A borderline psychotic aspiring comedian stalks and eventually
kidnaps his talk-show host idol in order to get his shot at the big time.
The King of Comedy (1982)
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Written by Paul D. Zimmerman
Starring Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis, Diahnne Abbott,
Sandra Bernhard, Shelley Hack, Frederick De Cordova
The King of Comedy is the weirdest film from both Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro, as it features a protagonist who is both sympathetic and unlikable at the same time. De Niro plays insufferable nutjob Rupert Pupkin, who wants to be as great a comedian as his idol, talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) and will go to any and all lengths to achieve his pipe dream. The smart script keeps the characters from crossing the border into darker territory, making this film an oddball instead of a thriller, which is great because if it had been even a shade darker, it never would have worked.
This film stands on the strength of Robert De Niro's performance. He's never played a character like this before. Rupert Pupkin is a complete lunatic who plays out impossible scenarios in his head and ignores everything anybody says about him that paints him as such. His obsession with Jerry Langford is fueled by his passion to be the King of Comedy, which he believes can only be achieved with Jerry's help. After Jerry firmly gives him the brushoff, Rupert takes matters into his own hands and kidnaps Jerry with the help of fellow crazed fan Masha (Sandra Bernhard). Believe it or not, Rupert's determination pays off and he becomes an overnight success due to his insanity. Like I said, this film is weird, but it has a highly original and memorable story.
The King of Comedy is a strange blip on Scorsese's filmography, but it succeeds nonetheless. With the combined acting talents of Robert De Niro and Jerry Lewis, the film continues to hold up despite a lack of critical and financial success upon its release. It's long overdue for a cult comeback and with its bizarre but entertaining subject matter, I've no doubt it will happen soon.