47 FILMS: 59. THE KING OF COMEDY

In our increasingly innumerate series of 47 films to see before death, we present Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy.

Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy is an amazing film. Decades before The Office made cringe comedy a recognizable form Scorsese’s film was up there. Robert De Niro plays Rupert Pupkin, a wannabe comedian who kidnaps a real life talk show host played Jerry, by Jerry Lewis with the help of deranged fan Sandra Bernhard. Before we get anywhere near that, Pupkin tries to waylay Jerry, diving into his car, preparing a comedy tape and stalking him in his office. All the while, he indulges in a fantasy life where Jerry is a great friend and it is Rupert who gets hassled in restaurants for his autograph.

De Niro has never been better, especially because this places him outside of the cool movie star image that roles in Godfather Part Two had placed him. Yes, Travis Bickle might be a dysfunctional psycho but he looks like De Niro and gets a date with Cybil Shepherd. Rupert is absolutely delusional but his naivety is also pitiable and human. He has a constant fund of optimism that persists no matter what the circumstances are. And the genius of the movie is that he isn’t a bad comedian. He’s actual got quite an astute line in observational comedy.

And his act isn’t an imitation of Jerry’s but there’s something in there that is painful and autobiographical. But that’s assuming the act we see at the end of the movie is not just another part of the delusion. Incidentally, I don’t think it is. This is why Rupert and the film insists on us watching it in a bar with other witnesses. Rupert needs to assure himself other people have seen it. The ultimate validation.

Cancer

There are moments of comic genius. Sandra Bernhard’s hilarious nut job and her sweater she knits for Jerry. The home invasion Rupert perpetrates. The fan who upset at Jerry turns on a nickel from adoring to shouting ‘You should only get cancer’, suggested by Lewis himself and based on a real experience. And it is Jerry Lewis’ film also. Quietly, we get a portrait of an almost silent man, utterly alienated and lonely, twisted by the bitter need to stay top dog while utterly distrustful of his fans and everyone around him. The tragic irony is that Jerry seems a better person in Rupert’s fantasies as well. And even though he is in the position Rupert is aiming for, Jerry is utterly miserable.

Coming out in 1982, The King of Comedy flopped. The tag line – This is no laughing matter – exactly summed up the uncomfortable tragicomedy of embarrassment. It was a style no one was ready for yet. But its savage satire on celebrity culture seems more prescient with each passing year.

For more of our 47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams CLICK HERE.

DIRTY GRANDPA NOT AS GOOD AS RAGING BULL

HOLLYWOOD – The internet was shocked today to learn that Robert de Niro’s new film Dirty Grandpa is ‘not as good as Raging Bull.’

Film critics have almost unanimously asserted that the comedy starring Robert de Niro and Zac Efron – Dirty Grandpa – is not as good as Raging Bull.

Xavier Poulis of the World Film Critics Association was not alone in expressing his disappointment.

It’s really galling. Every time we go to a new Robert de Niro film we think this time it’s going to be great. This one is going to be the one that really knocks it out of the park, but it’s not even nearly as good as Raging Bull. It’s almost as if it’s terrible. I don’t know how this has happened.

Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline, The New Yorker, The New York Times, The LA Times, Slash Film and the UK Guardian all took the unprecedented step of issuing a joint statement.

Robert de Niro’s film Dirty Grandpa is not as good as Raging Bull, this much is clear. But what the public should know before they go and see this picture, is that it is not as good as The Deer Hunter either, nor The Godfather Part 2, nor Once Upon a Time in America, nor The King of Comedy, nor Goodfellas, nor Casino. It isn’t even as good as Cape Fear, We’re No Angels and Midnight Run. It’s not as good as Angel Heart or A Bronx Tale. So by all means go and see it, but don’t expect to see anything like what Mr. De Niro has provided in the past. Except perhaps Meet the Parents, Meet the Fockers etc.

Strangely, DirtyGrandpa has been hailed in France as Robert De Niro’s best film ever because of ‘post-modernism’.

Bad Grandpa is out now.