The King of Comedy (1982): A Truthful, Personal, Artistically Expressive Film

This is brilliant! Important films don’t need to be satisfying or loudly applauded, they just need to be discovered and experienced. Take “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” by Pasolini, “Peeping Tom” by Michael Powell, “Tree of Life” by Terrence Malick you will find the truth.

A film can be considered important on many levels. “The King of Comedy” is important for being a truthful, personal, artistically expressive film. The legendary collaboration between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro shows their intensity and creative bond again in this dark, humorous, deadpan, witty film.


Scorsese admitted in a meeting with Roger Ebert that the film was about rejection and not about kidnapping. Obviously, it is about rejection, like Travis get rejected by Betsy in Taxi Driver over the phone. Remember, how the camera look away from Travis to show that such horrifying rejection can’t be projected. In “The King of Comedy” these rejections are not only subtly horrifying but come out of real life like the struggle we see in a Roberto Rossellini film. It is not a slapstick or Keaton or Chaplin piece. Moreover it is not a Woody Allen film. Its truly a SCORSESE film in disguise of slow-moving cinematography with less “F” word.


What makes the Rupert Pupkin character more interesting is that his sexual urge or complex is not as voluptuous as Travis, La Motta or J.R . This time it is not Madonna-Whore complex, its- Fame. Its-

 “Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime”

This time it is young Scorsese in late 60’s and early & 70’s who believed in the fire within to make a Taxi Driver or Raging Bull. It is also not Jerry Langford but THE SCORSESE who can give another young Marty a break- a goddamn BREAK! And, that’s what been an inevitable part of a Scorsese picture , no matter how light or how dark it is. It is the urge of being accepted, being respected,being obsessive,being the mighty Mafia of his Sicilian-American neighborhood. No doubt, Scorsese is chauvinistic, so was Fellini or John Ford but they are not pervert or inhuman. Their rage come from their guilt, their pain and their grandeur and their talent.


Like Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street” or Charles Foster Kane in “Citizen Kane” , Rupert Pupkin(played by De Niro) is a character who came straight out of the American dream. Like the Aerosmith song – “Real’s the dream”.This two liner say it all-

Rupert Pupkin: I’m gonna work 50 times harder, and I’m gonna be 50 times more famous than you.
Jerry Langford: Then you’re gonna have idiots like you plaguing your life!

Yes, Pupkin needed 15 minutes, so did Masha or Jerry himself or the Woman in Telephone Booth who screams out to Jerry that : You should only get cancer!

“The King of Comedy” with its witty time space confusion and cynically represented world of show business, still worthy of discovering and experiencing. Like, I wrote before- Important films don’t need to be satisfying or loudly applauded, they just need to be discovered and experienced.

Watch “The King of Comedy” – you will find the truth. And a truth as bonus-

Rupert Pupkin: The more scribbled the name, the bigger the fame.

[ This article is dedicated to one of my teacher film critic : Roger Ebert]