#44: “Better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.”

king of comedy

#44: The King of Comedy — dir. Martin Scorsese

Yes, THIS is the Scorsese flick I picked.  And YES, it’s this far down the list.  But, the deal is, have you seen this film?  You may have seen the references on Family Guy or in other pop culture.  Meg tying up Brian with a ton of masking tape while she’s in her underwear talking about “good, clean fun.”  This is such a dark, creepy, well-assembled flick.  This is an almost insane mix of Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.  DeNiro’s performance here is incredibly unsettling, because it is so desperate and determined.

Most people regale his Travis Bickle or Jake Lamotta, but DAMN his Rupert Pupkin is startling.  I guess it’s because DeNiro typically plays tough guys.  That’s his thing.  And Pupkin isn’t tough, he’s the farthest from it.  He’s a schmuck, a yutz, a dork.  But a fucking dangerous dork.  Totally mentally unstable.  He sets up that basement with all the cardboard cutouts, which is almost sadder than imaginary friends.  Sandra Bernhard as Masha, who’s just as fucking bonkers.  And Jerry Lewis as Jerry Langford is astounding.  A man known for playing zany slapsticky goofy comedy just goes totally dark.  Just eerie and serious and just as menacing.

I watched this as part of the syllabus for a first-level screenwriting class I was T.A.ing.  I ended up watching it four times.  And each time, you see the unsettling build.  It’s so put together.  And while I love Scorsese’s “mafia work”, it’s easy to forget what a goddamn surrealist he was.


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