Classic Film Corner: The King of Comedy

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By Isaac Furman

Critics worried about Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, both of whom had developed a reputation for making violent, gritty films, collaborating on a 1983 satirical comedy about a man obsessed with a talk show host.

In The King of Comedy,  Niro stars as Rupert Pupkin, a socially awkward man in his late 30s who dreams of being a standup comedian.

Unfortunately for Rupert, he is simply not funny. His jokes are hackneyed, cliché and at times uncomfortable. Despite his shortcomings as a comedian, Pupkin is determined to perform on the set of his favorite talk show, hosted by Jerry Langford.

‘Determined’ might not be a strong enough word to describe Pupkin. He is pushy, relentless and stubborn. As the movie progresses, the audience sees that he will do anything to get on television.  Rupert teams up with an equally delusional fan, named Masha, to kidnap Langford in an effort to get on his show. In the beginning of the film, Pupkin appears harmless, but by the end, he devolves into a crazed lunatic.

There is no reason the audience should like Rupert Pupkin, yet I found myself sympathizing with him throughout the movie. His desire to live his dream, while often off-putting, is inspirational. De Niro is able to bring an authenticity to the character, which makes the movie enjoyable rather than uncomfortable.

The movie does, however, straddle the line between awkward and entertaining. If you can get past the weird, isolated behavior of Rupert and Masha and appreciate their genuine nature, it is a great movie.

Although it was a departure from the typical Scorsese/De Niro movie, it was still wonderfully done and shows why Scorsese is such a well-respected director.

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