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Parents' Guide to

The King of Comedy

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 13+

Scorsese movie about the perils of fame has mature themes.

Movie PG 1983 105 minutes
The King of Comedy Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 10+

Based on 3 parent reviews

age 12+

one of Robert Dinero's best performances and a film that does what Joker does better than Joker did.

The King Of Comedy is an effortlessly enjoyable comedy but also a deeply layered and incredibly well executed character study. This film has arguably Robert Deniro’s best performance. His ability to just convey so much about this character without even needing to say anything is truly exceptional. This film has also aged so remarkably well because even though it looks very dated I think that makes it all the more enjoyable. The writing in this movie is also very sharp and does a great deal to flesh out our three main characters. This film is about so many things but the first and most obvious one is delusions of grandeur, Rupert thinks that he is the most talented comedian and imagens how great everything will be when he gets his big break which is something that we all images at one point or another but the thing that makes Rupert’s so different is that he begins to believe them and because he start to believe them he thinks he is too good for the process of becoming famous and will be able to take shortcuts to get ahead. Whenever people try to lead him to the start line he ignores them because he is too good for that and it would be a waste of his time. Another Idea expressed is finding meaning in suffering, Rupert’s parents were alcoholics and he was bullied and not well liked in school and he has taken this trauma and these difficulties as the reason he needs to be famous, there needs to be an explanation for his suffering it can’t all be for nothing. Rupert himself doesn't outright say this or even really acknowledge it and instead it manifests as his delusion of grandeur. This film also explores fame in a very interesting way, it looks great from the outside but is hell from the inside. Rupert wants to be famous more than anything and he only imagens the good because that is all the media has shown him but Jerry is famous and has what Rupert wants and he has a terrible time because of it, and Rupert is part of the problem he sees how much it harms Jerry’s well being but he just ignores it because how could being famous possibly be bad and I think that is the most timeless thing about this film people all over social media will label celebrities as rude or terrible people when all they want is just some peace and quiet and just want to be left alone. The last big thing that this film expresses is that to be famous you need to be doing it for other reason, famous comedians like Trevor Noah or Jimmy Fallon didn’t become comedians because they wanted to be famous but because they want to make people happy and make them laugh same with any other profession and that is the thing that Rupert doesn't realize, In his fantasies he doesn't imagen making people happy but instead people giving him admiration and that ladies and gentlemen is the problem with Rupert Pupkin.
age 13+

Much better than the Joker rip-off

A brilliantly funny film that shows off De Niro's complex chops as an actor. A film that is poignant today with social media stalking and pits two giants of cinema together. Jerry Lewis is fantastic and highly believable and De Niro...well...he is fantastic to behold and brings us in seamlessly into his fantastical reality.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (3 ):
Kids say (6 ):

Scorsese expertly subjects us to the cringe-making, distasteful experience of watching a fantasist relentlessly defy the reality around him. Like Scorsese's more blatantly violent Taxi Driver, The King of Comedy is not for the squeamish. Although somewhat gentler, Rupert has much in common with Taxi Driver protagonist Travis, who was also played by the remarkably versatile De Niro. Rupert is the grown-up unloved child who desperately believes that the adulation of strangers is the cure for the abuse and lovelessness of his youth. When Jerry kicks him out of his weekend house, Rupert shoots back, "Now I know I can't rely on anybody." The comment illustrates the depth of Rupert's misunderstanding of human relations.

The movie addresses the universal problem of fame and the way it can corrupt both the famous and those who are obsessed with them. Certain references, though, are particular to Scorsese's era. Jerry Lewis was once one of the most famous comic actors and directors on earth. Kids will probably be largely unfamiliar with other comedy greats mentioned -- Mel Brooks, Sid Cesar, and Ernie Kovacs -- and frequent talk show guests of the 1970s and '80s, including Tony Bennett, Liza Minnelli, and Gore Vidal. Similarly, in Rupert's fantasy, Jerry treats Rupert to a surprise on-air wedding. This echoes the 1969 wedding of musician Tiny Tim, a figure of bemusement and ridicule on the talk show circuit. But Rupert is thrilled and feels especially vindicated when his high school principal apologizes on national television for mistreating Rupert 20 years before. The apology is at the heart of what Rupert is after -- validation -- and what, Scorsese seems to suggest, everyone is after, in one way or another.

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