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The King of Comedy


"Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime"

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Serially unsuccessful entertainer Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) is obsessed with becoming a comedy great. Endlessly passionate but an abject failure, he spends his days hosting an imaginary talk show in his mother's basement. After he meets his idol – actual talk show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) – he's quickly convinced the connection will provide his big break. But when Langford gives him the run-around, Pupkin begins stalking the man and soon teams up with his somewhat psychotic friend Masha (Sandra Bernhard) to kidnap the unlucky television star.

Why See This Film

The opening film at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival, The King of Comedy is a pitch-black satire of celebrity culture and obsessive fandom that feels eerily prescient in this age of parasocial influencer relationships. Although Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Orson Welles were all initially considered for the role of Jerry Langford, it’s a small miracle that the part eventually went to veteran Jerry Lewis. Alongside De Niro and a career-best Bernhard, he delivers a beautifully hilarious performance for the ages. Although the film had its admirers on release (including Wim Wenders and Akira Kurosawa) it was a box office disaster and savaged by critics like Pauline Kael— a fact Scorsese still bitterly brings up in his daughter's TikToks over 40 years later.

Martin Scorsese
Robert De Niro, Sandra Bernhard, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott
109 minutes

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