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Monday August 2nd 2021

The King Of Comedy | 1982

The King Of Comedy film location: Paramount Plaza, Broadway, Manhattan
The King Of Comedy film location: the office of chat show host Jerry Langford: Paramount Plaza, Broadway, Manhattan | Photograph: Google Maps

A commercial flop on release, The King Of Comedy has not only gone on to become one of Martin Scorsese’s most admired films, it provided the inspiration for Todd Phillips’ Joker.

Robert de Niro is both excruciatingly naïve and cringingly pushy as wannabe standup comic Rupert Pupkin, willing to go to any lengths to get a spot on TV.

The film is set, of course, in New York though Pupkin lives across the Hudson River in New Jersey.

The King Of Comedy film location: 34th Street, Union City, New Jersey
The King Of Comedy film location: Rupert Pupkin's home: 34th Street, Union City, New Jersey | Photograph: Google Maps

The house where Pupkin conducts a fantasy chat show of his own in the basement, to the annoyance of his mother, is 145 34th Street, Union City, with tantalizing views across the river to Manhattan, the city of his dreams.

Manhattan is home to the office of chat show host Jerry Langford (Jerry Lewis) in Paramount Plaza, 1633 Broadway between West 50th and 51st Streets, where Pupkin is indefatigably determined to get an audience with the celeb, which he’s convinced will lead to fame.

The King Of Comedy film location: The Brill Building, Broadway, Manhattan
The King Of Comedy film location: Rupert and Masha have a row – while some famous faces look on: The Brill Building, Broadway, Manhattan

Also obsessed with Langford is crazed fan Masha (Sandra Bernhard), who follows Pupkin down Broadway with a letter to give to Langford. It’s outside the Brill Building, 1619 Broadway between 49th and 50th Streets, that they have a blazing row, to the amusement of a gathering crowd – which, if you look – includes members of The Clash.

In fact, the beautifully art deco Brill was the original heart of New York's music biz – Tin Pan Alley. During the 60s, when it housed 165 music biz companies, its roster of songwriting teams included legendary songwriting teams Goffin-King, Greenwich-Barry, Mann-Weil and Leiber-Stoller.

Pupkin’s ‘office’ phone number is a payphone in the old lo-tech Times Square, before its buildings all but disappeared under a panoply dazzling digital displays.

The King Of Comedy film location: Sardi's, West 44th Street, Theater District, Manhattan
The King Of Comedy film location: Rupert's fantasy dinner with Jerry Langford: Sardi's, West 44th Street, Theater District, Manhattan

Pupkin’s career arc is clearly mapped out in his own head as he fantasises a tete-a-tete dinner with Langford in the city’s most famously showbizzy hangout Sardi’s, 234 West 44th Street at Broadway. The guy drawing the caricatures is Richard Baratz, one of the four artists responsible for the framed cartoons that cover the restaurant’s walls.

Sardi’s is also featured in 1968’s sadly ignored darkly comic thriller No Way To Treat A Lady, with George Segal and Rod Steiger, and in Woody Allen’s Radio Days.

In the real world, Pupkin nurses a crush on old school friend Rita (Diahnne Abbott) who works behind the bar of what was Club 478, which stood at 478 9th Avenue between 36th and 37th Streets in the Theatre-Garment District.

That was a long time ago and the premises now houses Kashmir 9, a Pakistani-Indian-Bangladeshi restaurant.

The King Of Comedy film location: Seagram Building, East 53rd Street, Manhattan
The King Of Comedy film location: Jerry Langford's swanky apartment block entrance: Seagram Building, East 53rd Street, Manhattan | Photograph: Google Maps

When Langford is dropped off outside his swanky apartment block, ignore the ‘335’ numbering – the block is Mies van der Rohe’s landmark Seagram Building, and the side entrance at 100 East 53rd Street between Park Avenue and Lexington Avenue, to the east of Midtown.

The Seagram was the workplace of Kevin James in 2005 rom-com Hitch, with Will Smith.

Langford’s country home, crashed by Pupkin and Rita, was Lands End at Sands Point on Long Island’s north shore, the house which supposedly supplied the inspiration for Daisy’s mansion on ‘East Egg’ in F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Sadly, the property fell into disrepair and, after becoming unsaleable, was demolished in 2011.

The King Of Comedy film location: East 74th Street, Lenox Hill, East Side, Manhattan
The King Of Comedy film location: Masha's rather posh East Side home: East 74th Street, Lenox Hill, East Side, Manhattan | Photograph: Google Maps

Pupkin’s last desperate scheme involves kidnapping Langford in order to demand his long-awaited TV spot.

Masha’s impressive East Side house, in which Langford is held prisoner, is 5 74th Street, just off 5th Avenue in Lenox Hill.