The King of Comedy (1983 film)

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The King of Comedy is a 1983 film about aspiring comic Rupert Pupkin who wants to achieve success in showbiz, by resorting to stalking his idol, a late night talk show host who craves his own privacy.

Directed by Martin Scorsese. Written by Paul D. Zimmerman.
It's no laughing matter. taglines

Rupert Pupkin[edit]

  • [to Jerry] Jesus, they certainly don't give you very good protection, do they? Look at you here. Who the hell is watching you? Any one of these freaks could just walk right up to you and do whatever he wants.
  • [to Rita, about Marilyn Monroe] She wasn't a great actress, but she had a real gift for comedy. She died tragically, you know, alone, like so many of the world's most beautiful women. I'm going to see that doesn't happen to you, Rita.
  • Every King needs a Queen, Rita. I want you to be mine.
  • [on tape] Now, Jerry. Before I begin, I just want to thank you for listening to this material and for the opportunity that you've given me. You know, lots of people think that guys like you, you know, people who have made it, lose their feeling for struggling young talent such as myself. But now I know from experience that those people are just cynics, embittered by their own failure. I know, Jerry, that you're as human as the rest of us, if not more so.
  • This wasn't an easy decision for me, Jerry, believe me. For one thing, I knew it meant we could never be friends again and that hurt me. It's hard to lose a friend, even one who has let you down. You always hope you can patch things up. You know, a guy like me doesn't make friends that easily. Why didn't you just listen to the tape when I asked you? Then I wouldn't have to be doing all this. Was it really too much to expect, a few minutes of your time to listen to something I'd worked on my whole life?
  • A lot of you are probably wondering why Jerry couldn't make it this evening. Well, he's tied up, and I'm the one who tied him. [laughter] You think I'm joking, but that's the only way I could break into show business -- by hijacking Jerry Langford. [laughter] I'm not kidding. Right now, Jerry Langford is strapped to a bedstead somewhere in the middle of this city. [laughter] Go ahead. Laugh. But the fact is . . . I'm here. Tomorrow you'll know I wasn't kidding, and you'll think I was crazy. But I figured it this way: better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime!

Masha[edit]

  • [to Pupkin, about Langford] All of a sudden, with a gun on him, he wants to make up and be friends. And, once he's out the door, what happens then?
  • [to Langford] I've got so much to tell you I just don't know what to begin with. Are you okay? [Langford mumbles, as he is bound and gagged] Good. Tell me if you're not. I guess you're wondering why I do stuff like this. I think it's because I'm a Leo, but my shrink says I'm pathologically rebellious and self-destructive. You don't think I'm self-destructive, do you? [Langford mumbles again] I knew you wouldn't. That's 'cause you're the only person in the world who really understands me.

Others[edit]

  • Rita Keane: [to Pupkin] You call me up all junior and senior year. Night after night after night, right? And every time I'm wondering 'when is this guy going to stop talking and ask me out?' Well, now I know the answer. August twelfth, nineteen seventy-six. It only took you ten, eleven years to work up to it.
  • Official: We are met here in these extraordinary circumstances to join this man and this woman in holy wedlock. But, before we begin, let me voice a personal word of thanks to you, Rupert and to you, Rita, for choosing me to perform this prestigious ceremony. Because we are on prime time, I am going to discard my customary remarks in favor of a few personal reflections. When I was principal at Clifton High and these two were students, I had very little faith that Rupert here would amount to very much. But like his teachers and his fellow students, I underestimated this fine young man. Some say that this misjudgment is directly tied to my recent dismissal as head of the Clifton School System. But let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. Knowing that Rupert and Rita here were most certainly destined for a great career and a lifetime of happiness, I voluntarily stepped down. I would only here add my own wishes to those of millions of viewers for their continued health, wealth and boundless success. We'll be back to marry them in a minute, right after this word.
  • Wilson Crockett: I just don't buy the idea that there are that many people out there crazy enough to spend their lives in prison for a few minutes on television.

Dialogue[edit]

Pupkin: What are you going to do with Jerry's autograph?
Young girl: I don't know. Maybe I'll sell it.
Boyfriend: I'll tell you what she's going to do with it. She's going to pin it on her bulletin board and have an orgasm.

Pupkin: I'm grateful for this chance to talk to you ... I hope I'm not boring you.
Langford: I'll let you know.
Pupkin: Really? Fine. I'm Rupert Pupkin, Jerry. I know that the name itself doesn't mean very much to you but it means an awful lot to me, believe me. Maybe you've seen outside your show and wondered who I am. Well, right now, I'm in communications but, by nature, I'm a stand-up comedian. I know what you're thinking -- 'Oh no. Not another one.' And I wouldn't take up even one minute of your time if I wasn't absolutely convinced of my talent. I'm really good, Jerry, believe me, I'm dynamite. Now you're probably wondering if I'm so good why haven't you caught my act somewhere, right?
Langford: Well ...
Pupkin: Well, up to now, I've been biding my time developing my act slowly and carefully so that when my big break finally comes, I'm ready -- like you were that night Paar got sick and you sat in for him. I was there that night, in the theater. That was the most important night of my life, until tonight, of course.
...
Pupkin: Well, that night you did Paar, I walked out of the theater like I was in a dream. All of a sudden, I knew what I wanted. I started catching your guest appearances on Sullivan and taping them and, when you got your own show, it got to be a kind of regular thing. I studied how you built to your one-liners, nice and relaxed like you were chatting, and how you delivered the jokes without leaning too much on them, without saying "here's the punchline, folks." And I watched the way you played off dead audiences, how you let those long silences build until people couldn't stand it and then the way you got them off the hook with that slow smile. You were my college of comedy, Jerry, like a kind of teacher, a friend. I know it sounds crazy, but when you watch someone every night ... But that's all in the past. What I'm trying to say is this. I'm ready now. I've finished the course. And I'm thinking as we sit here talking "Is this it? Is this that one big break?" Is it, Jerry?
...
Langford: Look, why don't you call my office.
Pupkin: Could I?! Oh, I knew you'd say that, Jerry. You don't know how many times I've had this conversation in my head. And this is the way it always turns out. That's why I had to sort of invite myself into the car tonight. I know it's kind of presumptuous and I really appreciate the time you've given me. But breaks like this don't just happen. You have to make your own breaks.

Pupkin: I've been giving a lot of thought to your situation, Jerry, ever since I saw you starting to lose ground in the ratings. And I think I know what the problem is. Too many of the same faces.
Langford: Yeah?
Pupkin: Sure, people are getting tired of these people who live off game shows and talk shows and can't really do anything. They've seen 'em and heard 'em till they can't stand it anymore.
Langford: You know, maybe you're right, Rube.
Pupkin: I'm sure I am. When a show runs out of surprises, it loses its audience.

Rita: Jesus Christ, Rupert Pupkin!
Pupkin: The two of us are often confused. He's the one with the famous father.

Rita: So all this time you've been thinking about me, huh?
Pupkin: That's right, Rita.
Rita: What kinds of things were you thinking?
[Pupkin drops his eyes shyly. Rita laughs]
Rita: Oh, ho! Those kinds of things! Shame on you, Rupert.
Pupkin: Rita, I assure you there was ...
Rita: Rupert Pupkin is an unclean person!
Pupkin: Come on, Rita. People will hear.
Rita: [whispering] Rupert Pupkin is an unclean person. Oh, come on, Rupert. Relax. Have a little fun.

Pupkin: Get that guy you knew from Clifton out of your head right now. You're looking at Rupert Pupkin, Rita. Rupert Pupkin, the new King of Comedy.
[Rita laughs]
Rita: I'm sorry.
Pupkin: Why not me, Rita? A guy can always get what he wants if he's willing to pay the price. All it takes is a little talent and sacrifice and the right break. If you've got a friend in the right place, that's all it takes. And that's exactly what I have going for me right now. After all, crazier things have happened.

Secretary: Is Mr. Langford expecting you?
Pupkin: Yes, I don't think he is.

Woman: You're Jerry!! You know something? [She giggles] I undress in front of you every night and Larry here doesn't mind at all.
Larry: I can't get anything started with her until you're off the air. Your show is ruining my sex life, Jerry.
Langford: Well then, you'll just have to put on a better show than I do.

Pupkin: [after Cathy has rejected his request to appear on Langford's show] May I ask you a question, Miss Long?
Cathy Long: Of course.
Pupkin: Are you speaking for Jerry?
Cathy Long: Let's put it this way, Mr. Pupkin. Mr. Langford has complete faith in our judgment.
Pupkin: I'm sorry to have to say this, Miss Long, and I certainly don't want you to take it personally, but I have to tell you that I don't ... I don't have faith in your judgment.
Cathy Long Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, Mr. Pupkin. But I'm afraid there's nothing that can be done about that.
Pupkin: No ... No ... I'm afraid I'll have to disagree with you again.
Cathy Long: That's your privilege, Mr. Pupkin. Now, if you'll excuse me, please, I have some things to do. I'm sorry the news isn't better.

Rita: What do these people do for fun? Do they party or do freaky things or just get drunk or ... I mean, what do they do?
Pupkin: I guess they just sit around and talk and enjoy each other's company, like anybody else.
Rita: Talk?!? What can you talk about for three or four hours?
Pupkin: What do you mean? They've got plenty to talk about. They do things. All kinds of interesting things happen to them and then they talk about them. What do you think Jerry's show is all about?
Rita: Yeah, a cocktail party with no drinks. That's what all those shows are. At least they help you get to sleep.

Pupkin: All I'm asking is fifteen minutes. That's all. Just long enough to listen to my act. Is that asking too much -- fifteen minutes of your day against my whole life?
Langford: I'll call the police if I have to... I have my own life, that's all.
Pupkin: But what about me, Jerry? What about my life? I made plans -- based on what you said. You can't just turn your back on me.
Langford: I'm not telling you again.
Pupkin: So this is the way it works when you're big, huh? You just play with people. Is that part of the kick, Jerry? I can see I was all wrong about you. All wrong.
Rita: Come on, Rupert.
Pupkin: Shut up! You weren't my friend at all, were you? You were just playing some kind of game with me. Well, that's not going to stop me, Jerry. I'm just going to work a little bit harder, that's all, use a little bit more enterprise. And not count on anybody. That's where I made my mistake. I can see that now.

Pupkin: I didn't like being so rough out there, Jerry. But I wanted you to know that I meant business. I didn't want anything happening to you over some misunderstanding. Now I know you're wondering what this is all about. Actually you've got nothing to worry about. You just do what I tell you and by, say, midnight, you'll be safe and out of here. Of course if you try anything clever, I'll kill you -- or Marsha will. She knows how to use this too.
Langford: You realize what you're saying.
Pupkin: Come on, Jerry. This isn't a spur of the moment thing. Give me a little credit, will you. Sit down. Now, you're going to call your office and tell them this: that unless a man who identifies himself as the King is allowed on the show tonight as the first guest, they'll never see you alive again.

Patten: Look, I tell you, the bureau is doing everything possible to locate Mr. Langford. Right now our men are out checking out every radical group in this city.
Executive: Radical?
Patten: They're willing to sacrifice their leader in order to get their message across, aren't they? You've got to figure that this is a desperate outfit. I don't know who they are anymore than you do. But I do know I've got to stop them. Otherwise, what you're seeing here is just the first of a whole wave of these kinds of kidnappings.
Thomas: Does this mean we're not supposed to put him on?!?
Patten: Who am I addressing, please?
Executive: That's Bert Thomas. He produces the show.
Patten: I'm only saying, Mr. Thomas, that we can't allow this to reach the public. When the kidnappers call in, of course you're going to be cooperative. Promise them anything they want. After all, this King character is going to have to show up sooner or later. And once we get our hands on him, he'll tell us where Mr. Langford is.

Patten: Let him go on if you have to. It's just a taping. You can always erase him afterwards, can't you? All I'm saying is this: don't put him on the air.
Thomas: That's fine, Inspector, but let's say he finishes his bit and you've worked him over ...
Patten: Questioned him, Mr. Thomas.

Taglines[edit]

  • It's no laughing matter.
  • Nobody knows Rupert Pupkin, but after 11:30 tonight no one will ever forget him.

Cast[edit]

External links[edit]