Cinerama: The King of Comedy

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Cinerama: The King of Comedy

By Mike Derderian

Did you ever notice how all American presidents in action films are asleep when a major national catastrophe ensues? As a mental patient known as the Hood threatens to blow up the world using a stolen nuclear VX bomb.

“Oh, my God general this man means business. I’m afraid we have to call the president,” Colonel Sanders sighed after witnessing how the megalomaniac terrorist blew up a whole district on a television screen. “Can someone please wake up the president,” Sanders yells for his assistant.

Now wait a minute! If terrorists have state-of-the-art broadcasting equipment, then how come we always end up watching a crappy video of Bin Laden, where colors are usually green and faded and the sound… don’t get me started on the sound, because it makes the colors look good!  My best guess is that they probably don’t have enough funding like the production companies owned by the FBI and the CIA.

If you found the above prologue funny then I am the newest king of comedy just like Rupert Pupkin, the disturbed comedian in Martin Scorsese’s 1983 King of Comedy, with one difference, I don’t have to kidnap my editor in order to publish my work—not yet that is.

The film stars Robert De Niro, Diahnne Abbott, Sandra Bernhard and Jerry Lewis as Jerry Langford, a very successful and highly publicized television comedian. Contrary to its title, this isn’t a humorous film at all, except for Rupert’s brief stand up comedy act and a few stints by comedy legend Jerry Lewis, who completely deflected his hilarious on-screen persona and replaced it with a grim and nasty character.

Rupert Pupkin (De Niro) is not your ordinary middle-aged man; he lives with his mother, thinks that he has the stuff fit for a stand-up-comedian, is a pathological liar and is obsessed with Jerry Langford. Bad combo, wouldn’t you say?

Seeking fame through comedy isn’t easy, in fact it is one of the most difficult paths to tread upon. Standing on stage in front of an audience of fifty or more with the limelight fixed straight on your face and your heart beating so fast that will almost burst out any second is one the greatest feelings a person can experience.

Pupkin so eerily redefines the phrase, “If you don’t succeed in the first time, try and try again”, to a degree that the mere thought of having such a person on your tail makes your funny bones* shudder in fear. With the belief that appearing on Langford’s late night comedy show is the only way he’ll attain success as a comedian, Pupkin, after failing to socialize with the hard boiled celebrity, decides to join hands with Masha.

Sandra Bernhard very skillfully dons the straitjacket character especially when she decides to woo Langford, who as Pupkin very funnily announces is tied up. (If you thought that Glen Close’s performance in Fatal Attraction was scary, then Bernhard’s enactment will make you think again).

Langford’s business associates believe that Pupkin’s material isn’t solid enough to be included during the show; so, rejected by the firm, Pupkin decides to pursue and pursued Langford by kidnapping him.

A person, or in this case a comedian, according to Scorsese’s gritty vision, shouldn’t be judged less he is put to the ultimate test: The public. Nothing beats the cheers or boos of an audience to catapult or crash a person’s career; and in America even a serial killer can have more than fifty minutes of glory to that matter. They end up writing a bestseller with titles such as the following: My life with the Axe, I Shot the Sheriff but I did not Shot the Deputy or King for a Night.

In the King of Comedy both Pupkin and Langford are antagonists—one is struggling for privacy while the other is aiming to have a life such as the one Lanford grew tired of—and along the way other people, like Pupkin’s high school sweetheart Rita (Abbott), are attracted to the allure of stardom and wealth offered to them by person like Pupkin.

His words, “Better to be king for a night than a schmuck for a lifetime”, wouldn’t sound more true, for even to us normal people, an essential question arises: How much are you willing to sacrifice to get what you want? Are you willing to go on living an ordinary life without even trying to shoot at the stars?

*Check out Jerry Lewis’ filmography and you might find a worthwhile comedy film to watch.

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