IT’S NO LAUGHING MATTER.
Autograph hunter Rupert Pupkin (Robert De Niro) idolizes the legendary late-night TV host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) and does everything in his power to launch a standup-comedy career on Langford’s show. After Raging Bull (1980), Martin Scorsese turned to comedy with a story partly inspired by a Johnny Carson stalker. Following Pupkin’s increasingly desperate attempts to get close to Lewis’s TV host is superbly awkward; the dark themes of obsession and an all-consuming search for fame makes the film a humorous companion to Taxi Driver (1976). De Niro is brilliant as the loser with a studio in his mom’s basement, but Lewis and Sandra Bernhard are also terrific as the host and another one of his crazed fans.
1983-U.S. 109 min. Color. Produced by Arnon Milchan. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Screenplay: Paul D. Zimmerman. Cast: Robert De Niro (Rupert Pupkin), Jerry Lewis (Jerry Langford), Diahnne Abbott (Rita Keane), Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack, Tony Randall… Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Cameo: Martin Scorsese.
Trivia: Filmed in 1981. Johnny Carson, Frank Sinatra and Orson Welles were allegedly considered for the part of Langford.
BAFTA: Best Original Screenplay.
Trivia: “Over the years, I began to realize how genuine and how serious my involvement in ‘The King of Comedy’ was. De Niro noticed that connection in Paul Zimmerman’s script first. De Niro was also more aware of autograph people and the idolization for the sake of idolization of celebrities. I understand that now, but I stumbled my way through it each day back then. Being around Jerry Lewis helped. He was an idol of mine, and represented all aspects of American show business, which meant a lot to me. [‘King of Comedy’] is about a certain aspect of our culture, and also about not taking yourself too seriously, even though I do. All of that came out during the making of the film.” (Scorsese, Vanity Fair)