To what extent are you willing to go to fulfill your greatest wish, the one you’ve had since you were young? The dream that seems harder and harder to make true with the passing of the time. Many give up when faced with all of life’s obstacles. However, this is certainly not the case in the dramedy The King of Comedy (1982), the film directed by Martin Scorsese and starring a young Robert De Niro.
The film is set in the United States in the eighties, during the splendor of late night shows, where emerging comedians could find their audience through politically incorrect humor. As the public starts to see these entertainers as their idols, admiration turns into madness.
This is where Rupert Pupkin, played by De Niro, comes in as a small time humorist who never had the chance to show the world what he was capable of. During a chance meeting with top late night host Jerry Langford, played by Jerry Lewis, the celebrity comedian tells Rupert he’ll keep him in mind as a guest for the show just to get rid of him.
This is when Scorsese’s script comes alive, since the following situations show us the extent to which a person, desperate for fame, will go. Rupert is willing to go to any lengths so that Jerry can listen to the tape of his stand-up routine.
The film is full of sarcasm, irony, and dark comedy with a bizarre way of making the audience sympathize and relate to the protagonist. The only thing this young comedian wants is one night, a chance to prove his worth to everyone who has mocked him at some point in his life. With his motto being, “Better to be king for a night, than a schmuck for a lifetime," Rupert shows us how all that effort, time, and sacrifice is worth getting that one shot.
There is nothing more serious than humor. In fact, good comedy is a purely intellectual matter. Laughter, specifically the uncomfortable kind, can carry a heavier punch than what more serious forms of entertainment and art can provide.
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Translated by María Suárez