TV Cream

Films: K is for...

King of Comedy, The

We suspect Jerry Lewis agreed to appear in this just so he could associate himself with the title in at least some aspect, cos outside France everyone just thinks he’s a pain in the arse who used to get carried by Dean Martin. Or is that just us? Worryingly though, in this particular feature it’s Lewis who’s the star acting Robert De Niro off the screen for great stretches. When did he learn to act, then? Between takes in ‘The Caddie’?



  1. Richard Davies

    August 5, 2010 at 9:46 pm

    This was one film that had a lot of behind the scenes conflict between the production team & the studio, leading to at least 2 final cuts & not being entered for the Oscars when it had a chance to win something.

  2. Tom Ronson

    April 1, 2022 at 12:00 am

    Even if you loathe Jerry Lewis (in which case, get to the back of a very, very long queue), you owe it to yourself to read Shawn Levy’s biography of him. It’s fascinating and horrifying in equal measures, with the artist formerly known as Joseph Levitch coming across as an impossible, maddening narcissist fuelled by lifelong insecurity, prone to deep, dark rages and bouts of black existential depression. He weaponised the stage and the spotlight to indulge not just his fleeting whims and desires but also to belittle and humiliate people, and you’re left with the impression that he was painfully aware of his manifold character flaws, but simply did not give a shit. Levy intended to conduct an in-depth interview with Lewis for the book (which is included as an appendix), but it fell apart after one horribly tense encounter. I think Lewis is great in The King of Comedy, because he’s effectively playing himself – a chilly old pro hiding behind a palatable public persona to keep the demons of the outside world (and his troubled inner psyche) at bay.

  3. Droogie

    April 1, 2022 at 12:37 pm

    Lewis could be a monster, but this probably wasn’t helped by decades of severe pain from a back injury from a stage pratfall and an addiction to the painkiller Percodin . Terry Gilliam told a story about The Pythons picking up a best movie award for Meaning Of Life at the Cannes festival and doing a Q&A Ona podium afterwards. Gilliam could feel very intense heat on the back of his neck as he stood on the podium but just assumed it was from a stage light. He eventually turned around and saw Jerry Lewis was glowering at him, pissed off that Python had beaten King Of Comedy. Gilliam was shocked one person could give off so much heat.

  4. Glenn Aylett

    April 2, 2022 at 2:42 pm

    The Day The Clown Cried was self indulgent and too controversial for the mainstream( dealing with a clown in a Nazi death camp), but Lewis was excellent in The Nutty Professor and Who’s Minding The Store, like an American Norman Wisdom film with plenty of slapstick and sight gags. These two films, plus the one where he accidentally becomes an astronaut, are what I remember Lewis for.
    Also while we remember the Pythons for sketches like The North Minehead By Election, a lot of the time they were tedious and pretentious, and their television show has dated badly.

  5. Richardpd

    April 2, 2022 at 4:45 pm

    I’ve heard the The Day The Clown Cried is kept well under wraps these days.

    I agree The Nutty Professor is very funny, & Jerry manages to play both personas of the title character very well.

    Even John Cleese has mentioned that Monty Python diminished in quality as it went on, as it became harder to come up with original material that wasn’t too similar to previous sketches. I have the Flying Circus box set & can agree that while most editions produce a few big laughs, even the stronger ones have a few filler sketches.

  6. Glenn Aylett

    April 2, 2022 at 5:10 pm

    @ Richardpd, the first two series are the best by far, even if there are some clunkers among the great sketches, but by the last series the Pythons had run out of ideas. However, greatness was to come again with their films and Fawlty Towers.
    As regards Jerry Lewis, a very troubled man and as has been pointed out, the painkillers could make him behave strangely. Yet at this best, the man who was like an American Norman Wisdom was hilarious.

  7. Sidney Balmoral James

    April 2, 2022 at 9:00 pm

    I can’t believe that The Meaning of Life won any award anywhere, it’s a dismal collection of sub-standard sketches. King of Comedy is one of a number of frankly puzzling Robert De Niro films in which he plays an awful person, with whom it is very hard to identify or sympathize (see also Raging Bull, Taxi Driver, One Upon a Time in America – in which he’s ostensibly the hero, but also a rapist). I’d struggle to name many De Niro films in which he wasn’t obviously a villain, in which he was likable (Awakenings and Deer Hunter I guess) – odd basis for a star career.

    • Richardpd

      April 2, 2022 at 10:35 pm

      Midnight Run is one time Robert De Niro was more of an anti-hero, being a maverick bounty hunter. At least his scenes in Godfather II are before Don Vito becomes a major Mafia boss, and exacts his revenge against people who deserve it. He’s oddly used in Jackie Brown as a seasoned criminal turned stoner.

      The Meaning Of Life has the odd good part, like the Crimson Permanent Assurance office block becoming a pirate ship & Mr Creosote, but as Glen mentions it was almost impossible to repeat the success of Life Of Brian.

  8. Glenn Aylett

    April 2, 2022 at 10:13 pm

    @ Sidney, The Meaning Of Life was weird and wasn’t very successful, but after Life Of Brian, it would have been hard for the Pythons to reach the same standard, so they parted again until the comeback tour in the last decade.

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