The King of Comedy (1982)

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Reviewed by Nostra from My Film Views

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With a title like The King of Comedy I had some expectations about this movie. The biggest one was that this was a comedy movie starring Robert de Niro which was directed by Martin Scorsese. With my lack of investigation about a movie before seeing it (which basically comes down to looking a poster and an IMDB score) it turned out that my assumption was incorrect. It’s more Taxi Driver than Taxi.

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With this movie Scorsese looks at the obsession of becoming a celebrity. Rubert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) has a big dream of making it. He’s a grown man, but still lives at home with his mother. He has transformed the basement in his personal TV show and has a plan to get his 15 minutes of fame. That plan turns out to be a unique one.

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I have seen Robert de Niro in a lot of movies, but his role here has to be one of his best. Initially he comes across as a very sympathetic character, but as the movie progresses he turns out to be an obsessed man who only has one goal in mind and because of that has lost all sense of reality and no longer understands rejection. He sells himself as a great comedian, but you as a viewer you don’t get to see him perform, which makes you wonder.

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Scorsese seems to know this and in a very memorable scene your curiosity and patience are rewarded. This movie isn’t mentioned a lot when it comes to Scorsese’s best work, but it ranks high on my list. King of Comedy might not offer what has been advertised on the package, but in this case that isn’t a bad thing at all.

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39 thoughts on “The King of Comedy (1982)

  1. I have honestly never heard of this movie. How did I miss that a Scorcese-De Niro collaboration exists? I’ll never know.

    I do know I need to check it out at some point. 😉

  2. Good look at this one Nostra. It’s another that’s been too long since I’ve seen it. I’ll need to revisit this one. I remember really enjoying it. As you mention, it was unexpected but that’s what I liked about it.

  3. Nice review. I watched this years and years ago and I think I was a little too young for a lot of its more complex themes regarding celebrity and obsession to quite land. Will have to dust off the DVD and check it out again!

  4. I think this may be De Niro’s greatest performance. Just perfection all across the board. He was so creepy, but somehow endearing at the same time. You have to be one heck of an actor to pull off a character like that. De Niro is one of the greatest actors of cinema, but he so frequently plays aggressive and volatile characters that at times many of his performances become redundant – but Rubert Pupkin requires a more gentle approach while simultaneously tinkering on the edge of insanity, and this gives De Niro a chance to show more range. This is definitely my favorite De Niro performance, and probably my favorite De Niro film after “Cape Fear”. Scorsese & De Niro are quite a tandem.

    • Your favourite DeNiro film is Cape Fear Gary? That’s quite a backing. Many people didn’t take to Scorsese and DeNiro’s Cape Fear but I was also a big fan. DeNiro’s Max Cady is one of my favourite performances of his and even then, some criticised him for being too over the top. Bah! What do they know anyway? … 😉

      • I do think De Niro’s Max Cady was a bit over-the-top, but not too much to be distracting; actually if you think about it, De Niro’s performance was only over-the-top in the first act when he was stalking Sam around the city, and he was being over-the-top intentionally. But once Cady was settled down into the story, you saw how freaky and disturbing this guy really was.

        But regardless whether or not one thinks De Niro’s performance was a bit over-the-top, the suspense of “Cape Fear” was immense; you never knew where Cady was going to pop-up next. It was relentless, gritty, and never shied away from making the audience uncomfortable, which is a rare task for mainstream American films.

        I don’t see how anyone who likes a good thriller didn’t love this movie. It’s not only my favorite De Niro film, but one of my favorite films of all-time.

        That scene always sticks in my mind where he went to the airport and asked the clerk what flight Sam was on, and she wasn’t allowed to tell him, but then he earned her sympathy when he told her he was just in an accident and probably going to lose his home. lol. He was so convincing and empathetic. And people think De Niro was over-the-top in that role; maybe they need to watch that scene again.

  5. De Niro’s performance is great. But what makes the whole movie work is Jerry Lewis’ performance. Without Lewis’ saneness DeNiro’s insanity would not be as powerful as it is. A great movie.

    • Yeah, I should have said something about his performance as well, he plays the role straight and believable and makes De Niro’s performance the more convincing.

  6. I avoided this for years because I knew what it was about, but finally saw it and glad I did. Not what it sounds like (obviously) but really good actting. And a great script!

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