching his performance, was not so much amused by the material as by the fact that Rupert made it on TV. He was a celebrity. The film closes much like ‘Taxi Driver’. In these two films, both characters went to prison, only served part of their sentences, and received vindication upon their release. With Travis, he was once again paired with the woman he had obsessed over earlier. And, as for Rupert, he became a pop culture icon. Probably with his own obsessed following.
‘The King of Comedy’ is one of Scorsese’s best, despite its initial failure. It’s truly a dark comedy with 90% of the emphasis on the word “dark.” De Niro gives a great performance. Coming off the success of his brutish role in ‘Raging Bull’, he is able to deftly switch over to a comical role, the type of guy that his character in ‘Raging Bull’ would have beat up. And Sandra Bernhard. Performing her role as an obsessive compulsive, manic depressive so well that she probably had doctors all over the country writing her prescriptions based on her performance.