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I just recently watched (again) the Scorsese/De Niro collaboration, The King of Comedy. Seeing how I've known more than a few beginning comics just as dense and blindly self-assured of their own talent as De Niro's character, I would run the risk of mistaking this film as a documentary except for one thing.
De Niro did too well when he performed FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER on The Jerry Langford show.
For one thing, he simply would not have been comfortable in the space. It's one thing to practice in front of a wall in your room (as the character did). It's another to suddenly be in front of a live audience for the first time.
His material would have had more dead filler. Punch lines would have been needlessly drawn out.
He got laughs on almost every line. It would not have happened. It certainly would not have happened with somebody writing his own material AND NEVER HAVING ANY EXPERIENCE TRYING ANY MATERIAL IN FRONT OF A CROWD.
Even if he had had professional writers, it wouldn't have happened. (Again, when Finnigan was writing for the Tonight Show, he told me that if 25% of his jokes worked, DELIVERED BY A PRO LIKE CARSON, he felt satisfied.)
De Niro wouldn't have the beats down - he couldn't, because you only learn that from trying the material over and over. How many times have we seen beginning comics buy good jokes from professional writers and then complain that the jokes "didn't get laughs!" because THE COMIC didn't know how to deliver them, or worse, they "edited" them to make them "funnier."
I have other nits. However, my biggest criticism is that he would have crumbled when a joke didn't work. A wannabe comic in both your writing and stand-up workshops was going to perform "live" for the first time and asked me, "If you could give me just one bit of advice, one thing to concentrate on, what would it be?" I told him, "When your joke doesn't get a laugh, when the ENTIRE bit fails - and this is going to happen - act as though nothing happened and keep on going.
It's almost like you have to convey to the audience, 'Gee, I'm really sorry you didn't get that, oh well, I've got more.' The most important thing is convey confidence." There's nothing worse for an audience than to have to squirm through watching a comedian squirm on stage. Or, as one friend told me, "I saw a comedian bombing so badly everybody in the audience felt embarrassed for him."
Put simply, there would have been dead spots, and the more blown out of proportion a comic's self-image is, the more devastating those dead spots are. De Niro's character would have been a wreck within the first minute. I've had some horrible jobs in my life, but absolutely NOTHING compares to the feeling you get, and the panic that sets in, when jokes aren't working on stage. I don't think anyone ever gets used to it. For a beginning comic who has never experienced it, it would be like someone wrenched your guts out.
Incidentally, the guy who introduced King of Comedy (when it aired on AMC) said that Scorsese had originally read the script 10 years earlier when he was starting out, and tossed it aside. Once he made it big (he made King immediately after Raging Bull) he had a little more . . . perspective.
He saw in the script what he couldn't see 10 years earlier - that he was exactly like the De Niro character when he was beginning. He would do anything for a break (and I read into the introducer's comments that Scorsese could not understand back then why the powers-that-be in film couldn't immediately see his genius and he couldn't understand why doors at the top wouldn't just magically open for him).