on January 19, 2003
Chances are that if Robert De Niro is in a movie, it's going to be good. (Especially the old classics.) This one is no exception and I can't believe it has taken me this long to finally see this amazing comedy. Finally out on DVD, "The King of Comedy" is a terrific film on all fronts.
Directed by Martin Scorsese, "The King of Comedy" is about a man named Rupert Pupkin (De Niro); a man with dreams of stand-up comedy success and superstardom on his mind. He doesn't spend too much time in the real world; his made-up world is far more enjoyable to him. There is hardly a moment in where he isn't daydreaming some. Rupert knows that the one man who can make his dreams come true is talk-show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis). Unfortunately, Langford wants absolutely nothing to do with Pupkin and sees him only as another star-crazed and psychotic fan. So, Rupert decides to do the next best thing that will guarantee him a spot on Jerry's show; he kidnaps him. Everything else just goes straight to hell after that with unpredictable twists and turns.
This was a very funny and well-done movie that should've gotten more recognition when it was first out. Although it may have never gotten the attention it deserved while in theatres, I feel it is more popular now than ever before. I've always heard people quote the movie but never knew of which movie they were talking about. Robert De Niro is amazing as ever and really has fun with his role. Jerry Lewis is also incredible as the bitter talk show host who just wants to be left alone by everybody. Sandra Bernhard also deserves mention because I thought she was hilarious in this as well.
I still can't believe this is a Martin Scorsese film. I know all the familiar camera angels and techniques are there, but this is so different from anything else he has ever done. He proves that his movies don't have to be violent and have to be full of profanities to be enjoyable. He captures the absurdity and outrageousness perfectly. Scorsese isn't just a terrific film maker, he is a unique storyteller as well.
The DVD is quite good as well. Not the best, but has some very neat features to it. I thought the transfer was really good, being that it is such an old movie. I thought the picture looked great, although it did have its moments where it could've looked better. However, the overall presentation was very impressive. There are a few special features such as a making-of-featurette, still gallery, and a theatrical trailer and TV spot. I wished there would've been more extras, but I was still satisfied for the most part.
"The King of Comedy" is a wildly entertaining film that had me laughing from start to finish. With a creative story and terrific acting, this is an amazing film that should be seen by all. A true Scorsese classic gem that I will never get tired of.
on July 11, 2006
This strange movie has stayed with me since the first time I saw it almost 20 years ago. In fact, I've never forgotten the name, "Rupert Pupkin," a odd name made famous by Robert De Niro as the leading actor in this unique drama/comedy/ crime film. De Niro was just outstanding, one of his best efforts in an illustrious career.
Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard also were really good here, in supporting roles. Comedians sometimes make great dramatic actors as Lewis has demonstrated in several films. I don't know, frankly, if Bernard has ever done anything remotely as good as this.
Biographies of eccentric people usually are interesting and this one more than fits the bill. This movie was not popular with audiences and a number of critics but I think it was superbly done with laugh-out-loud lines as well as subtle humor and great acting. It is a wonderful character study of obsessed fans of celebrities, a pitiful condition that exists even more today.
If you have a warped sense humor you'll really love this film. I think it is perhaps the best-ever from De Niro and director Martin Scorcese.
on October 1, 2005
That's what happens when a movie is being made by true masters. De Niro and Scorsese created many films together and it seems everything they lay their hands on turns to gold - whether it's a gangster flick or a comedy. There are practically no jokes in "The King of Comedy" (except the ones De Niro and Jerry Lewis let off during their stand-up acts, but that's a comedy within a comedy) but this film is just killing. It pretends to be very serious but this seriousness is also hilarious. That's a real skill to make a no-nonsense movie everybody will be laughing madly about. To my opinion this is one of the best works of Robert De Niro (I know - he had many, but this one really deserves to be called so), Jerry Lewis - I can't describe how great he is here, and Sandra Bernhard is also outstanding.
"The King of Comedy" is a less known film of Martin Scorsese and I can't find an explanation why. But the fact it's not that known as his other works doesn't diminish its value. Grab this flick as soon as possible - it's one of the best tragicomedies ever put on celluloid.
Be forewarned, this is not a laugh out loud comedy that will have you rolling in the isles. It is a more subtle yet utterly hysterical satire that pokes fun at the road to fame and the dim-witted hacks that clutter that said road. It exposes the disease that it fame and how easy it is for one to deceive themselves into thinking they have what it takes; and then again how easy it is for someone who lacks talent to make it on pure ambition alone.
`The King of Comedy' revolves around Robert Pupkin, a delusional wannabe comedian who sees local late night talk show host Jerry Langford as his ticket to the big leagues. Every night on the `Jerry Show' they have a `King of Comedy' and Pupkin desires to be that said king. He tries to corner Jerry, prodding him with material and asking him to consider letting him on the show, but when Jerry tries to let him down easy he only retaliates with a more forceful approach. After several failed attempts to become a part of Jerry's life Rupert finally decides that he has to take a more extreme approach to the matter, and that's when he enlists the help of another obsessive fan, Masha, in a kidnapping scheme that finally gets Rupert the attention he feels he deserves.
The script is deliciously subtle, a script that relies on the audiences perception of events rather than obvious gags. Case-in-point, one never hears Rupert's actual standup until the very end of the film, so we are only to conclude that he is a no-talent hack with no potential on the reactions of others, making up our own minds much later on in the film.
It is the strong performances that really elevate the film though, Robert De Niro once again proving why he was considered the greatest actor of his generation. As Rupert, De Niro never makes him a likable guy but always presents him in a way that endears us to him. He is annoying and obnoxious and completely delusional but there is some small quality within him that is so honestly human we can't help but relate. I mean which one of us hasn't had a fake conversation with a celebrity just to feel what it would be like to be `on their level'?
I found myself wondering if I am that delusional in my desire to be famous...
The rest of the cast is just as wonderful, from Jerry Lewis who actually plays it straight here, reigning in his own comedic energy to play the average celebrity trying his hardest to live a normal life. Sandra Bernhard steals every scene as Masha, throwing her over-the-top antics in our face and causing that ripple effect in our guts until we're bursting with laughter.
If ever there was a film to squash the claim that Martin Scorsese only directs gangster flicks, this would be that film. It is smart, witty and insanely honest and drives Scorsese (and even De Niro) in a direction they rarely venture. It is one of Scorsese's finest films and one of De Niro's finest performances, and that's saying a lot since both director and actor are usually phenomenal.
The films ending is rather appropriate, and actually elevates the film for me for it speaks such honesty, especially in a world littered with fake celebrities (I'm looking at you Kim Kardashian). In a reality based society where misfits litter the audition segments of top shows like `American Idol' it appears that `The King of Comedy' is more pertinent today than it was upon its release. Maybe that's why the film garnered no traction at the time. This is sad; for `The King of Comedy' is one of the smartest comedies I have had the pleasure of seeing and is one that is sure to get a rise out of anyone who is remotely up to date with today's pop culture.
on March 27, 2014
First, some remarks about the Blu-ray release, a long time in coming. The video transfer is quite good. Audio is monaural but remixed to DTS-HD. It's a very high quality rendition of the monaural you would have heard in the theater. The scenes showing the broadcast TV program are quite soft. That was intentional in the original filming. Scorsese deliberately filmed those scenes using the low fidelity videotaping systems used for studio recording TV programs to make them realistic looking as they would have been seen in analog NTSC TV broadcasts (this film was made fifteen years before HDTV). Might not be evident on the DVD, but is quite evident on the Blu-ray as it undoubtedly was in its theatrical projection.
If you're expecting the typical Jerry Lewis slapstick, move on. There isn't any of it in this film. Aside from a couple lines of talk show host monologue he plays a completely straight non-comedic role and does an excellent job of it. It's blatantly obvious his character (Jerry Langdon) is portraying Johnny Carson and The Tonight Show. (For those too young to remember, Carson was Jay Leno's predecessor). He should have received more recognition for it. Sandra Bernhardt is nearly over the top with her portrayal of a manic obsessive. IMO it's deliberate to provide sufficient contrast with Pupkin's (De Niro's) obsession. Robert De Niro is completely immersed in his role and plays it with his usual mastery throughout. The magnitude of his role compared to the rest of the cast dominates the story, its limited action and its dialogue. His skill as an actor clearly shows and he carries the film.
The very dark comedy and its style is atypical of Scorsese. It's a significant departure from three previous film collaborations with De Niro: Mean Streets, Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. (New York, New York with De Niro and Liza Minnelli is a different departure in a musical.) I found De Niro's character, Rupert Pupkin, almost painfully embarrassing to watch at times. I wanted to feel some sympathy for his pathetic bumbling life filled with delusions, but it's impossible as he's also an obsessively obnoxious jerk oblivious to how he's continuously humiliating himself without any respite for the entire film. I was left at the end feeling this was deliberate on the part of Scorsese, that he didn't want Pupkin to have anyone's sympathy. The discomfort I felt regarding Pupkin during the first 2/3rds of the film eventually gave way to the absurdity of his self-destructive actions, and if "Greatness" wasn't possible he was going down in a blaze of "Glory" which he does quite dramatically. Even then, at the very end, he still cannot give up his lesser obsession with the barmaid (a high school acquaintance) and his delusions of greatness.
Overall, well done by Scorsese and the principal actors and actresses. Don't expect the norm though for Scorsese, Lewis or De Niro.
on November 8, 2014
Some reviews come easy and others by way of great difficulty. This is one of the really difficult ones = Martin Scorsese's "The King of Comedy" which presents multiple-challenges to the viewer (although these challenges are worth taking, for an exceedingly-adventurous audience - but it does require some patience, and perhaps a more than slightly 'angular/off-centered' outlook, to fully appreciate?!)
Firstly, even though this is by Scorsese (and stars De Niro and Jerry Lewis), I had never seen it until recently ordering the Blu-Ray on Amazon => although like millions of other movie fans, I had savored the (often-times explosive) dramatic-intensity of the renowned Scorsese masterpieces "Raging Bull" "Goodfellas" "Cape-Fear" "Casino" along with his more recent head-spinning turns like "Shutter-Island" and strongly-agree that Scorsese is one of the extremely rare remaining genuine-cinematic-auteurs of the current Day.
But I had absolutely no idea how deftly Scorsese would handle the 'dark-comedy' and anticipated sardonic social-commentary pinpointing the culture of 'instant' celebrity-obsession (greatly intensified in the early 1980's with the advent of VCRs, burgeoning Cable-TV and start of the 24/7 entertainment-news Cycle). I had briefly read about this film, and recollect descriptive terms applied such as: 'underrated' 'prescient' 'sharply revealing' et al. I was also mystified by the fact that this film was one of Martin Scorsese's rare financial disappointments - not necessarily a negative indication, in terms of quality, but probably partly why I never got around to seeing it until now.
Now, after just watching this remarkably unique film (to say the least) I almost feel a need to immediately re-watch certain key scenes, in order to (further unravel the mystery) and provide a more meaningful review (because I definitely perceived a lot more going on just 'below-the-surface' but the narrative-structure is so unorthodox = much of it in monologue as opposed to dialog, also constantly shifting from 'fantasy' to reality, particularly in the early segments - but the second-half (after the momentous 'event') sharply hones in on its subject-matter and intensifies significantly (both in terms of Story & Acting).
However, my overall-initial response tended to reflect a bit of perplexed 'ambivalence' ==> by no means, toward the high-quality of the film itself (and not in regards to Scorsese's expert-filmmaking) but really my emotional response to its protagonist 'Rupert 'Pupkin' played by Robert De Niro.
De Niro provides a solidly intriguing performance, without a doubt, but Director Scorsese (intentionally I think, but can't be quite sure) seems to maddeningly prevent the audience from strongly/ directly-feeling either genuine sympathy/ or genuine aversion towards the persona and plight of 'Rupert' = he is likable enough thru much of the film (even though obviously suffering from some level of clinical-narcissism), but this primary-characterization also appears to border on the intentionally 'bland' and somewhat unnaturally 'mellow' at least until the momentous 'event' slightly after the film's mid-way point (i.e. throughout most of this movie, Rupert did not generate the 'manic' energy and/or warp-speed delivery usually associated with budding stand-up comics, whether funny or not). And thru the first-half, Rupert seemed to be either a perfectly-trained Zen-master, keeping all his negative (and even positive) emotions in check - or perhaps not feeling any emotions to begin with?! (like a comedy 'android' automaton with that constant/ perpetual 'Holiday-Inn supervisor/greeter' smile and programmed/telegraphed 'laugh'), Perplexing indeed! But again, De Niro's performance does intensify considerably, during the second-half.
After the major 'event' (which I will not get into, for those who have not yet seen this), the film & Story became much more engaging, and much more 'Scorsese' like (though still a bit subdued). But it is also in the second-half that the supporting characters begin to shine ==> particularly 'Masha' played by Sandra Bernhard, who really gets to release/realize her substantial pent-up 'crazy/manic' energies (and also expresses her obsessive love for Jerry Langford/aka Jerry Lewis!) Bernhard's is a truly inspired performance (almost like experimental-theater), but her screen-time is much too brief.
And Jerry Lewis is astonishingly 'real' fully expressing the persona of somewhat jaded/ cynical (and tired) Late-night talk-show superstar, who believes he's seen it all, until meeting-up with the hyper-celebrity-obsessed super narcissists: "Rupert & Masha" (aka De Niro and Bernhard)!
Seriously, I think when they refer to underrated, they really mean Lewis who is so authentically 'real' applying a nearly unnoticeable acting-style (he just seems so naturally jaded, a bit arrogant and even cynically 'humorless' = seeing Comedy as just another competitive/calculated 'business' where nice guys like Rupert apparently always deserve to finish Last?!)
Part of the 'extras' include a deleted 'extended' monologue that Jerry gives in the guise of Langford (quite good - Jerry should have had his own/ real nightly show - did he once have one, a long-time ago?)
Diahnne Abbott is also quite good as Rupert's unattainable 'dream-girl' Rita (projecting an image of consummate 'cool' with contradictory incredulity!) - as 'extras' there are deleted/extended scenes featuring Rita and Rupert.
I might have to watch this one again, Scorsese does paint a memorable and somewhat forlorn rendition of the sadly celebrity/fame-obsessed (seeking their coveted '15-minutes') and the absurd lengths to which some will go in order to get noticed in the frigidly-insecure World of cut-throat Comedy 'business' - but at the same time (and in a surreal way) allows the hapless Rupert Pupkin to strangely 'succeed' in his own bizarrely inventive (though 'unhinged') fashion!
additional notes: this Blu-ray version presents a clean, restored/ remastered image (although with a few exceptions of out-door NYC street-scenes, most of the film takes place within interiors of TV studios, or the homes of Rupert or Masha - and some of it was intentionally 'recorded' on Video-tape for realism).
A short making-of documentary is also included, but the real fine 'Gem' is a recent 2012 Tribeca-film-Festival Q&A with Scorsese, De Niro, and Jerry Lewis = interesting discussion mentioning that De Niro discovered this script first (sometime in 1974) and it took years for him to convince friend Scorsese to make it, and also that they did not intend the film to be intentionally 'funny' and much of its dark (and sometimes even 'uncomfortable') humor was improvised ==> Lewis joins them and he is as engaging, animated and zany as ever = Lewis still razor--sharp, even into his Late-80's!
It also has a commentary-track (which I normally do not listen to until much later) and a number of extended-scenes, some mentioned above.
In summary: Recommended to the adventurous cinephile, mainly for the unusual performances (and the even more unusual point-of-view) but don't expect typical Scorsese, this is more of a slowly simmering/ smoldering stew, as opposed to his usual combustibly-charged, acidic-Boil.
on February 16, 2001
I was delighted to discover this ironic and disturbing movie, directed with a sure hand by Scorsese and acted to the hilt by Robert De Niro. Sometimes movies walk a fine line between repelling an audience and fascinating it. This movie flopped at the box office precisely because of the irritating behavior of it's protagonist, yet the plot and performances are garnering increasing appreciation over the years. I was held in fascinated suspense, even though Rupert Pupkin has all the traits of an obsessed borderline personality, because the story develops with originality and an odd humor.
I found myself first repelled by Rupert because his "profile" could be that of a budding serial killer -- but on the other hand he is relatively benign and his increasingly outrageous attempts to impose himself upon talk show host Jerry Langford become funny, because he deserves to fail, and he does fail most of the time. Pupkin gets rejected, snubbed, ignored, barely tolerated, and unceremoniously ejected by most everyone at the television network where Jerry works. They've all got his number. We've all known people who doggedly pursue others to the point at which their behavior gets them branded a "nut." This is certainly Jerry Langford's opinion of Pupkin, particularly when Pupkin makes himself at home with his unsuspecting date at Jerry's place in a posh desert resort. We come to respect the Langford character, and Jerry Lewis' fine performance, more and more every time Jerry tells Pupkin off. Jerry Lewis is so good one begins to wonder how much is drawn from his own personality, but I think it's a testament to his rightness for the role.
Sandra Bernhard is also mesmerizing as Rupert's nearest sympathizer and Jerry-groupie in her own right. The plot culminates with DeNiro and Bernhard kidnapping Lewis in a sequence that evoked the loudest amazed laughter from me. Sandra is is fascinating, animated and wild-eyed, but without going over the top. She, like the other principals, maintains a strong degree of realism in the performance. Sandra winds up cluelessly attempting to seduce her hostage in sexy underwear while he's tied to a chair, in one of the movie's most entertaining scenes.
I think this movie works because it is such an unblinking look at people we don't often see in movies, the mildly delusional people who walk the streets and annoy and embarrass us, but never seem to get arrested until they do something really outrageous. DeNiro and Bernhard are loony-toons and the plot lets them be thwarted and rebuffed and scorned, which is funny while being comforting to us. We become alternately angry and embarrassed for the two groupies as we watch their clueless harrassment of people who intensely dislike them. Yet on another level, if we've ever been rejected by a pompous employer, we might sympathize a little with Pupkin's feelings even as we disapprove his methods.
The ending of the movie (I believe there was more than one written and shot) is Scorsese's wit showing through. Some folks find the ending off-putting but I take it as an ironic punchline, to be enjoyed precisely because it is so provocative. And the ending makes a good point -- that undeserving nuts sometimes do luck into celebrity, that jerks sometimes do reach the top, and that an American audience at times bestows fame on people who, if they knew them personally, would make their skin crawl. This in itself is a humorous irony and an excellent point.
KING OF COMEDY is tough to explain, but it is fine work by a great director and cast. My guess is that people either love this movie or hate it -- there isn't much room in the middle. This may not make my top ten, but it is definitely on my list of favorites. It will be in my collection when released on DVD.
on March 17, 2011
This is a marvelous film from Martin Scorsese. If it weren't such a classic, I would have docked a star off of my rating for the quality of the DVD. I was disappointed in the quality of the picture and sound on the DVD release. I usually don't mind if the print is a little dated, but "The King Of Comedy" needs to be remastered b/c the transfer here is just awful. Blurry (and yes, it's supposed to look like a blurry broadcast at times, but not ALL the time) and VERY GRAINY. And it's a shame too, because this is a fantastic film. There are 2 deleted scenes, both Jerry Lewis scenes, with the most valuable being a deleted monologue from Lewis. Other than that, there's an 18 minute "making-of" documentary which is ok, but doesn't delve into De Niro, the actor, as much as I'd hoped. That's all we've got here. However, I would still encourage anyone considering it to buy this item. I don't think you'll regret it if you have an appreciation for subtle and mature humor.
"Better to be king for a night than a schmuck for life." - - Rupert Pupkin is a wannabe comedian played magnificently by Robert De Niro in this often overlooked Martin Scorsese classic. If you are expecting the style of humor you would get in a modern classic like "Dumb and Dumber" then you should look elsewhere. There are some very funny laugh-out-loud moments in this picture, but much of the comedy is black and subtle. As almost any review of this film states, De Niro's character (Pupkin) is similar to the character he played in "Taxi Driver", Travis Bickle. Both characters are isolated and shunned by the world. Both characters are embarrassingly inept at achieving their goals. The 2 characters are both loners that are simply trying to get some sense of satisfaction in an otherwise distasteful life. In "The King Of Comedy" however, we aren't frequently presented with drama, and when we are, it's hilarious. So this is for people who enjoy a black comedy and subtle humor (maybe in other words, clean and mature adult humor). And if you love Scorsese and De Niro like I do, this was the film that they made together following "Raging Bull" and proceeding "Goodfellas" so this is right in Scorsese and De Niro's hay-day. Jerry Lewis notably stars in a supporting role and is fantastic as well. Even Sandra Bernhard is tolerable in this film. That's all thanks to Marty though. A classic. 5 stars.
on April 27, 2014
Some people felt the movie made them uncomfortable or were just embarrassed at Rupert Pupkin's cluelessness and persistence.
But the acting by all three leads (Sandra Bernhard never topped this performance for sheer crazy) and the "didn't see it coming" plotting second half are so good you must see this movie.
The extras include a "making of" which is pretty good but you'll wish it went deeper (this was also on the prior DVD release.)
The new features are:
The Tribeca Film festival interview with Lewis, Scorsese and DeNiro which has some funny stories, but only 87-year-old Jerry Lewis seems to be awake or paying attention.
Then the deleted scenes...well, they are interesting as film history, but they should have been deleted:
2 scenes delve more deeply into Rita's character
Jerry Lankford's entire monologue at the beginning of the movie
bits and pieces of other scenes that don't really add much.
All-in-all, if you are a cult member/fan of this movie you won't be disappointed in this package.
I almost didn't buy the Blu-ray, because of negative comments about a poor transfer. The transfer is supposedly from the camera negative, and often looks it, as in the first scene with Rupert and Rita. The blacks are deep, the colors rich, and the sharpness and detail exemplary. (I sometime wonder what equipment some viewers own.) You can buy the Blu-ray without fear.
"The King of Comedy" is the complementary "bookend" of another Scorsese masterpiece, "Taxi Driver", with Robert DeNiro playing asocial, near-psychotic fame-obsessed characters in both. Both films play strongly against audience expectation -- "King" even more than "Taxi".
In "The King of Comedy", DeNiro's character, Rupert Pupkin -- a seemingly untalented standup-comic wannabe -- is played for very black non-laughs. Rupert is so cut off from normal social interaction that he's unable to make any progress towards becoming the "king of comedy" he knows he's destined to be. When an encounter with his late-night idol Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) finally opens the possibility of appearing on television, he completely blows the chance, throwing him into the anguish that provokes increasingly demented assaults on his idol.
On your first viewing -- and likely your third and tenth -- you'll be so violently embarrassed by Pupkin's self-destructive behavior that your toes will spastically curl down -- and stay there. You'll squirm so much you'll think you've mutated into a graboid. Rumor has it the actors //themselves// were so embarrassed that scenes which should have taken hours to film took //days//.
This acute discomfort explains the film's box-office failure (not to mention its "sitting in the can" for a year) -- the average viewer isn't interested in a protagonist devoid of any sympathetic or redeeming characteristics -- until the end.
The ending wholly upsets our expectations. Though we've been lead to believe Rupert lacks any mirth-provoking skills, he shows himself quite able to get an audience to laugh. His routine might not be brilliant, but he's no less funny than most comedians guesting on late-night talk shows.
Significantly, Pupkin's routine isn't a series of jokes, but a more or less literal recitation of his miserable childhood. What the audience finds funny is actually Rupert's personal tragedy. We finally understand why he's so screwed up. (I emphatically disagree with Roger Ebert that the film has no "payoff" and the ending is "cynical and unsatisfying". But then, Ebert had trouble with unconventional comedies.)
Though "Taxi Driver" and "The King of Comedy" are fundamentally similar, the latter inverts two important elements of the former...
>> Despite its gritty look, "Taxi Driver" is fundamentally romantic, while "King of Comedy" treats the material in a semi-documentary style. Scorsese never "tells" us how we're supposed to react to the characters.
>> We're initially annoyed (to say the least!) by Rupert Pupkin, then ultimately sympathize with him. Travis Bickle is at first the sympathetic loner, until we realize he's a psycho -- underscored (pun intended) by Bernard Herrmann's re-use of the three-note "mad house" theme at the end.
Which brings us to the films' use of music. The "Taxi Driver" score came from the greatest film composer yet to have set pen to paper, while "King of Comedy" has //no// score. Why?
Bernard Herrmann felt music was needed to make an emotional connection between the screen and the audience. This ain't necessarily so -- you can fully convey the most-profound emotions in a scoreless film (eg, "The Execution of Private Slovick").
Music's ability to enhance emotion is //so// strong it can override the director's intentions. This is probably why Hitchcock initially told Herrmann //not// to score Janet Leigh's shower. Without music, the scene is indescribably brutal. With Herrmann's music, its Expressionistic elements are raised to the Nth power. Is it any wonder Hitchcock was thrilled and let the music stand?
Scorsese must have recognized this, and realized that any musical "comment" on Rupert Pupkin's behavior would only soften and sentimentalize the audience's reaction to him. When Pupkin makes an utter fool of himself, the audience has to experience it directly -- gurgling bassoons can't be telling the viewer they're not supposed to take it seriously. Similarly, when we finally begin to understand Rupert at the end, Scorsese doesn't want to sentimentalize the moment.
If you have any lingering doubts about seeing "The King of Comedy", there's //one thing// in it (ignoring even DeNiro's incredibly perfect "should have won an Oscar" performance -- he //is// Rupert Pupkin) that fully justifies a viewing: After kidnapping Langford, Pupkin and Masha tie him to a chair, then duct-tape his mouth.
The sight of "Mr. Greasy-Hair No-Talent" himself, Jerry Lewis, with his mouth taped shut (Oh, joy! Oh, rapture!), is worth the price of admission, many, many times over. If all of Martin Scorsese's work were destroyed, except for this one scene, it would be enough to sanctify his art as a movie maker. I grovel at Scorsese's feet, for (at least symbolically) putting the French toast of intellectuals in his place. It's doubly pleasing, because Lewis's turn as Langford is, consciously or not, strikingly self-satirizing. He was the //only// actor for the role.
If you have Microsoft Cinemania, look up the Ebert and Kael reviews. Ebert's shows why he is one of the finest critics around -- whether or not you agree with him, you come away with a better understanding of a film. (It's also worthwhile reading Ebert's review of "Taxi Driver" to see how much of what he says about that film can be applied to "The King of Comedy.") Kael's review shows that the only insight she has into anything is her own self-serving attitude. There was never a "serious" movie critic who brought //less// -- intellectually or emotionally -- to the reviewing process than Pauline Kael (qv, her review of "2001").
Is "The King of Comedy" a truly great film? I don't know. But it //is// a terrific piece of totally uncompromising film making. Anyone who claims to love movies should see it.