Just Pillow Talk’s Birthday Nightmare: The King of Comedy (1983)
Welcome all to Just Pillow Talk’s continuing descent into madness. Having said that, though, I do honestly feel that Martin Scorsese is on a one man mission to preserve the poor devil’s sanity. Last time, when he was in the mire, Taxi Driver popped up and eased the pain temporarily, and this time it’s a much-overlooked gem of a film: The King of Comedy.
The alternative view, of course, is that it’s just setting him up for a real beating in the next round. To misquote someone famous: it’s not the misery that hurts, but the hope that really gets him down.
Let’s see how he got on…
We are going to pretend that the last film I reviewed, the movie not to be named, never existed. We will try to pick up the pieces and move on in the hopes of something that will not make yours truly want to physically harm the makers of said movie not to be named.
Yet another film I’ve never seen before on my journey to insanity, this one directed by Scorsese. The movie opens with Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis), a beloved talk show host, is absolutely mobbed by his adoring fans. One of those fans is Sandra Bernhard (Masha) is a loon, and another, Rupert Pupkin (Bobby DeNiro), is a comedian looking for his first big break. He begs Jerry to put him on his show. Jerry tells him to call his secretary to set something up, even though Rupert demonstrates what an unwavering tool he is.
In a scene that made me laugh, DeNiro acts out in his mom’s house that he is accepting Jerry’s offer to fill in for him for six weeks. See, that is funny DeNiro. Meeting the Parents and shit like that, not so much. Meanwhile, Bernhard gets a hold of Jerry’s number and gives him a disturbing call. His dinner scene with Rita is hilarious, from his dorky laugh and excruciating conversation, to showing her all his autographs, including giving her his own: “the more scribbled the name, the bigger the fame.” He wants to give her something more than her present situation of working in the bar.
Pupkin calls Jerry’s office relentlessly, and eventually stops by and meets his secretary, who tells him to send him a tape. Well, that night he works on the tape at home, despite his mom’s repeated shouts to quiet down. His looks of “c’mon mom, cut me some slack” are great. The feedback from the tape is not good, which isn’t surprising, and tell him to work on his one-liners and to start working at a club. He is escorted out of the building since he just wants to wait around…for an answer he wants to hear. Masha is waiting for him outside and tells him that Jerry is in fact in the building. Pupkin waltzes right back into the building and this time he is escorted out by a couple of security guards.
Does that deter Pupkin? Hell no! He brings Rita to Jerry’s house on the premise that he was asked to stay the weekend there to “hash” some of the finer points of his comedic act. The butler calls Jerry to come back from the golf course to deal with these “guests”. Even with Jerry bluntly telling Pupkin that he is a moron and to get out of his house, Pupkin is hesitant to leave. Pupkin takes this very badly, and proclaims that he will be fifty times more famous than Jerry.
So naturally Masha and Pupkin have the grandest of ideas..kidnapping Jerry while he walks down the street. They make Jerry call his office, and despite some struggles over the cue cards that Pupkin has him read off, requests that he be the first guest on the show. Despite Jerry’s best attempts to talk him out of it, Pupkin duct tapes him up. Masha takes the opportunity to have a candlelight dinner with the severely taped up Jerry. Pupkin uses a distraction to get into the studio, to perform his act as the “King”. The FBI are there and question him, but Pupkin is unperturbed and has an opening introduction for guest host Tony Randall to read before he does his monologue, which he gives to the studio people. They feel they’ll have enough time to find Jerry from the time the show is taped to when they have to broadcast, which is Pupkin’s request. Jerry manages to escape on his own when Masha agrees to remove the gobs and gobs of tape off of him so that they could make some whoopee. Thankfully he smacks her before taking off.
Pupkin, accompanied by the FBI, goes to the bar where Rita works to show her that in fact he did get on the Jerry Langford show. He does extremely well, and leaves the audience with the great tagline: “better to be a king for a night than a schmuck for life”. He serves his two years and gets out a king, signing a book deal and performing on tv.
I have to say I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, and actually preferred DeNiro’s performance here than in Taxi Driver because he played against type so effectively. I thought he was pitch perfect in his delivery, mannerisms as a struggling comedian. The movie has a nice flow to it with the exception of the whole sexual come on to Jerry by Sandra. I just think it didn’t work and took away from DeNiro’s journey, which was of course far more interesting. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie, and wasn’t expecting to laugh so much. I highly recommend this movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it. I give it 3 tigers wearing a hat out of 4. Well done Scorcese.
Next up: Blame it on Rio
The Nightmare so far…
1973 The World’s Greatest Athlete 1 / 4
1974 Deranged 0.5 / 4
1975 Shampoo 1.5 / 4
1976 Taxi Driver 3 / 4
1977 Black Samurai 1.5 / 4
1978 The Betsy 0 / 4
1979 Quintet 0 / 4
1980 Hero at Large 2/4
1981 Dogs of War 2.5/4
1982 The Beast Within 0/4: The Orangutan of Doom
1983 King of Comedy 3/4