Film Review: The King of Comedy (dir by Martin Scorsese)


Oh my God, do y’all want to see a really great film?

Then you need to do what I did earlier tonight.  You need to sit down and watch Martin Scorsese’s 1983 media satire, The King of Comedy.

Want to know more about The King of Comedy?  Then read on!  But be aware that there are spoilers in the review below!

The King of Comedy tells the story of … well, it actually tells the story of several people.  On the one hand, it’s the story of Jerry Langford (played by Jerry Lewis, who gives a performance that is so good that you might even forget that he directed The Day The Clown Cried), a comedian who has his own late night talk show.  Jerry is a celebrity, the type who is mostly famous for being himself.  He makes his living by interviewing people at night but, in his daily life, he struggles to interact with the world at large.  Whenever Jerry steps outside, people start yelling at him.  When he walks away from one elderly fan, she responds by screaming insults at him.  If Jerry seems to be paranoid, it’s because he has good reason to be.

For instance, Masha (a chillingly unhinged performance from Sandra Bernhard) is obsessed with him.  When we first see Masha, she is jumping inside of Jerry’s limousine and refusing to leave.  When she finally gets a chance to be alone with her idol, her manner alternates between desire and hostility.  She may love Jerry but she could just as easily kill him.

And then there’s Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro).  Rupert is the character who brings Jerry and Masha together.  He’s a stand-up comedian, the self-described “king of comedy.”  He’s convinced that he can be a star if he can just get on Jerry’s show.  Rupert spends his time imagining the great friendship that he and Jerry could have, if only Jerry would let him on TV.  In his mind, he plays out the scene in which Jerry begs Rupert to take over the show.  Of course, in reality, Rupert lives in his mother’s basement and is surrounded by card-board cutouts of celebs that he will never meet.  When we first see Rupert, his only real skill seems to be the ability to get on everyone’s last nerve.

It’s a little hard to believe now but, when De Niro started his career, he almost exclusively played fuck-ups.  True, he may have won an Oscar for playing Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Part II.  But even while he was playing Vito, he was also playing the erratic and perpetually in debt Johnny Boy in Mean Streets.  In Taxi Driver, he was the delusional Travis Bickle and, in Raging Bull, he was a boxer who managed to alienate just about everyone in the world before finally ending up as an obese self-parody.  But, out of all the fuck-ups that the young(ish) Robert De Niro played, perhaps none was a bigger fuck-up than Rupert Pupkin.

Rupert Pupkin is a character whose sole purpose in life seems to be to make other people cringe with embarrassment.  He is the type of guy who will always come on too strong and say the wrong thing.  Even when Rupert manages to meet Jerry, he is so annoying that Jerry can barely wait to get away from him.  He is the type who asks if you want to see a picture of his “pride and joy” and then shows you a picture of two bottles of dishwashing liquid.  It undoubtedly took some courage to so fully commit to such an off-putting character but that’s exactly what De Niro did.  Rupert is perhaps one of the most annoying characters in cinematic history and yet, perhaps because he’s played by Robert De Niro, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.  You never exactly like him.  But you can’t help but feel a little bit sorry for him.  He is just so clueless!

Of course, what Rupert lacks in common sense, he makes up for in ambition.  He truly believes that he’s destined to be the king of comedy and if he and Masha have to kidnap Jerry Langford for that to happen, so be it.  It is perhaps not surprising that Rupert and Masha would kidnap Jerry and threaten to kill him unless Rupert is invited to appear on the show.  What is surprising is the fact, once we finally see Rupert’s act, we discover that it’s not as bad as we were expecting:

Apparently, when the film was first released, there was some controversy over whether or not Rupert actually appeared on TV and became a star or if it was just another of his delusions.  What’s funny is that there wouldn’t be any controversy today.  In 1983, the idea of someone going to such extremes to be famous may have seemed over-the-top.  In 2016, however, we all know Rupert would eventually end up with his own reality show.  In its way, The King of Comedy is one of the most prophetic films ever made.

The King of Comedy is a great film that, even after all these years, still deserves to be seen.  In fact, it’s probably even more relevant today than when it was first released.



4 Shots From 4 Films: An Epic Birthday Salute

4 Shots From 4 Films is just what it says it is, 4 shots from 4 of our favorite films. As opposed to the reviews and recaps we usually post, 4 Shots From 4 Films is all about letting the visuals do the talking. When it came to directing epics movies, there was Cecil B. DeMille, and there was everyone else. The quintessential Hollywood director was born on this date in 1881. Here are four shots from some of DeMille’s greatest films:

King of Kings (1927)

                                                          King of Kings (1927)

Cleopatra (1934)

                                                              Cleopatra (1934)

Samson and Delilah (1949)

                                                      Samson and Delilah (1949)

The Ten Commandments (1956)

                                         The Ten Commandments (1956)

Music Video of the Day: Hunger Strike by Temple Of The Dog (1992, dir. Paul Rachman)

When I was a kid, we didn’t know Temple Of The Dog was even a thing at some point. I mean a super group with Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder, not to mention those who played the instruments. That would have probably been more than our little minds could have handled. You know what is still too much for my mind to take? Why the heck is Eddie Vedder standing in bushes, and why make that your thumbnail for the music video? At one point in the music video, it’s like the cameraman is stumbling upon him in the bushes. He is also staring away from the camera. Vedder is an excellent front for Pearl Jam, but he was never a performer whose talents translated that well to the short film form of a music video. That said, according to IMDb, he is playing a role in the first episode of the new Twin Peaks. People change. Michael Stipe used to be deathly shy behind the microphone.

With director Paul Rachman previously having worked on Alice In Chains’ Man In The Box, he could say he worked with three of the big four grunge rock bands of the 1990s. He just did it in an economical form.

The band was conceived by Chris Cornell as a tribute to his late friend Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone. That’s probably why the one and only other song I have from their only album group is called Say Hello 2 Heaven. Apparently Mother Love Bone did at least one music video for Stardog Champion. Sadly, there doesn’t appear to be one for Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.

Getting back to this music video, you basically have a sad tribute where the band is at a beach at sunset belting out the song. As the song goes on, the night gets darker. There’s a sadness that rightfully permeates it because of the origin of the band and the material of the song.

I don’t think there’s anything else to say except you get to watch some of the best musicians of the early-90s all playing together, which includes two of the greatest vocalists of the period.

Even if the music video is nothing to write home about, the song is well worth the listen.