Tribeca has announced that they will close with King of Comedy, one of Martin Scorsese’s best and most underrated films for this, their 30 year anniversary. “I’ve always been partial to comedians – the irreverence, the absurdity, the hostility, all the feelings under the surface – and to the old world of late night variety shows hosted by Steve Allen and Jack Paar and, of course, Johnny Carson, to the familiarity and the camaraderie between the guests. You had the feeling that they were there with you, in your living room. Robert De Niro and I were both drawn to Paul Zimmerman’s script for The King of Comedy, which really captured the show business atmosphere and the desperate attachments that some of the people on the other side of the screen could form, the ones that in certain cases turned dangerous. And indeed, Scorsese never had to look very far to figure that out after a gunman became obsessed with Jodie Foster’s character in Taxi Driver and then tried to assassinate President Reagan. King of Comedy is one of the few films to take an unflinching look at both how fandom can ignite insanity, and how hard it is to get your foot in the door. If you’ve ever lived on the fringes on of actors and screenwriters who are a Rupert Pupkin away from trying to “make it” in Hollywood you recognize the extreme steps Pupkin goes to try to get on the Jerry Langford show. It’s funny and it’s embarrassing, and eventually it’s a little scary. Though he’s a total schmuck, he never listens to anyone. He does everything you’re supposed to do to “make it” – he goes to Langford’s office and refuses to leave. He doesn’t take no for an answer when Jerry’s assistant tries to give him the brush-off. He defines the kind of persistence every Hollywood agent will tell you you need and it gets him nowhere. He doesn’t believe Jerry Langford (the brilliant Jerry Lewis) when he tells him he isn’t funny. These are all of the things people will tell you in Hollywood when you’re trying to break through the divide that says “you got it” or more commonly, “you don’t.” Finally, he abandons everything and turns to crime to fulfill his lifelong dream. King of Comedy tells the truth about showbiz and it tells (mostly) the truth about fans. Though Rupert and Masha (equally brilliant Sandra Bernhard) love Jerry, that love turns to bitterness eventually, and aggression: why doesn’t he love them back? It’s no laughing matter, stalking. But it’s a part of the dynamic we’ve all helped create. There wouldn’t be stars at all if we didn’t believe them to be better than us. But some of us simply can’t accept that boundary. “MOM!” Rupert yells from his basement, “I’m trying to do this now!” Rupert in his basement practicing moments where Jerry would have him on his show is the perfect balance of the delusion and humor this wonderful film offers. There isn’t a moment in it that isn’t uncomfortable to watch and yet, at some point, it becomes funny. Partly because Bernhard and De Niro are so funny – they’re bickering back and forth because Masha knitted a sweater for Jerry and she wants to see it on him. But Rupert needs to get on the Jerry Langford show in time so he’s hurrying her along. She gets irritated at him for rushing her and when her anger flashes you see how scary the situation really is. On the one hand, you find yourself hoping Rupert will get his one shot at fame. On the other hand, he’s been tied up and held at gunpoint by two crazed stalkers. One of the best moments, among many, is when Rupert imagines his high school principal telling the world, “we were wrong, Rupert, you were right.” It reveals just one moment in Rupert’s past where someone told him he’d never amount to anything. But like the dutiful would-be success story he never listened, and he stopped at nothing to get his one shot. If you get a chance to see this film, go. While critics and audiences seemed to misunderstand it at the time, as I recall, it has only become a richer experience with time, as celebrity has taken on a whole new meaning in our culture. “Hey Jerry, want to see a picture of my Pride and Joy?” For those of us who know every line of the film, getting any chance to talk about it is one we’ll gladly take.