The Cult of Protest in Joker (2019) and The King of Comedy (1982)

*contains spoilers and strong course language

This may be a rant by a former lunatic in the order of Leonardo DiCaprio having a clear moment of thinking in Shutter Island (2010). It is a speculative article and may offend some readers. Please don’t continue to read this article is you are easily shocked. It is based on sworn testimony as The Amazing Criswell (1907-82) tells us at the beginning of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1959) … and it is also an article for all the poor broken boys and young men living and dead who had no particular large physical, social and monetary endowments and didn’t understand why the girls and women passed them by until too late.

Anne Deveson’s moving story about her son
Anakin Skywalker actor Jake Lloyd suffers from schizophrenia…
…And so does Arthur before he was demonised and pushed over the edge in Joker

Perhaps the medication made them fat or word got around they were not to ever be considered by little more than a wave of a hand. Instead, they were considered refuse and physically and psychically bullied as if they have a target painted on their hearts and minds. Those sons, brothers and, yes, ex-friends who were declared persona non grata. Yet I like to think there is still a girl out there for these boys and the Joker within us all, whether it be in this life or the next… Let’s think positive and have another drink or toke. If you are sick, it is best to refrain from both.

Essentially the character of Joker is beyond a joke and that’s what makes the legend….

Madness and murder are linked to the ‘unwell or bad M’ drawn on Peter Lorre’s back as a reminder of his psycho-sexual crimes. It’s perhaps not his fault he is mad and paranoid. Or is it? Maybe he was molested as a child? Work on becoming a ‘well or good M’! This film is called M (1931)
Was that put on a happy or an unhappy face? Echoes of Joker with Peter Lorre in M (1931) again. Sadly, the label of schizophrenia has connotations of the psychosexual and violence. Most don’t recover from the mere diagnosis and the associated stigma.

What if you thought you had the world’s attention in your living room one evening as you watched your television alone? You work for the Murdoch press and that’s okay but your live-in girlfriend has left you and you are off your meds as a result. She turned out to be what Gene Wilder (1933-2016 Alzheimer’s disease) once described in one of his films as a woman wearing a black pointed hat and carrying a broomstick – that and the fact she could actually attain flight! Thanks Eddie Murphy (1961-) for making Norbit (2007), it aided my recovery immeasurably… So, was it merely paranoia setting in? Anyway, there is a president playing golf on Foxtel and when you speak, he seems to react as if he can hear you… you change your Foxtel cable channel and you watch an American breakfast show and you say something stupid as a reply to one of their comments and one of the hosts reaches for his earpiece… People are watching you in your home and the whole place is wired. And you think f#*k it! You know that you’re not the new Christ and you don’t deserve the attention…

My favourite book as a five-year-old. Marty Feldman sang: “You shouldn’t laugh at elephants.”
Mel Brooks says: “It’s good to be the king”. I was just Rupert Murdoch’s piss-boy.
The infamous novelette Portnoy’s Complaint which is a stream of consciousness tale about a man addicted to masturbation and telling its root cause to his psychiatrist

You take out what passes for your manhood from your pants and tell the head of the cable channel he can take that for The Second Coming! You don’t pay me enough!! It’s a complaint and a protest. I do have standards you know! So, you go for gold like the time you got caught doing it in the shower at twelve years old by your best friend’s lesbian mother. Talk about a cold response and it was the perfect catalyst to turn into Norman Bates! “No, Babar, no!,” cries a crowd of Indian men on a clip which suddenly plays on the cable fed television screen… What a show! It’s as if you were making the earth stand still with only a dead ring remaining in the wake of your actions. “It’s good to be the king,” to quote from Mel Brooks’s History of the World Part I (1981) or at least it feels good and no one ought to ever be ashamed again! No this isn’t an extract from writer Nathanael West’s (1903-40 car crash) The Dream Life of Balso Snell or a rant from a certain Philip Roth (1933-2018 heart failure) novel which was made into a film in 1972. It’s called Portney’s Complaint and is about a man telling about his addiction to masturbation to his psychiatrist in a rant. Anyway, pulling out your dick at home is better than pulling out a knife or a gun in public…

But who’s the Joker we’re talking about here? The same one that everyone seems to identify with? It’s all the end result of ill-treatment at work, of being abandoned by friends, lied to by your family and ignored by your neighbours and all that bullying adds up. Your favourite grandmother also probably died. This Joker was sniggered behind his back because he was perceived as a misfit and didn’t seem to belong. So says the world and this is the genesis of the Joker and his final break from reality and morality.

Joaquin (Jokin’) Phoenix has the perfect name and the perfect persona to play the role of Joker and the character is a natural part of all of us except Joker has been pushed and marginalised too far… to the brink. We feel sympathy for his plight and the conclusion of the movie is only logical despite calculating madness being the final key. We expect a mastermind to be born from the dead soul that once was Arthur…

Aussie The King of Comedy (1982) poster
Granny Klump had a far more beautiful soul!

The beauty of Joker is that he is what the marginalised person wants to be. He doesn’t get angry he just gets even using cinematic violence. He is the revenge for all the grievances carried in the heart which cannot be forgiven not matter how hard you try to forget. As Arthur/Joker asks before his final descent: “What is wrong with people?”

The damage has already been done and the movie Joker alleviates that damage and turns it into something perversely beautiful, which is to laugh at the horrors of the world even if you don’t really mean it at first but to really mean it in the end. At first, you try to laugh off the treatment and then the laughter becomes bitter…. As you become bitter when your freedom to be good and happy is taken away.

This black look through a magnifying glass at the world of deprivation, whether it be financial or sexual, hit the nail on the head when it was released in 2019 and it’s still mentioned in social media. The Oscar for Best Actor was deserved and once again the Joker seemed to rule, just like when Heath Ledger (1979-2008 accidental drug overdose) played him in The Dark Knight (2008) and won a posthumous Oscar all those years ago.

Mental illness had never been given such a bold mainstream anti-hero than in the recent Joker… and we know that the root of all evil is the relationship you have with your mother and family, your early sexual experiences or lack of them and the loss of knowing you are never going to get laid to the point of satisfaction in your life… ever! But to even get laid once in your life is “better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime” to quote from the Martin Scorsese (1942-) film The King of Comedy (1982) which inspired the movie Joker in a number of ways… Joker would rather kill than get laid in the end. That is the key to his philosophy. Pull out a gun rather than something else… let the blood run free rather than the bodily fluids.

Robert De Niro as Rupert Pupkin in his mother’s basement lives in a fantasy world
Rupert Pupkin and Joker are both obsessed with talk show hosts
Rupert Murdoch won’t let his organisation change hands and neither will he
Murdoch had a once respectable dream and a loyal band of journalists

In the beginning, the tears Joker tries to cry come out as laughter without the tears, they are the sobbing of a man whose bodily fluids have dried up due to being overmedicated and under the mental assault of a world that doesn’t care. This world is egocentric and self-centred. It is about money, sex and power in the hands of the haves as opposed to the have nots. Bullying is part of that power trip. Well, says the Joker, in the end, you won’t have power over me anymore! Even if you lock me up!

And the cutbacks for the care of the mentally ill in America, along with a general malaise by those who actually treat those who are mentally ill – they also don’t really care, they hand out band aids in the form of medication rather than try to solve their patient’s problem… but is there a cure for poverty and loneliness? Who can afford therapy? Joker has to work out his own problems by keeping a journal… “I hope my death makes more cents than my life” seems to sum it all up.

“Is it me, or is it getting crazier out there?,” asks Arthur or Joker about the world he would like to live within peacefully and in which he once perhaps hoped would be a peaceful world. All he wants is a career as a stand-up comic – it is his dream. Pity those dreams are dashed by a high ranking tv host and a network television host … named Murray Franklin. Both are the name of rivers in Australia but I don’t know if it’s meant to reference Joaquin’s late brother River Phoenix (1970-93 drug overdose).

Let’s cut to the movie The King of Comedy and Rupert Pupkin played by Robert De Niro is also an aspiring stand-up comedian and an outsider who is a stalker ultimately driven to commit a capital offence albeit not murder…. He and his accomplice played by Sandra Bernhard (1955-) kidnap the talk show host Jerry Langford played by Jerry Lewis (1926-2017 heart disease) to set into motion an ‘unforgettable’ evening where Pupkin will be the centre of attention on Jerry’s show… Pupkin isn’t medicated nor is he a madman but he is perhaps the ultimate nerd among nerds who would do anything to have his big night which no one will forget… People over the years have been repulsed by the character of Rupert Pupkin as well as the Joker, but I feel I understand them both to a degree.

The King of Comedy was not released immediately for some reason and I saw the film at a private and intimate media screening with my father one evening aged fourteen while it sat on the shelf at distributor 20th Century Fox as head office didn’t seem to know what to do with it. The movie was dark and funny and still is.

Jerry Langford/Lewis has a toy gun put to his head by a stalker in The King of Comedy (1982)
The sad reality of the mentally ill stalker with a real gun. John Lennon and killer Mark Chapman.

Of course, De Niro plays the talk show host Murray Franklin in Joker in a role reversal compared to The King of Comedy just as Pupkin had been a role reversal for De Niro in terms of the characters he normally played… Just what the average bully needs to learn is what if their roles were reversed?! It’s the key to loving your neighbour and empathy – something missing in Joker… and eternal bullies!

In a dream sequence in Joker our anti-hero tells Murray that his mother “always tells me to smile and put on a happy face!”. Oh, she would be proud… despite the lies she told him about his birth! Murray tells Arthur he is a great kid and embraces him… But it’s all a dream as Arthur watches the show at home in what could be termed mental onanism. Nobody’s Perfect! Hallucinations are entwined with the suspension of belief of the movie screen.

The bond between parent and child appears co-dependent in Joker and Arthur will be a king but not one of Arthurian legend but in terms of infamy in the comic book universe. He is not a joke but he is the Joker and the name earns some sort of respect from some people even if it is only in terms of fear. Or is it awe at his achievement?

Jerry Lewis as the talk show host in The King of Comedy has a comic persona, but in reality, he is a grumpy and selfish man who is busy with his own business and affairs. So is De Niro’s Murray in Joker … he is an exploitative popularist who really couldn’t care less about the average person on the street… “You should only get cancer…,” an irate fan shouts at Lewis on the street in The King of Comedy after he walks off when she asks for more than just an autograph. Ultimately, his network show will continue to thrive despite the loss of affection of this one person! Lest that person be the Joker or in the case of The King of Comedy ‘The King‘, which is the name Rupert Pupkin calls himself on the biggest night of his life.

Chuck Berry sings My Ding-A-Ling in 1972
Joker doesn’t really have a girlfriend and he probably never will

Russell Crowe wanted to show with his performance in Ron Howard’s misguided ode to schizophrenia that people with a mental illness really do have A Beautiful Mind (2001). I remember crying like a baby at the very end of that film at the time… “At least he got better,” said some effeminate reviewer behind me at the media screening in theatrette. The reality is that most don’t get better and the thoughts of the mentally ill often ain’t that beautiful. It’s no wonder Crowe threw a phone at a hotel concierge upon the release of the film which caused him to lose the Oscar due to the media fallout which ensued. I probably gave the film a good review at the time as a part of my job as a movie reviewer for the Murdoch newspaper I worked for.

Poor Arthur in Joker uses an unnatural form of laughter as a circuit breaker for the rejection of himself and to cope in a world which couldn’t care less… and in the eyes of the world he crossed the line in terms of taste and is seen as evil or insane. Naturally. Comedy is a key to life and so is laughter! But still, like sex, there is a time and place. The imaginary girlfriend of Joker matches A Beautiful Mind in terms of that film’s imaginary friend. The secret friend is the last contact Arthur has with a possibly normal life but sadly she doesn’t really exist… and her disappearance, or the realisation that in reality Arthur will never have such a friend, ever – is devastating. But hey, let’s not get depressed… get even. Perhaps there is no God after all?! This is according to Joker. I used to be a Nietzschean but it was too nihilistic and led to a great unhappiness and self-destructive behaviour on the scale of Jim Morrison (1943-71 heroin overdose) but now I think there has to be something if not a supreme being… there’s something out there. Even if it’s just a notion of karma.

Meanwhile Joker is a real headbanger, or a mad and eccentric person, whose last straw is when he is attacked by a bully singing Send in the Clowns, which is a song not about circus clowns but fools… Are we the fools that bought our tickets and ended up enjoying Joker in the cinema? The movie is a product just like the audience in a talk show which claps like seals and laugh on cue. Send in the Clowns… Sounds like my former psychiatrist to his receptionist!

Is that a gun in your newspaper? Death Wish (1974) lobby card
Is that weapons of mass destruction that don’t exist in your newspaper?

When Arthur kills the bullies in true Charles Bronson (1921-2003 lung cancer among other things) Death Wish (1974) style on the subway it finally releases him from the bondage and chains – he wants to be good on his terms. I guess once you kill, there is no going back… quickly at least and we’re glad we can watch other people do it on screen. Arthur is empowered by the fact his madness has taken over his life and his personality in the end… there is a shift towards unmedicated sickness taking over from a medicated balance of ‘wellness’…  Arthur is at first a vigilante and the general philosophy about a vigilante in terms of the authorities is that they are criminals and murderers. But just like Bronson in Death Wish, we can’t help but root for the vigilante because he or she puts right the long-standing wrongs within the community.

“It’s enough to drive a man mad!,” says a character in Dead of Night (1945)
Good old George W. scored a hole in one by destroying the balance in Iraq. It was all about oil and money.

If I imagined myself as Joker, I may relate the fact that my mother’s sister’s husband’s mother worked in the house of Rupert Murdoch’s parents as a maid and cleaner … the powerful Bruce Wayne and Joker’s mother kind of rolled into one… There is no justice and I worked for Murdoch until “word came from the top” to fire me upon my recovery from my very public – for me – breakdown … but I’m climaxing too soon.

The Joker’s respect of media figures is misplaced just as it is in the community generally and he comes to realise this when Murray Franklin uses a clip of Arthur doing his act in a club and takes it out of context just to humiliate him for a laugh in his talk show monologue… Does that media talk show host ever realise how their non-self-deprecating humour would affect them should the roles be reversed?! … But that’s never going to happen! It would take a bullet in the head in some instances. The media is often morally superior because the viewers also see themselves as morally superior by empathising with someone who couldn’t care less about them telling them an opinion which the viewer takes as sacrosanct. The same goes for media moguls who vet these opinions in the first place.

Heath Ledger is suicidal in Monster’s Ball (2001)
Ledger had the world at his feet as The Joker in The Dark Knight (2008)

Imagine if you were locked in a hospital psych ward as a result of this treatment by the media, you have been led on a merry chase, a Monster’s Ball if you like by neighbours and others who want to see you dead, preferably in a suicidal car accident. Do you blame Joker for wanting to see the world burn? I know I felt a certain bitterness and frustration from not being able to leave the hospital after I had my breakdown and I would tell this to the approaching tropical thunderstorms as they rolled in each evening from the barred balcony of my room. This was the culmination of an uncaring world and these are the dreams of Joker and fellow headbangers… A call to arms which is essentially selfish and hollow and based on revenge – but the grievance still resonates. It’s the insanity to go to war which drives Joker and those who are pushed too far…

The Joker’s call to arms shouldn’t be confused with the last days of Donald Trump on Capitol Hill. The Joker isn’t a would be fascist and Trump is no Joker – he hasn’t suffered or been deprived enough even though he called on those who had suffered to retaliate on his behalf! Trump made fools of those who admired him the most. But let’s not get political as Joker is apolitical and has concerns are closer to home such as does mental illness run in the family… even if it’s by that family’s behaviour and not necessarily genetic.

“it’s so hard to be happy all the time,” says Arthur/Joker on stage and that need to be happy and conform in the eyes of the world is part of the general social neurosis which drives people into depression. But by this stage Joker doesn’t really care… If you don’t fit into the ‘happy’ world and behave you will be locked up in an asylum or to use a polite term, a care facility. There you will be reprogrammed to function and obey. Perhaps there really is a secret society of aliens that tell us what to do and you can only see with cheap sunglasses a la John Carpenter’s They Live (1988)? Anyway, there you will be crushed further and broken if you don’t snap out of it. No wonder people suicide or try to jump off a building. Been there done that! But the sad joke is that I survived. And I refused Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).

Rush sing their song Subdivisions. “Be cool or be cast out…”
…And put on a happy face! A scene from John Carpenter’s They Live (1988)

Most seriously mentally ill people are pushed beyond the point of recovery by the further hypocrisy of the Western World and its ‘Christian leaders’ who have long lost our respect and have often been elected by media moguls such as Murdoch’s Fox News Channel … I may be a cocksucker and here’s your second coming, I had complained! My breakdown happened sometime between 11 September 2001 and the start of the war in Iraq in March 2003, which was when war-mongering George W. Bush was suddenly galvanised in and by the media to win the next election… He was no longer the biggest wanker in the world. I was, but hey, I was just watching television at the time, that’s my self-incriminating alibi… But I’m just raving about paranoid delusions of grandeur!

Joker shows the no-win situation for the mentally ill and underlines the fact that they are mad to think they should ever achieve any position of power or fame and instead should be dismissed and sung insane and crazy forever. It’s a form of emasculation which Joker knows so well and which leads to violent revolt by himself and other individuals in his name. But there are two sides to every violent assault, I’m not proud but I’ve thrown a few punches in my lifetime and there is usually a history which goes unreported… and that’s why Joker is so compelling because it begins to understand and get things into perspective. It isn’t necessarily a person’s own fault for striking out violently. Not that I’m justifying that violence… but shit happens. Joker helps put a mentally ill person’s psychotic episode into perspective. You are not alone!

The Peter Parker Principle of Spiderman
With great power comes great responsibility… Murdoch’s manipulation of the media.
Going down… The cast of Bombshell (2019) in which another overpaid Murdoch man fell on his sword.

I remember that the old Peter Parker Principle of “with great power there must also come great responsibility” from Spiderman rang in my head in that period I was losing my mind as I interviewed Star Wars (1977) and Spider-Man (2002) special effects man John Dykstra (1947-) at the time … I remember he thought Silent Running (1972) and Avalanche Express (1979) were his worst special effects efforts and he was surprised I loved them… but the Joker is the antithesis and abuse of the Peter Parker principal due to his madness. Don’t abuse or self-abuse power so it would seem! It’s the reason we have democracy and not fascist dictatorships. But who dictates the media and their opinions which elect governments and plant the seed of doubt into everything just for their own pursuit of power and money? It’s not me… Was the Iraq war caused by the president realising he really wasn’t that bigger a wanker? That he really was elected by certain sections of the media and they were still on his side?

Saddam Hussein is captured… seemingly holding the Joker. The war re-elected W.
Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman (1989) seems to have a lot of money
And who’s this Joker?

It all comes down to the lowest common denominator and once you reveal yourself as a running joke it continues whether you are Arthur before he is joker or the President for taking too much time off playing golf… Thousands died in Iraq on both sides and a nation where different types of Islamists coexisted in a kind of peace despite the Kurdish genocide by military dictator Saddam Hussein (1937-2006 hanged) was forever scarred… but it ceased the jokes about Bush forever playing golf and the media instead put the focus on fear and terror in the community to keep them from civil unrest. He got re-elected. And I feel like I caused the Iraq War and the re-election of George W.  – Yes, with a big W! Paranoid. Watch Michael Moore’s (1954-) Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) for a better perspective.

“Nobody knows what it’s like to be the other guy,” says the Joker in front of Murray Franklin – his nemesis – as he prepares to blow his head off for humiliating him in the first place. In the end, it is hubris which destroys the media host and creates a legend when Joker says sagely Murray and perhaps himself: “You get what you f#*king deserve!” And this is a general philosophy which echoes politically for the individual as well if you don’t listen to your heart and the rumblings of a planet nearing crisis point.

Murray’s death on stage and the burning of Gotham as a result is madness provoked by madness and Joker would probably face the death penalty if he wasn’t insane… All because this little guy said he’d had enough and lodged a very public complaint… on television. The film Joker is held in high regard as it acts like laughter usually does, as kind of circuit breaker to tension and violence on the streets. Just as a man’s orgasm relieves himself… I could go on about performances, script and direction but Joker is what it is and “that’s life” as Frank Sinatra sings at the close as Joker walks away with blood on his loafers after killing one more time in his home for the criminally insane.

Mel & Kim sing Respectable… “Never gonna be….”

The question once again being if you were in the same position, would you do it again? The Joker would and he is crazy and insane beyond redemption. If there is any lesson to be learnt for those who have the opportunity to tell the golf-playing conservative President of the United States and his right-wing media mogul supporter back in 2002 what you think of them in no uncertain terms: it is you must realise you will be sung insane and broken by society until you conform … and even then, you will be just another jinxed Joker.

The hubris of calling an insane army to arms is the result of the madness that society has imposed and compounded in the mind of the Joker and there is no escape… Just as we think at the start, he is not Christ, he is not the devil. He is a lonely and abused young man driven too far… and who thinks and would like to say one more time to his boss you can take your low-paying job and shove it! Any sane person just can’t do that and Mr. Murdoch quietly sacked me upon my release from hospital after my protest. There is a movie called Take This Job and Shove it (1981) and it is another story of corporate greed which I am only alluding to here with my insane tale which compares Joker and Murray Franklin/Bruce Wayne with myself and Mr. Murdoch!!

Ever felt like saying to the boss…
A statue of Dionysus. Otherwise known as Me without a Succubus. It’s only a bit of skin! Wars have been fought over it!!

Finally, on Joker, someone has written an article about the Dionysian vs the Apollonian aspect of the film. I always saw myself as a Dionysian in my youth compared to my Apollonian grandfather. I drank and smoked and he didn’t. His name happened to be Murray like De Niro’s character in Joker. I had my first breakdown after he died back in 1991, also because my adulterous lover wouldn’t leave her husband and I lost my job after being accused of stealing time-coded VHS review cassettes from the communal filing cabinet on the newspaper I worked at. Talk about not wanted.

Just a quick look at The King of Comedy (1982) and its associated madness the behaviour of Rupert Pupkin who is a man with big dreams but doesn’t realise that he lacks the proper talent or contacts to make them come true. It was like my dream to be a Scorsese before as a twelve-year-old. Pupkin lives in his mother’s basement where he imagines he is having animated conversations with celebrities. He is still the star in his own life, if nobody else’s. He is part of the lunatic fringe in terms of Joker and is big in circles that collect autographs outside the tv studio stage door of the Jerry Langford talk show… Rupert would like to be funny on tv and would like the power it has over people to make them laugh.

“It’s not my whole life…,” Rupert says to other overzealous autograph hounds as they wait in their element for their prey outside the stage door.

Joker takes out Murray Franklin who made him a laughing stock. Don’t you just feel like doing it yourself? Pride before a pull?
The Murray and the Franklin are two major rivers in Australia. Here’s the Franklin. More beautiful than a talk show host.
Joaquin Phoenix’s doomed brother actor River Phoenix shortly before his death. A promising career cut short.

Rupert, we learn, is an amateur opportunist and hustler who by sheer stubbornness has his life heading towards the goal he has always coveted and dreamed of and that is to have a stand-up spot on the Jerry Langford show. So yes, he’s a bit of a joker in the making.

The beauty of Scorsese’s movie is that it includes the excruciatingly embarrassing moments of apparent humiliation that Rupert gets himself into when he tries to hustle his way into the office of Jerry’s production house. Rupert doesn’t see how wrong he acts but he isn’t insane… Instead, he becomes a criminal when he kidnaps Jerry and hatches an ingenious plan gets a spot on the show.

I am reminded of my twelve-year-old self mucking around with a tape recorder creating my own version of a professional radio or tv show just like Rupert… it’s just that Rupert is still doing this in his thirties. There are other deluded Rupert’s co-ordinating shows at ninety!

“The more scribbled the name, the bigger the fame,” says Rupert to his date, when he shows her his autograph which she can’t quite make out. He is already dreaming that he is well on his way to Hollywood… The poor deluded sap. Been there.

Rupert is endearing for his naivety and his pure endurance in the face of adversity. He has kept a certain innocence by living in his fantasy world and the illusion is only shattered when Jerry Lewis/Langford tells him in no uncertain terms that he is ‘a moron’. Up until then, his passing acquaintance with the star, who had earlier brushed him off, had Pupkin dream that Jerry would be best man at his wedding as it is carried out on live television. This wish fulfilment has Rupert’s former principal turn up as celebrant who says of all the school bullying: “We’d like to apologise to you and beg your forgiveness for all the things we did to you…” and then the principal announces: we’ll marry the couple right after the ad break! It’s clever stuff.

Martin Scorsese (centre) on the set of The King of Comedy (1982) with Jerry Lewis and Robert De Niro
Tony Randall (left) and Scorsese who plays the director of the talk show in a kind of role reversal
Catherine Scorsese with her son Martin Scorsese

I have always loved this movie as there is nothing quite like it, certainly not in the Scorsese canon. De Niro is usually the tough guy and what he does here showed the flair for comedy which he would develop over the years.

There is a scene where Rupert turns up at Jerry’s home in the country with his date as if he’s been invited as a ‘guest’. It is where Rupert’s bluff and fantasy reaches its crescendo as Jerry stands with his arms crossed at the sheer gall of Rupert… and upon being called a moron Rupert is humiliated by the true reality in front of his ‘girlfriend’ who he dreams of marrying. It’s the lesson in life where the bullshit artist in a child is cured… But Rupert won’t grow up and seems to believe it’s all for real which is where the possibility of mental illness comes into play. But it’s just that Rupert isn’t clever enough to have a nervous breakdown or be insane! He is to use a term I heard an abusive neighbour yell out recently: “a fu#*wit!”

The sad reality is that stars do get stalked and even everyday people get stalked and this seriousness underpins and serves as a part of the blackness of the piece. The dreamer and bullshit artist turns to crime in desperation for his obsession and dreams to succeed. There is genius in everyone and Rupert shows that spark even if it is just to be remembered for one night’s work as a comedian. He calls himself ‘The King’ as his code name when the FBI deal with his demands to appear on the show, or the kidnapped Jerry dies!

Lyrics for one of the songs on the soundtrack of The King of Comedy (1982)
Jerry Lewis is about to tell Rupert Pupkin he is a ‘moron’ in The King of Comedy
A comedian or entertainer must suffer between their private and public personas. And the average person? There’s no time for everyone!

“The verdict is always in your hands,” says Tony Randall (1920-2004 pneumonia) who is the guest host of the Jerry Langford show the fateful night of The King’s appearance in front of the live studio audience which will be broadcast a couple of hours later. Even Scorsese in a kind of role reversal appears as the director of the talk show.

The King of Comedy shows the split between the reality in the lives of a comedian. There is his real-life character and his performance persona. Jerry Lewis/Langford are very serious in their real lives but Rupert was taken by the bullshit personality of Jerry just as Joker was taken by the bullshit personality of talk host Murray Franklin. The reality is they don’t care because they don’t have the time. It is a lesson about the reality of sycophancy and the bullshit of showbusiness. Organisations don’t care either if you don’t suck up to the right people within them or you don’t belong to them in the first place. That’s their insurance policy against stalkers and time-wasting insane people.

“The fact is, I’m here,” says Rupert on air: “Tomorrow you’ll think that I’m crazy” and Rupert adds that its “better to be king for a night than schmuck for a lifetime.” And Joker takes this philosophy to the max.

The King of Comedy perhaps also asks comically what it really takes to become a star and are its consequences really worth it? Perhaps the stars really are all chosen for fame and riches by characters like Harvey Weinstein? As opposed to the rejection, austerity and infamy of a forgotten Joker. But are the stars happy as a result? It is that divide once again and the almost self-imposed exile from harsh reality and being able to walk the streets unmolested by other members of the public. In the world of Joker, the average person still gets molested even if they’re not a star… But we all can’t live on the space station Elysium (2013)! Tee-hee. And not everyone has the luxury of a non-dysfunctional family and community which is hinted at the end of Scorsese’s Mean Streets (1973). Pupkin’s mother loves him as she is played by the voice of the director’s mother Catherine Scorsese (1912-97 Alzheimer’s disease) to great comic effect.

Matt Damon lives on the mean streets in the movie Elysium (2013)
Yes, forever immortalised! A scene from the original American Pie (1999). Oh the shame and stigma!!
Nathanael West’s groundbreaking book from the early 1930s

Rupert Pupkin tells the self-deprecating truth about himself and how he kidnapped Jerry and it gets him laughs even though the audience doesn’t know it’s true yet. Like Murray Franklin in Joker as he hosts his talk show doesn’t know he’s dead yet in the presence of the disturbed Joker. We shouldn’t laugh but Joker would.

Yes, Rupert Pupkin will go to jail but he isn’t invalidated in the eyes of the world by being declared insane. I guess people would laugh at him just the same. Rupert instead serves just over a couple of years because of this celebrity and sells his memoirs for millions of dollars. He is an overnight success despite the odds and what is only a very basic intelligence and talent which has the luxury of a strong self-belief. Only in America! And that’s why we like this anti-hero even though he may have imagined the truth for half his lifetime. He is a dreamer just like Joker used to be. Here, you can have my memoirs for free with no ads.

Rupert, like the Joker, returns to the stage a star on his own terms to bathe in the genuine warm applause – as opposed to the blood – with a feeling of confidence in his own talent…. In the end, all the Jerry’s and Murray’s in the world may also influence the world but they won’t stop the little guy from having one good night! Whether it’s with another consenting adult or an odd sock in front of the television, what do they really care? ‘Taint nobody’s bizness (if I do) as B.B. King sings on the soundtrack of The King of Comedy. I guess some people are just forever jinxed by their past actions… like the guy who was caught making it with a warm apple pie in American Pie (1999) keeps making American Pie movies. Other people can carry on unaffected and win awards. No sash for me, as they joke in Elysium.

A live version of Rush’s The Garden. The original recording is more beautiful.
Remember to put on a happy face and do what you’re told … part of the reverse philosophy of Joker
Rupert Pupkin makes his final point: “Better a king for a night….” Sounds like chess. Work can be a game you can win while you can’t beat the system. Joker perhaps will win again in a sequel!
“Keep working on love” to quote Jonathan Livingston Seagull (1973)

I continue to write about movies after practically not writing a line for almost 20 years as another form of protest, but movies and the nice feeling my ding-a-ling gives me are something which have fascinated me since I was five years old. Otherwise discipline takes over and life becomes too busy. I think I am turning into my Apollonian grandfather Murray… I may appear to be a bit of a “Goose” for the movie industry but like the cat with that name in Captain Marvel (2019), I’m not totally harmless and will strike out critically at leaders on occasion whether they’re heroes or not. Not that anyone’s reading this! Ha-ha.

While Joker ends with Frank Sinatra singing Send in the Clowns as if beckoning for the next session of the same movie to begin, The King of Comedy ends with a cue of the Van Morrison song Wonderful Remark. Morrison said of the writing of the song: “it was about people who were supposed to be helping you and they weren’t there. It was about the business I’m in and the world in general. A lot of the times you can’t count on anybody.” In itself that is some kind of wonderful remark.

I would like the Joker to get well and wish for peace on Earth and good will to men every day. But, essentially, peace within himself which an individual like me appreciates as the days turn into years and you grow wiser and sadly, wider. I may be forever ‘tuh’ (spitting sound) in the eyes of the world, but hopefully I have been forgiven somewhat… As per old Rupert Murdoch and my journalist ‘friends’ and other friends who never contacted me again after I got unwell … I’ll quote Steve McQueen at the end of Papillon (1973) and say: “Hey, you bastards. I’m still here!” And that ends my rant about having delusions of grandeur and it is dedicated to all those would-be Jokers and Kings of Comedy who still suffer and have perished along the way.

PS as Nietzsche once asked: Am I misunderstood? Do you get the point of my complaint? I do not condone the treatment of the mentally ill as losers as part of a bad habit by the community and I protest against the exploitation and manipulation by the media of the public. I was born and brought up in the News Limited family since my father was a journo. There were Christmas parties and gifts for the children for the community of hard-working journalists and others that existed at the time. And there was no obvious megalomaniacal agenda, just the facts and formula of writing and reporting a newsworthy story. All gone and swept out the door but that’s progress. Once upon a time I thought he and they cared… Thanks Mr. Murdoch for employing me in the first place and any other opportunities…. But now you are long in the wrong! Hmmph! I hear he and them, and perhaps you, say.

PPS our Aussie state’s Murdoch newspapers threw everything they had at unseating our ‘socialist’ Labor government through a barrage of slanted comment and anti-government stories for three years! Ultimately, they failed miserably and the Labor party was returned with a bigger majority. Perhaps people aren’t that stupid after all? Meanwhile Murdoch’s national newspaper The Australian is already trying to re-elect Trump here despite the fact we don’t vote with a cartoon depicting Nancy Pelosi storming Capitol Hill as if she is inciting some sort of violent protest by proceeding with impeachment. So bloody insightful! What a joker!!

For a discussion of schizophrenia as name being just a misnomer as it is a series of blended neuroses read The Cult of Director Dennis Potter’s Secret Friends and PRESS HERE.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.