The frequent collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro produce incredible results without fail. Goodfellas and Taxi Driver are the two most obvious choices, and it seems The King of Comedy is severely overshadowed by those two aforementioned classics.
By far one of the most interesting performances that Robert De Niro has ever delivered, his starring lead as Rupert Pupkin is probably one of his best. Edging closer to his performance in Taxi Driver, Pupkin is a man without any means of accessing reality. He visualises a fantasy friendship with his idol Jerry Langford, here played by Jerry Lewis. I’ve not seen Lewis in anything else aside from The Trust, but from what he delivers in The King of Comedy, I can safely assume he’s quite the talent.
He and De Niro have some great chemistry throughout, or lack thereof. It makes their relationship feel almost like a game of cat and mouse, with Pupkin consistently trying to contact Langford. It’s the epitome of an anti-hero. Are we meant to root for Pupkin? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop me from connecting to him and hoping he at least succeeds somewhat in his aims. His need for stardom and those ever infamous five seconds of fame.
Pupkin only works as a character because he’s actually quite good at what he does. He longs to break into the world of stand-up comedy, and as detailed throughout, he isn’t the worst comedian in the world. All of this comes down to some fantastic writing though, with a great script coming from Paul D. Zimmerman.
Black comedy has become a personal favourite of mine over recent years, and I feel that’s why The King of Comedy sat so well with me. Yet another Scorsese classic with a handful of interesting characters hiding some conventionally unsubstantial plot devices. De Niro and Lewis work tirelessly to bring this project to life, and it pays off well overall.