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The King of Comedy

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The King of Comedy - Robert Deniro - Jerry Lewis - A Martin Scorsese film - DVD
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DVD review of The King of Comedy (1982), starring Jerry Lewis, Robert Deniro

Jerry Lewis as late night TV host Jerry Langford in The King of Comedy

 Jerry LewisThe King of Comedy is not the typical Jerry Lewis movie.  It’s not a comedy. It’s not for the children.  It isvery dark comedy (although rated PG). The King of Comedy looks at the behind-the-scenes life of Jerry Langford. Played straight, and brilliantly, by Jerry Lewis. He’s a talk-show host seemingly similar to Jay Leno or David Letterman.

Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin, with his cardboard cutout "friends" in his mother's basement

The basic plot involves an obsessed fan of Langford’s. A young Robert DeNiro plays the role brilliantly, as Rupert Pupkin. Rupert is a young man who dreams of becoming a comedian like his idol, Jerry Langford. The movie is told with alternate flashes of reality, and Rupert’s dream life. This makes him somewhat sympathetic — and clearly dangerous. He teams up with another obsessed fan of Jerry’s named Masha (Sandra Bernhard). They have an unusual plan to reach their respective goals. The duo ultimately kidnap Langford. In exchange for Rupert doing a comedy monologue on Langford’s nightly show.

It’s a very dark movie. It looks at Hollywood behind the scenes. And it’s not a nice view at all, although riveting.  It’s not the normal Jerry Lewis movie at all. But definitely worth watching.

Product Description of The King of Comedy, starring Jerry Lewis

Kidnapped Jerry Lewis at gunpoint

Martin Scorsese’s The King Of Comedy is a funny depiction of the dangers of celebrity fandom. Robert De Niro plays the ridiculously inept Rupert Rupkin, an aspiring comic who idolizes talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Still living at home with his mother, Rupert spends his days trying to arrange a meeting with his hero. When he isn’t doing that, he’s at home talking to cardboard cutouts in his makeshift television studio. After Rupert convinces Rita (Diahnne Abbot), a pretty bartender, that Langford has invited them to his house outside the city, the reality of the situation makes itself painfully apparent upon arriving at the star’s front door. Trouble is, Rupert’s too delusional to take the hint. He eventually hatches a plan with an equally obsessed fan, Masha (Sandra Bernhard), to kidnap Langford in exchange for a chance to let him deliver his routine on the air.

Trivia about The King of Comedy starring Jerry Lewis

Sandra Bernhard as the obsessed fan with her idol, Jerry Lewis
  • In the scene where he crashes into Langford’s country home, Robert De Niro used anti-Semitic remarks to anger Jerry Lewis. This shocked and appalled Jerry Lewis. But he delivered an extremely credible performance.
  • The talk show segments were filmed on videotape (like a real talk show) and later transferred to film. An unedited version of Jerry’s monologue in its original video format is part of the DVD’s special features.
  • Preparing for his role, Robert De Niro studied Richard Belzer’s stand-up comedy.
  • Jerry Lewis found Martin Scorsese’s working method initially frustrating. He had to wait for the first 3 days of shooting. He told Scorsese that he was a professional and was going to get paid for all the time he had to wait. And that if Scorsese wasn’t going to use him, then he could tell him that he wasn’t needed.
  • Martin Scorsese said later that making this film was an “unsettling” experience. In part because of the embarrassing, bitter material of the script. Scorsese said that he and Robert De Niro may have not worked together again for seven years.

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