This Martin Scorsese film came out in 1983, when I was too busy raising children and religions to watch many movies, and although I had heard vague nice things about it, it was off my radar until recently.
Plot summary: Rupert Pupkin is obsessed with becoming a comedy great. However, when he confronts his idol, talk show host Jerry Langford, with a plea to perform on Jerry's show, he is only given the run-around. He does not give up, however, but persists in stalking Jerry until he gets what he wants. Eventually he must team up with his psychotic Langford-obsessed friend Masha to kidnap the talk show host in hopes of finally getting to perform his stand-up routine.
This so-called "comedy" was for me a terrifying horror movie. While I'm no Jerry Langford (played by Jerry Lewis), I've sure known my fair share of Rupert Pupkins (Robert DeNiro).
I am honestly surprised that Janor Hypercleats never tried to sue Robert DeNiro. "He's playing ME!! That's my life! That's my mustache! That's my suit! That's my psychotic girlfriend!" Of course, there's a little Rupert Pupkin in everybody. I've certainly had my Rupert Moments, especially when the brass ring of Conspiracy Fame started to loom, before it luckily retreated. Still, I couldn't help but identify with the Jerry Langford character, whose fame has turned his life into a constant battle for privacy and an escape from the NEEDY PEOPLE.
Yes, I've known many a Rupert Pupkin. They decide that YOU are the one who can give them their BIG BREAK. But when you try to be realistic with them and shoot straight, suddenly in their eyes YOU become THE ONE THING that's holding them back. They want to BECOME YOU… but YOU aren't what they THINK you are. (See: Bob Dean/purple.) But they're stubborn beyond all rationality. Everyone they're trying to push their great talent on gives them the brush-off, or insults them, or calls the cops, or humors them and says "call my secretary tomorrow," ANYTHING to get away from this pushy idiot, and yet the Ruperts interpret ALL of it as ENCOURAGEMENT.
The MOVIE, of course, being a movie, has a happy ending. Even though Rupert's comedy IS lame and dumb, once he finally, criminally forces a network to air his act, in the context of slick live Letterman-style late night TV, with jazzy music and an intro by a known comedian, the public loves it and Yay, the stalwart lone nut wins because he persevered.
As Nenslo pointed out about Harvey and mental illness, however, there are no Elwood P. Dowds in the real world of mental illness. Friendly Pookas are only in the movies. And though there are plenty of Rupert Pupkins around, only in the movies do they end up in the movies. the Ruling Class is actually a more accurate portrayal of these types in that the ending is more realistic. (The guy who thinks he's Jesus starts murdering people because he decides he's Jack the Ripper, too.)
The King of Comedy is still a really funny movie. But if you're the "star" that some fuck-up wants his "big break" from, it's also a really SCARY movie.
The fact that I'm so far from being a "star" makes my Ruperts look all the more insane.
There's a title. "All My Ruperts."
– review by Rev. Ivan Stang